"If a server failed a few years ago it would be difficult for me to hand that over to someone when it was time to go home. Now it is easy to do a handover thanks to standardized servers. Someone in Australia can take over the issue and handle it from there," Bartman says.
Collaboration technology is another key component in today's IT infrastructure. Text 100 regularly launches collaborative test projects across regions in preparation for large, simultaneous rollouts across countries and multiple languages.
"We use portal technology as the collaborative method. Using it to track things, as far as documentation on what people are experiencing in different countries, Gannt charts to track projects, and calendars as well," Bartman says.
Another large enterprise with 2,500 IT employees, which prefers to remain anonymous, is also using standardization to great effect. "The goal is to try and leverage the various divisional efforts to identify opportunities for standards or at the very least publish a repository of patterns and best practices," says one the company’s lead enterprise architects. "We're trying to trim the fat out of our SDLC [Systems Development Life Cycle] processes and maintenance processes without necessarily looking for additional automation."
Even when you squeeze every drop of value out of current systems, sometimes you need to invest in new technology in order to work smarter, says Rick Faszold, manager of systems at St. Anthony's Medical Center in St. Louis. Using Microsoft’s SoftGrid application virtualization technology has reduced system crashes by 75 percent, says Faszold.
"Because the applications are containerized I can run anything I want to run together with far fewer system crashes," Faszold says.
Prior to SoftGrid, Faszold estimates St. Anthony's spent about 1,500 people-hours a year fixing systems due to software problems.
SoftGrid works by keeping the applications from touching the registry and the Windows system directories, while allowing the application to load everything it needs to run.
Despite Faszold's best efforts at reducing operational hours via technology, the competitive nature of the health care industry is taking its toll. His staff has gone from putting in an average of 50 hours per week two years ago to 58 hours per week now.
Doing the right thing
Overall, our interviews left us with the impression that today's companies are far hipper than even ten years ago in making concerted efforts to keep worker satisfaction high, long hours notwithstanding.
The InfoWorld 2007 Compensation Survey found that among IT staff, more than 80 percent of employees were “satisfied” to “very satisfied” with the balance between work fulfillment and salary. In fact, among IT staff, 71 percent said they were fairly compensated.
Part of the reason for that may be that many companies have learned to treat their workers with respect. "It is incumbent upon management to figure out ways to support people, because workloads are tough. We had to realize we are still people with families," Faszold says. For example, St. Anthony’s offers extra time off to take care of family needs.
Despite IT managers’ claims that doing more with less has not put a great strain on their departments, employers do demand more from new hires, favoring candidates with skill sets considerably broader than was the rule in past eras.