Is Your IT Systems Management Reactive or Proactive?

I had a very interesting conversation recently with a manager responsible for IT operations in his organization. He prompted me to think about the difference between reactive and proactive IT management.  The IT manager described reactive management as “keeping the status quo”.

But proactive management makes improvements and takes you forward. Both methods are ways of handling IT issues and problems but the long-term results are quite different.

I’ve spoken a lot with IT operational staff over the years, who have all experienced the usual ‘system is running slow’, ‘backups didn’t complete’ and ‘jobs taking too long’ (to name but a few); no doubt these are common problems that we have all encountered. It’s very easy to think that when you are in this kind of role, where you are working hard and on the front-line, that all you can do is work through these issues and respond as soon as possible in order to keep your users happy.

But it’s not true. And in this tough economic climate where we are all expected to achieve more with less resource, it’s becoming less and less practical as well. There are a number of ways in which you can get even more proactive when handling the monitoring and management of your IT enterprise.

The IT manager I referred to earlier told me that he spent 80% of his time monitoring for things that most of the time would be okay but he really wanted to know about the 20% of things that were not okay. He said he wanted to “manage by exception”; he only needed to be tapped on the shoulder about problems he really needed to know about.  By setting up his monitoring software to keep a continuous watch on all of his defined systems, we could help him configure rules so that the IT team were only alerted to issues if specific criteria were met or thresholds breached. This reduced his workload considerably (and all that fire-fighting) and also freed up his time to action more interesting IT projects.

So, apart from setting up rule-based criteria for monitoring and alerting by exception, what else can you do?  The next stage to being more proactive is to set up sequences of automated actions that would mirror the typical actions of an experienced operator or systems administrator.

For example, you might typically try something three times to address the problem and only then choose to be notified about it, if an automatic fix was unsuccessful. You can easily set this up using monitoring software to automate your appropriate sequences of actions to handle most routine issues and reduce the “noise” that you face on a daily basis.

You might also need a reliable method of automatically escalating a specific problem after a certain time period has elapsed or the issue has not been responded to within a certain time frame. For example, during the day you might escalate to the IT support team or automatically raise a ticket to the helpdesk team. Out-of-hours you might escalate to the on-call support person or a third party to resolve.

More sophisticated monitoring software has this kind of automated functionality that allows you to improve your proactive approach.  You should also look for solutions that are shipped with templates that provide a fast track to monitoring the most common things you need to keep an eye on. The big advantage of the template approach means you are not starting from a ‘blank slate.’  For example, Halcyon templates have been developed that are ‘out-of-the box’ to monitor most business applications, the most commonly used ERP packages, high availability (HA) solutions, hardware, CPU, memory and disk.

Using templates means that not only will you have a quick start to monitoring key applications and the like; you also have a method of deploying the same templates and rolling them out instantly as you add new systems to your infrastructure.  Over time the templates can be easily adapted and customized to suit your particular environment.

If you would like to learn how to make your systems monitoring more proactive, download our free guide on how to control information overload written by Donnie MacColl, a leading technical expert in systems automation, which examines this subject in greater detail.

If you would like help, a conversation, and a refreshing and professional approach to solving operational issues you face as an IT professional, you can get access to respected IT industry experts by requesting an online meeting.