Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Murphy at work !

Any festive season brings with it a sense of joy, bonhomie and general feel good factor. After all, there is a planned celebration, friends getting together, family reunions, and if nothing else, some quality time with the family. We all look forward to such occasions to come. Different reasons across the world make for such gatherings, be it festivals, commemorations, faith; however, the world unites together to bring in the New Year.

Now, imagine this scenario:

New Years’ eve, and the day begins with an outage notice from the network team citing a company-wide network outage for causes unknown. The team gets down to figuring out the cause and fix, but the problem appears to be more than just a router failure. It is evident within a few hours that it’s going to be a really long day, maybe a night too, before the situation comes back to normal. So what do you do? It is evident that vendor support will be limited, and global support skeletal.

In a not too dissimilar scenario on a Saturday morning, I have seen the Operational CIO get off a meeting not to return. On another occasion, a balanced CIO keeps tabs periodically, and on the other extreme a “strategic” CIO continues with his life as usual, knowing that the team will finally resolve the situation.

Murphy strikes when everything appears to be nice and bright with the world at large. He has a way of unsettling the best of plans of good men. These are the times for which all the plans are created, the maintenance contracts signed, and the service levels (SLA) monitored. The machinery has to crank itself up on such moments to deliver. Everyone in the team has to know what they are expected to do, including communication within the enterprise, of the situation and plan remedial action. Beyond the explicit, on such occasions, relationships work their magic. Teams with passion, understanding of the impact and ownership will always rise to any occasion.

So in such an eventuality, what is the role of the CIO? It does not matter whether the CIO is operational, strategic or balanced. Should the CIO continue with preplanned celebrations while the team toils the midnight oil? Or lend a moral shoulder to lean upon? Just get out of the way lest he becomes a pain for the team trying to solve the problem? It is important for the CIO to understand the value he will bring to the situation and decide what works best. But one of the key actions required is to communicate the impact if any to business, what are the measures being taken to minimize the adverse impact, and keep information flowing periodically to keep shortening tempers at bay.

Post incident resolution, acknowledgement of the effort along with words of merit and appreciation are definitely worth engaging in. The message it sends will ensure that when Murphy strikes again, the team will be up to the task.


  1. Very well said. Some salient points I gleamed:
    1. Depending on who you are (and your personality) you might be an asset or a liability to the Critical Task Force. Plan your presence accordingly.
    2. IT owner needs to present timely and accurate reports to external and internal stakeholders of the company
    3. Despite all DR preparations, things can go wrong. The objective is to minimize immediate pains through backup actions, get back to fully-operational stage ASAP and reduce (with a goal to avoid) repeat occurrences.

  2. Anita Visvanath1:01 PM

    Hello Arun,

    Good read; especially liked the last part- Murphy does strike more than once, eh! :)

    Coincidentally, we are covering IT in class this week and a lot of the discussions are deja-vu!

    Warm regards,