Don’t be a Turkey!

Have you ever let complacency get the better of you?  Blind spots during IT Projects can be so challenging.  Let's explore why we get caught off guard and what can be done about it.

Don't IT Projects surprise or catch you off guard.

"Consider a Turkey that is fed every day. Every single feeding will firm up the bird’s belief that it is the general rule of life to be fed every day by friendly members of the human race... On the afternoon of the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, something unexpected will happen to the Turkey. It will incur a revision of belief."

~ Nassim Nicholas Taleb, The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable

The Full Scoop

Some years ago our team was working with an Accounting Firm, we were in the middle of on-going IT Projects to address a few issues that had risen to the attention of their Executive team.  They were in dire need of a network refresh.  Their end users were experiencing significant network delays and latency, and as a result, they were quite convinced of the need to upgrade existing routers and switches.  The challenges and issues were obvious, and could be seen and felt; no hard selling or convincing needed.  Infrastructure improvements were made and network performance improved substantially.

While performing an assessment of their network, we became aware that their data and servers were not being backed up.  They did have a home grown backup solution writing data onto an external hard drive; but it was a very outdated approach, an old drive, and the process had never been tested.  This amazing accounting firm did not have off-site backups!  We explained the risks and limitations with their existing backup approach, discussed the importance of having a business continuity plan, but as Nassim Taleb could explain; we tend as humans to be narrow minded in our beliefs about the world, and once we have an embedded idea we tend to cling onto it tightly.

This particular client had never experienced a data loss event, they did have "something" in place; and well, why spend money unnecessarily.  It is very challenging to run a business and be consistently profitable, expending monies on new ventures is not an easy decision. It is hard to believe in something that hasn't happened, especially when you have been in business for many years.  Why spend the money on IT Projects, right?

Later in the year their building caught on fire.  Thankfully their data and system were ultimately kept safe; but a very serious discussion followed regarding the importance of having multiple data backups, a copy off-site, and the need to test your backups regularly.  Physical and cyber threats are very real, and the impacts to a business can spell disaster.  The stories you hear are true.

Cloud based backup solutions are becoming very affordable, if you don't have copies of your data off-site, you are exposing yourself to unnecessary risks.  If you need advice on an affordable solution, speak to your IT Provider or opens in a new windowdrop us a note.  You should also actively test your backups, performing data restores and verifying that your backups "really, really" are working.  We've seen what happens when disaster recovery exercises do not happen, and folks; it is not pretty!!

In The Black Sawn, Taleb explains that humans incorrectly categorize data into "narrative fallacies", where we create very linear narratives to describe our current situation.  Due to how much information we have to process each and every day, our brains tend to weed out anything we deem less important.  We have a hard time realizing, that we don't know - what we don't know.  We just aren't good at making predictions, and at times are so overwhelmed we block out risks or believe "it won't happen to me".

Find a IT Projects partner that you can trust, that you know isn't trying to "sell" you on solutions to line their pocket book.  Challenge and question the solutions you are presented, trust but verify, look for outside opinions on what you are told; but ultimately be confident that you may not know everything you think you know.  Our firm has benefited greatly by looking to outside help in the areas of accounting, finance and marketing.  We do not know, what we don't know; and look for ways to continuously improve without being overly confident that we've got it figured out.

We have learned that what may take us days or weeks to figure out, to someone who specializes, the same problem will be resolved in a fraction of the time.  Having experts you can count on makes a big difference.  Surround yourself with trusted IT partners and vendors, hire smart people to run your IT Projects, and be aware that you are not 'always aware'.  Uncertainly is a part of life and a big part of running a business.   Ponder the following from Taleb, and take your own steps to hedge against the risks you cannot see;

“This idea that in order to make a decision you need to focus on the consequences (which you can know) rather than the probability (which you can’t know) is the central idea of uncertainty.”

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