Are we all integrators?

I read Alan’s post with interest about employees becoming integrators.

My view is that in government this will take time. A long time.

In my experience, there are two factors that determine the level of IT integration that individuals do: the organisation’s size and the technical competence of its employees. For government, the organisations are large, and the average technical competence of its users is relatively low.

Small organisations rely on their employees to do some of the grunt work, to try rebooting printers (off then on), re-installing packages, configuring their wireless settings, reading some FAQs, Googling, consulting a discussion forum, etc. This is down to necessity. There often isn’t a dedicated IT function to call upon (or call) when problems are suffered.

Technical organisations that are larger also undertake self-help, but they do so out of interest and convenience. People would rather have a go at sorting out their own problems than log a ticket and wait hours, nay days, for their issue to be resolved.

Large organisations have processes. They have locked down machines. And users are directed towards official channels to resolve their IT issues. People won’t try to reboot printers, shake their toner cartridges, stop processes. They will instead reach for their phone and dial 4357 (HELP), or the equivalent number, raise a ticket and await its resolution.

And this behaviour soon becomes the norm. People won’t consider any other course of action.

Changing that model will be hard. My own experience suggests that upon integrating cloud-based applications, Departments’ IT functions immediately seek centralised system and service integration. And users follow suit, uncomfortable with calling this number for this IT issue, that number for that issue. There are exceptions, granted. But this is the norm.

The only thing that can break this model is austerity. In a bid to save money, will IT functions push more of the onus onto its users? I hope so. When some Departments pay upwards of £12 just to raise a ticket, there is a need for users to step up to the plate, take some responsibility for their IT, and, where necessary, to act as service integrators. But doing so, will need a huge cultural shift.

The IT function will demand the provision of an end-to-end service. And users will demand easy access to that IT service. And something will have to give.

If the Tier 1 IT service providers act as the veneer beyond the disparate system provision upon which the Departments rely, then that will come at an inordinate cost, cancelling out any benefits of the move to the cloud. And so users will have to step up, take some responsibility. IT departments will need to identify subject-matter experts locally in the business to act as tier one support.

It will be interesting to see what actually happens. My bet is that cloud will be hidden from the users from a service perspective, the Tier 1 providers will act as that veneer, and the TCO for the new model will be as much, if not more, than that of its predecessor. And IT departments will justify the cost by clouding (ha!) the issue in amongst others. IT is complicated, so we need the money.

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