When applications perform badly, is the CYA approach good enough?

* Who gets the rap when networked apps perform badly?

Throughout the years, we have done a lot of seminar tours on topics such as wide-area networking and network and application optimization. On these tours, invariably some speaker asks the audience who gets blamed when an application runs badly. The response is always the same - it is the network that takes the rap. The speaker then goes on to explain that he is there to discuss a product that has all kinds of graphs and charts that will prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that it is not the network that is causes the application to perform poorly. Let's refer to this as the CYA approach.

We recently had the opportunity to interview the CIO of a Fortune 500 company. Part of the interview dealt with his company's approach to ensuring application performance. The CIO expressed disdain, bordering on anger, for the CYA approach. He said that he has five IT disciplines that report into him and that he is tired of having managers of each of the disciplines attempt to prove to him that their individual organization is running fine even though the IT systems are limiting the company's ability to book business, ship products and allow customers to access the company's Web site. What he wants is for his reports to work together to resolve all IT issues that impact business. Let's refer to this as the CIO approach.

In an attempt to better understand which approach is more common, we recently surveyed 150 IT professionals. We asked the survey respondents to indicate their agreement or disagreement with a variety of statements about organizational dynamics. The respondents were given five possible answers: strongly agree, agree, neutral, disagree, and strongly disagree.

The survey respondents were asked to indicate their agreement with the statement that: "Our company has aligned its IT infrastructure organization (networks, servers, security) with the applications organization." In this case, only 14% of the respondents strongly agreed with that statement. The respondents were also asked to indicate their agreement with the statement that: "Troubleshooting an IT operational issue occurs cooperatively across all IT disciplines." In that case, only 12% of the respondents strongly agreed with that statement.

The survey data certainly indicates that the CYA approach is much more prevalent than the CIO approach. However, we would like to hear from you. How does it work in your company? Is it politically acceptable to prove that it is not the WAN that is causing application performance issues, or is it expected that IT will work together to resolve the issue?

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