by Mark Swanson
No one can argue against the fact that the depth and breadth of business technologies in use today has gotten, well, much deeper and wider in the last decade. Ten years ago, IT teams primarily worried about desktops, servers and network connectivity. The corporate marketing department primarily managed websites as ‘brochureware,’ smart phones did not exist, only one out of 10 computers were portable laptops, and there was a ‘phone guy’ who managed the phone system.
Today, the situation is dramatically different. Not only do IT teams have to manage traditional IT services, but they also must corral all the new information technologies that have emerged in the past decade. The expanding list of new technologies is growing faster than the national debt — smart phones, tablet computers, remote desktops, VPNs, VoIP, the cloud, the list goes on and on.
“This has led to a condition among CIOs and IT managers that I refer to as competency deficit disorder (CDD).” I define CDD as the inability to manage the various technologies that you choose to deploy in your business. It happens when IT’s focus moves from delivering strategic value to the business to pursuing an agenda of buying technologies as a response to management’s obsession with cost control. When you choose to purchase based only on cost, you make dumb decisions like buying cheap while at the same time paring down your IT staff and bringing previously outsourced services in house. The result is your remaining staff runs around like chickens with their heads cut off, trying to fix things that break more often and that they have little or no training on. It’s like a never-ending tsunami of problems. These keep you from focusing on the projects that move the business forward.
How does the emergence of cloud technologies impact CDD? The cloud is the solution to CDD. Well, not quite, but the availability of cloud-based IT solutions offers some cures for CDD. One primary benefit is the reduction in wasted software licenses. A 2001 study claimed that 30 percent of software that companies bought was never even deployed — costing businesses an astonishing $130 billion. The primary reason was that IT personnel did not have the time to develop a competency to get the software up and running. The great advantage of Software as a Service (SaaS) is that you can start with one seat, try it out, and if it works, scale from there. If not, turn it off.
Another big cure is the ability to have a support staff that knows the product when you need it. A lot of times when a system breaks, it might not have been touched for months. Your support staff might not even remember the log-in password. You can’t have competency in a system that is barely used and you can’t afford to pay someone to maintain that expertise. I have Cisco Certified Engineers on staff that cost more than $100,000 and use that skill every day. The point is to choose — narrowly — the systems your IT team should focus on and find good cloud-based providers who have that competency for the rest.