In a discussion recently with an organization suffering from a ransomware attack, I was asked why we manage IT the way we do, and it reminded me that many business owners and management teams do not normally think about the differences in IT management and perhaps why one method might suit a particular organization better than others.
Most businesses focus on what they do best, and many do not always consider IT an important and integral component of their business strategies. Often, it is the last thing on the discussion table, or, worse, brought up when that system is offline unexpectedly, like from a ransomware attack. There are enough IT marketing “scare-tactics” out there that it seems overdone, but there is such a risk that many management teams do not realize the potential exposure and downtime they are leaving their organizations exposed to that could be prevented by a little core IT management.
We meet with many business owners and management teams that are feeling left behind by technology, have unkept promises made by ‘swoop-in’ break-fix IT teams and generally overwhelmed whenever they think about IT. They know they need protection and day-to-day management but are not 100% certain whom to engage with and usually perceived value seems to win out over actual value.
An owner has a painful example as the cost of downtime is realized in the following conversation that is all too common:
“Bob, why can’t I see my sales reports?”
“That’s because the system is down, we’re working on it.” A reply by a finance team member who really wants to add in “… and I’m really an accountant, not an IT manager.”
Often people do double duty with IT which ends up taking focus off what they were really trained for or where their core passions are.
To better understand how to circumvent these issues, it might be useful to talk about the progression of IT Management:
1. Reactive/Break Fix – customer paying an hourly rate as issues occur
2. Reactive/Responsive – Customer pre-purchases a block of hours
3. Proactive – Customer contracts out a checklist of preventative maintenance
4. Proactive/Managed – Customer outsources IT as a fixed fee or all you can eat
5. Utility – Customer pays based on usage
Close to 75% of the businesses we talk with are engaged in some form of reactive IT management.
Reactive Service IT teams’ profit from customer failures: device failures, network failures, data loss and viruses. This is very similar to your car breaking down, you can’t use it and you call you mechanic to fix it, and they give you a bill at the end of the day before you can get your car back. It is not a very positive engagement. Reactive Service IT teams must be in the position to be able to respond on a moment’s notice and often does not have the right tools, hardware or access to get services back online quickly. Downtime is usually significant even with 24×7 support plans. It is not uncommon to find out after a failure that the backup system or process failed, and any recovery is forced to use an out-of-date backup.
Managed Service IT teams’ profit from customer successes: device uptime, network uptime, data availability and malware free devices. Managed Service IT teams that are properly managing their networks usually know or can predict failures before they occur and put in place best management practices such as backup review and test restores as a part of regular IT monthly management. There are usually systems in place to give a holistic overview, performance data, and ongoing hardware, network and software performance data to help pinpoint root causes quickly and efficiently. Usually the problem is already known when that alert comes in. License management, patch management and legal compliance are usually reviewed regularly as part of the managed service. The best engagements are where the IT management company is not ‘swooping-in” but rather is included in regular management meetings coupled with regular onsite visits.
So, if you are in the “why am I down again?” category, you might find it beneficial to consider reviewing your IT management approach and its impact to your business.
It is great to see businesses reaching out and including IT as part of their business strategies. If the focus can remain on future needs and include ongoing discussions how IT can help achieve business goals, less on immediate break-fix problems like a “swoop-in IT” organization, business downtime and negative impacts can be greatly reduced.
A strategy of network service high availability with geographic redundancy and business continuity can reduce downtime to minutes and even zero.