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What Would You Demand From Your IT Department? 671

Posted by Cliff
from the minimum-level-of-service dept.
ZombieLine asks: "The IT department at my company (approximately some 500 people) is showing signs of incompetence, and has been ignoring knowledgeable user input for about a year. Additionally, they haven't been able to sell needed changes to senior management. Unacceptable server down time, maxed network storage, and no backups systems have hit the bottom line, and those on top are starting to notice. We users are staging a revolt to make IT more responsive to users by creating a group from the company divisions and IT to discuss needs and solutions. What would you put in our charter?" What services and responsibilities would you demand out of your IT department?
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What Would You Demand From Your IT Department?

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  • ITIL (Score:5, Informative)

    by Wanker (17907) * on Monday March 13, 2006 @09:32PM (#14912582)
    The UK-based ITIL initiative describes in gory detail a collection of best practices that IT can follow to provide better service to their customers. They can do as much or as little of the whole program as they want, and it can even be driven from the outside by the user community if absolutely necessary. Obviously, if there's cooperation it works better, but if they roll their eyes at "another total quality management initiative" (which it's not) you can still use the terminology and methods and eventually drag them into it.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Information_Technolog y_Infrastructure_Library [wikipedia.org]
    http://www.itil.co.uk/ [itil.co.uk]
  • by argoff (142580) on Monday March 13, 2006 @10:01PM (#14912744)
    At one company I worked for, upper level managment (bypassing everybody behind the scenes) got into a very expensive long term IT outsourcing contract with EDS that required them to take over all IT opperations. (kickbacks anyone?)

    Anyhow, what happened was that once EDS was locked in, they went off and hired a bunch of hamburger flippers and called them "Senor IT insert_speciality_here". While the existing IT staff tried their best to train them, the results were rather predictable. I've herd EDS has dome something similar in a bunch of big government contracts too.

    I've had friends in Europe claim that EDS are very respectable and professional experts, so perhaps there is something different in the US. But here, I was really unimpressed.
  • by Sinus0idal (546109) on Monday March 13, 2006 @10:04PM (#14912764)
    Indeed, I was going to say, I'd like the poster to show me a decent 200gb SCSI drive for $150. In fact, it would need to be in a RAID, so make that 2 or 3 200gb SCSI drives for $150.
  • by Geekbot (641878) on Monday March 13, 2006 @10:08PM (#14912789)
    You can say that again. IT doesn't make money, they save money. The suits in power see that the IT department can be run cheaper with only x staff and x resources. Those that aren't getting their needs met need to be vocal and clear about the cost to the company, in both downtime and morale, when the system just doesn't work.
  • by ZombieLine (817840) on Monday March 13, 2006 @10:14PM (#14912812)

    Some more information about our company. We are a company that has gone from 3 employees to 500 total in about 30 years. The current president founded the company, does not understand technology, same with most vice-presidents around him. The divisions in the company are run pretty much like separate companies, but IT comes out of every budget.

    The CIO attempts to fix by bringing current problems by e.g. we're running at 95% of network storage, and we don't have backup email server if the power goes out (twice last month) to the board meeting. The vice-presidents who don't understand the technology or the implications say no to the cost without understanding the impact.

    Me and other users would like to coordinate with IT so that before they go to the president and ask for money that they come through us so they can get the support from the us as well. But the other issue that we have is that they will roll out "upgrades" without coordinating first.

    CIO - We're going to Office 2003, here is the upgrade schedule, it's been blessed by the President

    US - We have customers that require Access 2000, and converting them back and forth is a good way to crash them

    CIO - We're locking down the computers effective today so you can't install anything.

    US - We create executables for distribution, we can't test on our machines.

    Granted these problems can be worked out, but its better to do it in advance. How would you create the hooks so the IT staff is responsible to user requests, but still remains the clearinghouse for technology?

    BTW - None of yagu's potential problems are here, no layoffs, bene's are great, and most people are generally happy. Senior IT management isn't that technical, but that's for another day.

  • Re:No Brainer (Score:3, Informative)

    by MarcQuadra (129430) * on Monday March 13, 2006 @10:30PM (#14912881)
    Not always so.

    Where I work there's no chargebacks, no SLAs, and the accounting is very loose. Because there are no chargebacks, the IT department has to pay for all new technology out of pocket. We have to make a decision either to provide equipment OR to be able to service it. When a department wants something we have to take the defensive, even if it is the right tool for the job, because it comes out of OUR operating budget. IT ends up stagnating the company just to be able to maintain existing equipment because there's absolutely zero enduser ownership or responsibility. We have departments that buy expensive inkjets on our budget, then want them serviced and consumables replaced on our budget as well.
    The worst thing is that the powers-that-be are unable or unwilling to change to a more 'corporate' structure of chargebacks, rigid accounting, and purchase/support policies, for reasons I'm not quite sure of. I don't know if this is common amongst academic institutions, but I'm from 'corporate' and it's driving me batty!
  • by Trigun (685027) <evil@evilempire . a th.cx> on Monday March 13, 2006 @10:31PM (#14912888)
    My pet peeve is being told what platforms to support, training budget spent on hardware, having to support a single server that needs to have 24/7 uptime built on commodity hardware, having end users think that a 250 gig hard drive for $150 is going to cut it as enterprise grade hardware, being pestered for every little thing that remotely has to do with IT, answering the exact same question over and over, even though you spent the time to put up a FAQ on it after the same person asked you the answer every damned day. I hate the fact that end users destroy their systems, lie about what websites they go to when you know exactly where they are going, what they are doing, what link they clicked on. I hate the fact that they decide to go to your supervisor before coming to you, and you get shit on because he has to break up his day and deal with an irate phone call because when you told the user that you were aware of the problem, and were working on it, and nothing has changed in the last five minutes, that was too much for them.

    The big thing that you need to have a qualified IT department is an actual department. Put training schedules in place, and anyone who isn't performing due to a lack of technical knowledge should be first retrained. Make a gameplan for your business, and ensure that you ask the IT managers to attend the planning. Keep them in the loop, and make sure that you have the equipment to make the initiative happen. Make certain that there are proper procedures in place to handle issues, and the staff and resources to fix them.
  • Business Analysis (Score:3, Informative)

    by Stormcrow309 (590240) on Monday March 13, 2006 @10:58PM (#14913004) Homepage Journal

    A wise man once said: Whatever you don't understand, must be easy.

    What I would suggest is to look at your IT Strategy. SLAs are useful for IT Management as a measure of how things are operating, just as is downtime, percentage usage, and costs of operations. Don't listen to anyone who suggest decentralization. We had some of that at my job. It is a nightmare. Incompatable "Best of Breed" systems and finger-pointing results. Costs rise quickly with decentralization too.

    Sit down with your IT management. List out facts. Don't fingerpoint. Just say: we are lossing x amount of cash due to issues with our systems. Have use studies on how you do business. Have predicted growth forecasting on systems load. Have your internal controls (audit) department monitor the disaster recovery plans and get an outside consultant to look at those plans. Get your IT Management to see your issues. Get a data retention policy and remove that data once it is too old.

    That said, realise that you might be the cause of the issues. How many years of journal entries do you really need? How much customization do you insist upon to make the systems work with your archaic business processes when you should be changing your business processes to work with the systems? How many times does your senior management hamstring IT's budget and capital improvements? Listen to what your IT Management says and if they have a compelling reason for something; then by God, give it to them.

  • Re:No Brainer (Score:2, Informative)

    by hot soldering iron (800102) on Monday March 13, 2006 @11:11PM (#14913058)
    Maybe because todays geeks know thats' how it's SUPPOSED to work, but in actuality the way it works is reminicent of a nasty corporate soap opera.

    I've worked in a "World Class" electronics test equip company of well over 1000 people (Think "Marconi Electronics" and their owners "IFR Americas"), management raped the employees, asked for input and then ignored it, marketing was screwing the secretaries, and the upper management was doing lines of coke at "Executive Retreats" down in Florida, and pulling insider trading. None of the managers gave a shit, as long as their ass was covered and nobody started showing pictures of last years Chistmas party. The running non-joke was who was getting ready to leave and sue the company for sexual harrasment/violation of Equal Opportunity labor laws/other non-disclosed legal violation. I knew one guy that was skilled, talented, helped the customers, made money for the company, was a great guy, etc.. and he actually got a raise! All he had to do was bug the dept. managers office to get dirt on him. I know. I helped him.

    None of the above is a joke. It's not even funny when you have to live through it. It's a wonder my liver still works after that ordeal. But it really openned my eyes to what goes on at a lot of places. I don't think I worked at anyplace else as bad as that, but some were close.

    Now if the original poster works in that kind of outfit, if he follows your suggestion he's going to find himself blackballed. No raises, performance is never quite up to expectations, anonymous customer complaints, accusations of not being a "team player", written up for not following "updated procedures" that were never posted, etc..

    What he needs to do is scope out who's screwing who, who's got an ax to grind, and who's got the political clout. Who does everyone fear? Get chummy with some of the office gossips, maybe buy a beer and lend an ear to someone in IT to figure out what's going on. Being tech competent may get you in the door, but being people savvy will make you successful. Pick your battles carefully, and only fight the ones you can win. It's better if you can get someone else with bigger guns to fight the battle for you, and think they did it for themselves.

    Yes, it's sneaky, Machiavellian backstabbing and politics. But it will work.

  • Sounds fishy (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 13, 2006 @11:41PM (#14913193)
    This sounds a lot like the situation I am in, except form the other side. We ran out of network storage (1 year after management was notified that we were running low), we no longer offer backup services (because management will not give money for a backup system that holds anything close to the capacity we need) and we have experienced system/network downtime because we are using equipment that twice over it's lifetime span (you can guess why we don't upgrade, and it's not because we are too incompetent). On top of that we have to deal with users who waste our time thinking we are there personal IT people and bug is with their personal questions.

    Maybe the problem is not with your IT staff, maybe it is management. To the users it probably looks like we are incompetent but, we are not, we just are not given the supplies/resources we need. Not to mention we work 60-80 hour weeks with no perks/over-time/bonuses at all.

    Many of this is probably because I work for a Dept at a big University, but I'm sure others are in the same situation.

    Make sure it is actually the IT staff that is incompetent and not the management who does not respond to their needs. I have made many pleas to management explaining the severity of problems but nothing gets done until the right "top" people complain to management. The day the "correct(top)" user complained about storage I was authorized to buy a new file server/storage, even tough for a year I was telling them we needed to this. Then we were rushed and had downtime.

    Maybe you should complain, just make sure you are complaining about the right things. It is very possible that you need a charter for the management about how they need to listen to IT and respond to their needs.
  • by cexshun (770970) on Monday March 13, 2006 @11:55PM (#14913272) Homepage

    As the sole IT employee in my mid-sized company, I understand your wants. However, perhaps you don't see that you're micro-managing a bit?

    My bosses want to be kept informed at all times. However, trust me and let me do my job. When I fix something, don't ask me what was wrong or how I fixed it. I don't have time to explain to you what you learn in 2 semesters of network infrastructure classes. Just back off and you'll be surprised how much an IT person will get done. Sometimes you just have to accept, "It was a problem with the hosts file and it was throwing off sendmail" without probing into sendmail.mc theory. And as far as explaining it in non-techie terms, I can only dumb down SSH tunnels and the TCP/IP protocol so much before I want to jab myself in the eye with a spork. OK boss, it works likes this. A computer stands up and yells,"Hey Server!!!". All the computers here it, but only the server yells back, "Yeah, what do you want?"

    As an example, my boss was on vacation in Florida. While he was gone, in 1 week, I was able to complete more projects to improve business and workflow then I previsouly had since the first of the year. You know why I was so non-productive? My bosses demanded a military-like work ethic, wanted to be constantly informed, wanted to triple check the line items on a budget request for a freakin tape drive, etc. Without him breathing over my shoulder and constantly asking me why I had a browser open(that better be work related!) and without having to explain to him why DNS is so important to an AD network, I was able to do what he was trying to 'motive' me to do, actual work!

    And just because you don't see me doing anything doesn't mean I'm not busy. Sometimes I have to push myself away from my desk and 'space out' for a bit while I brainstorm what the heck is wrong with the httpd.conf file.

    IT is a tough job. If people don't know you exist, that means you're doing a good job. Conversly, they get the impression that you don't do anything since you're out of sight/out of mind. And ever since I bought that Time Management for Systems Administrators(previsouly reviewed on slashdot), it seems I have become more productive while giving the illusion of doing less work.

  • by rtphokie (518490) on Tuesday March 14, 2006 @12:03AM (#14913308)
    Horseshit! IT support IS about users and you'd better learn how to talk to them if you want to keep working in IT. RTFM as a response to stupid user questions will eventually get you your walking papers.

    Wrong. Many supposed IT problems should actually be solved by HR with a good talking to about abuse of company resources and how that might limit your career.

    Calling IT when you forget your password for the 5th time that month or with some dumb question because you are too lazy to crack open a manual is no better than stealing office supplies or equipment. It's all just stealing resources.

    20% of the users create 80% of the work for IT.
  • by jbolden (176878) on Tuesday March 14, 2006 @01:18AM (#14913598) Homepage
    First off Linux doesn't support what I'm describing. You really need to be using Z-OS, VMS, I-OS. Basically you want a database filesystem.

    You thinking less redundancy then these systems involve. Imagine three servers A, B and C all receiving the same input and both running the same programs. They are mirrors of one another. So far this is like classic clustering. Note they have independent storage, they just happen to store the same stuff.

    Now you take C off the cluster and perform an upgrade. C then rejoins and resincs. It may be running a different OS version at this point. Once C has completed you pull B off upgrade and resinc. You pull A off. At this point you roll the effect of the upgrade in. You upgrade A roll the effect in and have it resinc. You never ever have to go down.

    Does that make sense?
  • Re:ITIL (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 14, 2006 @02:44AM (#14913895)
    I am a consutltant and I have not seen a use of ITIL that I liked. I have seen more arguments about correct terminology then problems solved. The terms are quite arcane. It is a nice way to take ordinarily recognizable words and apply them so specifically that the un-initiated frequently confuse the meaning and usage. I have also seen infuriating problem management that adds several weeks onto the resolution when the implementors left to there own devices would have solved it quicker without the interference. You can mention all you want about how you have to implement ITIL properly but you can never fully solve the human problem without good leadership. ITIL does not provide good leadership though the companies that I have had the misfortune of working for used it as replacement for it. It is however a budding beurocrats dream come true. You can lock up so many tasks within IT through ITIL. I have also seen non-IT groups successfully co-opt many IT projects by using ITIL. The IT staffs faced with there projects being co-opted and decision making responsibility removed have become ineffective and consistent failures. It might be that the organizations where I have experienced ITIL did not involve the implementors effectively because of lack of leadership. I am currently consulting at a company that is using ITIL and bending six sigma to IT usage, that in itself is sign to me that something is rotten in thier approach to IT service leadership.

    P.S.:
    I would not recomend any CA product. Oh yeah they have been known as CA for many years now. IBM is a tier 1 consulting firm and software developer, unlike CA. There is so much ITIL compliant software out there it is curious that you mentioned those two. It would have been more relevent if you mention Peregrine or Serena for software and Deloitte & Touche and Andersen on the consulting side. But I supose your experience with ITIL has been significantly different than mine.
  • Default permissions on exchange Public folders used to be equiv to full control. Change to Full for exchange admin, modify, etc as appropriate (not sure about defaults on current release of exchange). Remember least permission/privilege needed to get the job done is the goal.

    I was going to moderate this thread, but I just had to post this.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 14, 2006 @07:28AM (#14914640)
    Cyrus attempts to do this on a per message basis. If the message is identical (eg. cc'ed to a bunch of users) the whole message including attachment is created as a hardlink. It can save a surprisingly large amount of disk space.

    A binary scan on attachments of inbound mail sounds very disk intensive, however if an index db was available it might be workable.
  • by permaculture (567540) on Tuesday March 14, 2006 @10:47AM (#14915561) Homepage Journal
    We weren't "running around unlocking accounts", because we switched that rule off. As is plainly stated in my original post.

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