ICT, Still Organizing

Recently at the Amsterdam Voicecon conference and in my VoIP seminars, I was reminded that enterprises are still struggling with their Information and Communications Technology (ICT) organizational structure. No mater the size of the enterprise, they are not immune to the challenges going forward as they embrace IP Telephony (IPT) and then Unified Communications (UC). I have excerpted some comments from two BCR articles that may be helpful in thinking about the combined IT and telecom groups.

The first article “The Converged IT Organization” was published in the July 2006 issue of BCR. The following are some of the comments from the BCR article.

“Although existing organizational structures may have a common management point in the CIO, the staff is highly segregated by technology, they operate in silos. Telecom/voice personnel know little about data networks, servers or applications. Aside from the phones on their desks, data network personnel are generally unfamiliar with telecom technology. Network personnel also have little knowledge of the servers and applications running on their data networks. Applications personnel have limited knowledge of data networks and no knowledge of telecom/voice networks. Wireless networks add to the complexity and skills requirements. Those responsible for security must understand all of these technologies.”

“Managing these segregated groups presents a challenge. Management is not required to bridge the ignorance gap among these groups, but must make business decisions using converged network technologies. Since most people in management are removed from the nuts and bolts of technology, they will have an even harder time adjusting to the major decisions and changes that will occur with a converged environment.”

“In order to operate effectively, the segregated groups must be knowledgeable in each others’ technologies and management must step forward and be educated in the deployment of converged networks and applications. Defining the knowledge and skills necessary to fulfill this need requires considerable study and analysis. Personnel must be assessed (tested) with vendor-neutral certification in mind rather than product focused certification.”

As part of the article, I interviewed Scott Kincaid, CIO of Butler University, who was a panel member on this subject at Voicecon Orlando 2006. He was dealing with divided IT and communications responsibilities at the university. There were two separate camps, voice and data. His goal was to avoid a turf war between the camps. He provided the following suggestions from his own experience that avoided the turf problem especially with the facilities staff.

  • Treat the facilities staff with respect.
  • Involve them throughout the project.
  • Insure that the facilities staff hears the facts and industry trends from others.
  • The facilities staff spearheaded the wiring and cabling improvements and documentation.
  • No job security was threatened because the facilities staff was overloaded.

He went on to provide ten convergence tips for a successful VoIP/IPT implementation:

  1. Form a blended team early with voice + data + users + consultant. Create an interdependent team.
  2. Retain an independent consultant for the term of the project.
  3. Admit that the data network does not match voice quality or reliability.
  4. Use a formal systems acquisition process for the needs analysis, RFP preparation and vendor scoring methodology
  5. Focus on business needs.
  6. Redefine IP as “infinitely personal”.
  7. Arrange informal education and unstructured time for the staff and ideas to converge:
    • Attend a conference as a team
    • Go to other customer sites together
    • Attend lengthy vendor briefings
    • Invest in formal education
  8. Include testing and network assessment in the project.
  9. Select an implementation firm with voice and data skills.
  10. Appoint a project manager with telecom and networking skills and knowledge. Move the MAC function from facilities to IT
  11. Upgrades to the data network for voice traffic benefits all.
  12. Keep the team well fed (and happy).

A second article, “Rebuilding the IT Organization for Convergence” by Dave Wilcox of Global Skills Exchange was published in BCR July 2007, took a more structured view of the future of ICT organizations. This article was the result of interviewing content experts in many IT organization both enterprise and government to ascertain there views of the limitations of most ICT organizations. The article postulates what the future, 21st century, ICT organization structure should look like to support a converged environment. One of the conclusions was to divide the responsibilities into six work clusters rather than a list of job descriptions.

  Applications Services Core Technologies User Services
Development Work Clusters Application Development Infrastructure Engineering Customer Relationship, Service and Project Management
Operations Work Clusters System Administration Network and Services Administration Help Desk and Technical Support Services
Global Skills X-change (GSX) designs and evaluates customized implementation strategies of standards-based tools and protocols that can be used to realize a “national” system of standards and certifications for convergence. GSX, as a successor organization of the National Skill Standards Board (NSSB), is charged with adopting and adapting the work of the NSSB to meet the needs of the knowledge-based economy. A copy of this informative article can be obtained from www.gskillsxchange.com

The major mistake of many CIOs is combining the IT and telecom groups with the mandate to work together and imagine how to mutually cooperate. This is not direction or leadership. This will continue to enforce the silo mentality. Eventually the two groups will coalesce after fits and starts and with limited success. Even though both articles were written in 2006 and 2007, I think they are both valid for any ICT organization today.

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