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A New Kind of Hero

By Aernoud van de Graaf

AERNOUD VDG crop-filterIn every IT organization there is that special person. Let’s call him Phil. Phil is the kind of person who…
- knows everything
- can fix anything
- knows everybody
- and gets things done in hours that would take others days or weeks to accomplish.

Phil is a hero. If the system goes down, call him, and he will fix it — even if it takes him all night. You can call Phil any time of the day, and he will rise up to the challenge and make sure that the system is up and running in no time. And you love him for it.

One day before a project was to go live, the project leader found out that to implement the new application required a change to the firewall rule, which normally takes two weeks. He called Phil, and after a friendly cup of coffee with the network guys, the firewall change was made in just two days (instead of two weeks).

But during the installation of the application, the test database was accidentally connected to the application instead of the production database. Chaos ensued. The lines of business (LOBs) were furious because customers were getting the wrong orders and threatening to end their contracts. Phil fixed it within a day — and though a lot of money was lost due to wrong orders, not one customer ended its contract. It could have been much worse, had it not been for Phil.

Because of his history of “saved the day” work, Phil gets recognized in the organization — not just within IT, but also with the LOBs. Everyone knows and loves Phil, and he gets high scores on his reviews. After a particularly nasty problem took him an entire weekend to fix, Phil got an extra bonus and a nice weekend with his family in a 5-star hotel. He earned it.

As we said before. Phil is our hero.

And then there is John. John has a vision. He is convinced that things need to change. The current environment is far too complex and needs to be simplified and standardized. Also, most things are done manually, taking way too much time and causing a lot of problems — because people make mistakes.

John envisions a world where IT users have access to a portal that will automatically provision what they need, without any human intervention. Applications, workplaces, middleware, servers, storage, network, and security — all at the push of just a few buttons. The user simply classifies the business requirements, and the policies will ensure the application is provisioned to meet the requirements. John did his research and found that this way, implementation errors can be nearly eliminated and time-to-market greatly improved.

No longer would IT need loads of people monitoring and managing the operations and health of the infrastructure. No more firefighting 24X7. Most things would be handled by the tooling. If manual intervention were required, the tooling would give context and advise on where to look and what could be done. This may be the opportunity to put Phil to good use. Instead of spending time fixing things, Phil can start creating solutions that would add real value to the business.

Phil is the only one with the technical skills and the influence with the CIO to bring this vision to reality, so John sets up a meeting with him. John explains to Phil all the advantages that standardization, virtualization, and automation will bring to the organization. No more weekends spent fixing problems, no more last-minute interventions. Everything will run smoothly. The business will profit because the quality of service will go up, costs will go down, and IT can change at the speed of the business — speeding up innovation and time-to-market. John asks Phil to help design and build the solution and to support him in presenting it to the CIO.

But Phil is not as enthusiastic as John would have thought. In Phil’s opinion, no tools can replace the knowledge he has of the IT environment. And he is already far too busy with today’s work to spend time on John’s project. Automation maybe useful, but virtualization and automation will only make things worse for Phil. He would lose insight of where the applications are running and is afraid he could no longer fix things because of constant changes based on rules a tool determines are useful. Phil states that IT should stay the way it is, where he knows all the little nooks and crannies and how to fix them. He will not support John’s initiative and will advise the CIO to leave things status quo.

John is surprised. He does not understand why Phil would not want to improve the current situation.  Having IT run smoothly may not provide as many opportunities to save the day, but it will ensure that IT is really enabling the business.

It is time for a new kind of hero.

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Aernoud van de Graaff is a business solutions architect with VMware Accelerate Advisory Services and is based in the Netherlands. You can follow him on Twitter @aernoudvdgraaff 

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  1. Pingback: VMware Cloud Ops Blog: A New Kind of Hero | PTS Data Center Solutions, Inc.

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