TalkTalk system failure: complex IT needs experienced staff

It does not surprise me that Dido Harding was clueless about TalkTalk’s IT system failure. It is quite normal for managers to claim to be in control of IT systems until such time as they are exposed by events to not be in control at all. They typically delude themselves with assurances that “best practices” have been adopted. The problem with these best practices for managing IT services is that they over-rely on process and undervalue the importance of individual IT technicians. At times of critical incidents like this (and to prevent them from happening), what is needed are technicians who have over time gained an intimate knowledge of the system.

Unfortunately, best practices espouse neoliberal managerial techniques, notably the rationalisation of technicians as system assets to be used for the fulfilment of short-term objectives. It is an inconvenient truth that a complex IT system needs expert technicians who know that system inside out because they have been present as it has evolved over time. The fact that the system was so easily attacked, and Harding was left so clueless about what had gone wrong, suggests there was a lack of such expertise at TalkTalk.
Dr Clive Trusson
Lincoln Business School

The Guardian | Data and security | 27th October 2015