Consultants? That’s probably your best bet, but to paraphrase a wise saying: A problem has increased by an order of magnitude before the consultant has had a chance to get his pants on. Yes, bringing a boatload of consultants in to address an emerging issue may in fact result in problem resolution, but it’ll take far, far longer to fix than if the primary care admin was there to begin with.

 

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Could complete, readily available documentation be the key? Perhaps, but only in a limited fashion. Recurring problems that have been accurately documented with steps to resolve the problem can certainly help when a key admin is out of contact, but once a problem stretches outside the boundaries of a known issue, it all reverts to square one.

We’re left with the fact that there exists in every IT organization one or more indispensable people who find themselves trapped by their own expertise. On the other side of that coin is a point I made last week about the Terry Childs case — people with such a deep level of knowledge of the infrastructure are sometimes considered as a threat to the organization if they leave under any circumstances.

What’s the solution? Unfortunately, there isn’t one. When computing infrastructure reaches a certain point of complexity, there will always be one wizard who can work his or her magic to solve problems and return things to a stable situation. They’re resigned to being the backstop, occuping the desk at which the buck stops, and ideally they’re well compensated for such duties. The business just better hope it can reach the wizard by phone when all hell breaks loose.