Saturday, July 27, 2013

Fix Your Org Chart, Fix Your Infrastructure

See this? Don't do this.
Spend any measurable amount of time thinking about how to solve infrastructure problems, and you'll most likely end up thinking about organizational problems. This is doubly true when you're rooted in virtualization, and you don't really consider yourself a server, network, or storage engineer.

You've probably seen many org charts like the one to the right. The boxes for each team seem innocent enough: group staff by discipline and responsibility. Job descriptions can be pretty generic for each group. Status reports flow up the chain nicely. All of that great management structure from the 1970s.

It just doesn't work today.

Virtualization adds a layer of abstraction to org charts, too. You might not be able to distinguish between a server engineer and a storage engineer anymore. Network engineers are getting smarter about virtual servers. All of a sudden, everyone is speaking in the same technical jargon, and they're even understanding one another!
Almost named it Virtualization Team. Close one.

That is, of course, unless you still insist on sticking with the server, network, and storage team approach. And maybe we're overlooking the commonality in the naming convention: Team. In the sports world, when you have more than one team playing in the same league, they're competitors. I argue it's the same for IT organizations.

Organizational architects of the world: when you put engineers in nice little boxes like the three in the diagram above, you're designing for conflict. It's like building a vSphere cluster and disabling vMotion. Don't force your engineers to stay within the bounds of their "team." Let them move around in the organization freely, based on their resource requirements (without violating availability constraints, of course).

Fixing technology is easy; fixing organizations is assuredly not. But technology can't solve organizational problems, and frankly shouldn't.