May 4, 2020 IT: No Longer the Forgotten Stepchild
Let’s face it, IT has historically been a forgotten component of many companies. When IT rolled through the office, it was typically because something had broken. When all was well, you would hardly see the individuals or team at all. In fact, IT’s budget would revolve around what was necessary to just “keep things going.” In the past, I have had a number of calls with IT vendors in which I had mentioned that the company I was previously working for at the time was in a break-fix mode with no new initiatives. According to those vendors, that was the same boat that a majority of their clients were in. IT can be a feast or famine lifestyle in which there are days with seemingly nothing to do, or days where you can’t take a breath. Regardless, not many people pay attention to IT when things are going well, but all heck breaks loose when 1 file is missing, or someone hasn’t received an e-mail 2 seconds after it was sent.
No Longer Forgotten
Where IT had once been in the back of most executives’ minds, it is now in the forefront. Many companies have been blind-sided by the current pandemic we are dealing with. Perhaps they had a few connections to their VPN or other remote solutions, but now, EVERYONE needs access. Not only does the IT professional have to become the miracle worker again, wringing blood out of a stone, but the miracles must happen overnight.
HFR has maintained the ability to work remotely for many years. When the chance arose to streamline that ability for HFR Investments, we jumped on the chance. We chose to utilize the Office 365 platform and leverage as many of their offerings as possible. This yielded incredible results when we flipped the switch, as virtually all our information was accessible without the reliance on access to the main office. It goes to show that there is real value in investing in IT and IT readiness.
In an early March, an incredible feat was performed by droves of IT professionals. Now, with COVID-19 having reached the US, employees’ safety was at stake. Companies now wanting their entire staff to work from home were faced with a daunting task. Executives were at the mercy of the technology they had taken for granted. Company infrastructures were put to the test and the switch to remote computing was thrown. A new era for many companies had arrived.
The Modern Financial District Has Always Been About Information Technology
The first stock ticker system, that employed telegraph technology was invented in 1863 by Edward Calahan. Unveiled formally in 1867 and began usage by 1870, it had a major impact on trading. The faster the information was available, the better. Think about the difference to a day trader of having access to a Bloomberg data feed versus jumping online to MSNBC.com. Both have relevant information, but the premium comes in how fresh the data is. Calahan’s ticker tape system from 1870 was in use for about 100 years! Those of us in IT for the financial industry are well aware of the importance of IT and the detriment of IT failures.
Not Just Local Company Infrastructure Was Challenged
Within the first week of the nationwide push to remote computing, the infrastructures of IT industry giants were stretched to the limits. Where cellphone providers are limited by each tower’s capacity, similarly ISP’s are limited by their network capacity. The networks of huge communications corporations were pushed to the limits.
I recall immediately following the events of 9/11, calls were rejected because of the sudden flood of calls. Even smaller, local municipalities sewer systems are put to the challenge, come half-time during the Super Bowl. These times of remote work are no different, causing many companies to have to rapidly roll out improvements to their systems to increase their capacity.
Cheers to Those that Arose to the Occasion
To all the IT professionals out there who only get flak during those rare times when things go down, keep your head up high. You are doing a fantastic job, especially in times like these. Consider it praise itself when all is quiet the rest of the time. I have great respect for each and every one of you who rose to this challenge and did not give up. Yes, I was one of those who stepped up to the challenge and know firsthand the pressures of an IT professional role in these times. I’m not here to pat myself on the back, just to say you are all appreciated. Cheers.
Not all IT companies struggled through this. There are a number of those who designed their networks and systems for easy expansion. Our cloud-based world really thrives in this type of scenario. Without naming names, shout out to a now widely popular video conferencing platform that was previously lost amongst the sea of IT solutions. I say good job to those who had the foresight to keep their systems readily expandable and rose to the occasion when the going got tough. To those who did not plan ahead, it’s never too late to course correct. Buy your IT professional a lunch or even better a dinner. Crack open that wallet that previously was closed to IT initiatives and plot out your bright future with IT, a welcome part of your corporate family.
By: Brad Bergstrom CTO \ HFR Investments, LLC \ email@example.com
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 “1867 November 15: First stock ticker debuts,” History.com.