Friday, April 19, 2013

Reducing IT Costs: Save Money by Managing Change or Change Will Manage You and Your Company

Reducing IT Costs: The Five Pillars of Computer Dependability and Longevity that Save Your Company Money

Part Three: Managing Change

Remember the adage that the only thing in life that is constant is change itself.  That adage equally applies to the life of computer systems.  You company’s computer systems are not static.  They are under a constant barrage of change: new Windows updates, application updates, hardware additions, software installations, configuration changes, virus infections, and the list goes on and on.  In the previous Pillar “Variety is the Wrong Spice” I delineated the challenge of reigning in the complexity of hundreds of products and thousands of product configurations and all the unpredictable results of that multitude of combinations.  Now add change to that cacophony of infinite combinations and you have a potential recipe for disaster.  That is why managing change is so important to keeping IT costs under control and assuring system dependability.  

I want to emphasize that your business computer technician needs to “manage” change with YOUR full support.  Computer system changes should NOT be random or ad-hoc.  Employees should NOT be allowed to install software, add games, or change system settings on a willy-nilly basis.  If that is the case, then you have abdicated any semblance of control over your business systems.  It is possible that you have turned over your computer systems to your employees for them to use as their own personal entertainment centers.  And, if you have, then you’ve opened the door to software installations that may cause instability in your business line of applications, hardware additions that may not play nice with your business systems, and an increase incidents of virus infections.  This will increase your business IT costs that may escalate out of control. 
 Document all changes made.  The main reason for this is to assist in any troubleshooting of problems that may have been caused by the change.

So, YOU the business owner have the responsibility of taking back control of your business computers systems.  Stop treating those computers as discretionary gadgets used for entertainment.  Treat your business computers as production line equipment.  You’ve made a significant investment so protect and properly maintain that investment. 

First step is creating a company policy that prohibits employees to install software or make system changes.  That responsibility will fall to designated “system administrators”.  As far as the average employee, what you are doing is removing the responsibility of caring for the computer system and thereby the responsibility for when their computer crashes and all the consequences thereof.  You are allowing your employees to focus on their jobs. And, that is what you are really paying them for…right? 

By limiting the number of people who make any kind of change to your computer systems it is much easier to keep track of the changes that were made and thereby if any change may have caused problems in the system. 

Next step is to set up a systematic approach to making computer system changes by your designated “system administrators”.  

  • Schedule the changes on a regular day of the week, or otherwise communicate each time changes are made to the computer systems.  This way all employees can know that day of the week as “Change Friday” and if that employee notices some unintended consequences of the change that escaped testing they can let you know.  Otherwise, the employee may think it is some random happening.If you have standardized your systems, then you can test any new hardware or software on one system.  Then that one system can act like the “canary in the coal mine” before rolling out that change to all systems. 
  • If your computer systems are not standardized, then you will need to methodically roll-out changes in groups of computers rather than all at once.  
  • It is best to document your Change Management policy.  Even if that policy fits on one page.  That way everyone knows who is responsible for what and sets the appropriate expectations. Then make sure that policy is clearly communicated to everyone who uses the business computer systems.