The extra public holiday scheduled for 29 April to mark the royal wedding could present CIOs with either an opportunity or a staffing nightmare, according to analyst Gartner.
The royal wedding is likely to encourage many workers to take an extended period of holiday, as the additional public holiday will allow workers to book three days off and have a total holiday of 11 days between Friday 22 April and Monday 2 May 2011.
Gartner VP Andy Kyte told silicon.com that an extended period of low demand could present CIOs with an ideal opportunity to undertake major system upgrades or operational changes: "An increasing problem for CIOs is that all IT is expected to be 24/7 and it means finding windows of opportunity to undertake significant upgrades to operational systems is becoming harder and harder."
Kyte argued that even if businesses do not close for the three days in the middle, the two four-day weekends present an unusual opportunity for IT staff to test operational changes before implementing them during the second weekend. The two long weekends also offer IT departments a second chance to fix problems that may have resulted from operational changes made in the first weekend.
Kyte told silicon.com that if significant operational changes had not already been planned, it is probably too late. But he went on to suggest several other ways CIOs could take advantage of the downtime in IT demand.
"It could be a good opportunity to apply a lot of patches to an email system or to an email server, or it could be a good opportunity to have a major reorganisation of disk storage," he said. Kyte advised that generally CIOs should be looking to complete jobs that can be carried out with a small number of highly technical staff, which they would rather do with less time pressure than if they had to do it overnight or over a normal weekend.
Kyte identified three key questions that CIOs should be asking to make sure they are fully prepared. First, CIOs should be asking what they are currently planning to do over that period in terms of providing IT services. Secondly, what is the business' operational schedule over the dates in question? And finally, what would they like to deliver in terms of technical refresh?
He also cautioned that if CIOs fail to take into account the disruption to staffing both internally and with outsourcing, it could cause "embarrassment".
"Unless and until the CIO opens a dialogue with the business manager, they are not going to know what services they are expected to provide during that time," Kyte said. Once the business expectations of IT departments have been established, Kyte said CIOs can then make sure they have access to adequate resources to carry out these expectations and begin to make plans for additional tasks they would like to achieve.