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Wednesday, 1 September 2010

IT Operations need to adapt, Borg style

The picture in my last post made me reflect on the nature of the infamous Borg.

The Borg were pretty bad. They enslaved a few billion people (killing a few million in the process) and robbed them of their freedom to live life as an individual. On the plus side they had the right idea about self improvement. Something we can learn from in Ops.

When the Borg faced a challenge, their mantra was "We will adapt." This is good. Every day, organisations face problems, and sometimes they need to adapt to overcome them. However in IT (like many other departments), the mantra is "We will not adapt. We like things the way the are. We will stick to our way until it fails us so spectacularly that stories of our demise are told for years to come." This is bad. Things don't get fixed, people get pissed off, the company make no money and staff either leave or get made redundant.

But people like that status quo. However, "If it ain't broke don't fix it" only applies to things that are not broken. The average IT department has approximately 2,312 things that are broken at any one time but has somehow learnt to live with them. But there's at least 10 things in there that broken really badly and really need to be fixed.

Tips on self improvement for Ops
  • Gangrene is a killer - If you've got a problem eating away at your time on a day to day basis, you need to deal with it. It's only going to get worse. A couple of everyday teamsters can really put a dent in your productivity
  • Quick fixes are not necessarily quick fixes - I've noticed that when you have a number of people solving a problem incrementally with quick fixes, it's often worse that one person spending the same amount of time to get it done properly. Too many cooks does indeed spoil the broth.
  • Copy from everybody else - You don't always need to think hard about how to solve a long term issue, as the problem is probably not unique so some one's bound to have done it already. Just do what they did and move on...
The bottom line is that to provide a half decent service, at some point engineers/managers are going to have to take stock of what's going on in the team and decide to do something to make things better. Otherwise it's a slippery slope towards an environment that staff really don't want to work in and does do any favours for the business either.

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