Don’t drop the baton in the IT changeover

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By  Daniel Stanton Published  November 30, 2006

Speaking to CIOs this month it becomes clear that there are particular concerns for IT managers when it comes to planning ahead from a human resources point of view.

The transient nature of employment in many Middle East countries, and especially in Dubai, means that no one can assume their IT staff will be there next year.

Unfortunately, that is something that many smaller IT operations take for granted, and specialise just one person in the skills and knowledge required to operate a particular area.

All well and good as long as that person continues to work for the company, but should they decide to leave, the organisation finds itself with no one capable of taking over his tasks.

Responsibilities that were once left to one person now have to be distributed across the department.

There may even be procedures and processes that were not documented because only one person needed to know them.

In the event of a planned transition, the incumbent can pass on their specific knowledge of the systems to the person taking over their job, and the organisation can carry on as before.

Still, it delays the problem, rather than solving it. Any organisation that allows only one person in the company to be in control of specific knowledge and skills is setting itself up for a fall when the unexpected occurs - as it does so frequently where IT is concerned.

A strategy that can help organisations avoid falling into this trap is to limit in-house development to those projects that really need it - either because they cannot be bought, or because an in-house team can produce a solution better, cheaper and more quickly.

Those solutions that are bought in can be supported by anyone with a knowledge of the vendor's products, making it far easier for an organisation to hire a replacement who will be able to get to grips with the solutions.

With the bespoke, homemade IT solutions in place in some organisations, there is a real possibility that the new recruit who inherits the job of maintaining them will struggle to do so. Even keeping a written record of the way the system works is not a long-term answer to the problem.

As systems become more complex, there is a burning need for IT standardisation within organisations.

This could be the only surefire way to future-proof your systems and avoid dropping the baton when the time comes to make the changeover in your IT department.

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