Perception Versus Reality (& Why Network Performance Matters)

Rose Colored GlassesA new study from InformationWeek reports that there is a disconnect between the perceptions of end users and IT departments. While more than half (60%) of IT respondents said IT was integral, only 43% of non-IT participants concurred, and only half of business users reported being “moderately,” “very” or “completely” satisfied with the performance of their own IT departments on projects, compared to 68% of respondents who work in IT; 20% of end users reported being “not at all satisfied,” compared to 9% of IT staff.

That this great divide exists should come as no surprise, but that doesn’t mean it’s not significant, especially to the network group. The users-versus-IT/us-versus-them culture has many causes, including limited budgets and resources, the need to keep existing systems up and running while trying to develop new ones, and unrealistic demands from management and end users. Three decades ago it was about the arrival of IBM ‘business’ PC clones and even worse, the Apple Mac, making an end-run around the IT department. Today, in addition to the Apple iPhone and other smartphones and tablets (BYOD), the current list of transgressors includes the consumerization of IT, cloud computing, online file sharing, and 24×7 anywhere/anything/anybody connectivity.

In the most recent Unisys study of the consumerization of IT, the company found a deepening divide between mobile information workers and the enterprise IT departments that support them. “This year’s research shows that the consumerization charge is being led by an elite group of highly connected mobile workers who are using the latest technologies to better serve customers and help their organizations succeed — regardless of whether those technologies are officially supported and sanctioned,” said Fred Dillman, Unisys chief technology officer.

According to CIO Insight, it’s no problem understanding why users can get frustrated. Businesses lack insight into network activity: 23% of organizations experience serious, service-impacting problems every day; nearly half encounter these problems every month; serious problems can take 30 days or longer to resolve; organizations will have up to 250 performance-related tickets open at any given time; and nearly 30% of organizations do not have a clear understanding of how much bandwidth they’re using.

The bottom line is that today’s enterprise networks are sinking under demands that are both changing and accelerating. By 2017 almost half — 45% — of all networks will be obsolete, so if you think users are unhappy now, just wait.

For another take on the issue comes from Gartner Group VP Mark P. McDonald, who offers ten telltale signs IT is isolated in your organization:

  • Isolation by irrelevance: The IT strategy talks about IT without putting IT in a business context or connecting what IT does with what the business needs to do. An IT strategy that only talks about IT tells the business that they do not have to worry, care or expect much from IT because its more of a functional appendage than a core capability.
  • Isolation by the ordinary: The goals, targets and outcomes in the IT strategy are vague, unclear, and center on doing your current job better — high quality services, managing costs, delivering projects on time, etc. Sure it is great to know that doing your job means success, but often doing your job is the best way to lose your job.
  • Isolated by monetization: The IT strategy is presented in financial terms, with nature only expressed in terms of budgets, costs and the need to control both. Reducing IT to its input costs is the epitome of commoditization as everything can be expressed in terms of money with little regard to the capabilities and results returned for that investment.
  • Isolated by a lack of prioritization: All projects, services, imperatives are equally important. If everything is equally important, than nothing is particularly important to IT or the business.
  • Isolation in time: The high level initiative or project Gantt chart has the vast majority of projects completing at the end of 2013 or beyond. What happened to last year’s projects — the 2012 initiatives that were planned to complete in 2013? If everything is expected to complete 9 months or more in future, then how connected is it to the rest of the organization.
  • Isolation by generalization: The stated IT vision could apply to any company, any year or any industry. How relevant and connected could your IT strategy be if anyone could fulfill the IT goals?
  • Isolation by repetition: This year’s goals are the same or very similar to last year’s plus or minus 10%. Is IT delivering new results or repeating the same results year over year?
  • Isolation by ability: There are limited investments in IT skills, capabilities or capacity to execute the strategy. Given the growing and changing demands of new technology it is difficult to see how you can connect business and new technology without also gaining new skills.
  • Isolation by organization: The IT strategy describes new governance arrangements, processes and policies for engaging the business. This institutionalizes the separation of IT from the rest of the business via formal processes and procedures.
  • Isolation by stability: Does the rate of change in the IT organization its structure and teams match the rate of change in the rest of the organization? If IT remains the same when the rest of the organization is changing, then it has to be isolated.

Image credit: Monica’s Dad (flickr)