Thought for the day:No holiday for the business

Incisive columnist and IT expert Colin Beveridge looks at a hot issue of the day."Captain's Log, star date 45-06 point 8: Mr...

Incisive columnist and IT expert Colin Beveridge looks at a hot issue of the day."Captain's Log, star date 45-06 point 8: Mr Spock and the landing party have failed to return to the Enterprise by the agreed time and I have no alternative but to proceed without them to Federation headquarters. My orders in such situations are quite clear, regardless of any strong personal feelings, or emotions, we have to continue with our mission as planned. Nobody is indispensable."

Obviously Captain James T. Kirk and his crew are so well organised that they can sustain the loss of key players without compromising their core business functions, which is more than can be said for most IT departments.

For sure, many computer systems exist in "lights-out" environments, completely untouched by human intervention for lengthy periods because our hardware is so much more reliable than it used to be and, to be fair, so is our software - despite some fairly frequent high-profile exceptions; whereas our live-ware remains entirely susceptible to human frailties.

Sadly, we can't always count on people to do things properly. People tend to make mistakes and things go wrong when key people are not around to supervise matters. Such is life. Which is why we have processes.

In the purest terms, a process is a methodical recipe designed to ensure that we get the right results, consistently. If a process is well designed, properly understood and followed, then everything should turn out well, almost like clockwork.

For most of the year this may well be the case and no serious problems arise. Phew!

But there is definitely a period in our calendar when key members of staff frequently disappear, often unexpectedly, taking with them their vital process knowledge, thus significantly increasing the risk to the smooth operation of our business.

Now I am not talking about Klingons on the Starboard bow, or even about the proverbial bus that might knock any of us down at any time - I am referring simply to that ubiquitously unrecognised risk factor, the summer holiday.

Of course, I expect that many of you will be taking a well-earned break from the world of IT. I hope that you thoroughly enjoy yourselves, come back refreshed and eager once again for the fray. That's what a holiday is for.

Remember, though, that your particular holiday may only be for a week or two, but for the department as a whole, the summer holiday period can be almost four months, during which many combinations of key process will need to be substituted at various times.

All I ask is that you don't go away, without first making sure that your colleagues are able to keep things ticking over until you get back. Don't just leave it to chance - that's when things go wrong, or get left undone. Make sure that somebody is covering all of your contributions to the business process. That way there will be no nasty surprises for those left behind.

You can then fly off to the flesh-pots of Filey, or the back alleys of Bridlington with a clear conscience, secure in the knowledge that you are not indispensable.

What's your view? Should we do more to minimise the disruption caused by staff going on holiday? Let us know with an e-mail >> reserves the right to edit and publish answers on the Web site. Please state if your answer is not for publication.

Colin Beveridge is an interim executive who has held top-level roles in IT strategy, development services and support. His travels along the blue-chip highway have taken him to a clutch of leading corporations, including Shell, BP, ICI, DHL and Powergen.

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