Eight Tips To Help IT Pros Work More Effectively

Every session I’ve attended at the Gartner IT Infrastructure Operations & Data Center Summit, which I’m covering this week as part of our World Of Servers series, has included handy ideas for IT pros. Here’s a collection of some useful tips from a range of speakers and participants.

Outsourcing and insourcing don’t matter; trust does. Yarra Valley Water saved almost $2 million by switching from an outsourcing arrangement to insourcing. While cost was the motivation, an unexpected benefit was to improve trust.

“One outsource provider handed over to another and it was poorly managed,” said IT operations manager Craig Lindley. “The new service provider dropped the ball and never really recovered the trust of the organisation It was critical to me that we maintained trust. The thing that worried me the most was dropping the ball on service.” Saving sold the change, but improved customers satisfaction was the more important long-term outcome.

Don’t get too caught up in service level agreements (SLAs) The risk of focusing on SLAs as your sole metric is that they can distort what actually gets delivered. “Sure you can have SLAs, but a lot of SLAs can be driving wrong behaviours,” said Gartner’s John Roberts. Metrics only matter when they drive outcomes.

Don’t be a purist unnecessarily. Even if your main strategy is insourcing that won’t always happen. “If it’s not economic to provide the service in house, we do make use of service providers,” said Yarra Valley Water’s Lindley. “Network architects, for example, we can’t hire at a price that is economic for us.”

Assess real risks, not your fear of risks. Microsoft CTO Greg Stone has seen many businesses reject cloud purely on principle, not because of any road blocks. “As we went out to meet with customers, because they didn’t understand cloud fully, they just thought cloud was really risky and the stock answer was always no,” he said. That led Microsoft to develop its Cloud Risk Decision Framework for helping map business decisions and technology plans before embracing the cloud.

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A crisis can be useful. IT funding that isn’t forthcoming in good times can be found when there’s a disaster. “Never waste a good crisis,” said Gartner’s Roberts. “Sometimes a little crisis is enough to get the impetus for management to say ‘We do need to fix this’.”

Good jobs aren’t just about salary. “You can’t pay exorbitant salaries for a specialist resource,” said Lindley. Yarra Valley Water managed to attract stuff with a non-city location, which appealed to new parents. “We were able to attract good staff through the work/life balance equation.”

Refresh your technology knowledge frequently. “Vendors have moved so quickly that you need to devote some effort to understanding what’s going on with your technology” said Oracle ANZ CTO Angus MacDonald. “If you’ve only got a relationship with a sales rep inside a vendor, you need to think again..”

You can’t boil the ocean. Effective IT deployment means knowing that everything can’t be done at once. As Roberts notes: “It means saying no in some instances.”

Workers picture from Shutterstock

Lifehacker’s World Of Servers sees me travelling to conferences around Australia and around the globe in search of fresh insights into how server and infrastructure deployment is changing in the cloud era. This week, I’m in Sydney for the Gartner Infrastructure, Operations & Data Center Summit, looking for practical guidance on developing and managing your IT infrastructure and using virtualisation effectively.

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