The Evolution of IT in your Business
Step One: The Dialogue
Feel like you want to change or improve something? The best place to start is truly understanding it. In order to be effective at developing an actionable strategy for any business, you should be informed about the current state of operations. IT operations is no different… Let’s look at the steps for developing an IT strategy.
Interview Your Staff
Often in a technical business people are not terribly vocal. This doesn’t mean they are unaware of the issues, in many cases they have a very real grasp on what the pressing issues are. If they aren’t vocal, ask them. If they are vocal, ask again and again, but ask for specific examples.
Interview Your Clients (Users)
If you are a business that serves customers, get to know them and their issues intimately. Express empathy for their views and don’t get defensive. You aren’t being criticized, you’re being given a viewpoint. The point is not if it’s a realistic view of your business, the point is it’s their view of your business.
Step Two: Take an Inventory
What assets do you have? Know the physical resources that make up your operational platform. This should be as detailed as possible, but you can also tell a lot about your operational maturity from the physical appearance. Does your server room look like something you’d be proud to show a peer company? Ask yourself honestly, if your server/network room/closet was in a glass walled room in the middle of the office, what would people see? Example one: Various pieces of hardware stacked on top of each other on the floor with a giant ball of spaghetti wires criss-crossing the room in no organized fashion? Example two: a clean and organized rack with bundled cables running to servers and equipment that are under warranty and have asset tags attached to them? It’s okay if you’re not an F1 garage, the truth is, most businesses aren’t physically organized. Why? Usually because no one has time to spend on making the place presentable, they are too busy fighting fires and running from user request to user request.
Do an inventory of your infrastructure, all hardware and software should be indexed to a database to be able to sort through it. You need to inventory your physical assets first. How many desktops, laptops, servers, firewalls, and switches do you have? How many aged desktops do you have? Ditch them! Legacy hardware not only makes for a slow unproductive worker, but it is at a drastically higher risk of failure than you will save by not replacing it.
What software is being used in your business? A LOT! You’d be surprised at how many apps there are out there. I once participated in a software rationalization audit for a large international oil and gas company. We came out of the assessment with 20,000 pieces of software. We were then able to rationalize it down it 200 critical applications. Does two hundred sound like a lot? It is. Realistically there should only be a handful of applications for any business. Most small to medium businesses will have 2-12 core applications. Beyond that, companies can choose to match what they allow with their own culture. Allow as much control over the computer as you feel appropriate, just know that the failure to set expectations will result in having expectations set on you.
Step Three: Root Cause Analysis
The next stop in the road to an evolved IT environment is stabilization, but first we need to do some analysis. The mistake that people often make is skipping the previous steps. It’s a lot like traditional troubleshooting mistakes. Starting at a higher layer than is necessary. There is no reason to try and troubleshoot software errors on failing hardware. In turn, there is no point to trying to brute force your way through a long list of support issues in IT. Now that you have collected feedback and analysis on your environment you need to step back and see the forest, not the trees. What are some of the common themes to the support requests?
Do you seem to do an abnormally high number of printer support requests? Why? Are the user profiles not configured to add printers automatically based on user group and location? Do people often report that their remote desktop sessions are very slow? Does the server have sufficient resources?
How much time is spent building workstations and laptops? This is a very common area for improvement. Desktop builds for users should be very simple for two reasons. A support person spending one hour to build a workstation is acceptable. Five hours is not. Also, if you can’t fix a user problem after a few hours you shouldn’t continue. Restore the machine to a “known good state” and get the user back up and running. There are no medals for the heroics of root causing a desktop issue for 14 hours.
The above are the types of things you need to be able to understand and comment on. Without this depth of understanding you can’t effectively address root cause issues. This is what’s known as increasing your Operational Maturity Level or OML. Increasing your operational maturity allows you to stop fire fighting and getting beyond the day to day. This is the strategy that many people are looking for from an IT group. So how can you enable that?
Step Four: Stabilization through Standardization
Most IT groups struggle to find the time to focus on the important tasks week to week. When most of your day is spent in a reactionary mode you have no time for strategy and forward thinking. The easiest way for IT groups to provide a better service is to provide less choice. Stabilization often comes from standardization. The truth is, a vast majority of users aren’t terribly comfortable with technology. They couldn’t care less about how it’s done. Unifying IT support by standardizing the platform is central to lowering support request volume and perceived quality of service.
- Define a service catalogue based on your findings from the asset and service review
- Match business SLA’s to these offerings
- Quickly rationalize down your support list and work on supporting the business essentials
- Push for standards
The predictability of support and user interface will lower the number of reactionary requests. In addition, users should notice an improvement in the response and resolution times, which will deliver the fanatical service that they expect.
Mobeus Technology is creating peace of mind for our clients by designing customized hybrid cloud and private cloud environments. This strategy is one of several ways to quickly build a standardized and stable environment for users and to realize the massive ROI of standardization.
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