Many IT departments have a less than sterling reputation. Outages are frequent and costly. Projects are unpredictable and over budget.
A survey in 2011 of small business owners found 77% had experienced downtime that caused productivity to suffer in the previous year. A Symantec study found SMBs average five outages a year, with a median loss of $14k a day. Larger organizations have larger impacts, of course, with a Ponemon Institute finding $5k a minute for data center outage with an average of 2.5 outages a year.
It is more than outages that hit the pocketbook. IT projects, those engines of value creation, are often at risk as well. In fact, a good 73% of IT management believes projects are doomed right from the get-go. Usually or always, there are problems from the start. From the same survey, by Geneca, 80% of the IT teams surveyed spend at least half their time in rework. Another survey, by PM Solutions, finds that an average SMB company has $74m in at risk projects yearly.
Ouch. PM Solutions lists five top causes of project failures. Curiously, these map very closely to the top causes of data center outages. From the ZDNet article:
• Requirements: Unclear, lack of agreement, lack of priority, contradictory, ambiguous, imprecise.
• Resources: Lack of resources, resource conflicts, turnover of key resources, poor planning.
• Schedules: Too tight, unrealistic, overly optimistic.
• Planning: Based on insufficient data, missing items, insufficient details, poor estimates.
• Risks: Unidentified or assumed, not managed.
What's wrong with the requirements? Quite likely, the person gathering the requirements and defining the scope did not have enough experience with the problem domain or knowledge with the solution domain. Put differently, the person didn't quite get the industry they were in or the technology they were using. Resources and schedules? Same thing. The people doing work that was not scoped out sufficiently, and perhaps subsequently getting burned out and leaving the firm. Identifying risks, providing good estimates, and producing quality results all requires experienced and knowledgeable professionals.
Training and tools. It is all about getting the right folks, giving them the right training, and providing the right tools. Recognizing, too, that what is right today is wrong tomorrow. This is an ongoing process.
It is more than tools. When people ask how my team is able to run a complex infrastructure with 9 folks when it used to take 26, a good emphasis is placed on virtualization and automation. That is appropriate insofar as good tools are a vital component of the strategy. However, giving me a stone Hearth Deck oven along with the utensils and ingredients puts me no closer to having a tasty artisan sandwich. That requires training and experience.
It was disappointing, therefore, to see the State of IT Skills survey that hit last week. "9 in 10 business managers see gaps in workers' skill sets, yet organizations are more likely to outsource a task or hire someone new than invest in training an existing staff." That does not fill me full of confidence. I outsource a number of commodity services today. I have to tell you, I am rarely impressed by their support or maintenance. I call outsourcing McDonald's IT for a reason. You get what you pay for.
90% of IT managers are running their departments into the ground. That is my take on the State of IT Skills survey. Projects continue to come in late and over budget. Outages continue to occur. The studies above are talking about tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, to millions of dollars in losses. Perhaps at one time, IT departments could get away with such things. There was not as much on IT, of course, and there was not much competition.
Today, IT is dial-tone. Today, competition is a telephone call away to the nearest cloud vendor. Tomorrow, if we continue on a path of equipping our teams for failure, perhaps only 10% of internal IT departments will remain. Those are the 1 in 10 IT managers who hire and retain the right people, and who train and equip their teams.