Response to "Why the Standard Response from Operations is NO!"

A short while ago, I read a post titled “Why the Standard Response from Operations is NO!” by Josh Duncan and decided that it deserved a response.  The post, by the way can be found here.

Josh’s post touched on only one side of a complex issue and I thought it would be worthwhile to explore another side of this issue Let’s look at IT’s side and consider what can be done to help organizations adopt useful and needed technology more rapidly.

The view from IT

The information technology group within most medium and large organizations holds the charter to make sure that IT-based solutions function in a reliable, safe, secure and highly available fashion. Unfortunately, since the budgets and staff of most IT organizations have been reduced, many IT executives believe this is a mandate to maintain the status quo.

Change can create problems

IT executives often believe that any changes, updates or enhancements to either hardware or software have to be carefully and completely vetted before they can be deployed in the production environment.

These executives have learned through hard and painful personal experience, that change of any sort can cause catastrophic problems. They have come to see updates, patches and version updates from their suppliers, even long time partners, as risks that can potentially blow up production systems. They feel that it is their mandate to prevent the introduction of anything that has the potential of causing either a slow down or failure of production environments.

Most of these executives have had the experience of having their feet held to the fire by higher-level executives when something unexpected occurs.

Why are IT executives so cautious?

IT executives are riding herd over IT solutions that may have had their origin back in the 1960s or 1970s. The systems they are watching are likely to include mainframes, single-vendor midrange systems as well as industry standard systems. The workloads may be based upon a mixture of applications, application frameworks, database engines and storage software that span all of these different hardware architectures and may be hosted upon IBM Z/OS, IBM I, OpenVMS, AIX, HP-UX, Solaris, and several different versions of Windows or Linux. The applications may be designed as monolithic blocks of code or as multi-tier, distributed services.

A change anywhere, for any reason, can cause slow downs or failures that are very hard to isolate and repair.

Twin challenges of complexity and budget restrictions

For well over the last decade, IT executives have faced the twin challenges of application complexity and budgetary restrictions.The IT solutions they are managing are increasingly complex.

Development, testing, and ongoing operations of these complex workloads require a large and ever changing skill set.IT executives know that they have limited budgets and so try to keep a firm hand on change.

At the same time, IT is expected to maintain service levels; keep workloads relevant in an ever-changing business and regulatory environment; and, in some cases, expand IT services.

Reduced staffing

In an attempt to reduce staff costs, many organizations have chosen to outsource functions or move staff to geographical areas that offer lower staff costs. While this might appear to lower costs, at times, it means that it is very difficult to apply the proper resources to issues in a timely fashion.

Conflicting goals cause IT to be change and risk adverse

Executives facing the pressure to reduce costs while also increasing the number of services have a tendency become very risk adverse and slow to adopt anything new no matter how beneficial that new technology could potentially be.

Other organizational forces are in play

Other departments in the organization are facing similar budgetary challenges. This causes them to look to IT for lower cost solutions. This means that they always want more IT-based solutions so that they can lower their own costs. They really don’t care if this puts pressure on the IT department.

Furthermore, the pressures these departments face have changed their expectations. The business expects that IT will provide the solutions they need, when they need them or they’ll go outside to develop or acquire their own solutions. They will adopt technology, such as tablets, smartphones or cloud computing, without considering important factors, such as security, reliability, availability, integration with other systems or regulatory compliance.

While there is no simple answer…

While there are no simple answers to these complex issues, one thing is clear, if IT was using the proper tools to manage and automate their IT infrastructure, and thought about service assurance rather than locking down the environment, in all likelihood, they could reduce their management costs.

The reductions in management costs are very likely to make more resources available for other projects.


Image courtesy of Sue Hasker



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