Information technology has always been the focal point of managed services within businesses. However, often, its presence goes largely unnoticed; team members see a functioning IT system as a given, a sort of operational constant. Often, its presence is only felt when it fails and it’s at this point that a team truly acknowledges it’s importance. Especially in today’s digital-driven market, a non-functioning system can present substantial problems, from drastically reduced productivity to poor customer service. Considering the impact that digital experiences have on brand perception, this is a big problem – making proper IT management crucial.
Maintaining a high-functioning IT system is a multi-faceted and highly specialist task, requiring expertise across hardware, software, data management, security and coding. This is particularly the case in larger organisations, where enterprises data architectures are very complex. A such, the only way to ensure operational continuity is through rigorous administration. That said, well-managed IT operations should be a cross-organisational effort, where best practices are enforced at every level, which is what makes administration truly effective. Below, we highlight the key aspects of best practice in IT management.
Table of Contents
Key aspects of best practice in IT management:
1. Gain a clear picture
IT management is a multi-layered task. A typical enterprise IT system will consist of hardware, operating systems, databases, applications, networking, monitoring and backup tools, to name but a few components. In order to properly maintain an entire infrastructure, it is essential to have a diagram of the entire platform, including hardware and software. There are several tools on the market to help IT managers gain an overview of their system. The most appropriate tool will depend on the size of the organisation, with smaller developers like Panorama9 making a good offering for SMBs, and IT giants IBM offering robust solutions for large enterprises.
2. Document and maintain
It is of vital importance to establish constant supervision of technological systems. Certainly, this in part achieved by having a system overview – however, documentation is key. By documenting all processes related to operational security, IT managers can monitor, cross-reference and track system functionality. Through identifying reoccurring glitches, bottlenecks and failures, IT managers can make connections between crash data and optimise the system.
A key tool in this objective is a Configuration Management Database (CMDB). These databased can track assets including systems, software, facilities, and even products and people across specific points in time and their relationship to each other. This data allows an organisation to understand how components and their operations affect functionality. The maintenance of this information allows for things like impact analysis, root cause analysis and the reconstruction of assets.
3. 24/7 monitoring and protection
A clear picture and record of a network’s operations is key to identifying pressure points and faults. Certainly, having a bird’s eye view of the system is essential to optimisation, but if faults do occur, you need to know about them. That’s why the third step of proper IT management is ensuring around-the-clock system monitoring. With a proper tracking system in place, IT managers can receive early alerts to take preemptive action, or better yet, execute automated preventative actions.
Of course, merely monitoring and automation isn’t the end of the story. No single system should be entirely relied on, as the reality is anything can fail. Subsequently, managers should perform backups and check the health status of the servers consistently. There’s also a strong case for conducting regular manual checks and tracking system health with a good old fashioned checklist and logbook, just in case.
4. Proper data governance
Information is at the core of IT management and within an enterprise, the essence of information is data. Therefore, an integral part of effective IT management is data governance. Data governance is the overall management of the quality, availability and security of business data, which is crucial to strategy and optimised operations. An effective governance framework outlines the rules, processes and tools that ensure data organisation and quality. Generally, this framework and the subsequent business requirements will be outlined by a data governance committee or working group. Often, companies will invest in a commercial data governance tool to manage these goals, however, depending on the size of the organisation, this isn’t mandatory.
Furthermore, data governance is increasingly important in light of the new regulatory landscape. With the introduction of the European Union’s GDPR and various new American initiatives looming on the horizon, companies need to ensure their data governance plan provides proper security. This is particularly imperative in light of the possible penalties – according to IBM, the average data breach costs a company $3.86 million.
IT management at every level
In summary, good IT management is about visibility and planning. With a proper overview of a system, robust monitoring and alerts, IT managers can maximise uptime and streamline operations. Embracing new automated technologies is certainly key to excellent IT management, however, some traditional manual processes shouldn’t be neglected. In many ways, exemplary management is about having a contingency plan. This is why, as a closing comment, we want to highlight the importance of knowledge sharing. IT management should never be a black-box scenario where crucial intelligence is held by a select group of gatekeepers. Instead, the foundational points of good practice should permeate the organisation, ensuring everyone is ready to step-up to IT operations at some level.