This article continues the discussion from Human Infrastructure Poverty in the Enterprise – Part 1
Replacing CapEx with Open Source
Enterprises have been reluctant to embrace open source and often state that training, expertise and support for open source are a major risk factor. Yet there are many highly successful companies widely using open-source and proving this patently untrue.
In this context, open source is replacing capital purchases of commercial products with increased operating costs in staffing. Secondary benefits are obtained by avoiding recurrent licensing/maintenance costs and increase in skill pool in the team.
Increasing Head Count Improves Decision Making & Design
Many organisations have been outsourcing design & architecture to vendor partners and reducing head counts in design & architecture. The long-term business impact has been the lack of critical faculty to evaluate available options. This ‘fatal attraction’ to free engineering skills means that CIO’s end up hostage to whatever the vendor chooses to sell and leaves them with a hostage negotiating position.
Questions about whether design is necessary or affordable are quite beside the point: design is inevitable. The alternative to good design is bad design, not no design at all.
— DOUGLAS MARTIN
Vendors maintain large numbers of well-trained and highly motivated marketing engineers to provide advice and planning on their technology.For the last decade, product complexity has been a major issue and vendor engagement was often critical to success. The movement towards to simpler, open-source and software-defined infrastructure seems likely reduce vendor dependency to a larger degree.
Naturally, vendor engineers have a primary motivation is not in client best interest but does increase sales volumes and profits for the vendor that employs them while offering the customer a “single throat to choke” in the event of problems. Is this tradeoff acceptable in 2014 ?
When research and evaluation time is limited, the default choice has been to spend capital on new products. It always easier to buy the next new thing instead of maximising the return from existing assets.
Can this trend be changed through independent resources in the design & architecture teams ?
Skills Shortage or Skill Creation
A constant complaint from IT executives is the lack of good people to hire but rarely consider where the skills are created ? Who gave those people the time, scope and resources to develop those skills ?
It is a rare corporation today that will build/invest skills in their existing team. Why do you expect to hire them ? There is limited expertise to buy because few people are creating these ‘human skill products’. The most practical and unpopular strategy is for customers to produce their own skills. There are relatively few individuals who have the ability to motivate and resource themselves to earn skills and expertise and they rightly expect a reward for their achievement.
Training programs build staff loyalty, competency and can result in lower spending. If widely adopted, the unit cost of labour will start to reduce once the shortage has been addressed.
Expertise is not Skills
Skills and expertise are not the same thing. Skills are narrow and specific to a product or vendor. Expertise is the ability to co-ordinate many skills, knowledge and experience when building a solution. Training courses don’t make experts.
Future of Human Infrastructure
Is it practical for Enterprise IT to change the practices of the last decade and start increasing the head count in their teams to provide better operations, higher utilisation and offset the cost against reductions in capital expenditure ?
Finally, the people who operate IT infrastructures are rarely considered and often treated like computers that operate within parameters and have limited impact on service outcomes. Is it time to overhaul the corporate approach to IT head count and start investing in people to improve the productivity and agility of infrastructure ?
Consider this, a team with a head count of 10 would nominally achieve a 10% productivity boost by hiring just one more person. Does a multi-million dollar capital spend achieve the same outcome ?