This month I want to revisit supporting infrastructure and datacenter environments. I have touched (some would say rant) upon this topic since my post in April 2014 called "Take a Holistic View of Support". My thoughts and views on this topic have not changed at all: it's critical for any organization to have a holistic, comprehensive strategy and view of how they support their IT infrastructure and datacenter environments. In fact, I believe it's even more critical today, then it was a year ago, when I wrote that blog post.
We work with many different organizations in many different types of industries and we see daily the needs and challenges for these organizations in being able to support their IT environments. Now let me know say this: supporting the IT environment might not carry the same prestige or is as "sexy" as implementing large new IT projects or IT initiatives such as implementing new systems or applications, but it's just a critical or potentially even more so. As once those initiatives or projects are put in place, the supporting of these initiatives and projects on an ongoing basis is how they will be judged to be successful but the organizations. Many of us have been there or have been part of this: A successful IT project, but poor support going forward, and the project was not necessarily classified as a success because of that poor support. But that initial implementation went very well.
We tend to see the same issues, needs and concerns around support within all of the different organizations and customers we tend to work with (that sounds like a good topic for future Blog post…hmmm) and the most successful companies tend to take that the holistic approach to support and are willing to recognize and acknowledge when they can and cannot do it all themselves. That's where reaching out to a good, valuable partner can prove to be critical when needed.
We see that the organizations who are successful tend to have a strategy around of the areas below. And don't misunderstand me here: Some of the items below might be addressed internally within the organization versus reaching outside but they have a clear defined strategy on how something is going to be handled when things go wrong or needs arise, and we all know that they always do. And when I refer to support I don't just mean "help I'm stuck" support, I also mean "help me make my environment better" support. So support refers to both reactive and proactive help. Both of which are critically important to an efficient IT and datacenter environment.
Here are the 7 areas we see successful organizations consistently address when it comes to supporting their IT environments:
Staffing Just about every organization that we work with and talk to has a need for consultants, direct hiring, or is open to the idea of consulting to permanent placement, the equivalent to a try & buy. And their need around many of these tends to be very quick as the needs arise very quickly. Management Support All organizations are using a system (or systems) or service to manage the various aspects of their environment with various management tools or services. This includes tools to manage the overall infrastructure, monitoring, managed security, or even a comprehensive managed services solution where an organization would have a separate outside organization or service to manage (monitor and remediate, not just monitoring) the environment. Cloud Offerings Cloud computing is upon all of us, whether we like it or not. We see that organizations need help in determining and validating the platforms that they will use and how to support them going forward. Particularly important is the ability to provide management capabilities and governance around the cloud. See the blog post titled "Surrounding the Cloud" from this past September with more info and my perspective. Network Service Offerings Organizations are in need of help in managing their circuits with their carriers as well as managing their network equipment to ensure availability and quality of service. Many do this in house but many want someone else to manage this for them and provide remediation services fulltime or as needed. Residents Many firms need access to very high end SME's to help support particular areas or technologies within their environments. They may or may not have the ability to hire these SME's, but need their skills, therefore they reach out to outside firms when needed. The need for this can be driven around new projects, resource constraints, mergers and other business drivers. These are fulltime resources that are generally used for a period of 6 months to a year, or even longer. Fractional Residents This is the same concept as the Residents listed above, but on a less than fulltime basis. This is when organizations still need to have access to high end SME's, but do not need them fulltime. The idea of a Fractional Resident is 1, 2, 3 days a week of an SME and their skills. This is a great way to take advantage of a skill that is needed, without the fulltime commitment. Gap Services This is one of the necessary services that all organizations need to perform, but find very difficult to allocate the time to accomplish. This is performing firmware, OS updates and regularly scheduled system maintenance consistently. Many of our customers take advantage of this service by prepaying (or paying monthly) for this service and scheduling specific times throughout the year to perform these upgrades when required, so that they can be completed in the most non-disruptive manner possible. We are all looking to run the most efficient IT infrastructure environments as we possibly can. And in doing so it can be easy (but yet painful) to overlook the critical support needed to run efficiently. Taking that holistic view of support to encompass all of the necessary areas that includes reactive help, but just as importantly, proactive help, is critical. Whether your support is provide internally by your own people, you use an outside firm, or some combination thereof, it's so important to make sure you are covered, so you can focus IT on what it is meant to do: bring value to the organization which it serves. Your thoughts?