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IT Management is Not Called Change Management for a Reason

IT Management – A New Perspective


THERE WAS A DAY…

In the heady days of the networked IT explosion, it was a green field. We had very little data stored anywhere, everything was reasonably new, and whatever we thought might help the organization we were ableimage to just go do, assuming the organization had the money to do it. Systems started to make everyone’s life easier, not just the few who benefitted from mainframes, we were helping the organization be more efficient and more adaptable.

For the enterprise, those days are gone.

Now we are a key part of the enterprise, with a (documented) massive amount of data that is growing daily, policies, processes, and procedures that make us less of a liability and more of an asset to the company, and hundreds or thousands or even tens of thousands of machines all whirring and helping employees not just be more efficient, but simply do their daily job. We are an integral and indispensible part of the organization we work for, without IT most US based companies would falter and many would fail. We are indeed both an integral and important part of the corporate business model.

It used to be that just to get the job done, application developers were doing the development equivalent of rocket science on a regular basis. That the uber-geek that imagereally would have just worked for Mountain Dew and Pizza was the “go to” person for hard development problems in the organization. His/her solutions were often vague and hard to follow, but they were accepted because that was the person that could get the job done.

For the enterprise, those days are gone too.

The amount of enterprise development required is pretty low these days and focuses on integration for the most part. That uber-geek is now recognized as a tactical win but a strategic threat, as code that no one else can follow is rife with minefield-like problems for the organization in the future. Now we want people who can understand highly technical problems, resolve them, and communicate clearly, sometimes to non-technical audiences, what the solution was. In some ways we have lost a bit – like everything else in modern society, quantity is valued over quality, so the person that works faster gets the head-nod while the one that makes a more solid solution is encouraged to work faster. This too will prove a long-term strategic problem, as it is the opposite extreme of the one geek in the corner problem. Faster often includes skimping on testing, security, and more.

Not that we no longer need very smart people, but we need them to be literate and affable – or at least communicative - along with being good at computers.


THAT DAY IS NO MORE

In short, Enterprise IT grew up. The problem is that the market (or several related markets) for IT goods and services largely hasn’t. And we’re still listening to them.

For every new technology that comes along, there is at least one person who slavishly declares it The Thing and tells you how you must implement it. These people are generally out of touch with enterprise IT needs, but others pick up at least some of their stance, and you get barraged. People who have declared no one should have a physical data center because of cloud are a good example, as are those who have called tape dead for decades many of whom are also calling Fiber Channel dead. My recent favorite, which I will not link to here because I think the author was pandering for attention, was a report written earlier this year that said (1) all tape will move to disk in the next five years and (2) all disk will move to SSD in the next five years. Okay, so does that mean that tape will move twice, or are you picking outrageous claims just so you can get attention? Even with those people aside, remember that some of the sincere individuals don’t have your issues to contend with. Even I, who try to keep it real, have no interviews, no problems a month (or twelve) behind schedule to ride herd over, no problems with a given application’s performance that is slowing the company down… It does impact your ability to relate if you’re not careful.


INSTANT (MIS)COMMUNICATIONS

image

The Internet makes the system of influence even worse, because others – even truly impartial analysts – can be influenced by people who make completely unsubstantiable claims very quickly. There is a press for “you must have cloud” out there, but very little about the details of implementing such solutions – except from vendors who are trying to sell you their solution. There is some good stuff out there, just not in an acceptable ratio with the “noise” for many technologies. The same thing happened to Virtualization, we were being told a decade before we really needed virtualization that we should be implementing it yesterday! Oddly enough, it worked just fine when most enterprises implemented it, and there were more tools available to make the move to virtualization easier.


KNOW THE ROLE. LIVE THE ROLE.

Your job is to support the business. The business can no longer run without you, but you wouldn’t have a job without the business. Change should come in response to changing business needs or a requirement to  improve service to some portion of the business. That’s a raw truth that for some reason grates on particular members of the IT staff – even some managers.

Of course vendors like F5 think that we have a great solution to solve your problems, and we release new products like EDGE Gateway, ARX, and WOM to address common problems that you might have, but in the end, make sure you have a problem before driving to change. Cloud may be the cool new thing, but unless you have a driving reason or can prove a reduction in IT overhead by going there, you’re not missing out on a thing by saying “that’s not for us at this time”. We vendors will keep offering you cool new tools to solve your problems, you keep focusing on your problems and don’t let the hype drive your decision making. image

Many organizations have implemented virtualization but haven’t gotten it under control yet. There are new management tools, new opportunities to help the business, new problems caused by virtualization (like  security if images and disk space in highly virtualized environments), the list goes on. So some pundit telling you that you must jump to the cloud is not just out of touch, it is meaningless. Stay the course, move at your organization’s pace, only look at solutions that have an actual purpose for your organization, and rest assured if cloud, or SSD, or WAN Optimization are as important and urgent as they claim, they’ll still be around when you’re ready to work on them. And if they’re not, then you saved your organization time and money by not chasing the buzzwords, now didn’t you?

Or you can follow the buzz and simultaneously virtualize everything, switch to a cloud provider, insist that the cloud provider use only SSD for disk, and turn over appdev to the business units because you’re now “in the cloud” and that means no more IT… Heh. I make myself laugh sometimes.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Don MacVittie is founder of Ingrained Technology, A technical advocacy and software development consultancy. He has experience in application development, architecture, infrastructure, technical writing,DevOps, and IT management. MacVittie holds a B.S. in Computer Science from Northern Michigan University, and an M.S. in Computer Science from Nova Southeastern University.

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