IT managers beware Sunday night / Monday morning syndrome

I came across a new phrase recently, one that I liked so much that I plan to adopt it and use it myself in future articles, thereby claiming all the glory for its conception.

But to alleviate any feelings of guilt, I shall first give credit where it’s due, and thank Peter Hambling, CIO of Lloyd’s of London, for coming up with the idea of “Sunday night / Monday morning syndrome” to describe one of the latest challenges facing IT managers.

Hambling was describing the situation whereby employees sit at home on a Sunday night on their feature-packed laptops, connected through their wireless routers to a high-speed broadband connection to the internet. After an evening experiencing the ease of use of eBay, the simplicity of Google, and the functionality of Amazon, they turn up at work the next day.

Five minutes after switching on their PC it finally boots up and lets them log in, then the further five minutes they wait for all the internal security routines to complete gives them a chance to discuss the latest episode of Mad Men (which they watched on the iPlayer, naturally).

Next it’s down to work – tabbing through all the fields in their business applications, maybe even entering a few control codes to make sure the software does what was intended. By the end of Monday morning they are ready to express their frustrations through a virtual chat with a couple of Facebook friends, but of course the systems are locked down and access to social media is banned.

Is it any wonder that users compare the home and work experience and look to the IT department and think: “They must be useless. Surely it can’t be that difficult…”

Perhaps many IT departments have already experienced the moment when the first-line helpdesk takes a call from a disgruntled user who knows more about their PC than the person answering the phone. If you haven’t – just wait, it’s coming.

Hambling’s comment came during a Computer Weekly roundtable discussing how to better manage the balance between operational and innovation spending. According to some estimates, as much as 80% of a typical IT budget goes to keeping the lights on. Is it any wonder that IT leaders find it hard to deliver the levels of innovation that we have all come to expect from the everyday web sites and services we use?

The full write-up from the debate gives a lot more detail, but the delegates identified five key areas to focus on to cut the costs of maintaining IT and free up more cash to spend on meeting the changing demands of the business and the growing expectations of users:

• Standardisation
• Virtualisation
• Generating business interest
• Managing innovation spend
• Managing user expectations

Of course, the biggest challenge for IT managers is also approaching fast – the day the chief executive takes you to one side and tells you his 12-year-old daughter just developed her own iPhone app, and it only took two weeks, so why does it take so long to implement business systems? It will happen, that’s a promise.