Secrets of the IT Department

Mike forwarded me this article and I got a bit of a laugh out of it, “Greatest Secret of IT Revealed” which is – “your IT department really does hate you.”

All kidding aside the article addresses some interesting reasons why it can be so hard to get mobile initiatives started within business.  Although Lee Dallas does not specifically mention healthcare, much of the issues are the same.  Both organizations have data that must remain secure, just because business doesn’t have patient medical records doesn’t mean that their data is any less important.  I would be just as angry if a business’s security practices (or lack of) led to the release of my credit card information as I would be if my health records were released.

However this article doesn’t focus on the usual problem of how we want a less secure environment while IT wants/needs to keep things more secure.  There are three things Dallas writes about as barriers to mobile initiatives that I think many people forget about when trying to implement new technologies; expectation, inertia, and funding.

Expectations – We now have a consumerist expectation when it comes to technology.  Long gone are the days where professionals went to giant computers the size of your car with punch cards. Everybody has a computer at work and at home and there the lines blur.  People have “iPhone expectations,” we want the coolest thing to work…NOW! But IT is responsible for making things work for everybody which means that they have to deal with all sorts of cool things, ancient things, people abilities and inabilities. 

My favorite quote from Dallas on expectations:

“What these statements fail to consider is that user populations at all large companies are wildly diverse across all demographic measures. The next time you try to help your mother get her email just remind yourself that is only a small taste of what a help desk in a large IT shop deals with 24x7x365.”

Inertia – Bodies at rest stay at rest, bodies in motion stay in motion.  As librarians we might know a thing or two about that little principle.  If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.  Well there are a lot of systems now days that are interdependent on each other.  Mess with one thing you might effect another.  Once a system is in place it is much more difficult to replace it because people are used to it and there are other systems that use it as well. 

Funding- This is an area that we really are seeing more with mobile devices than any other library technology.  There was an old SNL skit with Steve Jobs showing off the latest and coolest gadgets for Christmas.  Each time Jobs would announce a new iPod he would declare it obsolete and replaced by another newer, cooler, smaller iPod.  In the past this revolving door of technology was primarily personal.  But now businesses and hospitals are drawn kicking and screaming into the smartphone wars, iPhone 3G, 3GS, 4, 5?, Blackberry, Android, Windows, etc.  The madness doesn’t seem to have an end in sight, yet all of us with our consumer mentalities want to do our business with these consumer devices.  The frustrating thing is that our funding systems haven’t evolved.  As Dallas says, “In large organizations, transformational project funding is often an 18 – 24 month exercise. That means even if you started your iPad project the day it launched – the iPad2 is out before you can get it into your normal procurement cycle.” Sound familiar hospital librarians? 

So as you work to add a mobile initiative in your library, consider some of these thing before you approach IT, it might just make things go smoother.  Of course if what Dallas says is true, they probably will still hate you.

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