As a disclaimer to this post I’d like to point out that I don’t feel that IT departments are the Anti Christ. Most companies have limited financial and human resources for a lot of the technical back office support and I don’t think there is an IT department in the world that isn’t under strain because of the restraints imposed upon it by senior management. Having said that, the way you manage that strain says a lot about the calibre of IT management and the staff within the structure. Now I have got that out of the way, let’s go for the jugular!
In the “day job” I work for a medium sized public sector organisation that has very high security risks and when myself and two colleagues started a new unit within the organisation the IT department was very much the tail that wagged the dog. If we asked for certain IT systems to be put in place the team members would spend more time telling us why they couldn’t do it than finding a way of implementing our requests. In short they were lazy, had a nice little system going and, to put it bluntly, couldn’t be arsed to put themselves out.
At first they tried to baffle with techno-babble but sadly for them the three of us were pretty IT literate and shot down most of their arguments as to why they couldn't help us. There were a series of major battles and by and large we got our way. Then two years ago the organisation brought in a new director level bod who is one of the leading IT experts in his field and that’s when the blood letting started. A massive internal revamp reduced the team from about 120 to 70 staff and a forthcoming second round of job cuts is about to cut that by 50%.
This has led to an understandable atmosphere of bad feeling and a serious deterioration in service and I have four examples of how this has affected me and my team.
1: Back in February I ordered a one terabyte hard drive as one of our important processes was eating up the pre-installed 80gb drive. It arrived in a week and, despite countless prods and pushes on the Assyst logging system, it eventually got installed three weeks ago after the “mission critical” processes on the PC were jeopardised. Sadly, the technician who ghosted the old drive didn’t extend the partition so the PC thought the new 1tb drive was the old 80gb and ground to a halt! Two days later after another Assyst log and no technician to extend the partition - a 10 minute job - I informed the help desk that I was transferring 17gb of archive files from the stand alone PC to the already creaking main server to ensure business continuity. A technician arrived within half an hour!
2: Again, back in February I requested that Cognos software be transferred from the PC of an individual who did not need it any more and for it to be placed on my computer. That was finally achieved this week after several “Ground Control to Major Tom …” messages on Assyst and a desperate WTF email to the head of IT outlining the delays.
3: A year or so ago I got a Blackberry - or so I thought - so I would keep in touch with emails and voice calls while out of the office. The allegedly configured Blackberry arrived and I was told that I could receive emails but not make phone calls. Apparently the Blackberries were part of a bulk purchase with another organisation and they got the full working kit but because my organisation used a different air time provider the SIM card couldn't be used for voice calls. I sent it back.
4: Earlier this year one of my team damaged some kit on a vehicle. The installation and maintenance of this kit is handled by IT so I raised a purchase order and asked the clerk to forward it to IT to obtain replacement parts. Four months later nothing had happened so I rang the MD to complain about non delivery only to be told that they hadn’t received the PO!
Judging by conversations I have had with other managers I am not alone. I will get to the bottom of this but it is almost as though the whole IT team is affecting “If you think this is bad just wait until you decimate us and see what sort of service you will get then.”
Now I shouldn’t have to send an unpleasant email to the equivalent of a CIO because I know the pressure he is under, but when my department’s efficacy is threatened then I will move heaven and earth and get as nasty as is required. But this begs the question - he did not know how his department was under performing and are you aware of how your team is working for the various levels of your organisation? Have you carried out an audit right down to the lowest common denominator to see how the IT department is seen? You may receive an unpleasant shock or do you subconsciously know there are problems and you are sweeping them under the carpet?
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