Friday, August 06, 2004

Reactive vs Proactive IT

you have got a spare server to put this on, haven't you?

I work in a Reactive IT Department. There's no getting away from it. The First Line Support Team has the most staff. We spend our days resetting forgotten passwords, clearing paper jams, rebuilding the OS on crashed machines. We normally hear about new IT projects at the last minute, just as they're about to be installed; "you have got a spare server to put this on, haven't you?". I imagine that, as a department, we're probably pretty poorly thought of.

Everyone thinks that we're sitting on a pile of brand new laptops, PCs and printers just waiting to be deployed to deserving causes. Everyone wants new equipment, but few have the funding to purchase it. We fight an unending battle against spam, viruses, worms, trojans and spyware. "Oh, and could anyone take a look at my home machine when they've got a moment free?"

We have no champion at board level who has even a passing grasp of what IT departments can do. We don't have the resources to properly cope with sickness, annual leave or sudden increases in demand. Sure, we're all multi-skilled. We have to be. It just means that the loss of any one person makes a bigger hole in our capabilities. We can't manage our systems in a proactive way. We have to wait until something breaks.

We also suffer from Geek Syndrome. This is where you have a group of technically competent people with overlapping skills. Everyone is sure that they know best, but to ensure that we can all carry on working together we don't argue, just quietly carry on doing it our own way. If you get a new PC, it could have been set up by any one of half a dozen people, and each one of them would probably configure it in a subtly different way.

We know we're just about getting the minimum possible job done to keep things ticking over. But there doesn't seem to be any way out...