How an Integrated Framework can boost IT efficiency

Danny Bradbury

For busy IT staff, managing users can be like herding cats. Jane in marketing tried to install free design software to jazz up her email signatures in Outlook, and now she’s getting a DLL error. Bill in accounting keeps trying to click on phishing emails, though he should know better. And lord only knows what multi-Megabyte files your VP of sales has been downloading, but they’re slowing the network down.

Trying to keep them all secure can be a nightmare. Each issue requires a different back-end management function to solve it, which can create an administrative headache and drain the IT department’s time. By integrating your management functions into a single platform, you can help to minimize the overhead.

Make IT management simpler

One thing we know about CIOs is that a significant percentage of their budget is devoted to keeping the engines running. 55% of the IT budget overall is devoted to maintaining business as usual, according to Deloitte’s 2014 CIO survey, as opposed to innovating and driving change into the business. We’d all like to see that number shift downwards, but we have to do some footwork first. It starts with simplification.

The concept of ‘lights-out IT’ is still a pipe dream for most, and the staff to keep it running cost money Perhaps it’s no wonder, then, that they want to be as efficient as possible in their everyday operations. CIOs highlight efficiency and simpler IT management as particular issues. In the Tech Pro Research 2015 IT Budget Trends report, almost two thirds of respondents (63%) said that simplifying IT management was a significant priority.

How can IT departments make IT management simpler? A few sysadmins with time on their hands might break out a BASH shell and try some creative scripting, but there’s only so much you can automate that way. In any case, scripts are difficult to manage and maintain. At some point, you need a more mature, packaged management tool to keep things running smoothly.

Missing the point

Many vendors will sell IT departments tools to handle discrete end user management functions. They may monitor individual endpoints for problems, watch users’ web traffic to ensure they’re not visiting dangerous sites, protect their email inboxes, make sure that their software is properly patched, or remotely administer their machines to fix ad hoc issues.

These tools, known as ‘point solutions’, have their pros and cons. On the one hand, they may excel at one function. On the other, they can create a fragmented view of an IT operation.

IT administrators need to be certain that everything is running smoothly. They want a user-centric view of their IT service to ensure that everything a particular user has, works properly and safely.

Point solutions occasionally try to solve this problem using application programmable interfaces (APIs), which enable them to exchange information with each other. It can be problematic, though, because not all tools work with all others, and the integrations are often not as seamless as IT administrators might like. They are often still left switching between tools when trying to manage users, which can be time-consuming and difficult.

The alternative is a ‘single pane of glass’ approach, in which multiple functions are all available from a single dashboard. In this concept, administrators never leave their interface, but can page between various or windows, tweaking and monitoring various aspects of their IT infrastructure to keep users safe and head off any performance problems.

This integrated approach can offer businesses a quick win, increasing IT staff productivity while increasing end user security. Administrators may find themselves picking up on issues that they may otherwise have missed, and perhaps even prevent problems from emerging in the first place.

Does an integrated platform have the functions that you need? The key is to ensure that the integrated platform has the functions that you need. Look at where you’re spending money already on point solutions, and at where the gaps are in your end-user and endpoint management portfolio. An integrated solution may be able to plug some dangerous gaps, while also consolidating some of your existing point solutions and saving some money into the bargain.