As we get underway in 2015, IT departments can help themselves by getting on top of historically "sluggard" projects before these projects begin to grow beyond control. What are these projects, and why is it important to stay in step with them?
1: Endpoint management
Some organizations report that when they track down all their end points in the corporate network, they discover that up to 20% are abandoned but active. Security threats continue to loom. This makes tight policies and management of endpoints critical, especially as mobile devices grow. Before your auditors ask you about it, conduct your own investigation into your network's end points to ensure that all are securely buttoned down — or turned off if they're no longer needed.
2: Data retention
IT should be sitting in with end business units at least once a year to see that data retention and access policies are current. Most IT departments are lucky if they conduct data retention meetings every three or four years. With security threats rising and new data retention and access demands for both traditional and big data, data retention meetings are not activities that should be delayed.
3: End-user request log
Software maintenance consumes up to 50% of IT staff time, limiting opportunities for enhancements or the development of new software. This is why end-user requests sit in request queues for years — until even the original requesters have retired or left the company for another job. IT should review its end-user request log with users annually to determine which requests should remain open and which should be closed out.
4: Software updates on end devices
More IT departments are moving toward automated "push" software that distributes software updates to desktops and to end mobile devices from a central point. However, most IT shops still haven't made the transition to this kind of automation, so they continue to go out to areas of the business to update software on desktops, etc. If computing stations are located in remote corporate locations, these updates don't always get done. This leaves IT support in the difficult position of having to support multiple releases of the same software.
5: Asset inventorying
Asset inventory software for the data center has been on the market for the past decade, but many data center managers still don't have a handle on how many servers or storage racks are sitting idle or how many are underutilized. An asset inventory can identify these assets so IT can either use them or discard them if they can't handle present data center workloads.
6: Procedure updates
Documenting application test processes and enhancements or daily operations procedures lags because IT is already overloaded with projects and deadlines. When these procedures are not updated in a timely fashion, individuals forget what they have done and the next person who follows them doesn't have a clear idea of what to do. This invites error and inconsistency. While it is not likely that key performers can be tasked with documentation updates, a documentation specialist or even temporary help can help get procedures updated.
7: Job descriptions
IT jobs and responsibilities have changed, with new focuses on security, mobile computing, social media, collaboration, and the incorporation of big data and Internet of Things (IoT) data. But job descriptions have not kept up. Working with HR, IT should revisit job descriptions to ensure that they are up to date.
8: The disaster recovery plan
Most companies have a disaster recovery plan — but how many actually test those plans? 2015 should be the year that IT departments commit to test-run their plans so they don't find the holes during a real disaster.
9: Vendor agreements
Except for large IT departments that have dedicated contract management functions, IT is often missing up to one-third of the contracts (and SLAs) that it forms with its vendor-partners. If agreements are missing, vendors should be asked for copies. Each of these agreements, and their SLAs and conditions, should be reviewed annually to ensure that nothing has changed in your business or in vendor relations to warrant changes — or at least conversations with key vendors.
10: Spare parts and old equipment
In the back of computer storerooms that abut the data center are scores of old terminals, modems, routers, disk drives, and servers. Many small and midsize businesses keep this equipment so they can cannibalize it for spare parts. But there comes a time when these machines and parts are just out of sync with today's technology. Doing a thorough housekeeping of the storage room at least once a year keeps the "heap" under control.
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Do you have a few projects that are perennially falling to the bottom of your to-do list? What types of tasks get put off — and how does that affect your organization?
Mary E. Shacklett is president of Transworld Data, a technology research and market development firm. Prior to founding the company, Mary was Senior Vice President of Marketing and Technology at TCCU, Inc., a financial services firm; Vice President of Product Research and Software Development for Summit Information Systems, a computer software company; and Vice President of Strategic Planning and Technology at FSI International, a multinational manufacturing company in the semiconductor industry. Mary is a keynote speaker and has more than 1,000 articles, research studies, and technology publications in print.