What Airplanes Teach Us About IT

Bellanca Super Viking

I’ve been flying airplanes since I was 15 years old, but due to a long hiatus from training I hadn’t actually gotten my pilot’s license until August of 2012. During this last summer I added ratings onto my license for bigger and faster aircraft with high performance and complex endorsements.

I had an absolute blast flying 300 hp Super Vikings and 200 hp Arrows and learned a lot doing so. The thing about these bigger and faster aircraft is that you constantly have to be thinking much further in advance than with say an aircraft with an 80~150 hp engine. You also need to learn to anticipate what kind of requests air traffic control may make and what other aircraft may do around you.

If you fail to stay ahead of the aircraft you may find yourself in situations like falling behind the power curve. Being behind the power curve means that you essentially are having to work the engine harder to maintain flight likely due to having things like landing gear and flaps deployed or flying at too steep of an angle of attack. It’s a bad situation to be in; not as serious a few thousand AGL, but especially bad as you come in on final approach. You may also find yourself over correcting or making bad decisions as the cockpit pace becomes quicker and you focus on the here-and-now as opposed to where your aircraft will be 60 seconds from now.

Information technology (IT) is much like flying a complex high performance aircraft, it’s easy to fall into various traps when you focus on where your IT infrastructure is and don’t focus on where you need it to be in a year or two down the road. Before you know it, your IT infrastructure is outdated, falling apart, and you don’t have the funds to do anything about it! So how do you avoid these traps?



I knew a pastor that used to constantly say “you know a person’s priorities when you see their checkbook,” which is largely true for individuals, and even more-so for organizations and departmental budgeting. I’ve known large NGOs and nonprofit organizations that didn’t budget for IT other than the cost of a local IT staff. Unfortunately, unless you have brilliant or extraordinarily charismatic IT staff, you’ll start losing days of work each month to outages. Set aside a chunk of money, enough to send in-house staff for training as well as their salary/benefits (if you have in-house staff of course), enough for random supplies and tools, enough to replace equipment, enough to replace a computer or two if they die, finally enough to make bigger upgrades every few years.



I’ve encountered two types of IT staff, some are progressive and professional but focus heavily on the key deliverables that make a network useful to their respective organization, their networks tend to be in pretty good shape so long as they have a modest budget. The other type I’ve encountered tend to have systems that are either falling apart because they either want to get away with the absolute minimum of work or because they overextend themselves trying to provide services that nobody really needs. You need to make sure you’re getting good staff or outsourcing to trustworthy IT companies.


Stay In The Loop

As an owner, an executive, a manager, or other decision maker it is important to understand the technology trends effecting IT and how they will effect your organization. For example, a couple of technology trend that will have a profound effect on your organization is software as a service and infrastructure as a service. Each year there is less and less need for a dedicated server in small and medium size organizations. At present the primary uses of a dedicated server even small and medium size organizations would be authentication/lockdown services, installation automation, VoIP, and content control; nearly every other function can be pushed off premise and makes sense to do so.


Stop and Assess

You might actually already be in a situation where you’ve fallen behind but don’t realize it. At this point it is important to stop and realistically assess the situation. Is your IT staff looking frazzled and running around trying to fix problems that pop up without ever having time to take proactive measures to prevent problems? You probably already fell behind at that point and it’s time to sit down with IT and discuss how to get on top of the issues and how much it will cost. At that point you may even need to contract help for he project to get back on top; just be sure to stay on top next time!



Above all, try to anticipate what challenges the organization you are in will face. Based on that anticipation, keep an eye on developments in technology and forecast which solutions may mature to meet the anticipated organizational needs. Understandably this can be tough as it is like shooting a moving target from a moving vehicle! This is where having consultants or outsourcing IT can be helpful. Hopefully these tips will help keep your IT infrastructure running smooth and safe!

Isaac Johnson

Isaac has been in professional ministry since 2002, holds an M.Div. from Moody, and his goal is to equip churches to reach digital natives.

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