MFG 2.0

Crying In The IT Wilderness

A friend of mine who is going through an IT upgrade at work recently sent me a link from ConnectIT about a survey detailing the costs of "fragmented communications" in the workplace. In this age of increasing convergence, it seems like the entire concept of tech-based communication breakdown should be becoming obsolete -- instead, it seems as if "people skills" are in decline, and that the number of people who understand constantly growing/changing technology is also in decline.

I took some heat in our TalkBack forum for an article I wrote last month on IT outsourcing, and must admit the poster had a point in railing against the tide to offshore. I know from painful personal experience (a total laptop crash) that serious IT troubleshooting is beyond my personal skill set. Equally painful experience has taught me that that reliable technology and solid, in-house tech support is absolutely crucial to doing what I do everyday, and if you're reading this on a computer at work, you're probably like me -- inescapably tethered to information technology.

As for my friend's situation, I've been through a number of such "upgrades" myself, both with and without tech support, and in the latter case have witnessed hours of wasted time waiting for off-site consultants to come and "handle" even a relatively simple problem, much less the cascading recombinant chaos that seems to occur when IT systems collide.

And while it's getting tougher every day to make the business case to keep trained and knowledgeable -- and therefore more expensive -- workers on the job, it's also very expensive to have senior employees sitting around wasting their time, your money, and their patience while the tools of their trade don't work. Where's that cost/benefit balance at? Want to waste some money finding out?

For a quick contrast, consider those manufacturers who, having built up robust IT departments (Lockheed Martin springs to mind), are bucking the offshoring/outsourcing trend and actually building strong revenue-producing divisions with robust growth rates out of providing IT solutions to their (information) technologically challenged peers. This type of added value from well-trained, knowledgeable and empowered employees is a great route to new-line revenue growth and old-line continued productivity.

Even if you don't productize their services, heaven help the company that lays off its entire IT staff. My experience has shown that flying without a net when you're overhauling a crucial IT system is like living through a laptop crash -- once total calamity happens to you, you learn the value of double redundancy, and when your employees go from an environment of solid tech support to (sometimes literally) crying in the wilderness, it's not something they easily forget.

Unfortunately, because of turnover issues (which incidentally are usually more pronounced around "IT upgrade" time), businesses sometimes don't have that crucial institutional memory to fix things quickly, much less remember just how badly things went last time all the knowledge flowed out the door.

TAGS: Innovation
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