Guilt, innocence and the IT department

Steve Gurthie has been working with enterprise IT departments long enough to know they are often focused on the “mean time to repair” when something in their infrastructure goes wrong. But he also notices another, more dangerous metric.

Mean time to repair (MTTR) is one thing, but more often than not the senior principal of CA Technologies’ Service Assurance product marketing hears what he calls “mean time to innocence” (MTTI) – the time it takes for one part of the IT department to declare “it’s not our area of the network” and leave it for someone else to deal with the problem.

“I’ve talked to some people who say mean time to innocence is 60 seconds,” said Guthrie, who spoke at our ComputerWorld Canada Interactive breakfast event in Montreal earlier this week. “But when I mentioned that at another customer, they said, ‘No Steve, it’s immediate.’”

That means the real yardstick for problem resolution is what Guthrie described as MTTG – “mean time to guilt.” That one, he said, can take a lot longer. Root cause analysis remains a bewilderingly complex effort. Guthrie said he’s known some organizations that need to pull some 40 people in a room for half a dozen hours before the weak link the chain is properly identified.

It’s easy to laugh at metrics like MTTI and MTTG, but it’s only funny because it’s sadly true. There are too many IT departments that are fractured between application teams, network teams and so on. Areas of expertise have been so firmly established that it can become very difficult for trust and cooperation to become native across the department. Forget about IT aligning itself with the business, Guthrie said. “IT has to align with itself first.”

Instead of guilt or innocence, let’s brainstorm some alternative metrics that can be related to effectively managing IT infrastructure. What about mean time to initiative – a different kind of MTTI where anyone on the IT staff would not only identify a potential vulnerability, point of failure or area where quality of service could be impaired and makes the effort to bring it to the table and get the right people around that table to proactively address it? In some organizations, I wouldn’t be surprised if the mean time to initiative was infinite.

Another possibility could be mean time to strategy. As corny as it sounds, the focus of IT departments should not simply be on repairing problems, or even trying to avoid problems before they happen, but searching for and building a plan for opportunities to further business objectives through technology. The mean time to strategy shouldn’t be the lengthy process of realizing there’s an ongoing IT problem, working through the phases of guilt or innocence and then coming together to see if the company can get beyond trouble-shooting to value creation.

Whatever the metric, the point of working in IT is not simply to cover your butt. We need more technology professionals whose focus instead is putting their butts on the line.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada
Shane Schick
Shane Schick
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