Getting Rid of Gurus

I was browsing over at Slashdot when I stumbled upon an article at InfoWorld title “The four fallacies of IT metrics” by Bob Lewis. Go ahead and take a read, i think there is a lot of good thoughts in it about the dangers of metrics and especially applying them incorrectly.

In the resulting comment thread at Slashdot, I stumbled upon a comment by nahdude812. It is rather lengthy and tells the tale of a company where they start ridding themselves of expensive gurus because the systems are running smoothly and instead replace them with support contracts. These companies then pat themselves on their “backs” for saving money and still having a working system … for a while. It’s a good read, so head on over and take a look yourself.

The term “guru” has many meanings, but in this instance I think it focuses mainly on extremely competent people who have two things (along with other skills):

  1. deep knowledge of the technology being used
  2. deep knowledge of how said technology is being used in the organization

I’m painting in very broad strokes here.

The danger of getting rid of these people in favor of support contracts will not always be readily visible, but I think that a “day of reckoning” will come at some point when something breaks and needs to be fixed and it can’t be quickly because no one is there with the needed knowledge (or perhaps the one person who does have it is on vacation and you got rid of the other two people). Even in those times, you might pat yourself on the back for getting it fixed, but having the “guru” there might have resulted in a faster, cheaper, better fix along with finding and fixing the underlying problem.

I’m preaching to the choir here, but I think there is a need for organizations to do two things for their IT departments:

  1. allow your IT department to hire “gurus”
  2. allow your IT department to retain said “gurus”

Then, as a department, IT needs to document everything possible.

I’m terrible at the last part.