5 dysfunctional IT relationships -- and how to repair them

Sys admins are from Mars, developers are from Venus, and legal is from hell -- here's how to heal friction among IT factions

In large technology departments, dysfunctional relationships breed like mushrooms in a dank basement. Your dev and ops teams are no longer on speaking terms, while your junior and senior developers can't seem to agree on anything. IT and legal are constantly at each other's throats. Storage wonks are ready to declare war on the database admins, while sys admins seem to be on everyone's bad side.

Why can't they all just get along? In many cases it's the tension between conflicting demands on the same systems -- say, DBAs who complain about network performance but refuse to streamline their storage needs or business users who want to roll out new apps quickly, blissfully unaware of the effect they could have on other critical systems.

[ Also on InfoWorld: Beware the nine circles of IT hell, and learn steer clear of 20 common IT blunders and the 12 "best practices" IT should avoid at all costs. | For more IT management wisdom, sign up for Bob Lewis' Advice Line newsletter. ]

Fortunately there are solutions. We asked our geek relationship adviser, Crabby van Buren, to help find the common ground between these five warring factions. His advice follows.

Dysfunctional IT relationship No. 1: Storage admins vs. DBAs

Dear Crabby: Our database administrators have an insatiable appetite for storage. They never delete anything, they won't let us archive data or store it off-site, and they're constantly complaining the network is too slow. Meanwhile, the cost of storing all this data is killing our budget and making us storage engineers extremely unpopular with the CFO. What can we do?
— Underfunded & overcapacity

We feel your pain. Even today's networked and cloud storage options can't always keep up with the data explosion. But to the folks who aren't responsible for providing storage, the supply seems almost infinite.

"To solve the problem, you need to look at the groups that are producing the data," says Jim Damoulakis, CTO of Glasshouse Technologies, an IT infrastructure services provider. "DBAs are some of the biggest examples. They are extremely risk averse, tend to save everything, and want to have total control over all of it. But having to save everything forever can bring your backup systems to a screeching halt. You need to incent them to be more efficient."

In other words, once a department has to foot the bill for its insatiable storage habit, it may begin to appreciate the wisdom of efficiency. The problem is that most people hate chargebacks with a passion, says Damoulakis. The alternative is to set up a system that reports which users are consuming what resources, so when the CFO comes around to beat on the storage people for spending too much money they can say, "Talk to these guys."

Interestingly, says Damoulakis, a lot of this is already happening because of the cloud. Departments that bypass IT to order services directly from a third-party cloud vendor are finding that they're charged on a consumption basis, whether they like it or not.

"In a funny way the cloud is moving this to the forefront," he says. "It's a backdoor into a chargeback mechanism. Organizations that are adopting private clouds are also finding they can use that to make DBAs and other groups accountable for their own IT spend."

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