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Technology Managers Stressed, Overworked

A new survey reveals the challenges IT departments face -- and why their bosses might be the cause.
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The next time your computer crashes, you might want to go easy on your IT guy.

Two out of three information-technology managers are kept awake at night because they are worrying about the performance of their applications -- and the cause of that anxiety is often poorly structured companies, according to a new study.

In an online survey of 272 IT managers conducted by OpTier, a New York-based software-solutions company, 75 percent of respondents said they experience ongoing concerns when it comes to the IT applications they manage -- indicating that anxiety is commonplace on the job.

"The impact of bad application performance is now widely perceived as a big issue for businesses, because they have become so reliant on IT," said Motti Tal, executive vice president of marketing and business development at OpTier.

Dealing with frequent service issues is not just a source of stress for IT managers, but often becomes a disruption to their personal lives. Fifty-four percent of respondents said they receive up to 10 calls or e-mails about a single service outage. Being called away from a meal was the most common kind of interruption, cited by 67 percent of IT managers, while one-third reported that they have been interrupted on their vacations to deal with problems.

The survey found that IT managers face several challenges when trying to resolve performance problems for businesses, which are typically caused by a combination of infrastructure, applications, and middleware issues. The biggest challenge according to 43 percent of respondents is that business priorities have not been explicitly aligned with IT. This challenge is compounded by a lack of understanding for the complexity of the IT infrastructure.

"I think it's important that businesses acknowledge that IT is committed to providing good service levels," Tal said. "It's not about blaming IT, it's about working with IT to understand the problems and get good business results."

At the Manhattan Professional Group, a New York-based financial-services firm, aligning business priorities with IT expectations is all about "proper communication at the highest levels of management," according to Paul Smith, the company's IT director, adding that when he is informed in a timely manner about what is going on in the infrastructure of the business, much of his anxiety dissipates.

Thirty-nine percent of IT managers surveyed listed collaboration with other departments as a challenge of the job, followed by 35 percent who said that service level requirements were not clear. Another factor was lack of visibility into IT transactions, at 32 percent. 

"IT managers tend not to build alliances with other managers of business units," said Juan Gutierrez, project manager for the Hersh Corporation, an El Segundo, Calif.-based Web-solutions company. "IT managers do a lousy job of convincing their superiors that they aren't simply the nuts and bolts of their business, but can also be a value add," Gutierrez said.

OpTier's Tal said that companies can facilitate understanding between the business and IT departments by empowering existing people within the organization. "Companies need to adopt a service focused management scheme where individuals within the IT organization can liaise within business," Tal said. He believes this kind of cooperative management will allow IT managers to "maintain acceptable service for the applications that are supporting the business."

Even when IT managers are successful at navigating the business environment, however, Gutierrez warns that computer systems can still be fragile at times. "Business owners have a great deal more faith in computer systems than I would say is smart," he said.




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