IT management isn’t what it used to be. Things are changing and evolving faster than ever before. Things that once were Never Do are now Must Have. Staffing is always a challenge, and keeping up with the latest tools is a constant battle. With all this going on, it can be easy to get so immersed in the day to day that you overlook things that could have a pretty big impact on your whole department.
Since it’s the start of a new year, now is a great time to stop and take a quick high-level check on how things are going. To get you started, here’s a list of the top five IT management mistakes to watch out for:
Failing to plan and budget for your lifecycle
A lot of people buy a car with the intent of driving it until it dies. It makes sense: with a big ticket purchase like that, people want to get as much value as they can out of it, and “’til death do us part” is an easily identifiable cutoff. But when you look at, say, a transportation company with a fleet of vehicles, it’s not easy to scale up that approach. In that case, letting something age until it dies can have a costly impact on the business. So instead, these companies plan for periodic vehicle updates and replacements so that their operations never come to a grinding halt. And because it’s planned for, it’s in the budget from the start, so these periodic refreshes are a non-issue.
This same idea applies to networking equipment. We get it, IT hardware is expensive, especially when you’re purchasing it for an entire company. And when there’s already so much internal competition for budget from quarter to quarter, you need to try to get as much life as possible out of your equipment.
But the pace of change in technology is so fast, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to rely on equipment that is even five years old. 10 year old stuff is simply ancient. It will start to operate more slowly, become incompatible with new software developments, and make your end-users frustrated and inefficient. If this sounds like you, you may want to look into cloud services for infrastructure, such as servers, to help alleviate some of the capital expense woes of upgrading.
The moral: Head off the headaches of fighting for your equipment upgrades when they’re long past due. When computer resources and OS licensing are a monthly operations expense, the total change in cost to bring your infrastructure current (outside of labor) is much more predictable.
Failing to see the whole picture when implementing a new service
New tools are great. If there’s a tool out there that you think can help make your operation run faster, better, cheaper, then by all means go for it. We help people implement new tools all the time, and the biggest issue we encounter is when they haven’t considered the impact of the new tool on the rest of their current infrastructure.
For example, when people start thinking about implementing Office 365, they may not consider the demands it will have on the existing infrastructure. The slew of new apps will have new and different needs from the network, and could mean you need to make some changes before you get going on your implementation.
Here’s another car metaphor: You can buy a shiny new Porsche because it will go fast. But if you’re driving it on a country dirt road, it will give you completely different results than if you were driving on an open highway. So you may want to get that dirt road paved if you want to make the most of your new purchase.
Once again, cloud services are a great way to get around this issue. Azure and AWS provide seemingly endless services and resources. They allow more flexibility if resource requirements for new services are miscalculated, as it’s no longer about whether you need to purchase new hardware and licensing. It’s already available to you as you need it.
The moral: Assess how a new tool will behave in your specific infrastructure, and the demands it will put on your infrastructure. Ask yourself if a cloud solution would work for you – and be honest! When you see the whole picture, you’ll have much more success with the tool you’re adding to the system.
Failing to create redunduncy in staffing
We talk about this all the time with our operations, but how often do we apply this to the human element? Do you have just a single IT person? Or do you have a few people, but their skills have minimal overlap? How screwed would you be if one of them was suddenly unavailable?
Companies rely on IT working as it’s meant to, so it becomes that much more important to have the right staffing to support it. And that includes having a solid backup plan for when life happens.
An added bonus to having some labor redundancy is the ability to have differening ideas about how things can and should be done. When there’s just one person in the job, there’s no one to really challenge them about their approach. When there’s more than one person involved, suddenly you have new ideas in the mix. The number of “I didn’t think of that” moments start to add up, and the chances of getting to a better solution improve.
The moral: Have enough staff on your team to be able to cover for one another when needed. This also facilitates an exchange of ideas and dialog necessary to make excellent decisions.
Failing to stay educated
“Just make it work” is the worst answer an IT manager can give. That’s because it typically indicates a lack of understanding of the big picture (refer to #2 above).
IT managers can come from a variety of backgrounds, and that’s great. It means they probably have a better understanding of the business side of things, or maybe they’re really great people managers. But IT is unique in that it also requires managers to understand the technical context of what’s going on. They don’t need to know the nitty gritty details, but they do need to be able to identify the significance of a new tool upgrade and it’s impact on the network, for example.
It’s like with art. A person who isn’t familiar with the history and the social movements happening at the time a piece of art is made will fail to understand the full significance of that artwork.
Because of that lack of context, I might make a terrible decision about it. If I found a painting of a couple colored blocks in my attic, I might throw it away. But if I knew that it was made by a famous Dutch De Stijl artist after WWI with a whole philosophy behind it, I might decide to investigate it further before trashing it.
The moral: Make an effort to be informed on the larger story of what’s going on in IT. Having a context for the situation will help you make better decisions.
Failing to follow the Rule of 60%
The Rule of 60%: If you’re at or above a 60% utilization of a resource, you should already be planning to scale up.
While this applies to technology resources in general, the easiest way to think about it is in terms of network bandwidth utilization. If you have a 100mb circuit, and 60% of it is being utilized with day to day operations, then you only have 40% available to handle fluctuations. At that point, your users will start to complain about the network feeling slow.
To put it another way, let’s go back to the car analogies. Imagine you have a four lane highway, and all day long you have steady traffic filling three lanes, with one spare lane available. Then rush hour hits with an additional three lanes worth of cars needing to get through. Since you only have one lane available to handle that extra traffic, guess what? You have a traffic jam.
Keeping your utilization rate upwards of 60% might feel like you’re getting the most out of your investment. But in reality it has the opposite effect, making everything slower and more difficult and frustrating for your users.
The moral: Reduce the traffic jam, or avoid it entirely, by keeping your utilization rate under 60%. When you start to get above that, it’s time to scale up.
There’s no time like the present to take yourself out of the day-to-day and take a good, hard look at your operations from a high level. With these five principles in mind, you’ll be sure to keep your organizing running like a well oiled machine all year long.
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