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IT staff are being stretched to their limit, and troubleshooting and crisis management are set to rise in prominence as IT pervades every facet of business, according
to new research from Softlab. Entitled IT Versus the Business, the report shows that already very few private sector organisations (4 per cent) and no public sector
representatives believe that the IT side of their company is extremely good at solving IT problems that impact on the ‘business’ side. The research was based on
telephone interviews with 30 public and 30 private sector organisations.

John Whitfield, IT services director at Softlab, comments: "Perhaps because of this, 50 per cent of private sector companies and 63 per cent of public sector
organisations use both external as well as internal specialists to solve their IT problems.

"The public sector is clearly more willing to use external resources than private sector companies. This could be because private sector companies generally have
greater IT resources available in-house and because, as the report shows, public sector organisations don’t believe that their IT departments are able to solve their
IT problems efficiently."

Generally, organisations today are just about able to cope with the time taken to solve their IT problems, but as IT starts to infiltrate all areas of the business, users
will increasingly demand almost instant troubleshooting. Currently, 24 per cent of private sector companies and 53 per cent of public sector accept that if an IT
problem is solved within half a day or longer, it won’t have a significant impact on the business side of their organisations.

Whitfield observes: "However, the reality is somewhat different: 38 per cent of private sector problems are taking half a day or more to solve and 69 per cent in the
public sector. This points to a need for additional external IT resource to solve problems as the delays will undoubtedly cause organisations to be less efficient and
ultimately that will affect their bottom line.

"IT consultants shouldn’t be used solely when a problem arises, but should also be exploited as a valuable preventative measure to carry out system upgrades or
health checks. Not surprisingly, when the gulf between time actually taken to solve problems and the ideal timeframe is so wide, many express frustration at the
amount of time taken to troubleshoot IT problems." (31 per cent of the private sector are ‘very often’ or ‘often’ frustrated and 24 per cent of public sector.)

This frustration is likely to intensify. IT Versus the Business shows that problems with systems performance is the most common issue to require troubleshooting in
both private and public sector. Whitfield comments: "At first glance, it seems astonishing that you can’t take system performance for granted - even now. However,
IT systems have mushroomed over the past couple of years, coinciding with huge projects such as Y2K and IT staff have been stretched to ensure a minimal service
was in place.

"Now that the Y2K focus have passed, most IT departments are being asked to concentrate on applications development in order to maintain competitive edge.
Problems with system performance could undoubtedly have a major impact on the organisation, ranging from sluggish response through to total failure. We would
recommend that businesses outsource performance checks if they didn’t have enough internal IT resource. Even in the short to medium term, investment in
preventative measures pays off."

Database performance was the second most common problem for public sector organisations compared to identifying where a problem has occurred for the private

The response to the research’s question about the benefits of using external specialists to troubleshoot IT problems backs up Whitfield’s view. The results found that
allowing internal IT specialists to concentrate on strategic matters, not fire fighting was the biggest benefit for the public sector (second for private), followed by
allowing the organisation to retain greater control over IT problems, which was the biggest benefit for the private sector.

A copy of the Softlab research report, IT Versus the Business, can be ordered free of charge, in advance, by telephoning Sue Walker of Softlab on 0208 832 1700
or e-mailing

The survey, based on 60 telephone interviews with managers responsible for procurement, was conducted by research company, Metrica, during May/June 2000.

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