Decision Maker

Reviewing Your IT Competency Scorecard

Did you take my quiz from last month's column? If so, let's see how you did.

In last month's column, I presented a series of five IT Competency questions, and promised I'd answer them this month.

If your company determined the new version of Windows offered compelling new business features, how long would it take you to deploy it to all of your server and client computers (assuming no incompatibilities existed)?
There are various reasons why organizations hold off on upgrading. Many are financially driven and others are decided by an assessment of users' comfort levels with a given version. But many times, organizations hold off on new versions of Windows because they know their IT team can't assess the accompanying risks, mitigate them and pull off the rollout without significant impact. Simply put, the ability of the IT team and its processes is one factor in making the decision to upgrade. But IT should never be a bottleneck. We need to gain the capacity to quickly assess compatibility (often through automated evaluation tooling), and quickly deploy new OS versions. We can't treat OS upgrades like a big project; it has to be more like the way we're used to rolling out service packs. That's because the pace of change is increasing drastically.

If you identified a major technology need within your organization, how long would it take your team to assemble a short list of possible solutions that were suitable for a pilot or deeper evaluation?
Too many IT teams -- and this is mainly the fault of management -- place 100 percent of their focus on fighting day-to-day fires. We should be focused on removing day-to-day fires, and devoting a little time to "pure research." That research should enable IT pros to maintain a broad sense of what's going on in the market and what solutions are available for various problems. They don't need to be deeply educated on these things -- they simply should be aware of what's happening and available. So when a problem arises, they can generate a short list much more quickly, and engage with the best vendors and tools.

Your comfort level in efficiently managing an IT organization including different versions of Windows and non-Windows OSes is...
The dream of the homogenous datacenter is dead and it's becoming pointless to fight it. We need to fully embrace "the right tool for the right job." The benefits will offset the added cost. This will require more flexible brains in IT, but most hard-core IT people welcome the challenge of staying proficient in multiple technologies.

Assuming a cloud solution could meet your legal and industry requirements for security and privacy, how comfortable are you that your team could effectively manage an IT environment that included cloud-based components?
You're going to do some cloud. Probably not all cloud, but you're going to do some. Whether it's just some outsourced single sign-on directory, or some outsourced VMs, or whatever, it's going to happen. And you need to know how to manage them. As with the first question, don't ever let IT's inability to manage a solution prevent the business from adopting that solution if it's truly the right thing to do.

If everyone on your IT team -- including administrators -- were asked to learn a new programming language that would be beneficial to their job, how much resistance do you think you would encounter?
The days of being an admin and not needing any programming skills were awesome. It was easier to hire admins and made it easier to be one. Those days are ending. Vendors such as Microsoft simply can't ship the situation-specific, deeply complex tools that businesses are demanding, so you're going to have to build some of them yourself. That's just the way the industry has moved. A team that's unwilling to adapt -- and I know those folks are out there -- can't survive. Even if the team can survive, it certainly can't thrive. You know if you work for an organization like that. The name of the game these days is flexibility, and woe to the business that doesn't have plenty of it in the IT department.

About the Author

Don Jones is a multiple-year recipient of Microsoft’s MVP Award, and is an Author Evangelist for video training company Pluralsight. He’s the President of, and specializes in the Microsoft business technology platform. Follow Don on Twitter at @ConcentratedDon.


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