IT departments are usually under-resourced, and are stuck in a cycle of repetitive manual updates and stressful and reactive firefighting. But that need not be the case. Even smaller businesses can reach higher levels of IT management maturity.
This can be done by automating mundane activities, standardising and streamlining processes, and leveraging cloud services.
That gives IT staff time to focus on projects that drive business results and end-user satisfaction.
Kaseya recently announced the results of its annual IT operations benchmark survey, which offers insight into the success drivers for IT groups within SMEs.
The research found a strong correlation between high revenue growth and IT management maturity.
More than one third of businesses with higher IT maturity levels grew their revenue by more than 10 per cent between 2014 and 2015. In contrast, only 21 per cent of the less mature businesses saw the same revenue growth.
So how can you move your business into the higher levels of IT maturity? No matter where you are on the scale, there are six steps you can take to improve the performance of your IT operations.
1. Don’t get left behind – start today
It’s never too late – and no IT group is ever too small – to start taking control.
Developing a mature and respected IT department is not a function of size or industry.
IT infrastructure complexity is not going to go away, and the demands on your IT department are only going to increase, so you have to take control, manage the complexity and minimise its impact on IT and company productivity.
Look for IT management and security tools that allow you to view, monitor and manage your entire IT environment holistically.
2. Automate everything
Automate as much as possible. Policy-based automation improves staff efficiency.
Discovery, audits, software deployments (including third-party software), patches, antivirus updates, backup – and much more – can all be automated, based on defined policies that make sense for your business.
Look for solutions that go beyond simple remediation to make sure that:
- procedures and policies are routinely enforced;
- remediations and all access and alterations are recorded;
- reports and dashboards are up-to-date and in real time.
3. Always keep improving
It’s important to prioritise and manage your activities.
One of the major differences between mature IT groups and those at the bottom of the scale is their consistently higher usage rates of a wide variety of strategies and tactics to optimise IT efficiency and effectiveness.
Our survey found that on average, more mature SMEs had 36 per cent more individual strategies in motion than reactive businesses.
Since over a third of respondents (across various industries and company sizes) are in the reactive IT group, this means a lot of IT departments need to take a hard look at their current processes and methodically identify and prioritise areas for improvement.
4. Budgets are important, but metrics drive success
Do high-maturity IT businesses become that way because they track and measure their performance?
We can’t definitively answer that question. But as with automation, tracking and measuring is no longer a luxury.
If you don't know where you are going and how your progress towards this is goal is tracking, you may never get there.
5. Cloud services are going mainstream – but make sure you can manage them
Mature IT departments consider the cloud a strategic enabler, allowing them to offload routine and repetitive tasks, scale at will, and focus their efforts on innovative IT projects to improve customer and end-user experience.
Just about all IT departments recognise this fact and are considering a wide range of outsourced cloud services.
But you need to make sure you have the tools to actively monitor and manage these cloud services to make sure they are meeting your expectations and predicted return on investment.
6. What’s next? Device performance baselining and predictive analytics
Some tactics such as backup and antivirus are used by most companies along the IT maturity continuum.
Looking to leapfrog into the higher ranks of IT maturity? Consider device performance baselining and predictive analytics.
These tactics are less common than others by a large margin – but mature IT departments use device performance baselining more than twice as frequently as reactive companies; and predictive analytics almost three times as frequently.
Understanding your environment through baselining allows for a greater degree of predictive visibility.
Technologies and solutions exist that are surprisingly affordable, and deliver these highly beneficial capabilities.
According to the survey’s findings, 86 per cent of IT groups in small- and mid-sized companies are still in the early stages of IT management maturity.
Their focus is on day-to-day IT management tasks that are often time-consuming and manual.
The remaining 14 per cent have achieved higher levels of maturity and are reaping the business benefits.
Bigger doesn’t mean better. Regardless of its size, your business can progress up the IT management maturity ladder by applying a few simple guiding strategies.
Every business is different, but the basic techniques are the same.
Craig Allen is the APAC technical director for business software provider Kaseya.