Cloud computing, virtual desktops, online collaboration via social media, slick hardware and hipsters with fauxhawks may look and sound cool. However, like a hot tub outside a single-wide trailer on an overgrown lot, they are all flash with little substance. If your foundational IT infrastructure and practices have been ignored or are termite-ridden then slapping an ultra-cool coat of techno-wizardry on your organization will just add to your problems.
Like any IT pro who has done time in the bowels of an organization’s infrastructure I have seen executives cheer-leading the latest pet rock technology that has been showcased in the trade rags. Yet mission critical IT and business components like disaster recovery, business continuity, asset management, vendor management and standard policies and procedures are either nonexistent or half-baked and have been for years.
So who is at fault? Well, information technology executives are partially to blame. They have not communicated the value of having foundational policies and procedures in place to key decision makers in the organization. That’s their job and they aren’t doing it.
Senior executives are at also to blame. They may have relegated the CIO to the leadership “kid’s table” and that person doesn’t have any say strategy or final decision making. What is the point of having a Chief Information Officer if they have little to no executive authority? IT may not even be a part of the organization’s strategic plan. So IT is inundated with wave upon wave of executive sponsored projects that have never been vetted for Return on Investment (ROI), have a Cost Benefit Analysis (CBA) or even seen if needed resources are available. I’ve seriously heard senior leadership say that “company X has this technology so we need to move on this now”. Meanwhile, they have never tested their disaster recovery plan, patch their servers in a timely fashion or have service level agreements with their vendors.
However, if this new technology is attached to a framework that is half-complete or stretched beyond capacity, then a public relations nightmare maybe waiting. Consider the latest developments on the Playstation Network security breach. Three separate data breaches caused by poor housekeeping and general lack of preparedness. Sony had some great online features, was billed as the superior alternative to XBOX Live due to it being free and made Sony around $500 million a year. Yet, basic management and information technology principles were ignored or half-implemented with disastrous consequences.
Granted, businesses have to take risks and expand their service offerings to remain competitive in the global marketplace. Newer technologies allow for companies to provide quicker, cheaper and more customized products to their customers. Companies that don’t read the tea leaves and take calculated risks end up like Circuit City, General Motors or Kodak.
This is all the more reason to ensure IT leadership is at the executive table as a full partner when it comes to organizational strategy. Also, CIO’s and IT leadership are going to have to step up their game and make the case for all those unsexy yet so very necessary IT practices that keep the lights on and doors and windows locked.
Finally the crown jewel of the organization, the data, has kept secure yet accessible so new opportunities can be sorted from it. This isn’t solved with the latest firewall technology or business intelligence reports delivered on your iPad. It’s the snooze-inducing yet critical scut work that senior leadership has to make a priority and devote the necessary resources (dollars and people) to help ensure you have the critical bases covered when a crisis comes calling.
Of course executives could always wait for the inevitable disaster and go cap in hand to the media or wonder when they are going to get their life back.
I’d like to hear folks thoughts and opinions in the comments below. So please feel free to fire away!
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