Heed the warnings: 5 telltale signs of impending IT disasters

Nothing fosters more frustration than the breakdown of enterprise IT. Almost every important thing people do at their workplace is done in a business application. Inability to use IT assets to their full potential — well that’s a major roadblock for all kinds of organizations, particularly in this era, where “digital” is the norm rather than the exception. IT departments have their own problems to battle. Budgets are hard to procure, harder to manage, and even harder to deliver ROIs on. Regular operational troubles, it seems, are a major weight on IT, pulling it down. Sadly, IT leaders and managers get confined to their myopic visions and fail to identify signs of IT disasters in the making, let alone prevent or combat them. That’s where we want to help, and we’ll do so by highlighting five telltale signs of IT disasters that may be ready to bring your organization to its knees.

Unexplained and unpredictable flow of complaints

IT Disasters

Here’s the deal — yes, IT disasters are very bad, but IT incidents and change requests are good. As long as their number is below a well-thought-out number, it’s really good. That’s because it implies that business user groups have confidence in IT and find it useful to raise their complaints and requests in the form of tickets.

Yes, you’ll always have dips and surges in ticket volume. It’s too early to draw conclusions at the moment. Ask yourself — can my team explain this change in volume? Did a critical change go-live with a lot of bugs (causing a spike in tickets)? Did we solve a long pending problem affecting multiple geographies (causing ticket flow to reduce)?

If you did nothing special, and the tickets are slowly going down, it’s time to dig deep. More often than you’d expect, this is an outcome of lack of confidence in IT’s capabilities. Worse still, end users have found the alternative mechanism of troubleshooting problems, and nobody cares one bit about the good old “root cause analysis” anymore. This is a sure sign IT disasters are about to strike.

When IT talks instead of listening

IT Disasters

IT, at the end of the day, is a business enabler, and not the business. The saying of the decade is — “Every business is a tech business.” Well, we disagree. Tech helps businesses do more with less, and it’s great until everyone understands this.

IT needs to help business users do their work better. And to do so, it must understand their problems, and not try to imagine them. Too many times, when IT reps meet business reps, the tech leaders focus more on showcasing what’s latest from the world of IT and what it can do for the business. That’s good, but only when the business is already delighted with what it already has, in terms of IT support and innovation.

The result of the aforementioned problem — business users fail to engage in the brainstorming sessions and fail to explain their pain points. Worse still, IT leaves the room without learning a bit about how it can offer the most valuable business functionalities with minimal effort. And then there’s the decades-old problem of tech leaders sticking to “IT-speak,” without caring about how much sense they make to business users.

Tendency to resist change

The misfortune of IT is that the environment most relevant for them (global tech) is rapidly evolving. What’s “best practice” today will be obsolete in merely a couple of years. Then, there’s no inherent mechanism or natural source of feedback for IT to understand that it’s lagging, because nobody else in the organization understands tech as well the IT team!

Hence, it’s commonplace for IT to resist change, particularly when the ideas come from anybody other than the CIO or CDO. Considering how technology lifecycles are shrinking, this tendency to resist change is a recipe for trouble — and IT disasters.

At the very least, your organization’s IT department must have a mechanism to review performance, monthly as well as quarterly. Next, the leaders in the department must proactively initiate programs to drive speedy change for the better. The ability to identify trends, change practices quickly, and recover from blips — that’s what defines the dynamic IT that businesses desire.

Same problem, again and again, and yet again

IT disasters
Flickr / Kevin Simmons

We mentioned how end user teams could lose faith in IT and stop relying on the set procedures for problem-resolution altogether. Well, things could go from bad to worse. When people face the same problem, again and again, they lose connection and desire, and zone out from their work, almost irreparably.

Here are some symptoms to watch out for:

  • Regular work days for IT workers turn into late nights at the office, frequently.
  • Simple problems take weeks to be solved.
  • Requests change too many hands before being resolved (passing the buck).
  • A habit of outages, without explanations.

The immediate action you can take is to organize root cause analysis and lessons-learned meetings for all of the problems highlighted above and make sure everyone connects deeply to solve the core problem, rather than using a Band-Aid to hide wounds.

When SLAs become an excuse

Trust IT executives to figure out the nastiest of loopholes in ticketing tools, and to use them to meet SLAs on service incidents and service requests. Well, almost every enterprise department works in the same manner, but this should be the exception rather than the norm.

When IT consultants forget about the problem being faced by the end users and focus merely on keeping their SLA report cards in good shape, it’s a major problem. Remember, when a sales office manager complains that his team is losing out on closing contracts because of a problem in the order booking system, even the healthiest of SLA report cards will be thrashed by the sales director.

Averting IT disasters

It’s a thankless job, being proactive enough to avoid catastrophe, especially when you know you’ll have to ruffle some feathers in the journey. However, the gains will justify the means. Before IT becomes disconnected from the core business, take stock of the problems, understand the implications, and avert IT disasters.

Featured image: Shutterstock

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