Systems Management. Why Do We Do It?

Wow. That was a busy few weeks.
As you’ve probably been reading through Rod’s great MMS coverage, 2011 was a bumper year for the conference, and for 1E. I hadn’t been along to the event for 6 years, so it was amazing for me to jump out of the world of farming and back into the heady world of Systems Management! Having now caught up with things here at Hillside Farm, I finally managed to sit down and go through my notes from MMS2011..
Reflecting on the experience, was really shone for me was of course the people that make this great event. I saw so many old friends and customers who are still out there managing their ever more complex environments, alongside the new recruits who were wondering the halls of the expo like kids in a candy shop. IT Systems Management is a strange career in some ways. Not exactly the glamour department in most companies, if you get things right, IT within the business will be humming along and everyone will be happy. You will probably receive little recognition for this fact other than maybe a nod from your peers. If you get things wrong however, you are likely to be publicly flogged, tarred and feathered, or worse. Maybe it’s that ‘living on a knife edge’ experience that attracts this odd bunch of talented eccentrics down such a tortured path? Or maybe we just love a challenge..
I also occurred to me after talking to lots of attendees that visited the 1E booth, that many of the problems and daily trials of systems management remain  unchanged, and that if anything, things are getting more complex and challenging as new devices emerge that all need to be secured, inventoried and managed. I heard from one seriously stressed admin who, although he was enjoying MMS2011 and the chance to catch up with new technologies, was also dreading returning to a chaotic network of 20,000 desktops where he was overworked and under extreme pressure to deliver results with a tiny budget and very little help. I also spoke to some folks who were in charge of some enormous and incredibly well managed environments, who were loving their jobs and looking forward to the future. Quite a difference in experiences then, so what is it that makes life in systems management so challenging for some and so rewarding for others? I don’t think anyone would be brave enough to claim to have all the answers but here are a few observations that we’ve gleaned along the way in the last decade or so here at 1E.
Communication: It’s a fact of life that if you exist in the systems management world you need to talk to, and work with many departments. Networks, User (customer) reps, Server teams, Buildings Management and more. Talk to them, be nice, try to understand their point of view, it really works.
Visibility: If you can’t see it you can’t manage it. Seems obvious but if I had an English Pound for every time I went to see a customer who could not tell me how many systems he was supposed to be managing within a 10% accuracy, well I’d be a fair few Pounds richer.. Admins who take time to get the basics right – even when they are being harassed to push out software or perform other tasks – reap the rewards later on.
Control: Control in this context means control over who does what and when. Environments where anyone and everyone has the rights to do just about anything to any system simply do not work. Taking control of security and defining a clear picture of who does what is another basic step that is worth the time invested.
Agility: We’ve talked about agility time and time again over the years. If you can’t respond quickly to events, push out patches when you need to, fix things quickly when they need to be fixed, and provide accurate reports in a flash, then you are not delivering value to the business. Once you have visibility and control, you can become agile! Pounce like a panther.
And finally.. Good old attention to detail. The devil, the say, is in the detail and this old saying rings true in the most cutting edge network. Sloppiness and corner cutting will not do! Taking and extra ten minutes to check settings or making double sure that the targeted collection is the right one will make your life (and others) so much better.


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