Modern Network Architecture

Dec 11 2012   10:44AM GMT

Two simple IT department issues in Modern Network Architecture

James Murray James Murray Profile: James Murray

As a business grows there is often a rebellion in IT departments.  On the one hand, IT technicians become overworked.  What I call IT cowboys enjoy the opportunity to wander the network arbitrarily fixing problems and playing the “lone wolf” on the network.  As the business grows though more and more “lone wolves” wander the network they begin stepping all over each other’s work.  In other words without understanding the changes or discoveries another lone wolf … err… technician has made, there is a risk.  The risk is that the change will break the fix of another technician made earlier. 

In a previous posting I discussed how IT people need to be Team players.  In another I discussed the supporting operational roles to the Incident and Problem management roles.  In this article I’d like to discuss a problem I recently ran into on a client site.  As an IT Consultant, I run into these problems all the time.  The simplest solution is to re-organize the department.

Two common symptoms of poor IT business behavior:  

No Root Cause analysis

Without a problem management team, the Incident team will end up troubleshooting and fixing problems over and over again.  If the company pays $10 to resolve a ticket, each time the incident reoccurs the company pays another $10 for the ticket resolution.  It’s not unusual for tickets to re-occur hundreds of times in a year’s period.  This increases the cost of incident support per problem from $10 to $10 times the hundreds of times the problem goes through the incident process again and again.

Symptom: runaway costs fixing the same problem over and over again.

No Change Management

A common problem I see is a technician coming in to fix a problem.  After the technician leaves, the customer finds a new problem or even worse an old problem has come back.  The incident team is called and a new ticket is open for each error.  Each technician continues to work on the same problems over and over again.

Symptom: runaway cost fixing the same problem over and over again.  This becomes compounded because while technicians fix one problem, they are breaking an old fix or creating new problems.  Incident problems on the network begin to snowball.

The most important thing to understand is that accountability.  As in any business department there must be a way to track and verify problems.  Managers are taught to first assign tasks, then second follow-up on those tasks.  This follow-up maintains the integrity of the business system.  Too often IT is seen as black magic.  Therefore the second management task does not occur.  Without follow-up IT experts setup their own priorities.

For example making the CPA and the controller the same person is asking for trouble.  Who follows up on the CPA if the CPA is the controller?  The same is true for when making the Incident manager and the problem manager the same person.  Making them the same person reduces accountability of the owner of the two roles.  By building in accountability, technical problems are reduced in the IT department in the same way financial errors and bankruptcy is reduced when a controller role is added to the accounting department.

This accountability is something the old “Lone Wolf” type of technician never had to deal with.  Yet as the business grows, this type of behavior actually damages the real value of the organization.  As a Seattle IT Consultant I work with IT departments and business owners to reorganize departments to avoid these types of conflicts between technicians. 

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