My Jaguar vs Your Systems

I’m not a car guy but I love Jaguars. I remember when it started, I was 7 or 8 and my North Island Uncle and Auntie came visiting. They were Te Puke kiwifruit pioneers and they had worked hard and done well. They turned off the road and onto our drive in their silver XJ 6. I fell in love with that car and have had a soft spot for Jaguars ever since. I wanted to own my own and knew I would eventually.

As time went on however I never bought one. Why? For me cars are mainly about transport, getting from A to B and Jaguar does not have a reputation for reliability. As many people have pointed out to me over the years “everyone can afford to own a Jag but not everyone can afford to keep one on the road!”. Since I’m no car guy I couldn’t fix it if it went wrong and Jaguar mechanics are expensive. So time went by and I didn’t buy one. Then one day in my early 40’s I had a fit of mid life crisis and bought a 10 year old second hand Jag. It’s an XJ Sport and I love that car.

I have had my Jag for 8 years now and in that time I have had 2 rides in a tow truck and 2 other significant but not major repairs which were found and fixed as part of a standard service. That is 1 issue every 4 years or perhaps every 2 years!. Not bad for what is now an 18 year old car with a reputation. Interesting story Owen and it’s great you love your car but so what does this have to do with IT? I’m glad you asked!!

If you are familiar with my writings or have heard me speak you will know that reliability is the foundation level of the hierarchy of needs. Before you can have strategic influence in your organisation you first need to demonstrate your competence in operating your systems reliably and cost effectively. With my clients I usually suggest that a good benchmark for basic level of reliability is 1 fault per user per year, less than half of the reliability of my Jaguar.

The general reaction to this benchmark is one of horror. It’s not possible they say and most argue that a statistic of between 3 and 6 is more reasonable. At the top end of that range every user is impacted by a fault every 2 months assuming that each fault only ever affects 1 user!. We all know that many faults often impact multiple users so at best this means an “outage” every quarter for every user!! Is that acceptable reliability? If my Jaguar broke down that regularly I would have sold it within a year because I couldn’t stand the inconvenience and I wouldn’t put up with the cost!.

I reckon that many users, CFOs and CEOs are thinking the same thing. They are sick of the inconvenience of systems that break all the time and they are sick of the cost for what appears to be irritation not value. If you are not careful your CEO will do to you what I would do to my Jag. Replace you with something that works when they need it to.

The problem is that until recently they haven’t had much choice as traditional outsourcing doesn’t have a much better record with reliability. With the maturing of cloud services and consumerisation of IT invading the boardroom this is beginning to change. People are seeing that you can have stable reliable systems at a reasonable price and they are beginning to switch. What should a CIO do about this? I think there are two choices. The first option is to recognize that you are unable to provide stable value adding services by traditional means and facilitate the move to cloud services. The second option is to lift your standards and begin the journey to make your systems as reliable as my Jaguar.

Of course you could do some of each and show that you are a competent IT professional and executive and set the foundation for building relevance to your organisation.

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