Aug 9 ’10

Proactive IT Systems Management: The Time Is Now

by Editor in z/Journal

Despite the rhetoric, it appears not many shops have completed the journey. Today, critical business services rely on mainframe systems and applications being available and performing non-stop to Service Level Agreements (SLAs). The failure of one of these crucial business services can have catastrophic effects on the enterprise—from decreased profit to outright cessation of business. Given these stakes, the requirement for proactive systems management transcends IT operating methodologies to become a business imperative. This article explores proactive systems management and its six stages of maturity; it also describes the processes and tooling required to implement a proactive operating rhythm. It concludes with some best practice “first steps” and the potential benefits of implementing proactive systems management.

Proactive IT Systems Management

Proactive systems management can be described as managing the service delivery performance of business applications so performance problems are identified and remediated either before they have an impact, or before the impact has an adverse business effect. It involves having in place a specific set of IT processes, tooling, and skills. In most IT organizations, getting to proactive systems management will require a change in one or more of these three components. Getting to proactive systems management isn’t typically a binary operation. Rather, it’s a phased effort, with the amount of change required dependent upon in what stage, or level, of proactive systems management maturity, the organization currently operates.

Proactive systems management might be said to have six levels:

This synopsis of a more extensive topic enables an understanding of some of the processes and tooling that would be required to move from the lower maturity levels to the higher ones.

Processes Required

Tooling Required

One of the biggest barriers to increasing proactive maturity lies in the tooling technicians have at their disposal for systems management. IT must recognize that yesterday’s status quo systems management may be insufficient for proactive systems management. The tools and processes implemented and used by the same technicians for 10 to 20 years may have sufficed so far, but that doesn’t mean the organization doesn’t need proactive management. IT should evaluate its current level of proactive maturity, the desired level of maturity, and then assess what’s needed to reach the desired maturity level and the associated business benefits to be gained.

Getting to proactive management requires a degree of innovation—in the processes, in the organization, and especially in the tooling used to support systems management. The following is a list of some of the key requirements for proactivity in systems management tooling:

Some First Steps

Arriving at proactive systems management will take organizational commitment for process change, organizational change, and possibly tooling changes, none of which happen quickly. As a starting point, consider implementing some of the following steps to increase the level of proactivity in your operations:

The ease with which your organization can take these steps will depend greatly on the nature of your systems management processes and tooling.


When IT can meld the processes and tooling to increase proactive management maturity, payoffs to the enterprise can be significant. These are benefits that have real value to the business and to the management of IT itself. They include: