2008 National Forum: IT Management: There is Too Much Stuff

This past Spring, our library ‘completed’ what was a fairly significant reorganization. The library formalized relationships with several strategic partners which had been residing in our building. One of the outcomes included bringing together three independent IT departments, which I have been responsible for pulling together.

Needless to say, the 2008 LITA Forum session entitled “Re-swizzling the IT Enterprise for the Next Generation: Creating a Strategic and Organizational Model for Effective IT Management,” presented by Maurice York, Head, Information Technology North Carolina State University Libraries, caught my attention.

Maurice described the evolution of IT services at NCSU Libraries, which, by the audience reaction, was one which many other libraries experienced (Maurice: everything does go on the home page, doesn’t it?….) In summary, the current state of IT management is that ”there is too much stuff.”

He outlined the various IT Business Models that his organization has used at one time or another. One or all of them should sound familiar:

  • The Fire Brigade. This is where the IT staff runs around with the lastest service request being the top priority.
  • Batten the Hatches. This approach is usually the result of virus or denial of service attack. All systems are lock down tight.
  • Don’t call us, will call you. This is the model used after a ticketing system is deployed. Staff send in their service request to the ticketing system and then trust that IT will get back to them.
  • Maytag repairman. In an effort to be proactive IT staff wanders around. The result is that everyone wants the staff member to do something. In reaction, the staff member simply stays in their office so as to not let anyone see them so they can get their work done.

He also discussed the various forces which impact how an IT department can be managed:

  • Organizational: Everyone is an IT customer. There are high expectations for service plus the desire for personalized and customized services. The challenge is that everyone within an organization can only understands their individual needs while IT sits in the middle and can see all the needs.
  • Technological: The proliferation of technology results in it being layering upon itself. Trying to learn all the new stuff, keeping up with training, and all the associated costs is an additional challenge.
  • Strategic: The IT department has to compete for organizational resources, including staffing. It is difficult to manage both long term goals and daily needs. However, there is a need to protect time to work on long term
  • User expectations: People expect that library systems to resemble Google, Facebook, and LibraryThing.

The presentation slides do provide some additional information, although it is hard to understand their context by themselves.