How Your IT Department Learned About Outsourcing

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They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks and this adage applies doubly to system administrators. After all, you pay these same people to protect your data and systems with tooth and claw, right? The problem is that sometimes they protect it too well. Ever needed quick access to data in order to make an informed business decision just to be told someone is on vacation or that particular system is down for maintenance until the end of the week? Are you still collaborating with remote teams via MS Excel? Have these added layers of security gotten in the way of your company’s ability to grow and react to the customers’ needs?

Outsource your basic infrastructure

Most IT departments still provide their companies with email and calendaring solutions, virus scanning and document storage, and, if you’re very lucky, regular backups of all the above. While smaller, start-up firms have embraced the outsourcing of such commodity services, mid-to-large size companies are extremely resistant to hosting their data within and serving internal applications from the cloud. Instead of leveraging their most business critical advantage, namely people, they believe that their plans and ideas form the basis of their competitive edge. So, your IT department spends months (and tens of thousands of dollars) setting up basic infrastructure for your business’s planning and documentation requirements. Instead of working on creating customer value and growing your market share, you’ve just decided to introduce another business critical system to maintain as well as a single point of failure in your internal communications. There are more than enough professionally hosted email and calendaring providers in the market these days.

Waiting Weeks for Hardware Is Unacceptable

Did you say you wanted to grow your market share? Well, remember that traffic spike last week that shutdown your website? That’s kind of a difficult way to grow your company. Your sysadmin says they’ve ordered ten more web servers which should arrive by the end of the month. Sounds reasonable – but, wait, they’ll need a couple weeks to get them all installed, configured and setup in the data center? This conversation should sound hauntingly familiar to you. If your IT department isn’t doing their capacity planning homework, requisitioning hardware is always going to be an unpleasant side effect of downtime. You’ll probably also notice that whenever you suggest taking a look into this “Cloud Computing” thing, they start to foam at the mouth and begin expounding on all the security and intellectual property issues we just noted above. Luke Kanies notes in this “Sysadmin Models” post that “the models [system administration] tools use set an upper limit of the size of the problems we can comfortably work with. Unless we develop a whole slew of new tools with more powerful models, we’ll be forever stuck thinking about bits on disk.” Exactly this level of thinking has companies seriously considering commodity computing and others already migrated: Justin Leider shares his insight on migrating CitySquares’ web application to the cloud. If there are professional services out there with highly qualified staff specifically trained to take care of these bits, why should you invest extra resources in a department that causes you sleepless nights and gives you no end to excuses as to why your data is gone.

Narrowmindedness is a Global Problem

For those of you working for German companies, Markus Klems makes some excellent observations in his post “Cloud Computing, Data Protection and the German Mindset”. From online email services to Internet banking, the same people arguing against the cloud are already there. He further notes that that “Cloud Computing is a developer-facing business”. What we are seeing is simple supply and demand – and since developers (and the business that is pushing those developers) aren’t able to get the necessary support in-house they are looking elsewhere.

Has your IT department learned about cloud computing the hard way? What do they think about outsourcing basic computing infrastructure?

2 thoughts on “How Your IT Department Learned About Outsourcing

  1. Hi Dan,

    Nice article. There is one part in particular I agree with very much, if the users(business,departments,employees,etc) cannot get what they need NOW

    NOW = Within a reasonable time at a reasonable quality

    from IT then they will go elsewhere. All the mouth foaming, screaming, and yelling won’t matter. The users will still go somewhere else. It’s inevitable because there are too many ways to get around your own IT department if you must. This is not a new Cloud Computing trend either. This all started quite a lot of years ago.

    A better response than “mouth foam” from any IT Manager/CIO would be to ask why did we lose this business? With those answers and solid analysis and adjustment to their customers needs they can improve and get their customers back. IT can be a valuable strategic, tactical benefit to a company.

    I recently wrote an article(1) about exactly that, what IT might be able to do/adopt/become, what traits it needs, that might help them compete and adjust. Let me know if you find it interesting! -Kent



  2. Thanks for dropping by, Kent, and glad you enjoyed it!

    Your article does an excellent job covering IT traits that can actually create customer value (while at the same time go a long way towards keeping IT jobs in-house). A lot of really hard working folks need to realize they aren’t indispensable and instead take a more business oriented approach to what many people see as technical “black magic”.


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