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Is Your Technology Department Living Up to its Potential?

Published on Dec 26, 2012 at 3:47 pm in Tips & Tricks.

This post also appeared in The Tennessean, where Concept Technology has a bi-weekly feature in the Business section.

Sometimes you can be so close to something that it’s hard to see its strengths — and even harder to see its flaws. This is true in your personal life, and within your company, especially if your organization has been chugging along with minimal growing pains and hiccups.

If your IT department has been running smoothly for years, it’s often difficult to take a step back and ask, “What are we doing well?” and “What can we do better?” By taking a moment to ask these questions, to seek out best practices — and pitfalls to avoid — you can keep your IT department living up to its optimal potential.

Here are three best practices to consider:

1. Processes, not products

Few people enjoy manual, tedious, repetitive work. Routine system management — like verifying that servers are patched or auditing security logs, backup jobs or backup datasets ­ — requires an accountant’s sensibility, which is something that many technical employees lack.

To make up for this tendency, many IT departments invest heavily in products and systems. It’s easy to buy backup software and infrastructure, for example. It’s much harder to get the human side of the equation right.

You may assume that if there’s no red warning light blinking, then everything is happening as it should be. But you may be wrong. Only people, likely your technical employees, can truly ensure that networks are being maintained and that tedious, yet integral, tasks are being performed.

It’s up to upper management to invest in the processes required to make sure that routine system management tasks are being completed. If your organization waits until a crisis occurs or a large project is undertaken to audit these processes — or, heaven forbid, to create them — it will be too late.

2. Treat vendors cautiously

Most IT departments will bring in an integrator to consult on project work. When working with integrators, you need to remember that they’re not impartial, third-party advisors. If you’re working with an integrator that’s a VMWare partner and Cisco reseller, he or she will likely recommend that you deploy a lot of VMWare and Cisco. This may be the best fit for your organization; then again, it may not be.

The same goes for working with manufacturers or resellers. Before investing in expensive systems, make sure that you understand not just how these devices work, but what’s happening under the hood on a granular level. Always test products before implementation, and remember that you don’t have to buy just because they are selling.

3. Use techies to hire techies

This may be the single most important thing you can do to ensure the health of your IT department.

When it comes to hiring technical employees, it takes someone of superior technical skill to access the skills of others. This is why it’s so important that the communication channel between human resources and IT remains open, and that senior IT team members are involved in the hiring process.