Monday, September 15, 2008

Great tech staff are enablers...

I think Dilbert rocks (ok well some of the time they get a bit weird).

I have heard too many stories about technology staff working day and night, the craziest hours and giving everything they have just to keep things working. These techs love their job and the work they do, just like many other nonprofit, mission driven staff. But these tech staff are maintaining the thin line between the org growing or crashing into complete chaos.

Technology departments arent given the budget or the staff to do what should be done. Rather they are told what needs to be done and they can only use the limited resources they already have. Now of course these staff are gifted and creative enough to rise to the occasion to get the job done. But if you were ever to go back and look at these projects, you would wonder how it ever worked. I always think of "punky power" when I talk about this (old Punky Brewster show reference).

Its as if nonprofits are willing to gamble with all the donors money, staff's time and everything they believe in just to save a few dollars.

Data breach, network crash, embezzlement, data loss, IRS audit, etc. Those are the type of rewards waiting for those who gamble. Waiter, please cancel the order of life cycle management, I think I would rather have the catastrophic data corruption. And even if none of these terrible things happen, just think of the simple result of missed opportunity.

OK, so not sure I have made the point of how great tech staff are enablers though. If we, ok that is a stretch to include me. If you, the great tech staff out there, work yourselves into the ground and push the limits of your not so secure\stable technology without truly stressing the risks to leadership if it (or your) crumbles then are you enabling them to continue that bad practice? If your org is not securing information, creating stable systems and growing the technology support then I say part of your job is to speak up.

Ah well, that is all pretty easy to say when you dont have a job. I still think that part of the reason I dont have a job is that I did speak up about this. But I do know that it had to be said and I know that voice helped others change direction on a treacherous road.


Anonymous said...

One of the most difficult things to do is get everyone to understand the importance of what you are suggesting or trying to do. Remember, IT is always a money hole particularly when you look at it on a balance sheet. It isn't easy to show any sort of ROI on a 15k "investment" into redundant storage when non-redundant gets the job done.

I think it is easy to sell a project on the grounds of, "this is what it enables" or "if we automate this process we'll save $$" but it is more difficult to take it to the next level.

Putting things in terms of money is easy for them (execs) to understand but it gets much more difficult to show why the redundant storage option (to continue that example) is important. I've found that it is easier to say, this portion of the project is what enables us to X and the rest is a one time insurance cost against staff time and data loss.

A good example is the use of encrypted flash drives. I harped and harped how we needed to be using encrypted flash drives for storing some sensitive information. People balked at the cost of the drives. They said why? I can get that same thing for $15, why pay $75? A few weeks ago I was able to make my point when I found a non-encrypted flash drive sitting on a desk, I used the info on it to come up with a hypothetical situation. They saw the light and we're now ordering a number of encrypted flash drives.

Steve Heye said...

Great comment and example ruedu. "One of the most difficult things to do is get everyone to understand the importance of what you are suggesting or trying to do."

Would love to hear other comments on how to stress these points.

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