Heroics Don’t Scale: Understanding When to Seek a Strategic IT Partner

While many businesses still tend to run their own IT, the challenges facing these internal teams is increasing.

IT departments continue to get asked to do more with less. While larger organizations can afford more deeply staffed departments, many smaller businesses run lean, with employees wearing many hats. As workloads increase, so do resolution times. The pace of technological change today can mean that while teams try their best, their skills are falling behind the times.

Resources are also increasingly scarce. According to recent research, more than three-quarters of corporate IT budgets are spent on maintenance of existing infrastructure. That means there is little to spend on innovating, optimizing or education — another way teams fall behind.

As support staff come under increased pressure, IT heroics become more commonplace — and that inevitably leads to serious failure or breach.

Is your IT team at risk?

You are at risk if current workloads prevent engineers from taking time off from work to renew or obtain relevant certifications. Are they being asked to take on this time-consuming work after hours, after spending their days putting out fires? How is their current workload impacting their quality of life? Given how aggressively companies are recruiting for IT these days — especially cloud and cybersecurity talent — what would the impact be to your business if a key engineer was lured away by a better salary, stock options and the promise of a fresh start?

Also consider what happens to the other “less urgent” tasks that get pushed aside during a fire drill. The more often this happens, the larger the support queue becomes, and the cycle feeds itself and worsens.

Yes, the occasional fire drill is going to happen, but if they become frequent, it’s time to seek outside help. Heroics just don’t scale.

And by outside help, I’m not talking about teams that spin up their own cloud resources with a corporate credit card and a web browser. While that was difficult once upon a time, it has now become so incredibly easy to acquire new IT resources that the concepts of rogue or shadow IT, application sprawl and overall loss of IT control is a top concern right along with a lack of IT talent.

Developing a talent strategy

Instead of chasing after unauthorized cloud accounts, leaders must consider their overall IT talent strategy. How relevant are current IT staff skills and certifications? Is it possible to attract the right talent? Pay for it? Honest answers to these questions may mean it’s time to consider finding a strategic partner.

Working with experienced partners is one way businesses are relieving internal IT support pressures. But how do you find the right one? First, focus on matching potential partners’ skills sets and track record with your specific needs. Quality IT partners will want to learn about your business holistically, not just from a hardware or software-slinging viewpoint. Beware of partners that propose solutions without taking the time to learn about your IT staff’s capabilities or leadership business objectives.

Of course, there are times when you just need to get some more software licenses or replace some aging hardware, but even then, a good partner will ask the “why” behind those purchasing decisions, so they can offer you the right recommendations.

Ask the right questions

Understanding vendor best practices can mean the difference between a successful implementation versus a massive security, performance or financial mistake. When implementing third party support, ask vendors where the lines are drawn. They should easily be able to answer questions like:

  • Which party owns various support tasks?
  • What does incident escalation look like?
  • Who owns escalation to outside vendors?
  • What are the SLA details?

Stepping back for a bigger picture view, ask questions during the sales process about the partner’s experience and depth of support bench:

  • How many engineers do they have on the team supporting this technology?
  • How long have they been supporting it?
  • What certifications do they have, and how many?

The deeper the vendor support bench, the faster and more accurately a problem can be solved. Consider the following analogy: When a car pulls into the pit during a race, a team of well-trained mechanics scurry over the wall and quickly replace tires, add fuel, clean windows, adjust fairings and update the driver on race tactics, and about eight seconds later the car speeds off.

How would that scenario play out with a pit crew of only two people? Even if they have great skills and experience, a two-person pit crew simply cannot match the eight-person team performance, so their pit stop may take 15-20 seconds instead of eight seconds. This is not a slight toward the pit crew at all, they did their best and were certainly capable. It just comes down to pure math; in this support scenario having deep benches makes a dramatic difference. The same applies to tech support staffing.

In summary, relying on your engineers to repeatedly perform acts of technical heroism on a regular basis is a sign that your team needs relief. Burning out quality employees can lead to recruiting losses.

Conversely, connecting with an experienced and well-staffed partner can relieve the stress your teams are enduring, freeing them up to focus on more enriching and beneficial technical pursuits.


Seeking an expert strategic partner? Consider Rackspace.

Paul Croteau is the Channel CTO at Rackspace where he works with partners to enable their understanding of technology, the Rackspace portfolio and the state of the industry. With more than 25 years of information technology experience including roles in engineering, sales, account management and technical training, Paul’s experience helps him relate with partners and customers at all levels within an organization. His energy and passion for technology have been helpful in creating successful sales engagements and exceptional customer experiences with partners of all sizes. Paul originally joined Rackspace in 2005; previous employers include AT&T, HP and Accenture. Paul is based in San Antonio, Texas. Outside of work Paul is a professional musician and composer, married with two teenagers and a house full of pets.

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