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Socrates was an IT expert (sort of)

By Patrick Schmidt

The Greek philosopher Socrates is credited as saying, “All things in moderation, including moderation.” In other words, most of the time we should practice prudence and good judgement in our behaviors. However, once and a while it can be useful and healthy to break that habit, cut loose, and “live it up” a bit.

Now, how could Socrates, who lived from 470 BC to 399 BC and was executed for “corrupting” the youth of Athens, be relevant today? Hang in here for a few minutes and I suspect there is a lesson for the modern IT world.

Information technology thrives on reliability. We expect our systems to work quickly and seamlessly and are impacted negatively when they don’t. A thoughtful, consistent, and moderate approach is one of the reasons why we can most often rely on the availability of the technology that drives our modern world.

So, it would seem the first part of Socrates’ statement holds water. But, what about the second? Is there any value to cut loose and live it up when it comes to systems that are responsible for everything from financial transactions to medial records? What would that even look like?

Consistency and predictability are valuable and should be sought after when keeping your IT assets up and running. However, these two characteristics run the risk of morphing into something that looks like complacency. How would you know? Have you ever heard someone in your organization say, “We’ve always done it that way”?

Now it’s time to break a habit by asking a simple question: WHY have we always done it that way?  I’m not advocating behaviors that would put an organization at risk. Rather, I am pointing out that asking why is a powerful tool that can lead to valuable examination.

Here’s an example. Let’s say that your organization covers all its IT assets with 24x7 coverage with a four-hour response time. It’s simple, and safe, and you’ve always done it that way. Well, it’s been that way as far back as you can remember. But, why?

In this case we can be even more specific with the question. Why are we covering test and development equipment with a high price service? This leads to other questions like would there be an impact to our business if we saved some budget dollars by lowering the service level to 9x5 next business day?

Here’s a second example. When it’s time to refresh industry standard servers an organization always buy the same platform. Here comes the question – Why? One might think he or she knows the technology and is comfortable with the tools, so there’s no need to look around. This may be a valid business reason, but it may also prevent a company from looking around and finding something better.

Only the employees and leadership of a specific organization can decide what is right for their business needs and budget. However, without asking the why question on a regular basis there is a real risk that money is wasted, and innovation is stifled.

The good news is you don’t need to ask the question alone. Socrates apparently never did. According to Plato (Socrates’ most famous student), the philosopher would engage in a dialogue with subject matter experts on a variety of topics to come to the truth of a matter. More than 2400 years later, you can do the same.

LRS IT Solutions has a long history of enabling our customers to make wise business decisions. Our subject matter experts cover a wide variety of disciplines from analytics to infrastructure to security. Wherever you have questions, we have answers. And we've never made anyone drink hemlock.

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About the author

Patrick Schmidt is a Technology Lifecycle Management Specialist with LRS IT Solutions. For more than 21 years, he has been helping customers get a firm grasp on their asset and contract management with a combination of comprehensive service level analysis and lifecycle management best practices.