“It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.” These classic lines from Dickens could also have been written for modern IT management. We’ve never enjoyed such powerful access to information, or commanded technologies which can give us such insight into our businesses and market ecosystems.
At the same time, never have we been so inundated by IT products and services, each with its own marketing hype. This tech tsunami can overwhelm us and leave us gasping for something solid to grasp. Almost every company is involved in a digital transformation process, a cloud migration, or other major IT restructuring processes, all of which further complicates an IT manager’s job and mission.
Gill Technologies has been managing digital transformation and cloud migrations for seven eventful years. Let’s look at five best practices we’ve learned along the way which can make your job easier, smooth the rough edges of change, facilitate healthy workflow, and – not least – prevent unexpected disasters.
1. Keep your technical documentation complete and up-to-date.
The word “keep” is a deceptive one. In medieval days, it was the name for a castle’s prison, to contain the unruly. Today, we are what we keep. If we don’t know where to find it, fast, we’re in trouble. Managers are expected to be “keepers” – if not of one’s brother, then at least our technical documents.
Let’s start with the basic questions: what are your essential technical documents? The smart-ass answer would be: Everything. The list of document types to be organized in a modern IT company would be practically endless: software, support, product specs, presentations; within software, all versions, workflow diagrams, help messages, trouble reports, and so much more.
How do you handle all this? In terms of documentation tools, make sure that you have robust and integrated solutions for authoring, reviewing, publishing and version control. The good news: Microsoft Office 365 Apps provide automatic versioning, so you can return easily and instantly to any version of your documents, without manual action.
It’s not just your internal systems that you need to document. Even more with IT outsourcing, when external consultants, IT services or IT support firms get involved, make it a contractual requirement that these vendors provide full documentation of work done, and commit to keeping documentation up to date going forward.
2. Migrating servers to the cloud is not enough. Migrate your thinking first.
We all know the expression “Look before you leap”. When we think about the move from legacy IT setups, and on-premises servers to a cloud-based or hybrid server environment, the change requires a Superman-level leap. Forget tall buildings: you need to reach the cloud!
Priority #1: Make sure your IT environment is optimized for the cloud.
The benefits of public cloud can only be realized when you design your infrastructure to leverage the public cloud's strengths. Experts can advise you if these benefits are not clear to you yet. Word to the wise: do it before you migrate!
Priority #2: Keep a close eye on cloud costs.
Adding cloud resources is technically easy. Some may tell you: "You can provision a server whenever anyone wants one." Well, you can. But if you do that regularly, pretty soon you’ll be spending two or three times what you planned." Watch the cloud meters like you once would watch the clock.
Servers subscribed from a cloud service are disposable. If they ever break down, you just replace. This will allow you to build in more redundancy. For example, you can assign a pool of servers to those systems which cannot tolerate a moment of downtime, creating (in advance!) scripts that automatically spin up new servers should one misbehaves, while spinning down the misbehaving ones.
3. Clearly define your business user's requirements. First.
Document the business requirements of your users. Seek clarifications until you are certain of their business goals. With a set of clear business requirements, you, with your cloud provider, can define and implement a technical solution that checks all the boxes.
Seems obvious? You may be surprised how many providers, whether out of laziness or lack of knowledge, leave the requirements vague and provide a cookie-cutter solution. What happens next? Invariably: frustration, re-dos, cost overruns, arguments and, usually, cancellations. Don’t make that mistake.
4. Just say no.
IT managers tend to be nice, accommodating people. They aim to please. They go out of their way to make folks happy. Often the requests, sometimes contradictory, come from multiple people in a client organization, or in their own. How many times have IT or security people received calls – often in odd hours – from someone in a high position demanding direct access to something risky? How often do business units inside an organization 'go rogue' and deploy a shiny new cloud-based tool or service without proper vetting or prior approval of IT or security teams?"
You know the answer: Often. When IT managers approve exceptional requests, in violation of protocol, they create new holes and blind spots in their organization and, potentially, new vulnerabilities. Sure, it’s hard to turn down the CEO when he makes just one little special request. Sure, sometimes you need to bend the rules, but even then: you need to have a plan in place to deal with those (hopefully) rare exceptions, even if it means a delay or some frustration. Better a little pain now, than a disaster later. You can’t compromise on a secure IT environment.
5. Gain general business knowledge to supplement your IT know-how.
IT managers need general business knowledge, ideally gained through a combination of management experience and formal business studies such as an MBA or a dedicated degree program. That experience should also include an excellent understanding of both the operational functions of their current organization and eco-sphere: its market, competition, and vendors serving that market.
There is a short-cut here. Partner with a company that not only supports Microsoft cloud services, but also one with a commitment to expand your knowledge and provide big picture support for digital transformation, not just on the technical side but in a broader business management context.
Gill Technologies is a Microsoft Cloud Solution Provider (CSP), helping clients navigate the digital transformation landscape and gain competitive advantage through Innovative Software Solutions and Managed Services using Microsoft Office 365, Azure, Intune, System Center Suite, Power BI, Application Modernization, Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain and Chatbots.
Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at +65 3159 1122 to find out more.
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