Don’t focus on the hype of Shadow IT, focus on the user and ROI

With the current trend of the industry, as IT professionals we have the opportunity to impact the business more than can be imaged. As we have seen from the Target security breach, a failure in IT can cost millions but the more typical issue is that a failure in IT just impedes the business. Shadow IT is the current buzz word for departments creating their own IT solutions. In one of my past lives,  I was part of a shadow IT project. We determined that for our department to be successful, it was imperative that we proceed with a project before our turn in the backlog. IT was willing to support the project and wanted to see us be successful. They just didn’t have time or resources to support the project. This project occurred years ago, long before shadow IT was a trend and point of discussion.

Shadow IT ROIRecent studies have shown that IT spending for 2013 was at least 2.68 trillion dollars. But the curious part of this is that over 80% of that will be spent on KTLO (Keeping the Lights On). As each new project is completed, it will have a new maintenance cost. Over the next few years without a change,  IT will run out of resources to implement new projects. This limited set of resources is causing IT to have a large backlog of projects furthering the desire for departments to run shadow IT projects. After a shadow IT project is implemented then the department wants to hand the project back to IT. In essence that project was able to circumvent the backlog and move to the top of the priority list.

As IT departments we need to make sure that we analyze that all projects are producing the ROI that we expect and require. What is the impact to the User? Are they more productive because of this project or product? What is the experience of the admin, is it a sustainable project, is it easy, can it be adopted? Does the solution solve a business problem? Is the ROI real, did we save money, did we get budget back from consolidation? If we focus on these areas, we will be able to transform to the IT department of the future.

Just In Time

User productivity is paramount to all of our businesses. While the platforms change, the OS’s are upgraded, applications morph, the constant is that we need to provide the user with the tools they need to be productive and efficient.

A while back, I was invited to visit with an IT department.  During the conversations it came out that they were in a very reactive mode and they also had a large set of projects that were in progress.  All of the projects discussed were given a Priority 1 status.  On top of all that, the C-level attendees discussed how to innovate the IT department.  Sound familiar?  In today’s economic state, IT departments are having to find ways to do more with less while BYOD, consumerization, and other trends can increase some of the challenges for IT.

While having the discussion I kept thinking about some of the experiences I had while working in support.  Everyone’s issue was the highest priority (at least to them).  Time is a precious resource and always in limited supply.  At times support is in a very reactive mode and firefighting is the name of the game. But we all know that this is not a sustainable model and that it ultimately leads to customer dissatisfaction.

During this time I was introduced to a model that described how to transition from reactive to proactive, then from proactive to trusted advisor.  The model discusses Just in time (JIT).  JIT is a concept that means we need information or changes much quicker to be efficient.   JIT knowledge management would indicate that knowledge-based articles are created within a few hours of the issue not a month later or 6 weeks later.  The whole point of JIT is productivity and efficiency.

With all of the changes and challenges, what constants are there for the IT department?  The one constant is the user.  User productivity is paramount to all of our businesses.  While the platforms change, the OS’s are upgraded, applications morph, the constant is that we need to provide the user with the tools they need to be productive and efficient.  User Oriented IT helps us keep an eye on the ball.  User productivity is paramount if IT is to become a business enabler and innovator.

As we work on the new features in the next LDMS release, we’ve put even more these thoughts and principles into our product.

Stay tuned. You’re going to love the results.

Tablets: Are they a Desktop, Mobile Device or Something Else?

Selecting the management tool should be based on the business problems, risks, compliance factors, and how to best enable the end user–not form factor.

Over the last few weeks we’ve seen an increasing number of new form factors were released including  Apple’s iPad mini, Microsoft’s Surface, and HP’s EliteBook. Many more devices will be released over the next few months.  This leaves many IT administrators wondering what’s the best way to manage each of these new devices.

Management and support choices should be based on risk, compliance, and functionality needs.  While we discuss form factor and the type of device, it’s the architecture of the device really dictates management needs.  For example, if you have a tablet that runs Windows 7, it comes with all of the vulnerabilities and risks that a Windows 7 desktop or laptop has.

So when it comes to managing new or existing devices in your environment ask yourself the following questions:

  • What risks must be addressed in the architecture?
  • What is required to secure the device?
  • What programs are required on the device to make the user productive?
  • How do we resolve issues on these machines remotely as quickly or more quickly than if we were at the device?

Selecting the management tool should be based on the business problems, risks, compliance factors, and how to best enable the end user.  Form factor helps in deciding what hardware to purchase but shouldn’t influence how to manage the device.

Whyyyyy Gen Y?

As Generation Y (Gen Y) continues to infiltrate companies and organizations around the globe, we’re seeing the dramatic changes they’re wreaking and the impact that has on IT and IT operations.

The good news is that Gen Y comes with skills that can really enable their employers to be successful. Their understanding of social media, brand awareness, blogging, and living in an always-connected state are paramount for many businesses to be successful in the current and future business world.

Even with all the good things they bring to an organization, they’re causing massive problems for IT (as well as writing your bio and revealing many personal secrets).

Because this generation lives in an always-connected state, they use the smartphones, tablets, and other devices they want to use and instead of devices that meet a “corporate standard”. They’re the main driver behind the BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) initiative.  Just look at the number of pre-orders for the iPhone 5. This consumerization of work devices will continue to impact the IT department in many different ways.

One way is cost. For example, according to the Aberdeen Group, “enterprises deploying a BYOD strategy will spend around $170,000 annually for every thousand personal devices that are part of a BYOD program. That number is more than the traditional company issued mobility strategy costs.”  To avoid these higher costs and actually save money with BYOD, you have to have the right mobile device management processes in place. Without them BYOD can turn into an IT nightmare.

In addition, the connectedness that comes with personal devices is one giant security nightmare. IT administrators it will be required to strong systems and security management processes in place to address these concerns—otherwise they’re looking at the potential loss of vital company and customer information. Thankfully, LANDesk has a solution that addresses both management and security concerns.

Generation Y brings both challenges and expertise to IT departments everywhere. Providing IT can keep up with them, their departments will be stronger, more secure, and better managed in the end.

The 5 Biggest IT Headaches

Despite your valiant efforts, you better have some ibuprofen, caffeine and a cold compress ready as you draw the curtains closed and prepare for the five biggest IT headaches.

No matter how much you think you know, working in IT will teach you that you don’t know it all.  In this rewarding, but very challenging field, there will always be a case where things just don’t work out like they’re supposed to.  Despite your valiant efforts, you better have some ibuprofen, caffeine and a cold compress ready as you draw the curtains closed and prepare for the five biggest IT headaches.

  1. The Users- The first headache to note is the “users” themselves.  From user error, to lack of technological knowledge, users that don’t know how to run certain programs or systems tend to try and fix things themselves.  This usually leads to bigger problems since they are not taking the correct steps to fix the problem.  Anyone in IT can recall countless situations in which users click on banners that should never be clicked or open that email attachment that looks suspicious.  Users are becoming more technical overall but that just means they create more technical problems.  User error is definitely one of the top ranking headaches for IT; however, looking on the bright side, job security is always something to look forward to!
  2. Viruses/ Malicious Software- It seems as though we’re always hearing about a new virus or malicious software that has deviously attacked and infected thousands of computers.  As technology becomes increasingly integrated into our daily lives, it is imperative for users to know how to defend their devices against attack.  Not too long ago we had a client that acquired a virus that infected their whole network and every PC attached to it.  It took them down for a whole day and a half and we had to put in some serious hours to wipe the slate clean.  Making sure that your system is fully protected is crucial, especially when you’re dealing with time sensitive contracts and deadlines in which you can’t afford to be down for long time frames.
  3. Backups/backup management- Users constantly complain about backups taking too long or running at the wrong times.  An issue can arise when we think something is getting backed up only to have the system crash, and then realize that certain files were never backed up in the first place.  This reliability issue is a huge complaint and will cause a big headache in the data recovery process, if it’s even possible.  Therefore, things like application control and file encryption help prevent backup issues from surfacing in the first place, but be sure to backup as well.  Backups come in all shapes and sizes, and there are backup management solutions to suit everyone.  Sifting through all of your options can be overwhelming, and although cloud based options like Dropbox add convenience to the IT department and the user, they can create additional headaches such as the wrong files being put into an unsecure container in the cloud.
  4. Patch management- We’ve all dealt with the issue of updating your software or system, which causes certain programs stop working or start doing some funny things.  We worked with a client that ran their Windows updates and afterward they could no longer use Outlook.  It ended up being something as simple as a licensing issue, which one of the updates had changed for some odd reason, but it took forever to research and fix.  One of the largest challenges with patches is the inability to recognize or identify a patch that will create issues.  There have been many circumstances in which we have installed a patch to a driver on graphics cards just to have the PC crash anytime a graphic extensive program is run.  This will be a constant battle for all in the IT field.
  5. Outdated hardware integration/ Compatibility with new software- We all deal with these types of problems constantly.  From older software that doesn’t work on a new OS to finding compatible drivers for newly released hardware, sometimes it is a struggle to get everything to work.  In some cases it may be beneficial to continue using your older software or OS, since the newer product may have too many bugs, is completely incompatible or just won’t run.  We have clients that still utilize Windows XP for their critical systems since the software company never released any updates or patches to make it compatible with newer OS.  You may even see cases in which the company that produced the software is no longer in business, thus making it unable to ever upgrade to a better system.  These issues can be extremely frustrating and time consuming when trying to research and find better solutions.

We can only dream that one day these problems won’t exist.  In a perfect world, everyone would work together to make cross compatible system integration and we would have a unified tech world.  But until then, we’ll keep the aspirin close by.

The Importance of Software Discovery

If rights are not restricted, software can be brought into the company by just about anyone. For IT departments, it can be very difficult to see what and when software was added.   If organizations don’t know what software is installed, there’s the possible risk of financial penalties because of a failed audit.

In a recently-published Gartner study, 65 percent of 228 participants who attended Gartner’s 2011 “IT Financial, Procurement and Asset Management Summit” had undergone a license audit in the previous 12 months and many of them had been audited twice.  While this study does not indicate what the actual risk of audit is, the evidence show that there is increased vendor activity in the audit front.  While risk avoidance is important, it is also important to get find proactive way to manage the software costs through software asset management (SAM).

As the risks and rewards are considered, SAM is a practice that most companies should implement. A comprehensive SAM policy can help organizations:

  1. Reduce costs for software license and maintenance fees.
  2. The ability to ensure preparedness for an audit with the goal of improved vendor relations and avoidance of costly fines.
  3. Drives IT to focus on corporate goals of profitability and growth,

In any SAM implementation one of the first and reoccurring tasks is discovery of software assets.  While it seems like software discovery should be a simple task, it isn’t. There are many types of software, software installers, and different ways to register or not register the OS. Even a single product may have different identifiers because of different licensing models, release methods, or other subtle differences.

Discovery of software assets can be accomplished in different ways but methodology comes with challenges such as content based does not account for specialized software. I have seen instances of very unique and specialized software that is only used in a very specific vertical market but this software can be some of the most costly in the enterprise.  File based is subject to the files being changed with patches.

As LANDesk we work on leveraging the best of all methods available to discover all the software assets in your environment including MSI database, shortcuts, exes that have run, and custom rules.  Customer specific custom rules can also be created leveraging any data found in the LANDesk database.  With the hybrid approach to software discovery, current beta testing is showing that we have been able to successfully and accurately discover most software in an enterprise environment without customization.  The dynamic nature of automatically discovered products allows you to always know what is in your environment and help give you peace of mind should an audit arise.