IT Management

Once a year, it’s worth reviewing what information you have in your application inventory, your hardware inventory, and your network inventory; that is, the management information you need to do your job. If you’re missing any of this information, now might be a good time to fill in the gaps. This isn’t the information needed for day-to-day maintenance of the application; rather, it’s the information you need to manage the application and your relations with its users. Here’s some of what you will want to have available to you:

To manage end users’ opinions of IT: You should see Service Level Agreements (SLAs), reports to application owners on how well you’ve delivered against the SLAs, and surveys or focus groups to learn what they really think of the service you deliver (which may differ surprisingly from what the reports might lead you to think).

To manage others’ opinions of the costs of IT: You should see total annual cost for each application; cost per transaction; a breakout of costs in various ways such as hardware/software/network/other and development/maintenance/new functionality. You may want measures of how the application benefits the organization. If anyone suggests moving to the cloud or some other platform, you will want numbers you can compare to any proposed migration. To help you collect and present this information, you might ask someone in the finance department to serve as a part-time IT comptroller. Such a person working with your capacity planning staff can provide you with models of how each application’s hardware usage (and cost) varies with transaction volume.

To manage others’ opinions of IT’s innovation and value-added: You will want a summary for each application that answers the question, “What have you done for me lately?” End users will ask this question anyhow, so it’s useful to have the answers when you need them. These answers may take a variety of forms, but should go beyond processing transactions quickly, accurately, reliably, and inexpensively. They might include improvements in ease-of-use, functionality, customer satisfaction, data analytics, or other dimensions.

To ensure compliance with laws and regulations: You will want to see that the laws and regulations have been identified. If your security staff can’t tell you what laws apply to which data sets for each application, you may want to get them better support from the compliance and legal departments. If your security staff can’t demonstrate that you’re in compliance, you may want to ask them what they need to do to fix the situation.

To ensure your information security is adequate: You might review your most recent audit reports to determine whether they answer the basic question, “Is the security good enough?” If you don’t have an answer to this question, you might want to ask your auditors to provide you with answers.

To minimize dependence on key employees: You will want to know that each application has adequate documentation. By “adequate,” we mean sufficient information that would enable you to continue supporting the application without its most important staff.

To know that your production applications are reliable and timely: You will want statistics and descriptions on reruns, edit failures, inaccuracies, late deliveries, unavailabilities, and slow response time. As with other measures you might include in your SLAs, you will want surveys or other means of learning what end users say about your reliability and timeliness.

While the following is an enterprisewide issue, it’s important to the management of your applications and users. To focus problem-solving where it’s most needed, you will want a brief overview of the number and trend of all problems, along with available breakouts by application, cause (hardware, system software, application software, operator error, user error, environmental, other), severity, and time to resolve by severity,

You don’t want to memorize all this information, of course. But with all the talk these days about outsourcing, moving to the cloud, and satisfaction with IT, you will want this information available to you when you need it. Now’s a good time to make sure you have it.
In future columns, we will discuss similar management information regarding your hardware and network inventories.