Senior management: Don’t manage each IT component in isolation

* The network is not always to blame: The challenge to senior management

In the last newsletter we commented on our belief that application delivery is becoming increasingly important to the success of an organization at the same time that the IT organization is becoming increasingly stove-piped. We stated our belief that senior IT management needs to fix the IT organizational model at both the planning and operational levels.

We will use this newsletter to comment on the operational environment. To do this we will use the response of one of our readers who commented on a previous newsletter in which we focused on the fact that the network is assumed to be the culprit until it is proven not to be. The reader wrote: “This article really hit a nerve with me, too. Our network team often experiences this exact situation.” He went on to say: “We have NetQoS’s SuperAgent and Reporter-Analyzer, as well as various other tools such as Solar Winds Orion and a number of Network General Sniffers. On complex problems we are expected to prove the network is not the problem as well as point out to the appropriate group(s) that the problem seems to be in their area of responsibility (in a tactful, politically-appropriate manner) and, yet, we are still held accountable.”

The reader detailed the expectations that management has for his group: “We are expected to coordinate testing between application developers, vendors, server administration groups, users, etc., etc., and then keep management and the business updated on the current status of a ticket. And then, once the problem is resolved, we often get comments to the effect of ‘Why didn’t you do (fill-in-the-blank) first?’.”

He gave a particular example in which they were recently involved in a problem involving a certain version of Apple’s AFP protocol for a sub-set of computers, passing through one segment of the network where an intrusion prevention system (IPS) was located. The performance on this segment was extremely bad, despite all of their tools not showing any network problems. After weeks and weeks of trying to get resources in from their desktop support team to work with his organization, they finally hired an Apple consultant. On the first day that the consultant was on-site, they were able to work with the consultant to isolate the cause of the problem within the IPS and institute a fix. The management response was a somewhat predictable “Why didn’t you turn off the IPS first?”

Relative to this situation, we partially agree with senior management. We believe that senior management should expect the operations group to perform such tasks as coordinating testing between application developers, vendors, server administration groups, users, etc. Senior management, however, has a major role to play here. The role of the network operations group is changing quickly and dramatically. Until recently this group was responsible for just the network. Now this group is also responsible for application performance.

Senior managers need to acknowledge that managing application performance is a fundamentally new responsibility and that it is difficult. Actually, it is very difficult. In multiple newsletters we have written about dysfunctional IT processes, such as the one described above in which it took multiple weeks to get the company’s desktop support team involved in resolving an application performance issue. Individual IT managers can only do so much to fix this. What is needed is for senior management to realize that if you work in IT, you have one of two jobs. You either develop applications or you deliver applications. Only if senior managers adopt that approach can they begin to lead the organization to where it needs to be – an organization that focuses on the goal of delivering applications and not just managing each component of the IT infrastructure in isolation.

What are your thoughts? Has your organization made any attempts to break down the organizational and technology stove-pipes? If so, were those attempts successful?

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