Fighting the IT Ops Babysitter Mentality
It’s common for IT Ops to think of itself as the adults in the organization with end users the children who need looking after. As Galen Grumen points out in the freshly minted Smart User blog on Infoworld, “it’s time for IT to parent users so that they can be fully functioning adults.”
Meanwhile, while you’re busy making sure your end users stay out of harm’s way, you’re also supposed to be babysitting the underlying systems, nurturing the organization’s critical apps — making sure that everything in your monitoring domain is running smoothly. But does this image of IT Ops as the uber technology adult in the organization serve anyone well? I would say, it’s unlikely because much like real parent-child relationships resentment can develop when there is a perceived power relationship.
First, of all, you’re part of a larger organization, and as such, you really serve the needs of the business. Your job ultimately is to provide the best tools to help business users do their jobs without getting in the way because they are too difficult to use.
Second of all, you’re responsible for making sure the entire system is in working order. If things go wrong, you have to find the problem and fix it as quickly as possibly. Again, this is because this is all about business, and the longer one of your critical business apps or the company web site is down, the more money you’re losing either in real dollars or lost productivity.
Being a babysitter or the adult users suggests you have a more important role to play than users you’re serving and that’s a dangerous mentality. That can bite you in a number of ways because when things go wrong, people are going to assume you should have know how to prevent it.
In some ways, end users taking responsibility for their own tools is a blessing for IT Ops. You don’t have to worry about them as much anymore. Of course, they will still come to you when things go wrong, but with privileges comes some responsibility on the user’s parts — at least in theory. They chose the tool or device, they can’t expect you to know how to deal with everything under the sun.
The fact is you want to be free to do your job. If you’re a babysitter, you’re spending a lot of your day herding cats. If you’re a full-fledged partner in the organization, you work together to solve problems, not point fingers.
When you’re the king, you can expect a revolution. When you’re a partner, you can expect mutual respect. It seems like an easy decision.
That’s why it might be time to stop thinking of IT as parental unit and time to start thinking of it as an integral part of a thriving business ecosystem where you have your role just like everyone else.