Here we are then, on the precipice of a glorious, brave new
worlda wired world where information is available in
the blink of an eye. Companies can serve their customers with
previously unimagined levels of sophistication all the time,
How is this possible? IT makes this possible. Once upon a
time IT was some bloke who had a PC at home. He knew more
than anybody else in the company did because he spent his
spare time fiddling about on one. IT departments were seat
of the pants stuff, making it up as you went along.
IT has advanced tremendously in the last few years; with
IT projects becoming more ambitious, more complex and more
technical. So if IT has moved into the 21st century, how come
senior management looks upon IT like it is still stuck in
the 1980s? There are still plenty of people out there with
a PC in the bedroom and an ambitious career before them and
there are plenty of people who will employ them because they
are cheap. But is this an appropriate course of action for
business, which is dependent on IT for its very function?
With this dependency comes the realisation that they cannot
provide the customer with service or product without it. Yet
many companies are striving forward with increasingly technical
IT projects but do not have the staff or the knowledge base
to support these projects internally. I know of many IT professionals
who have not been on a training course in years, yet they're
expected to support behemoth projects of a complexity never
before seen. Novell administrators suddenly find themselves
looking at NT workstations, SQL servers, a Unix server and
maybe a bit of wireless technology thrown in, not to mention
all the software they are expected to have an intimate knowledge
We live in an age where everything depends on data flow.
The "hows" and "whys" vary but what is
common is that companies are increasingly opting for technical,
flexible and demanding IT systems without having the experience
or the staff to deal effectively with them. A new computer
system does not cure all your problems, it just generates
a set of new ones, and these new problems are not being addressed.
The result is that either the project fails and costs massive
amounts of money or, more commonly, the staff leaves from
lack of pay, training, respect, consultation and consideration.
The company can then only attract hopefuls into the IT department
due to the level of salary they are offering; the person who
has left has also taken all the in-house experience with them.
Then the project stumbles from one crisis to anotherif it
survives at allcustomers get fed up, contracts are not renewed,
senior management moves on in a flurry of bank notes. This
emerging pattern is only going to increase if we continue
with this same mentality.
The mentality of IT staff on the cheap runs through both
public and private corporations. I can site two examples.
One is the NHS, where IT staff are not even recognised as
being anything other than clerical or admin staff; consequently,
they get the same rate of pay as secretaries and clerks. The
NHS could not function without IT. All pathology labs are
utterly dependent on IT systems; blood transfusion departments
are utterly dependent on IT systems. Without IT the hospital
ceases to operate and people die. Is it really appropriate
then to be looking for IT staff who can cope with Novell,
NT, Unix, SQL, Web development, project management, hardware
and software support, as well as user training, all within
the same working day and then pay them the same as clerical
grades? Example number two involves an IT outsourcing company
who 'abused' their staff so much that 80 percent of them resigned
over a three-month period. Net result is that they could not
fulfil their service level agreements and the customer(s)
walked away. They lost their biggest contract and the company
held on to existence by sheer luck and in a much-reduced form.
As the complexity of IT increases and the in-house people
do not have the knowledge base to cope, companies become more
reliant on the supplier for support. Suppliers are notoriously
poor at providing support for exorbitant prices. A false economy
looms. The organisation needs to ask itself if the benefit
of the new IT systems to their function and customers outweighs
the problems they are heading for? Come the revolution and
they cannot satisfy the expectations of their customers for
instant access and data, they will find themselves up against
the wall with a very grim future ahead of them indeed. Come
the revolution and our e-society may be more fragile than
Copyright © 2002 Raikes Hodson. All
Raikes Hodson lives in the NorthWest England.
He is a part-time archaeologist & ancient historian. Writes
for fun. Lives with girlfriend, 4 cats, 3 horses. Has a taste
for the dark side.