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IT's worst addictions (and how to cure them)

Dan Tynan | Feb. 14, 2012
Jargon, data, power -- the first step to IT recovery is recognizing the monkey on your back

"The worst addiction IT employees succumb to is what fire wardens call Lookout Syndrome," says Bill Horne, owner of William Warren Consulting. "It happens to wardens who serve in remote posts for long periods of time with little or no outside contact. After a while they start to believe they're in charge of everything that happens in their area. In like manner, system administrators start to assume they're in charge of everything that happens on the systems they maintain, which can lead to childish rules about which applications users are allowed to run, what their log-ons should look like, even what countries are allowed to send email to 'their' system."

As a result, IT pros often forget they exist to support the business, not the other way around, says Forte's Phillips. "Using a computer should be easier than not using one, but too many IT professionals have created private little kingdoms that make that hard or impossible," he says.

The cure: The tendency to consolidate power is not exclusive to IT professionals, notes Jeffrey Palermo, president and COO of Headspring, a custom software development and consulting firm. But it may happen more often in IT because that's where technology decisions and resources are usually centralized.

"The root cause is that most companies are organized by department instead of by function," he says. "Companies need to realize that having all of their computing resources in one massive IT department that's supposed to magically manage priorities and resources for every other department just doesn't work any more. They need to disband the big IT departments, give each functional department their own tech staff and computing resources, and allow them to set their own priorities."

IT addiction no. 3: DataBlame impossibly cheap storage or the magical belief that big data will revolutionize your company, but many IT pros are unrepentant information junkies -- and that can lead to data overload, or worse.

"Technology departments are addicted to collecting an inordinate number of events that are not necessarily used for decision support," says Charley Rich, VP of product management at Nastel Technologies, a maker of application performance management solutions. "They just think they need to have all this information, but don't know what it means or what to do with it."

Collecting too much data not only makes it harder to reach decisions, it also increases the risk of damage caused by data leaks, says Dr. Donn DiNunno, quality director at engineering, management, and integration consultants EM&I.

"While data storage advances make data retention and distribution easy, they also make privacy hard," he says. "If data is never erased, potential threats to privacy and security endure for years, in the form of Social Security numbers, credit usage, medical information, and more. The power and visibility of this data puts us at risk."


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