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Five Statistics every IT Manager Should Know

This article is part of the IT Manager series.

Management science has a favorite saying:  ‘What gets measured gets managed.’ While the universal  application of this saying is debatable,  we’re going to apply it to the life of your average IT Manager or IT Director, or for the smaller organizations, the ‘guy or gal who does the computer stuff’.  There are a number of key statistics that can seriously impact your success. We’re going to examine five of those statistics.

One of the most important statistics is the Uptime statistic.  If you don’t have one, go get a tool to monitor the uptime statistic for all your critical systems.  There are a number of excellent products in this space, and we review a couple of these tools in an upcoming article about tools to help you do more with less.  Make sure that whatever the tool might be, it has the capability of excluding a maintenance window from its monitoring statistics.  Every IT Manager should be able to say with accuracy that there were no unplanned outages during the month of February.  If there are outages, make sure you document the causes and effects, resolutions and remediation steps necessary. This can help during your annual budgeting process by providing empirical evidence of the need to upgrade certain systems.

User Satisfaction is probably statistic 1b for any IT Manager or Director. The role of technology in an organization is generally to help the organization perform its function in the most effective and efficient manner possible.  Usually this entails providing the ‘Users’ with the tools, techniques, and training to do their jobs.  Most I.T. Managers gather this statistic in an informal way; getting a high-five in the hallway, or getting thrown under the bus when accounting doesn’t get their quarterly reports on the boss’s desk in time. While conversations with the user population are important, there’s no substitute for hard evidence. We recommend an annual or bi-annual survey, using the same set of questions each year in order to measure progress.  We also recommend sharing the results of the survey with the rest of the organization. They need to know what the rest of the company thinks, and if necessary, what the plan or steps are to improve any given area.

Data Usage: Ok, this might seem a bit trivial, but we see it over and over again – Mary in accounts payable got an iPod from her son-in-law this Christmas, so Bob in account receivable hooked her up with his music collection by copying it to the shared network drive.  Later that night, the server downloaded a Windows Update that filled the hard drive to capacity. The Server crashes and you’ve got a headache.   One obvious way to deal with this scenario is using quotas.  Most server operating systems allow you to configure an allowance of disk utilization for individual users, which hopefully prevents the ‘Mysterious case of the Magically Growing Music Collection’.  Additionally, you need to know your organizations overall data footprint, which is: How much data does your organization need online or immediate access to on a regular basis? This footprint includes data in databases, email archives, shared network folders, and even archived security camera footage.  You should also be aware of the rate of data growth in your organization. How much data is generated daily, weekly, quarterly, etc?  How much of that data needs to be kept, and for how long, to ensure you meet all regulatory requirements?  Accounting for your organizations data needs is one of the most important functions any IT Manager / Director performs.

Another very important and perhaps self-evident statistic is Budget – vs. – Actual.  The importance of tracking what you’ve spent in comparison to how much you planned to spend cannot be overstated.  If you were supposed to buy replacement UPS batteries in March, but you didn’t, and then in July your UPS fails during a power brown-out, you’ve only got yourself (and your lack of attention to the budget) to blame.  Most IT Managers are also responsible for the communications budgets; cell phones, WAN connections, Internet bandwidth, & long distance.  This recessionary time is a good time to pay attention to those dollars because there are often deals to be had from your carrier.  It’s a good idea to track your progress against the budget simply to keep a close eye on where those dollars are going.  If you need help deciphering those telecom bills, we can help with our Telecom Audit.

Network Capacity: Similar to data capacity, the Network Capacity statistic refers to your organizations utilization of your network.  Some of you may have multiple offices, in which case you need to make sure the transmission capacity between the offices is sufficient, but there’s also a local component. One of our customers recently complained of their backup taking too long. It turns out the network card in the backup server was incorrectly wired to the hub, so it was only operating at 100M, instead of 1000M. Correcting this problem (a 5 minute fix) almost doubled the speed at which their whole network was backed up.  Doing some research for another customer led us to the finding that a significant portion of their remote users had started using Remote Desktop to upload and download the large pictures and video files they work with, instead of using the VPN software they had been given for this task because they were running out of VPN client licenses.  This forced an undue amount of traffic through their Terminal Servers, which were not configured to support this amount of bandwidth, and affected other users who needed to run applications in that space.  The point is, ensuring that the correct amount of network capacity is available where and when it’s needed is a critical function of the successful IT Manager.

So if you are on top of your organizations Network and Data Capacity and Usage, you know how your users feel about their ability to perform their jobs with the tools they have, you know how much money is going out and how quickly, and you know how reliable all your services are, you’ve done a pretty good job.  The other major tool you need for success is the ability to align the technology & the I.T. Department with the organization’s overall goals, but we’ll save that topic for another day.

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