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What enterprise CTOs can learn from events such as #CensusFail

Enterprise CTOs are responsible for more systems, applications and technology platforms than ever before. The drive to leverage new technologies, to offer new services, new revenue streams and an enhanced customer experience is fuelling the rate of development.

Ensuring user uptake of a new solution is the ultimate goal. It’s what delivers the business benefit and the return on investment. But if you are too successful at generating interest and/or demand loads increase too quickly – cracks can sometimes begin to show!

A good case in point is the recent launch of a high profile platform – the Australian Census Survey. It too promised efficiency, cost savings and an enhanced customer experience. The public (some reluctantly) got behind it, but most couldn’t access the service on Census night.

While the debate as to the main reasons behind the website crash may continue for some time, the various discussions give rise to a few important lessons that corporations should consider.

So what can enterprise CTOs learn from events such as #CensusFail?

Bigger is not always better – don’t settle for generalists

We see this often, the scenario which can seriously undermine the performance of enterprise platforms – entrusting the management responsibility to the biggest, most ‘all-encompassing’ IT partner available. In other words: leaving it to the generalists.

It’s understandable. It is common practice to default to your current supplier. They are probably doing a great job managing less specialised aspects of your technology environment and have put in a convincing case for expanding their service to you. The size of their infrastructure and their man power are likely to be at the top of their list of benefits.

But greater man power is rarely the answer to complex IT problems. In fact, it can sometimes have the opposite effect. A large generalist IT service provider can deploy many resources to address a single issue, yet this can contribute to friction and communication challenges.

The devil is in the detail

Your enterprise platform requires a specialist focus. As organisations get larger, the complexity of the systems which integrate with the various platforms increases exponentially. An IT partner with a helicopter view of your technical landscape will not have a sufficient understanding of the intricate interdependences and workflows.

You need a team of people with a highly specialised skillset who have immersed themselves in your business, and invested the time to get to know how it works – from within. The result? A detailed – yet ultimately a more robust and scalable – management framework built on an intimate understanding of your business. No shortcuts.

Never assign the responsibility to manage a key corporate platform to a partner who doesn’t take the time to understand your requirements to the minute detail. What’s your partner’s approach? A nod and a plan to ‘worry about the detail when we need to’, just doesn’t cut it.

Double check your platform requirements

The Census example is about as high profile as they come. The government’s assurance of the platform’s security and the anonymity of the answers was no doubt interpreted as a challenge by a few ambitious hacktivists.

Regardless if the denial of service attacks were real or a smoke-screen, or if more malicious hacking efforts indeed took place – the Census experience serves as yet another reminder on the importance of security.

There’s no doubt – the bigger the profile, the bigger the target. And while your enterprise platform may not attract the same level of international attention, all it takes is one clever hacktivist with a special interest or a well-resourced group of more malicious hackers to cause some serious headaches.

Are you prepared for such an event? What scale of an attack will it take for your platform to fold or your valuable information to fall into the wrong hands?

Are your platforms at risk?

In a future blog we will cover some tell-tale signs that your enterprise platform is being operated by generalists. You may be aware of some already. Some you may not have considered – such as the fact that it often takes twice as many generalist resources as it does specialists to operate the same platform. This comes at an obvious cost.

Ask your technology partner today – what specific steps have they taken to configure your platform to make it truly ‘enterprise ready’? How will they manage surges in demand and what security risks are they prepared for?

If you don’t like the answer, give us a call. It may be time to discard the old saying of ‘No one ever got fired for buying IBM’ because, at the ABS, someone just might.

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