4 things preventing your team doing their best

Nick Cavalancia

Let me guess… you have no idea what your team will be working on tomorrow?

If that statement sounds at all true, you’re probably stuck in a never-ending sea of chaotic unproductiveness dealing with issue after issue and you can’t figure out why you can’t get to a state where projects are planned and days are filled with some sense of structure. That’s a bit dramatic, but if you’re at all feeling that way, there are a few reasons why your IT team is far less efficient than they could be.

160612586A lot of it has to do with having a lack of tools in place to help you automatically identify and address issues proactively. Some of it has to do with the fact that your team shouldn’t be performing certain tasks at all, and instead leaving it completely up to automation.

Let’s take a look at four reasons why your IT team isn’t as efficient as they can be by walking through a single problem that IT needs to address, and see how to make your team more productive, efficient, and effective.

Reason #1 – They’re too caught up in the tactical
If you’re team is constantly running around just putting out fires, they are simply exchanging one state of emergency for another. You’re team is simply applying one fix on top of another, creating a McGuyver network made of Chicklets and rubberbands, instead of one that is consistent, organized, and well-running. Planning for upgrades of client applications, servers, services, infrastructure, and security can all fall second to the ever-present demand to address user issues.

So how do you get to the strategic with so much tactical going on?

The answer lies in addressing the underlying way in which you address problems.  By fixing how you identify and address problems, you’ll create an environment where less rogue problems occur, giving you the time needed to focus on the strategic.

So, why is the team inefficient?

Reason #2 – They don’t know what they don’t know
One of your primary jobs as an IT department is to maintain the availability of the network and systems it puts in place. But as we all know, there will be problems. Servers fail, configurations change with unforeseen adverse repercussions, users screw with their own workstations… and never admit it – all adding up to a full day of fires your team needs to put out.

If you’re finding out a critical application running on an internal server (we’ll call it CriticalApp) is having issues by means of a user calling into the helpdesk, you seriously don’t have a handle on the systems in place. This means you really don’t know whether anything is working or not at a given point in time.

To gain control over this unknown status of your environment, use of automated monitoring and logging solutions should be in place reporting on current status and health of applications, servers, and the network. Even those IT shops with no budget can still utilize built-in tools to do some form of monitoring of event logs.

By putting some form of automated monitoring in place, you can turn reactive response to user calls about CriticalApp into a proactive notification that CriticalApp’s services failed, allowing your team the opportunity to address the issue far more quickly, often times before the issue impacts a user.

But, doing IT right isn’t just about knowing about the problem as soon as possible.

Reason #3 – They only have information and not intelligence
Once you have been notified a problem exists with CriticalApp, you need to be able to get hold of all the relevant details to properly address the issue. Why did the CriticalApp services fail? Has the app recently been upgraded? Are there network connectivity issues? Perhaps disk space has run out?

One of your problems is you only have bits and pieces of information (e.g. the services stopped), but by having the proper tools in place to view how critical applications, services – and the servers they run on – are functioning, you elevate how you do IT and get a far clearer and intelligent view of the state of your environment to better determine a fast course of action.

So with the right tool, seeing that CriticalApp’s disk space has become extremely low would be obvious to you, giving you an immediate course of action. If someone is troubleshooting a client issue, having every bit of information about the client machine – including hardware, software, configuration settings, storage, services, and resource utilization – at the fingertips of the support personnel would speed up the process of diagnosing and addressing any issues a user is having.

While intelligence does increase IT’s efficiency, is it enough to make a difference?

Reason #4 – They nave no automation
While IT folks do like to “do it themselves” there are a lot of problems that can (and should) be addressed automatically based on symptoms. For example, our CriticalApp issue can easily be addressed with a script that deletes temp files or old log files when a certain space threshold occurs. Or, at a minimum, monitoring of that server would notify the team that the space on the CriticalApp server is dwindling quickly, allowing the issue to be addressed well before any service interruptions.

More advanced Run Book Automation could be used to first automatically delete files when reaching a certain space threshold and, if that does little to address the space problem, then notify IT it’s still an issue.

Automation is really the key
If you want to have an efficient IT shop, automation is going to play a major role. From deploying software, to updating security settings and patches, to addressing issues like the CriticalApp problem, automation not only addresses much of the work normally done by IT folks daily, but also empowers IT to be proactive with monitoring and auditing of logs and systems, centralizing inventory and configuration data for troubleshooting use, and just fix the problem for IT and let them know it’s been resolved.