If it isn’t broken, , , don’t fix it

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen an IT organization conjure up a project just for the sake of doing something they wanted to do. Never mind what the company or their clients really need, “let’s go do something really ‘neat’ or ‘cool’ ” sometimes seems to be the theme of the day.

Let me give you a specific example. I conducted an IT assessment for a small manufacturing company a few years ago. The CEO called me in because his IT organization was proposing a $380,000 network upgrade. The CEO had questions as to whether he really needed to spend that kind of money on their network, but he wasn’t sure. He wanted to believe in his IT staff and to do the right thing, but he was uncomfortable with this proposal and just couldn’t put his finger on it, , , his gut told him something was not quite right.

This scenario takes place thousands of times every day all over the world. CEO’s often do not understand what their IT organizations are doing and why they need so much money. Bringing in a consultant is not what the CEO really wants to do. For one thing, it casts doubt on the IT organization. Another issue is that it’s expensive, , ,  or is it?

Getting an objective opinion could be one of the best investments a company can make and may turn out to be your most inexpensive option. In this particular case, we saved the company over $300,000 by doing a simple 2-week IT assessment.

The situation
The problem was that the IT staff was managed by a manager who had minimal experience in management but lots of knowledge and experience in networks and systems, , , infrastructure experience. As a result, the projects he focused the IT group on tended to be infrastructure related.

The good news here was that the network infrastructure was outstanding, especially for a small company. The data center was as organized and stable as any I have ever seen  –  truly excellent. The users of the company could not remember when  they had experienced any unplanned downtime.

The infrastructure network and systems also had significant scalability due to the fact that the company had recently closed two of its five manufacturing plants and downsized its staff by over 30% due to poor economic conditions.

Sound familiar?

All things were not all that rosy within IT, however. Users were very unhappy about IT support. This dis-satisfaction was uncovered in just one day of interviewing the key department managers of the company.

The problem was simple and so was the solution.

IT placed priority on the technology (networks and systems) and did not focus on the user’s needs and issues which were in the business applications and Help Desk areas. IT could not tell me what their client’s key needs and issues were, , , although I was able to find out in only one or two days of interviewing them.

The small Help Desk couldn’t tell me basic things like:

  • How many active calls are in the backlog?
  • How many calls a week do they receive?
  • What’s the mix of the type of calls they receive?
  • Where do the majority of calls come from?
  • Is the call activity steady, growing, or declining?

When IT couldn’t tell me these things, it validated what I had heard from some of the department managers who said, “Our questions get lost, we never hear back from IT, and we don’t feel that IT is focused on our issues.”

Why is it that IT is focused on infrastructure which has absolutely no noise level, yet the obvious issues and needs in the business applications area and Help Desk are not getting addressed at all?

Simple, IT wasn’t communicating with their customer. They were focusing on what they know. The manager came from the infrastructure side of IT so that’s what he focuses on. In his mind, he was doing exactly what the company needed, , , and his recommendation was an elegant solution. The problem is that it missed the mark on what was needed and wasted a valuable company asset during tough times, , ,  money.

When asked why so much focus on infrastructure, , , the answer I was given was that it would help the IT organization better support the company’s systems and networks. I guess that’s great, but there was no indication from the business that these components were not already getting supported extremely well, , , the pain is in business applications and Help Desk.

The recommendation
My recommendation was to scratch the network upgrade and focus attention on the two areas that needed it:

  1. Address business applications issues and needs where the company could gain real value from its IT investment.
  2. Improve the Help Desk processes and tracking systems, , , and focus IT on better communication steps.

The bottom line is that we didn’t fix what was working, saved the company significant dollars, and focused the IT group in areas that improved the company’s productivity in a very short period of time.

To be fair, the IT manager in the example wasn’t recommending things because they were “cool” projects to work on. He was actually making a recommendation that he truly thought was the right thing for his company. He just didn’t know how to communicate properly with his client in order to identify the real issues IT should focus on. It happens all the time.

Remember, “If it isn’t broken, , , don’t fix it”.

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