When it comes to minimizing IT outages, the human factor is often underestimated. Both man and machine represent risks.


The human factor is crucial to IT quality


Human error ranks alongside technical defects as a chief cause of IT downtime – what can be done to mitigate the risk that emanates from people?

  • Increase awareness of quality issues
  • Develop staff expertise and skills
  • Establish four-eye-principle
  • Ensure active involvement of senior management

The role played by human error is often underestimated

IT environments at many businesses are becoming increasingly complex and difficult to manage. According to figures recently published by Statista, human error accounted for 43.5 percent of IT downtime in 2014. Mitigating this risk is therefore key to ensuring high IT availability.
IT professionals can inadvertently jeopardize business continuity in many ways. Often, it simply comes down to a lack of resources – there are too few people to manage and maintain the IT landscape. In other cases, responsiveness is weak, allowing minor problems to escalate into major incidents that can only be resolved at great effort and expense. Against this background, it is not just a question of having the right resources; it is also vital to establish a shared understanding of quality and proactive risk management at all organizational levels.

Ongoing training is a must

There are other aspects to consider, too. Gaps in the IT team’s skill set are a further cause of IT downtime. In many instances, individuals do not possess the knowledge needed to master the latest IT solutions, or to respond appropriately to technical issues. IT professionals require ongoing training and regular testing – to ensure they remain up to speed with the latest developments in the fast-paced world of software and hardware.
However, it is impossible to completely eliminate human error. Even experts make mistakes. That is why a four-eye-principle is essential to robust ICT quality. When implementing changes, IT organizations often place their fate in the hands of a few individuals – with potentially dire consequences for the business as a whole. If a switch to new software hits a snag, for example, data loss and financial impacts could ensue. For this reason, dual control mechanisms are vital.

Management involvement is essential

But it is not just about operational staff. The role of senior executives is also quality-critical. In many cases, they are not fully aware of the challenges faced at grassroots level. And if a crisis occurs, IT professionals are often left to their own devices. But the rapid resolution of major issues, and elimination of their root causes, takes more than just IT expertise; around-the-clock support by the top management is important, too. Senior executives must be actively involved in incident management to ensure swift decision making – and to give IT staff the authority needed to take effective action.
In summary, when it comes to safeguarding ICT service quality, the human factor is often neglected. People make mistakes – but the onus is on CIOs to minimize the risks and to ensure their IT professionals are fully prepared for any eventuality.