Bad IT: Don’t make these mistakes in your organization

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Stephen Sauer

We’ve all worked at “that place,” where processes weren’t followed, best practices were unheard of, and dysfunctional rhythms and routines were the law of the land. In some ways, these experiences can be our greatest teacher, providing an object lesson in how things are not supposed to work.

Here are some real-life examples of less-than-best practices, performed both by IT organizations and IT pros themselves, as well as the lessons that can be learned from them.

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Just another manic Monday

An IT professional’s work life can feel like a never-ending series of crises, thanks to the sheer volume of user requests that pour in on any given day. However, continually operating in fire-drill mode is not a good thing.

Steve Aponte, who is currently program director at Intelligent Product Solutions, can relate. At a former job, IT was bombarded with urgent phone calls for end users whose desktop and mobile devices were failing. And, of course, not just failing, but failing at the most inopportune times, like at a customer site.

What this company failed to do was to have a proactive maintenance and refresh program in place. “Replacing them at the right time would help so much, without going into fire-drill mode,” Aponte says.

A best practice is to use a hardware/software inventory system that tracks on a weekly basis when laptops will hit the anniversary of their warranty expiring. “IT needs to take a step back and strategize on preventing things from happening that need a fast response,” he says.


With today’s fast-changing technologies, organizations value IT professionals who are on the cutting edge. But failing to share that knowledge, or even the technologies themselves, can be a problem.

This is the situation Ken Piddington faced when he served as consultant several years ago on a project to design a new transactional operations system.

Piddington, now CIO at MRE Consulting, had just finishing up a demonstration when the head of operations pulled him aside and expressed concern that his team wouldn’t be able to use the system. “I asked, `Why – was it too complicated?’ He said no, that they wouldn’t be able to see the screens on their monitors, as they were too small.” He took me to where he sat, and there was this tiny, ancient 13-inch monitor.

Meanwhile, the IT director’s office was like a different world. “It looked like he was flying a plane, with a 22-inch monitor – when that was a rarity – a cool new phone, a PDA, a tablet, all this stuff,” Piddington says.

The IT workers simply had better equipment than everyone else. “They were being the keepers of the technology kingdom and not educating the user community on what was available to help them do their jobs,” he says. It’s certainly common for IT to stay a step ahead of users by testing out cutting-edge technologies and running prototypes, he says, but “it was as if they were keeping the rest of the organization in the dark.”

Piddington made sure that when he built the specs for the new system, a minimum requirement was a new large monitor, equal to what sat on the desks in IT. Bottom line: “The IT guys shouldn’t have more cool technology than what the rest of the organization needs to do their job,” he says.

What’s in a name?

IT hiring is on the rise by all accounts, and that means employers must once again sharpen their hiring skills. A mistake that hiring managers make, according to Matt Leighton, director of recruitment at Mondo, is searching by title and thus missing embedded skill sets that don’t always show up that way.

“They’re often looking for certain titles and buzzwords in the resumes they review, and if those aren’t in abundance or not included in the candidate’s most recent role, they’ll take a pass,” Leighton says.

For instance, if an employer is interested in someone who’s strong in VMware, but the applicant refers to himself as a systems engineer, the hiring manager could be missing out, he says. “They’re looking for the most relevant buzzwords, but that doesn’t mean there’s not a hidden gem when the title doesn’t show up,” Leighton says.

Those hidden gems can be found, he says, when the hiring manager looks at the context of the work, itself.

Game of thrones

It’s only natural to pay attention when a high-level executive calls. But as counterintuitive as it may seem, that inclination should not extend into prioritizing service requests. Such was the case, though, at Aponte’s previous employer.

“There was literally a team of desktop support people devoted to the executive team,” he says. “I found that so odd, because to me, priority should be based on the issue, not the person.”

Case in point: An executive might be asking why his desktop printer isn’t working, when there’s another just down the hall, while a field service representative might have a technology issue that is affecting his ability to help a customer.  

“Requests that come from above should not supersede the needs of other employees,” Aponte says. “IT professionals need to be able to say, ‘I’ve got to help John out in the field, and then I’ll help you with your printer issue.’”

Bad to the bone

On the flip side, if you’re an IT professional who is job hunting, you want to make sure you don’t end up in a less than optimal situation.

Chris Tynan, managing director of the IT practice at Addison Group, says bad IT can show up anywhere, large enterprises, mid-market companies and startups, he says.  

In the startup world, where the focus is on speed to market, processes can often fall to the wayside; in fact, a lack of mature processes is more often the rule than the exception, he says.

Meanwhile, in the mid-market, processes might be well defined, but organizations find themselves bending those processes and pulling resources from core tasks to accommodate customer requests from the sales side.

Lastly, in enterprise-class businesses, siloed work environments can deter technology professionals from being exposed to multiple areas of the business or to new technologies that are being implemented.

There is no ready fix for any of these scenarios, Tynan says, but everyone in IT – especially job seekers – should be aware that these tensions do exist. The onus is on job candidates to know what they’re getting into.

“Folks are coming in who aren’t asking all the questions they need to,” he says. “They’re interviewing to land the job and overlook that they need to interview the organization itself to ensure it’s a great fit.”

Brandel is a freelance writer. She can be reached at

This story, "Bad IT: Don’t make these mistakes in your organization" was originally published by Network World.


Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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