21 Replies Latest reply on Jan 9, 2014 12:51 AM by jmariano

    The Path to Success

    subnetwork

      In case you missed it: two weeks ago, I posted “Making Room for Failure.” Last week’s topic was “Improving from Failure.” Check out both discussions if you haven't already.

       

      As we have discussed, avoiding repeated failure is a key to keeping our careers moving in a steady upward arc. However, there is a large gap between failure and success. You may very well go through your day without failing, and yet never really succeed. Assuming that your company hires competent and skilled people, two factors may still limit your success: systems and tools.

       

      The word “systems,” in this case, refers to ways of working, not the servers and applications – eg., how are WAN orders handled, new servers requested and delivered, or changes implemented to production environments. A great example of a system is the "co-worker sanity check" before making a major change, which many people mentioned during the previous week’s discussion. This is a great system, and more IT teams should implement it. 

       

      A good toolset can make or break a team during crisis. If you fill your SNMP monitoring tool with useless alerts, you won't notice an issue until a user complains. On the other hand, a well-tuned toolset notifies you that a battery just failed the weekly UPS test, creates a ticket to order a replacement, and assigns the ticket to the right team. This scenario avoids a future failure and tracks a solution through completion.

       

      Another problem that organizations experience is too many systems and tools. Suppose a company uses 20 different tools for tracking various minutiae. Add hundreds of Teamplace sites, many of which haven't been updated in years, and you could possibly understand why a technician in this organization might be overwhelmed. Because of this, systems and tools are both frequently out-of-date, missing important information, or simply ignored. Throwing a new tool of system at a problem wouldn't fix anything either.

       

      What problems do you experience with either systems or tools within your organization? Are there too many tools? Are the systems out-of-date or too clunky to understand without a cheat-sheet? What have you done to improve upon them?

        • Re: The Path to Success
          cahunt

          Tracking and accountability tools are what we have in process to implement. Simple SharePoint lists and workflow's to manage some, and other intense forms and creations to assist with managing workflow, time management, tech feedback and response just to name a few. A big Proponent of ITIL as we move forward to create a process that creates less issues and a better level of support for our end users.

           

          Currently my big improvement comes in the form of inventory management. Several million dollars works of network gear managed on spreadsheets screams issues; the Fun part now is getting to be the one creating the front end and back and forth accountability for any inventory request. Out of date inventory and mismanagement can be a big hindrance on your ability to provide proper service, not even being able to see and project for future user and budgeting needs is catastrophic.

            • Re: The Path to Success
              subnetwork

              cahunt wrote:

               

              Out of date inventory and mismanagement can be a big hindrance on your ability to provide proper service, not even being able to see and project for future user and budgeting needs is catastrophic.

              It sounds like you have got a firm handle on the toolset and what improvements need to be made. Great job!

            • Re: The Path to Success
              rharland2012

              Our challenges are no longer on the network monitoring side, thankfully. Since the rollout of NPM/NTA/SAM a year ago, our IT organization finally has visibility, measurement, and all of the things that a cohesive platform provides.

              Where certain units are still struggling is - yep - inventory management. Most of our headaches are on the user device and software side. We finally landed on an asset management product, which thankfully aligns well with our helpdesk product, and allows for real-time updates into the helpdesk product's CMDB and intelligent ticket-building from there. Before this integration, there was no method to relate a user to a device and then to software, etc. It makes planning, upgrades, refreshes, etc. much, much more difficult.

                • Re: The Path to Success
                  subnetwork

                  rharland2012 wrote:

                   

                  Before this integration, there was no method to relate a user to a device and then to software, etc. It makes planning, upgrades, refreshes, etc. much, much more difficult.

                  Since I am only responsible for the network in my current role, I had almost forgotten how much of a pain this can be. Maybe I repressed those memories. Glad to hear that you are getting that resolved.

                    • Re: The Path to Success
                      rharland2012

                      I'm not responsible for these things in any official capacity, but our team's small enough that noises carry, and we typically work on fixes together - especially since we use the same ticketing system, etc.

                      I'm glad, too!

                        • Re: The Path to Success
                          Aforsythe

                          I'm in the same situation as far as responsibilities go, and we're still currently in the process of working the kinks out of our inventory management solution. The main issue I have, is that it's a part of our ticketing system, but there is currently little functionality within the software to generate inventory based tickets.So I've had to work on an ad-hoc solution utilizing stored procs and triggers to generate e-mails to create tickets (and reports) based on inventory needs, software maintenance renewals, etc...

                    • Re: The Path to Success
                      michael stump

                      I see lots of problems when tools are confined to specific teams, as opposed to being open and shared by engineers and administrators across disciplines. Orion NPM is a good example, since many people still view it as a "network" tool, even though its ability to monitor and alert on servers is well established. Shops that isolate tools to teams spend much more on software and implementation than they should, and now have an integration problem to solve to get two or more monitoring packages working with their help desk solution.

                       

                      The opposite problem is when an organizational policy mandates that a single monitoring tool be used for EVERYTHING. It may be that the organization has a heavy investment in a big product, and wants to get the most out of that investment. The problem here is that no one tool can monitor everything, and forcing the solution onto the problem is not an ideal way to run a business.

                      • Re: The Path to Success
                        zackm

                        I *personally* feel that we have way too many tools here. In my estimate, it slows down our productivity and forces our team to be a LOT larger than it really needs to be.

                         

                        Of course, if you can find me a company where they have the perfect system and tools, I will jump right on my unicorn and come to check it out with you

                          • Re: The Path to Success
                            subnetwork

                            zackm wrote:

                             

                            I *personally* feel that we have way too many tools here. In my estimate, it slows down our productivity and forces our team to be a LOT larger than it really needs to be.

                            I can really relate to you. Our current toolset is ridiculously large and complex.

                              • Re: The Path to Success
                                rharland2012

                                Whenever I hear someone dismiss 'single pane of glass' as a marketing term, I know they've never worked in one of these environments.

                                  • Re: The Path to Success
                                    wbrown

                                    Or at least they haven't worked in one with a properly tuned single pane of glass.

                                     

                                    I've been in enough shops to see what I think is every possible extreme of doing it right and wrong.  A previous life was implenting Unicenter TNG and most of the customization was figuring out a way to take the separate element managers and integrate them into the various maps and business-process views. These were beautiful:  a business process owner could look at a single icon on the enterprise map and know if there was an issue with any of their systems or the systems that theirs depended upon.

                                    I've also done implementations where the customer had no idea what they really wanted to know about and thus would want to know about everything.  The display would end up as a blinking christmas tree display and the event viewer was nothing more than a scrolling syslog buffer.

                                     

                                    Our current implementation of Orion is still a work in progress and luckily I'm not the one in charge of managing or customizing the suite.  The biggest problem I'm aware of is that the various teams (particularly app owners) are not really sure of what they want to monitor or even what can be monitored.

                                      • Re: The Path to Success
                                        rharland2012

                                        I hear that....as the one in charge of managing and customizing our suite, I've had to embark on what's turning out to be a really cool journey - which is spending time with our app owners and finding out what their applications do, need, and consume. Obviously, this work has allowed me to build valuable views for differing groups and applications that are more than just colors. For the first time, we're connecting specific app performance to specific metrics, which is great - but we're also showing our app owners how their tools are performing and sparking discussion *for the first time* about our WAN provisioning, appropriate BW between sites, WAN op, and a bunch of other things. When app owners are clued into these things, management hears about it - and attention gets paid. It's hard work and challenging at times, but we're getting there.

                                          • Re: The Path to Success
                                            subnetwork

                                            It sounds like you are doing a great job of getting everything in order. I applaud your commitment and progress.

                                             

                                            More companies need to find an "owner" for the monitoring system. So often it is the orphan no one wants to adopt, so it never gets tuned into the system that it can be.

                                  • Re: The Path to Success
                                    802jr

                                    Our "system" is a home grown variation of change management. Although, there are several change management systems out there, we use what we like for the different CM system to make it work for us. I think that is the most important think, though, making it work for the team in place.

                                     

                                    As far as tools are concern it would be a personal preference as to which tools are used by each team member. Although some tools are popular and some are not. There come a point in time where the unpopular tools need to be replace with better more efficient tools.

                                    • Re: The Path to Success
                                      byrona

                                      This is a great post and a problem that I think many organizations face.

                                       

                                      When I started working here we had ton's of different tools.  Every technical team and in some cases each individual had their own set of tools for monitoring and managing the things that they were responsible for.  The problem was when an incident would occur there was more time spent arguing over and trying to decipher which tool was "accurate" and less time spent actually fixing the problem.  When it came time to select a new set of monitoring tools the project sponsor (our CEO) required that the new system would be company wide and all other tools had to go.  This project was a big success and win for our company.  We still have some legacy tools that are required for configuring and managing systems but the number is very small and continues to shrink.

                                       

                                      There is a huge value to having an entire company consolidated on modern tools that are backed by a good company with good support.

                                        • Re: The Path to Success
                                          Aaron Denning

                                          we are dealing with this right now we have like 15 different tools and they all do the same things but because someone thought it was a good idea our company buys them and yeah now we are in charge of so many tools for different sections that its impossible for us to do anything else but go through all the tools and hope we have time at the end of the day to do some real work.

                                            • Re: The Path to Success
                                              subnetwork

                                              Aaron Denning wrote:

                                               

                                              we are dealing with this right now we have like 15 different tools and they all do the same things but because someone thought it was a good idea our company buys them and yeah now we are in charge of so many tools for different sections that its impossible for us to do anything else but go through all the tools and hope we have time at the end of the day to do some real work.

                                              Wow, this sounds familiar! Is there any one tool in the bunch that can replace others? I've found in the past that if you can say "hey guys, this tool can also do x,y and z" you can begin to eliminate the weakest tools and reduce the management overhead.

                                          • Re: The Path to Success
                                            superfly99

                                            Jonathan Davis wrote:

                                             

                                            What problems do you experience with either systems or tools within your organization? Are there too many tools? Are the systems out-of-date or too clunky to understand without a cheat-sheet? What have you done to improve upon them?

                                            I've been here for over 18 years and over all these years I've seen and used lots of different tools. Now with Solarwinds, everything is much easier to use and setup. I use Solarwinds in my team and we use it to monitor the devices we manage. Other teams use different tools. Some team however are now utilising some of the Solarwinds functions to make their life easier. At the end of the day though, I make sure that my team is alerting and notified of everything that we need to be interested in.

                                            • Re: The Path to Success
                                              jmariano

                                              omg...those problems are being encountered here as of now. there's a lot of tools/system which are under utilized and we are not able to use it as we don't have enough knowledge/training to the said tools. also, the tools are not properly assigned to the hand-holders. we are really overwhelmed.