Tag Archive: business

I just received an ad for “500 Things Every IT Manager Needs to Know:  Volume 1.”  I am sure there are 500 things, but none of the IT managers I know have the time to read about all of them.  Maybe that’s a good resource for somebody who has never been an IT manager.  I don’t even want to crack open the document for fear that I’ll spend valuable time reading about the 500 things, but thinking about it for a bit made me come up with my own abbreviated list.

In order of priority:

1.  Backup.  Backup.  Backup.  If you don’t know what I mean, read my blogs “Five Rules to Stake Your Plan On” and “Is Your Most Valuable Data Safe in the Cloud?

2.  Communication is key.   Setting expectations and meeting or exceeding those expectations is instrumental to keeping your co-workers satisfied with the quality of your work.  Failure to communicate sends a message clearer than words.  In contrast, good communication establishes a rapport that makes your work easier.

3.  Document your systems and your work.  If you keep things organized, required information is readily available when you or others need it.  I keep a running log that details almost every important thing I do.  If I need to refer to work I did last Friday, last month or last year, chances are I can find it in my log.

4.  Learn what is good enough for your firm.  Very few people that want systems to be perfect actually want to pay for perfect.  Many SMBs operate with a mandate of what is good enough for today and the near future.  IT managers at SMBs need to be adept at juggling priorities moment to moment.  In priority, your firm should want things to work securely, reliably, efficiently and as fast as possible.  Knowing what type of investment your firm is willing to make in each of these areas will help you understand what is good enough, and facilitate your ability to manage the IT objectives of your firm effectively.

5.  It always takes longer than it should, and usually doesn’t work quite the way it is supposed to.  That’s why you have a job.  If you are an IT manager, you fix IT.  Over the years I have learned to multiply my time estimates by two to offset my optimism.  Figure out what your multiplier is.

6.  Newer is cooler, but typically more time-consuming and consequently more expensive in terms of implementation and maintenance.  I like cool new stuff too, but losing a day of productivity to have the latest iPhone OS may not be worth it.  Staying mainstream is ideal and most efficient from a labor perspective, while being on the leading edge or lagging behind technologically carries a labor premium.

7.  Proactive is better than reactive.  Proactive IT management is the Holy Grail of IT.  It appeals to IT managers because we would rather take preventative measures than deal with the carnage of system failures.  It is attractive to the financial decision-makers in management because less downtime means more productivity.

8.  Decide whether you want to wear a lab coat or a tie.  It’s hard to do both, but if you must, tread carefully.  Otherwise, troubleshooting system issues can consume a large part of your day.  We all want to know why, but sometimes finding out why can be counter productive.  From a business perspective, a one-time glitch that you’ll never see again doesn’t merit a half a day of your time.   You probably have other more important things to do.  When you do attack a pesky bug or system issue, understand your options and budget your time accordingly.  Know when you have had your lab coat on too long, and make sure you can find the tie again.

9.  Centralized and standardized systems are almost always preferred.  Occasionally, there are users that need to be set free of the limits placed on the rest of the herd.  These power users may be set apart by their need more rights, faster systems or flexibility, and it’s typically in your best interest to give them what they need so you can limit the time you spend catering to or denying their demands.  Conversely, you may also run into some technologically challenged individuals that need their rights further limited to prevent them from hurting themselves or driving you crazy.

10.  You are only as good as what you have done or are responsible for today.  A lot can happen in 24 hours.   IT is a high-profile area where bad performance is readily apparent and rarely tolerated for long.

About the Author:
Kevin Shea is President of InfoSystems Integrated, Inc. (ISI); ISI provides a wide variety of outsourced IT solutions to investment advisors nationwide. For details, please visit isitc.com or contact Kevin Shea via phone at 617-720-3400 x202 or e-mail at kshea@isitc.com.

I started setting up contingency plans and disaster recovery (DR) sites for financial services firms ten years ago. Initially, the goal was to reduce the expected recovery effort from an insane week to a few difficult days, but in relatively short time the new standard became less than 24 hours. Given the SEC’s increased scrutiny of business continuity (BC) plans most investment management firms should now have a detailed plan that includes access to offsite servers, and a level of routine data updates to an offsite facility.

To ensure that your BC plan is successful follow these simple rules:

1. Plan to fail
Most plans are too optimistic. When things go awry, they typically go from bad to worse — rapidly.  Planning to fail means envisioning and detailing potential failure scenarios and documenting your contingency plan for each situation.

For example, we recommend three forms of backup (with the assumption that one or two of the backups may not be sufficient). While many of the firms we work with could probably get away with a single backup method, each method that we implement lowers the overall risk of losing any data.

2. Don’t set it and forget it
Remember, there is no silver bullet. The day you don’t check your systems is the day you should expect them not to work. Systems are ultimately managed by people and even the most competent people sometimes make mistakes. Beware of vendors that tell you, “It’s automatic. You don’t have to do anything.”

If you have a metered Internet backup service and you are getting billed monthly, the invoice amount should never be the same. If it is, it may indicate that the data being backed up isn’t changing.

Absolute vigilance is required to be successful at planning for a contingency.

3. Establish strict and coherent responsibilities
Who is the steward of your firm’s plan? How do they validate the plan? How does the plan work? Our real-world experience indicates that multiple parties need to understand and check the plan for problems on an ongoing basis.  When new systems are implemented a disciplined approach to adding and updating the contingency plan needs to be executed.

4. Institute operational checks and balances
We recommend a multi-faceted approach designed to ensure that multiple parties independently share ultimate responsibility for backing up your company’s data and validating that the contingency plan works. Your firm cannot afford to make assumptions about whether those responsibilities are being met.

If you think you’re ready, test it. Ask your IT folks to throw the switch with little or no warning to see how well your plan really works. You may want to think about this carefully since some plans are like having a gun that can only shoot one bullet. In order to test the system again you may need to rebuild the system.

5. Continuously improve and refine
Contingency plans fall into five basic categories: non-existent, poor, okay, good and excellent. As a decision maker and responsible party at your firm, do you know how your firm’s plan would rate? Moreover, IT systems are in a nearly constant state of change. If your plan was “good” last year, is it as “good” today?

A company that has an excellent contingency plan for a catastrophic event may not have a good plan for the more likely event of losing Internet access at their office tomorrow.

There is always room to improve your plan.

About the Author:
Kevin Shea is President of InfoSystems Integrated, Inc. (ISI); ISI provides a wide variety of outsourced IT solutions to investment advisors nationwide. For details, please visit isitc.com or contact Kevin Shea via phone at 617-720-3400 x202 or e-mail at kshea@isitc.com.

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