IT is simple, but it is not easy.

IT is simple, anyone can do it, with some help from a defined structure. But it takes time and effort. You don’t need a license to practice IT; but you sometimes need to comply to a set of regulations.

My speciality is IT Operations and Application Management. I will show you that you don’t have to spend much money on a mature and stable infrastructure and IT Operations. At least not more money than utterly needed. Use it where it makes a difference in your organization instead.

Many IT organizations are structured in a classical way; “plan”, “build”, “run”. Project management (plan) and development (build) are dealing with either changes in a current environment (current time, now) or new systems and processes (future). IT Operations (run) is always yesterday’s news, as we deal with the past; what was developed yesterday or earlier. Our view to the future is somewhat like a museum, we need to keep what is given to us in good shape, and bring in the experts when something is so badly broken that we can’t shine it up ourselves.

The development work done in an Operations department is mainly dealing with Operational Tools. We either bring in something to help us simplify complexity, or develop something to automate a repeating process.

In IT Operations, everything you do more than once, must be supported by either a process or be automated. In the best case, both. There is potential to do better in any organization. To simplify, automate and clean up. There is no end, IT Operations is a process, not a project. My goal is to make it possible to get an overview of what is currently available to get at the issue.

An IT Operations department should be slim, hence there is rarely an excess of available resources and manpower. If you have a look on your environment and find out that one or more components are not optimal, you just cant weed it out by the roots and start over. You have to live with what you got, and make the best out of it.

  • Get yourself an overview, and understand your environment
  • Make a strategy, even if it is only on a paper towel or in your head
  • Live with what you have, get at it iteratively to reach a long term goal.
  • Learn as much as you possibly can during the process
  • Get better at what you do
  • Goto 10

Day to day activities

Over the time, going from a wild fire to a well working environment, I have personally gone through the following mantras, one at the time, each for weeks:

  • Proactive vs. Reactive administration – Plan your work instead of reacting to ad hoc requests. It is better that you tell people what could have gone wrong, than having a customer asking why id doesn’t
  • Know your environment – Maps and lists
  • Whatever you start, you will finish – If you touch that keyboard, you better finish the sentence you started typing.
  • Security, security, security – Anonymous users (root, admin, oracle, customer name) is not for humans to use. Me Tarzan, you Jane. None of us are named “root”.
  • Fitness, Fitness, Fitness – I’m not Homer Simpson in a superman shirt – Learn, every day. Practice you skills. Repeat.

M.O.P.S (from Dennis Adams) =

  • Metrics
  • Operational tools
  • Processes and procedures
  • Standards

People are people, human beings as singularities

People come in different flavors. Some are nice, some are evil. Some are quick, some are meticulous. From a company perspective, you can’t rely on personalities to deliver consistency.

Basing your consistency on how things are done now is good, if you have a well working environment. The goal is then to take the current, static picture of your well oiled machinery and turn it into something you can always rely on.

People are living beings. Being such, they have a certain life expectancy (they will retire sooner or later), need vacations and time off, training off site, other needs. In other, very harsh words; plan for:

  • Vacation
  • Illness
  • Other opportunities
  • Death

It is simple as that. The two first points, vacation and illness, are hopefully the most common. If you take care of them, the other two come for free.

Small vs. Big organizations

Every organization need a certain skill set, which can often be formalized in a job description. The real world is never that easy, though.

  • You can change a person’s skill set, by giving him/her experience or training.
  • It is very hard to change someone’s personality.

A simple advice, if you run a small or mid sized environment; hire for what will come (proactively), not your urgent need (re-actively). Bring someone in, who is able to learn. Find someone with the right base, as hiring a fighter pilot to pull a tooth might be looking in the wrong direction.

In a large scale operations, you need a larger head count. You can specialize whole teams for certain skill sets. There, you can hire by job description, go for the best skilled person you can get, and make sure he/she understands what your culture is, before they sign the offer.