Does the right hand know what the left hand is doing?

Early in my management career I inherited a small IT support group of programmers and business analysts. It was a very bright and capable staff although they were pretty young.

We had a client who always had problems during their month-end process. I had heard about these problems before I joined the group. Sure enough, at the end of the very first month I’m the manager, the client had problems and I take a call from their CFO.

I asked several questions but did not receive any feedback that told me what the problem was. I discounted the issue and thought that maybe it was an anomaly. This would prove to be a mistake.

At the end of the 2nd month, guess what happened. Yes, , , they have problems again. This time I call the client and we decide to have a couple of people visit their office during the next month’s process.

I took two of my most capable people, , , a BA and a programmer to the client to observe the End of Month process during the 3rd month I was the support manager. Our mission, , , identify what the problem is and why it is happening. Once we know what the situation is, we can fix the problem.

The key problem was identified quickly. What was happening was that the client had to run several large detail reports prior to their month end backups every month. Because these reports were not completing in time, several people were kicking off the same report, , , in other words, the same report was being run three or four times simultaneously.

This level of systems activity was slowing the system down significantly, , , so much so that before the reports could finish they had to be cancelled so the client could run their month end backup processes.

We recommended the client put into place a “Month End Jobs Coordinator” to insure only one request of a job could be run at any given time. This improved systems performance and these large reports now had plenty of time to finish running in the months ahead. This simple management supervision corrected the problem completely.

This issue of the “right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing” can cause a lot of problems. Often, the pain is significant and the remedy is something that’s very simple.

2 responses to “Does the right hand know what the left hand is doing?

  1. Richard Wollenberger

    This is always a challenge in any (IT) department. Many people want to see the work get done, the communication is a challenge, and the work can suffer. We’ve helped this by utilizing Spiceworks, a free helpdesk application which helps us manage many aspects of our routine work. Then we clarify who needs to be responsible for certain things, including specific reports, backups, etc. And we make sure to share enough to not be caught too badly when someone is sick or on vacation. With a small staff (about to grow from 3 to 4) we have to be able to back each other up for operational issues.

    • Thanks Richard, , , you make a good point about being in a company with a small IT staff. In your situation, everyone wears several hats and there is lots of opportunity for overlap of work and “right hands” not knowing exactly what “left hands” are doing.

      Best of success to you and your team.

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