What's Your Level?

Maturity in management comes at different stages.

According to a recent ENTmag.com survey (you can read a summary at http://mcpmag.com/features/article.asp?editorialsid=411), 60 percent of Windows sites already have Windows 2003 in production or plan to do so soon. One major driver is Active Directory. As your job becomes more control-based (via directory services), one would think that meant you had increasing control of your IT operations, too. But it isn’t happening like that, according to one of the largest vendors of tools to help you achieve managed data center paradise.

In a recent meeting, NetIQ, which produces AppManager and other products, shared with me a pyramid on management maturity that shows four levels of “IT Responsiveness.” At the bottom was “reactive,” topped by “managed,” then “optimized” and at the zenith, “agile.”

David Pann, VP of product management for NetIQ, has been in the software industry for a couple of decades. He started off as a software engineer, then moved into IS and from there management and marketing. He’s seen IT from many different angles, and he doesn’t find much agility out there. In his experience, 80 percent of companies operate somewhere between the very bottom of “reactive” and the midway point of “managed”—great for his firm’s market potential, lousy for you. Reactive companies are characterized by a constant state of unruliness and system outages. Frequently, users (or, more likely, their managers) call the shots on IT decisions. IT staff is under-funded, short-handed and generally overwhelmed by the work at hand.

I decided to do a little poll at the latest MCP TechMentor conference to see if implementers in the trenches agree with Pann about the state of their operations. Sadly, they did. Some cited management or clients who only want to pay (dearly) when something goes wrong, not for maintenance to prevent the problems. Others said budget restrictions prevented them from accomplishing all they could. The only person who said otherwise worked in a healthcare firm in Puerto Rico. He thanked his director for pushing for the resources they needed to put his company between the managed and optimized level. And therein lies a clue to managed nirvana: the champion who can sell.

According to Pann, what IT people still need to do is get better at building the business case. “If you go in and try to sell on features and functionality, it’s a hard one... [You have to] be able to go in and say, this is the kind of information we don’t have at our disposal today. These are the kinds of decisions we can make. This is the kind of information I can deliver to you on a regular basis.” The first step needs to be to talk with your “customers”—clients, users, management—to discover their perception of IT operations. Then you need to figure out how to fix any misalignment that’s in place. Interestingly, this product person believes the solution might not be a product; it’s just as likely to be better communication or a different process.

Anybody out there at the optimized or agile level? How did you get there? Tell me, and I’ll tell others.

About the Author

Dian L. Schaffhauser is a freelance writer based in Northern California.

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