Dear CIO: What Year Is IT?

“Life can only be understood backward; but it must be lived forwards.” Soren Kierkegaard.

Is your IT organization in 2019 or 1991? Never did the above Kierkegaard quote resonate more when listening to a millennial relay a sad story that took me back to the 1990s.

This 20-something, whom I’ll call Kay, was stoically heading home to put in a few more hours of work when our paths crossed. Hey, we all have to work longer hours when we’re driving hard towards a goal, right? Not Kay, who had just spent a day in the seventh circle of technical support hell. Let’s break the story down.

  1. Lack of resiliency and/or redundancy. The day before, a Monday, the key system that Kay’s department uses was unavailable for the entire day to do an upgrade. No, that’s not a typo. One entire business day. That sounds like the inevitable multi-day, longer-than-the-weekend type of upgrades we were inflicting on business units in 1992.
  2. Poor IT service management. On Tuesday morning, all of Kay’s colleagues had access by around 8 a.m. Kay did not and ergo could not do her work. She dutifully called the IT help desk, who told her it should be resolved in about an hour. For the next 5-6 hours, Kay made multiple calls, chats, including escalation to her manager. She was ping-ponged around to various tech support groups,  IT Service Management, which has been around since the 1980s and pre-dates my entry into the workplace, either failed or was absent.
  3. Slow time-to-deploy. As it turned out, Kay needed the application pushed to her business device. In 2019, what can possible be so difficult about installing an application? Kay, like millions of other 20-somethings, is used to the constant updates of apps on her mobile devices. Hours to push an application to her business laptop? OK, we’re not all Amazon, but what can possibly be so difficult? I was implementing software distribution applications in the 1990s – when a user needed an app, we could deploy it on the fly.
  4. Access issues.  When the application was finally installed, her access had been snafu’d, and her application data was not fully available. She had apparently been left off a distribution list or Excel spreadsheet. In the 1990s, I can recall being in the version control hell of managing hundreds of users and the right access to systems. Then identity and access management software got ubiquitous.
  5. Management disinterest. When Kay escalated to her manager via chat, at one point the manager responded with the equivalent of “don’t bother me, I’m in a meeting.” Newsflash managers, if your chat application shows you are available, the people that work for you are going to reach out to you.  In the 1990s, when I had my first supervisory assignment, the importance of supporting my team was drilled into me. The term servant-leadership may have come into common use more recently, but I knew early and often that work got done as a team, and that I darn better care about the team.

Anecdote does not equal actionable data. However, this story is illustrative of the legacy, non-customer centric technology and processes that are millstones around organization’s necks. Kay’s company name is one most of us would recognize, and I hear similar stories often. One employee had a tough day, what’s the big deal?

  1. Loss of employee productivity. Time is a non-renewable commodity.
  2. Negative employee engagement. When an employee needs help – with technology, figuring out benefits, how to file an expense report – and is shuffled around like a bad penny – the message is “leadership doesn’t care about me.”
  3. Last but not least, loss of service to the end customer. Every minute or hour that an employee is not focused on work that adds value to the paying customer is lost opportunity that cannot be recovered.

Leaders, take an actual and/or virtual walk around in your employees’ shoes. What’s the grit in the gears they are experiencing, and how does that then create grit in your delivery and support of the products and services for which your customers are paying?

“Technologies come and go. Customer-centric design and service has to be omnipresent.” – Me, @jcycio 

Worth Considering: 

The good news: the % of women in senior management roles is increasing. The not-so-good news: it’s increasing incrementally and unevenly. This August 2019 post by Catalyst provides global data and context.

Bi-partisan legislation is in the works for technology that would prevent anyone over the legal limit from starting up a vehicle and driving off.

As I write this, a fall storm is bearing down on the #603. Like anyone who has lived through a data center outage, I have resiliency in multiple fashions: fueled-up cars and generator, flashlights with fresh batteries, candles and matches. And the fastest route to the nearest Starbucks if we lose internet.









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