A visit with the IT doctor Featured

8:00pm EDT March 26, 2007
It’s 8 p.m. and you’re still at the office. Maybe it’s late-arriving client e-mails, or somebody said it was just a “minor glitch” in your systems today. You choke down some java juice, reach for the Advil and hunker down.

In the morning, caffeine hangover full throttle, you assure yourself that it’s just the way IT is. But your gut tells you different. Pay attention to your gut.

In a career born in the technology boom of the ’90s, Chris Brinkman has become an IT doctor of sorts. His daily appointment schedule is chock-full of corporate executives. They tell him it hurts, but they’re not sure where. Diagnosis. Prescription. Healing. “Next.”

Smart Business recently talked with Brinkman about how he fixes ailments most clients didn’t even know they had. His hope is, he said, to heal the masses through this column.

How might a typical diagnostic session unfold?

Me: How are you today?

Patient A: I’ve got a pain in the neck. It’s a nagging pain. Chronic IT snags at the office.

Me: Are you doing anything to remedy the pain?

Patient A: Tylenol, mostly. Three times daily.

Me: That can cause stomach problems. Let’s have a look at you.

Patient A: Is this gonna hurt?

Me: Only if you want it to.

To effectively treat Patient A, I have to ask a number of key questions: danger signs of ineffective IT management and delivery. Feel free to administer this test on your own.

What are those necessary questions?

  • Are your IT people telling you that they’ve got IT covered and that they don’t need any help?

  • What is the turnover in your IT group?

  • How long does it take you to hire and train an individual in IT?

  • If you have a tech issue, how long does it take your IT department to fix the problem? Minutes? Days? Eons?

  • Do you currently have an IT roadmap that assures your IT effort can grow as you do? A concrete plan?

  • Would you say that your IT staff is working an overage of hours that results in overtime pay or disgruntled employees? And what’s the impact of that to your company?

  • How can you be assured that your current staffing levels are where they need to be or that you could do better?

What are the most common problems?

In virtually all cases of where clients are able to voice some type of pain concerning IT, it is most often due to inefficiencies at the staffing level. Either it’s IT people claiming that they know it all and can do it all (which, given the explosion of new technologies out there, is impossible). Or it’s companies relying on IT to deliver too much or not enough. Tech problems are generally people problems, not simply the systems themselves.

The remedy is to look first at staffing solutions. If you choose wisely, you can likely reduce or eliminate pain by contracting out for niche IT specialists. And done right, the solution should bring down your overall cost of IT while significantly enhancing day-to-day operations.

How about another example?

Patient B: Hello. I have no problems.

Me: Why are you here?

Patient B: I wanted to see my name printed in this magazine.

Me: Great. Got what you wanted. Happy?

Patient B: Am I good to go, then?

Me: Actually, many of my patients don’t realize that they do have problems. Let me ask you a few questions …

And so it goes. One appointment after another. All with people who thought that life was just supposed to be this way. Truth is that you need look no further than your desk to know if you can do IT better. If you have Tylenol in your drawer and a ring-stained mug atop it, a checkup is undoubtedly a good idea.

CHRIS BRINKMAN is vice president of development at Mirifex, the nation’s fastest-growing privately held business and technology consulting firm. Reach him at (440) 891-1210, ext. 232 or cbrinkman@mirifex.com.