Patchwork IT is a phrase that should make executives cringe.
But for many organizations, it’s an apt description of the current state of their internal technology. It’s easy to have a vision of an organized, streamlined approach to IT, but the execution is more difficult.
The reality for many is a situation that has evolved featuring a mix of old technology interfacing with new equipment, systems that have been conceived and augmented throughout staff changes, office relocations, and other symptoms of the modern business lifecycle. They are the embodiment of satisfying short-term needs without thought given to the big picture.
The system works, in theory, but calling it fragile might be an understatement. Patchwork IT represents serious problems for an enterprise, in real-time but also as potential threats. This article examines common areas that patchwork IT solutions can be harmful to scalability and what executives and IT managers can do to avoid them.
Is your IT infrastructure a house of cards?
House of Cards is a popular political thriller television series you might have noticed on Netflix. The show’s name reflects the tenuous nature of politics, an actual house of cards looks impressive but is a strong breeze away from complete collapse.
Patchwork IT systems share similarities with an actual house of cards.
How do organizations end up here? In many cases, the issue stems from inconsistent vision and strategy. IT managers come and go, there is often not enough quality onboarding time when handing the reins over to new staff. A new manager coming aboard with a half-baked understanding of the existing system will be more prone to creating solutions that fit the definition of ‘patchwork’.
This can’t be the status quo for a successful operation. The following are three real problems we’ve noticed that result from outdated IT systems.
IT hinders business growth
The days of relegating all obscure and miscellaneous technology items into converted broom closet known as the “IT Department” are gone – at least, they should be. In a real way, ignoring the IT infrastructure of an organization is akin to ignoring the role technology plays in the growth of the business.
Ignoring network upgrades
The set-it-and-forget-it concept for IT is a meme. It’s marketing language designed to make consumers feel good, but it’s one of the most common ways that organizations run afoul of best practices when it comes to IT stewardship.
For enterprise organizations and even an SMB during a growth phase, network upgrades can be a serious challenge. It may require systems to be taken offline, which can be an issue for businesses that have employees who need to access the network or their customers need access.
The truth is older technology needs more time to complete upgrades, and in some cases, may also require someone with a specialized skill set to perform the maintenance.
Is leveraging cloud-based solutions enough?
Leaning on older technology in the IT department doesn’t have to be a scarlet letter. There is a strong case to be made for a hybrid solution that deploys both cloud-based solutions and on-site technology.
In fact, a hybrid solution may be a helpful way to bolster a company’s disaster recovery plan. But the writing is already on the wall: companies that wish to remain competitive should already be leveraging some type of cloud-based network solution.
IT departments are siloed
One can infer from watching House of Cards that one of the major hurdles for the characters comes from the fact that so many people are trying to operate independently of everyone else. The silo-effect isn’t just a bad approach in the public sector, many enterprise businesses also struggle with this dynamic.
IT departments are understaffed and overwhelmed
It’s important for executives to understand the role IT plays in the overall success of the business. For many SMBs, the “IT Department” consists of one or two individuals who also play a role as helpdesk, customer support and a variety of other non-IT related roles.
When support staff is pulled in different directions, being able to adhere to a consistent strategy that’s in line with the business goals and needs of the customers becomes nearly impossible. In these situations, the security of the network becomes more vulnerable.
Tactical solutions to strategic problems being deployed by individuals without enough understanding of the threat landscape – how could it go any other way but disastrous?
CSO Online highlights this and explains how companies might be able to leverage their vulnerabilities into a strength:
“A jumbled and rushed reaction to fast-moving new threats has created a security framework that is riddled with holes. But it is important to recognize that it is not simply a one-sided equation—for all the speed and dexterity of attackers, there is an equal speed of innovation with networks themselves. That alone, internally with no outside attempts at the breach, is a substantial challenge for anyone.”
Knowledge required to stay abreast of threats and emerging tech is missing
Certain business landscapes change more rapidly than others, but the technology used to facilitate business needs within the organization is constantly on the move. Keeping up on the latest threats, trends, and tech-based workarounds require diligence that may be in short supply. A person only needs to look as far as the local post office to see an example of this in real time.
Less than a decade ago, the United States Post Office was losing market share to providers like FedEx and UPS among others. There were a variety of reasons for this, but a major contributing factor was the lack of modernization within their technology infrastructure.
Through proactive technology upgrades and smart partnerships with vendors better equipped to solve problems, they’ve launched several tech-savvy programs that have helped improve the customer experience.
Embrace industry-specific outsourced solutions
It’s no longer necessary to organize, staff and fund this area of business without help. Creating organizational visibility to IT programs as well as enlisting the help of industry-specific, brand-agnostic vendors can help an organization stay on the bleeding edge of changes of technology in tightly regulated business verticals.
Businesses that operate in the healthcare industry, for example, must operate in compliance with strict HIPAA regulations. These regulations extend deep into an organization’s IT systems, even influencing how their websites must be hosted.
Learn more about HIPAA compliant hosting, sometimes called HIPAA hosting – a vendor partnership that can assist with industry-specific demands can be an asset for both CIOs and in-house IT teams.
Make sure your IT systems are up-to-date by finding the right IT software solutions for your company.
Marty Puranik is the Founder, President, and CEO of Atlantic.Net. Marty’s strengths as a leader and visionary have helped him lead a successful business for over two decades. Atlantic.Net thrives thanks to Marty’s strategic acumen, technical prowess, and his valuable old-fashioned habits of thrift, modesty, and discipline by world-class support.