Greg Enright: Avoid striking out by being versatile

It’s a scary prospect to think that the situation facing many an IT department can be compared to that of Major League Baseball, but that’s the sad truth. For those not inclined to follow the excruciating exploits of the grand old game, the circumstances surrounding the sport can be summed up most aptly in one word: pathetic.

Earlier in the decade, team owners allowed a number of new franchises to join the major leagues, along with some hefty expansion fees that were gobbled up by the existing teams. What the owners were careful to overlook was the disastrous effects that an increase in teams would have on the level of play. The existing talent pool has been sufficiently diluted to produce a brand of baseball that is far less entertaining than what existed even 15 years ago.

It was a case of making an impetuous leap onto a bandwagon whose direction was anything but certain. The owners realized their mistake only last year, when they began to suggest that the leagues should lose a team or two. “Contraction” was what the concept soon began to be called. The players, fearing a loss in jobs, are balking at the idea, with the end result that the upcoming season might not see one at-bat due to the disagreement.

That outcome would be painful to baseball fans. And the outcome of a parallel issue in countless IT shops could also be painful for network managers.

Throughout the ’90s, technology’s role in the enterprise became more important with each passing year. IT departments expanded accordingly, with more people needed to handle the many new technological implementations that were being adopted. IS shops were getting as crowded as the National League West.

Somewhere in 2000, however, the spending craze eased up. Mismanaged implementations and dust-collecting servers housing barely-used software programs were enough to scare the higher-ups away from authorizing any further tech spending sprees. Companies slammed the door on service providers who were once welcomed with open arms.

With spending still being curtailed from previous rates as we enter a new year, it stands to reason that companies might consider a little contraction of their own – in the form of smaller IS staffing levels. In some companies this approach has already been enacted. And with networks evolving in ways that could further reduce the level of human involvement required to run them (see “Convergence war looming,” page one), it becomes more imperative for network managers to face up to the realities of 2002.

To avoid being a victim of contraction means being as versatile to employers as possible: learning how to manage a voice network even if you’ve been on the data side for years, for example. It’s the only way a network professional can ensure he or she won’t end up as miserable as it seems most baseball fans will be in 2002.