Hollywood's most famous life science startup,Jurassic Park, encountered exactly the kinds of catastrophes you might expect from any big-budget disaster flick. "We have all the problems of a major theme park and a major zoo," says Samuel L. Jackson, "and the computer's not even on its feet yet." By the end of the movie, the lone IT guy sabotages the computer systems, goes missing, and half the cast gets eaten by dinosaurs.
While we haven't seen Velociraptors running around the offices of any of our clients (yet), new companies often come to us with IT problems that could easily have been avoided. As unrealistic as the dino scenario may be, real-life IT stakeholders and new and small companies can learn a lot from the disastrous mistakes of Jurassic Park's leadership.
Mistake #1: Single Point of Failure
The first mistake John Hammond makes happens before the movie even opens: He trusts his entire IT infrastructure to one genius guy. In other words, he creates a single point of failure.
Even if you don't expect your one and only "IT guy" to get ambushed by a dilophosaurus, there are plenty of disastrous situations that can arise when your IT infrastructure lacks redundancies. We've seen real-life scenarios of lost productivity or data when:
- The one guy with all the knowledge is unexpectedly absent
- Nearby construction leaves all that cloud data completely inaccessible
- The server and backup drive are both lost when the a pipe bursts in the building
Effective fail-safes for critical systems don't have to be expensive or a ton of trouble. The right provider should include these measures as part of your system audit.
Solution: Avoid silos of expertise and administration. Every task in your technology infrastructure should be documented and have redundancies in place — not just the hardware but the people as well. Disaster recovery / business continuity processes should be well understood throughout the management team. A good managed service provider can help you build a resilient system and act as your outsourced knowledge base for all things related to your IT infrastructure.
Mistake #2: Lack of clear policies and auditing
Whether the Jurassic Park team should have trusted Nedry or not, it's clear that no one there had any idea what he was working on. More importantly, the lack of clear policies meant that when Nedry turned off the electricity to the pens, no one was notified (not that they could do anything about it, since Nedry had locked everyone out).
Outside our fictional movie world, there exist real-world security threats to your intellectual assets, almost all of which are stored digitally. It's not enough to have firewalls and anti-virus software anymore. You need a comprehensive plan for intrusion prevention, notification, and mitigation.
Even assuming that your key IT resource is on the ball with monitoring most of the threats, are they able to move quickly? How often are they monitoring your network? Will they be able to set clear, consistent, and liability-friendly policies for IT governance? Are they prepared to create compliance policies for the entire organization around issues such as BYOD (Bring Your Own Device)?
Solution: You don't have to reinvent the wheel to implement best practices for biotech. Ensure that your technology solution has experience with the unique challenges of maintaining dispersed and large data sets andmanaging compliance with regulatory requirements.
Which brings us to…
Mistake #3: Equating technical expertise with technical management
Hollywood loves the hacker persona. Whether it's Jurassic Park or War Games, it's easy to mistake technical savvy for good IT management. That was Hammond's biggest mistake, and one that's far too common in startups: finding a "hotshot" techie who can set up your servers, fix your laptop, and run cable to a new lab, all in one afternoon. And he's 19, so he works for peanuts.
While that mentality works well for a lot of start-ups, they don't deal with the same issues you do. As a business that has to mind their P's and Q's with regard to HIPAA, SOX, 21 CFR Part 11, and who knows how many FDA regulations, you cannot rely on your local maverick to be able to tackle all of these when it comes to your IT management. You have your legal and financial advisors, and you need to have a trusted technical advisor as well.
Solution: Ideally, you want a pretty sophisticated IT Department:
- A high-end technology executive to help you work through the costs and risks of competing IT solutions, and help you forecast future growth and implications
- A detail-oriented administrator with extensive experience documenting processes and system testing
- All while not over-spending on the day-to-day operation of supporting the servers and technicians
Luckily many IT partners provide this level of service and expertise as part of a comprehensive package. Companies who don't have the budget for a single "IT guy" can get access to a whole team, including a "virtual CIO" for a fraction of the price.
So now what?
Even though John Hammond famously "spared no expense" for his dinosaur park, you don't have to go to such extremes to find the technical and business planning you require.
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