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The Great Attrition

October 19, 2021

The Great Attrition has started and is affecting the Information Technologies industry in a profound way.

For decades long-time IT professionals with deep experience and specific problem-solving skills were part of the corporate fabric and all of the knowledge and experience needed to run IT production was available ‘in their heads’. But in 2020 all of that changed. The covid pandemic became a pausing point for the world, including IT, and as we all personally embraced the new normal, changing personal priorities and an aging population caused these same people to rethink their personal agendas with more open minds. And most people have taken a much broader view of their own options and life goals… many times choosing to leave the IT industry altogether.

The net result is the hero that kept our businesses running for the past two decades are becoming fewer and farther between, and with their departure, a great deal of the tribal knowledge that is needed to keep digital infrastructures humming is leaving with them. As a result, our infrastructures are becoming more fragile, the risk of incidents is rising and the impact of any failure can already be seen creating catastrophic outcomes on the front page of the Wall Street Journal.

It should be noted that for the past 25 years, human error has universally been considered to be the root cause for more than two-thirds of all outages. (Widely reported by the analyst firms). Perhaps counter-intuitive, or maybe even wishful thinking was to try to blame outages on hardware or software failures. But it’s clear that more times than not, it’s an operator that simply made a mistake at a keyboard. Two-thirds of all outages and that was in the ‘good ole days’ (pre-Covid) with reasonable levels of staffing and long-term experienced IT professionals still on board. Those days are a distant memory for many of us still fighting the good fight.

So, back to 2021, the here and now. What can we do? Well, the most successful companies are getting back to basics to address this attrition, skill shortage, and decreasing experience head-on. They are becoming fiscally pristine and truly running It like a business; spending every dollar of their IT budgets in a highly defendable fashion. They are bringing back the ‘paperwork’ which includes support plans, documentation, and other policies and procedures. (Yes, I know in the digital age ‘paperwork’ is kind of an oxymoron, but you get the idea). These companies publically commit to their shareholders and stakeholders that they will only build or evolve their IT infrastructures if they can stand up to anyone’s scrutiny.

So that brings me to ‘experience’ as an asset. We need to treat experience and subject matter expertise as a corporate asset, add it to the intellectual property reservoir. These companies are investing in new solutions and creating new policies that enable and require knowledge to be captured and shared. These companies are taking a much more strategic approach to IT, playing the long game, and will be more successful than those companies that continue to be consumed by reactionary tactical mortal combat IT where their limited IT staff spends every day running around with their hair on fire.

Make no mistake, 2020 will forever be seen as the year IT changed… from tactical to strategic.

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