Dysfunctional IT

September 29, 2008

The following quote by Vaughan Merlyn is geared towards large organizations.

But it is definitely not limited to large organizations. (Emphasis is mine);

..IT eventually finds itself in a vicious cycle – low business demand maturity begets low IT supply maturity.  When IT does get engaged by the business for a new system, it fails to “push back” on the business demand to “automate the manual process as is – don’t make us change the process!”  IT does what it’s told, even if that means customizing the heck out of an off-the-shelf package.  The customization triples the implementation costs, and sends subsequent maintenance costs through the roof.

No small business / medium business manager would state that we deliberately designed and implemented our IT infrastructure to be brittle, fragile and inefficient.

But lack of vision, communication and management will definitely get you there.

And complexity? Its a killer.

Complexity equals Chaos

Complexity equals Chaos

Start now

Design in the processes and tools to ensure that as you grow – your IT Infrastructure (and people) are growing as well.

Photo Credit:Kevin Dooley

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Do We Really Need this?

September 26, 2008

Identifying cost savings and methods of IT cost reduction in your SME information technology spending is a good thing.

But don’t overlook that  a good cost reduction strategy includes avoiding spending unnecessary money in the first place!

It happens; either a statement from a customer on a must have technology or tool you need in order to do business with them.

Or perhaps some new cool thing that an IT  consultant or the folks at the golf course mentioned.

It happened to us some time ago. When I joined the organization some initial pricing etc had been obtained for a required video technology system  initiative. I was to take the next steps in implementing this technology.

And for managers in the small to medium business, let me tell you; In this case I was looking at technology spend with dollar values in the tens of thousands.

Dollar Signs

Dollar Signs

Do We Really, Really, I mean Really Need this?

So I hit the research trail and the phones.

I discovered that what the client asked for, was not what they really wanted.

I also discovered that the many thousands of dollars in this proposal would not even provide the entire IT benefit that the customer was looking for.

I also discovered that for about a hundred bucks per hour there is a supplier in my region that does this technology on a pay per use arrangement – the same way many of you probably use outsourced voice conferencing services.

Cost Avoidance

In the last 18 months, we may have spent 5 or 6 hundred bucks with that provider.

Compared to the multiple tens of thousands that it was supposed to cost.

Photo Credit: pfala

Courtesy of the Ottawa Network and Gowling Lafleur Henderson LLP I had the opportunity to attend a casual panel on the concept of virtualization.

The technology aspects of the discussion ranged from abstracting hardware right up through the application layer and the current buzzword of cloud computing.

But for the my audience in the SMB / SME space.  Outside of the panelists, there were two questions that I found say it all,

He Says; IT Doesn’t Matter

Just Plug It In

Just Plug It In

One gentleman, (A small business owner) whose name I was not able to get, asked when he would just plug in a display type of device into a wall and have his computing environment.

(If I was able to, I would have given him copies of Nicholas Carr‘s IT Doesn’t Matter and the Big Switch )

She Says; She Can’t Give it Away

The second interesting point was from Fay Khazai, President of a SMB that supplies a software suite for some SMB verticals.

These business are reluctant to use her hosted offering – for one reason. They cannot rely on their internet connections.

These SMB’s rely on lower end offerings connectivity from their providers such as DSL and cable for their internet connections. No connection – no business.

There you have the SMB dichotomy. Can I give you an answer for this?

No, sorry I cannot.

Panelists:

Mike Kemp: CTO Liquid Computing

Jean-Marc Seguin: Chief Architect, Embotics

Miro Adamy: Founder, Thinknostic

Socket Image Credit

Internet Image Credit

ITIL – (Over) Simplified

September 24, 2008

I was asked in an email if I wasn’t simplifying the ITIL Framework a bit.

No.

I am simplifying it a lot

As stated on my About Me page, my goal with this blog is general IT information geared towards the non-technology business manager, general manager or owner in the SMB space.

My target is those individuals that are looking for basic information on a variety of SMB IT issues (not just ITIL). And along the way I have pointed out links for more detailed and in depth information.

If you are a senior ITIL expert and have successfully implemented multi-million dollar ITIL aligned service support / service delivery – well, my little outlines here are not for you!

While this blog has covered IT topics for non technology managers from file services, to financial controls, – the magic of Google has ITIL and the small business / medium business as one of the most searched for topics.

The first post on ITIL for the small to medium business is here.

As quoted by Tim Walker I do it because;

..because then they’re easy to understand.

Alexander and the Gordian Knot

Image Credit Wikipedia

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Blog as Website

September 23, 2008

I have seen one or two small business web sites that were actually blogs.

I was not overly impressed because, Well, they looked, kinda blog-ish

Courtesy of Havi Brooks,  I was pointed to  this (micro) SMB web site that is actually doing a pretty good job of utilizing blogging software for their web site.

For a smaller organization, blog software could be pretty effective;

  • If you ensure that you update it regularly, search engine rankings will help generate traffic. Which can help generate sales.
  • Easy to operate
  • Easy to update
  • Easy to add pages and links

For All SMB’s?

I don’t see blogging software as much use in the general SMB /SME space as there are negatives. These include:

  • a very flat structure
  • lack of scalability into e-Commerce or CRM applications

That being said, for what I would call cottage industry businesses, it would be an excellent choice.

Also, local non-profits, or local chapters of non-profit organizations could use them quite effectively.

If you are a small business using blogging software, please point me to it!

UPDATE: After getting proven wrong, the Blog As WQebsite Revisited Post is now available !

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The first post on ITIL Change Management is located here.

The official ITIL definition of the Change Management process is;

“..the addition, modification, or removal of approved, supported or baselined hardware, network, software application, environment ….”

At its simplest; Change Management is the balance between the need for a change & the impact, or possible impact on your organization.

For a smaller business, you do not need complex software, a Change Log template in something like Microsoft Word will do.

The important point is that it must be managed, and it must be updated.

Managed – The Warning!

By managed, I mean that You; the small business owner or manager must be part of the IT conversation with your IT provider.

In a smaller organization you may not need a formalized change board, but without you being part of the IT conversation, it will fail.

Communication

Ideally all changes should be discussed in advance (you do meet with your IT provider weekly right?) In this discussion the following questions should be asked;

– What Changes are coming?
– Why is the change required?
– Has the existing configuration been reviewed?
– What is the risk & impact, low, medium, high?
– what is the plan B?

This is also the opportunity to verify times and possible schedule conflicts with the change.

Trust, But Verify

For your next meeting, initially you may want the change log brought to you. Later on, random audit checks may suffice. But it is critical that the changes are documented. At a minimum, it will be your change log, and if there was a modification to an existing CI, (Configuration Item, my first post on ITIL is here) the CMDB or configuration management database (or in a small business,configuration document) must be updated.

Lets tie this up with the example I used previously where IT technician number two reversed some device changes that were necessary to allow email to work with your mobile devices.

– With technician number 1, The change, impact and urgency is discussed
– existing configuration is reviewed
– change to device(s) is made
– change logs and device configuration documents are updated

Lets assume that technician number 2, that reversed it, made an unauthorized change.

Your documentation allows the mistake to be rectified quickly. But this is where your management comes in; unauthorized changes are not to be permitted.

If technician umber 2 was following the process, when the existing configuration document was reviewed, the change and its purpose would be clear.

UPDATE: Change Management for the alrger SME is here.

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The Business Card Web Site

September 17, 2008

The title is from an excellent post by Jim Rubart at He Blogs She Blogs.

Sometimes in a local smaller organization you really don’t need to worry about a first place ranking on Google or Yahoo!

Maybe you are a local legal firm, consultancy, or staffing firm.

Maybe you are a roofing, plumbing or landscaping firm.

Deliberate vs General Search

Because you don’t care about general search queries regarding your product or service from half a continent away, As far as you are concerned, your web site needs to be no more complex than what product or service you provide, and, how to get hold of you.

Sounds reasonable.

But before going too far down this road, consider;

Perhaps through advertising, a sales call, or even a referral, someone remembers just a basic part about your business. Unfortunately they cannot remember all the details.

They already know you exist.

So that prospective customer deliberately hits the search engines with as much information as they have available.

That could be part of your name,

Maybe with your region or location,

And perhaps with your product or service.

They know you exist! Unfortunately for you, they can’t find you.

?????

?????

Even with the information they have available, deliberate search queries are not finding you.

To them, you are invisible and have fallen off of the face of the planet.

Two Options

And you do have two options;

1) Hope that they try to find out somewhere else your complete information, before they go to a competitor.

2) Make sure they find you.

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