Guest column: Stop managing all those stovepipes!

Jim Herman illustrates the difference between network and service management with an anecdote. Herman, vice president of Northeast Consulting Resources, was hired by a European company to examine its IT strategy. But, from the CEO down, all the executives of this manufacturing powerhouse wanted to discuss was how lousy the e-mail system was.

It certainly wasn't owing to a lack of resources, says Herman, who's chairing our Town Meeting on network management. The company had some 120 e-mail servers around the world, and each site had a qualified, battle-hardened operations person managing the server.

So why was e-mail everyone's biggest complaint? Because no one was responsible for managing e-mail as a service, as opposed to a collection of devices, links and software. No one understood how people were using e-mail and what they thought about the service they were getting.

The message is simple: adopt a service-level view of management. Don't just organise your resources around narrow disciplines such as managing NT, Unix, routers, internet connections, and so on - what's known as stovepipe management. Manage the quality of the critical services and applications people use.

This requires a couple of things. The first is more interaction with users. Service managers have to live in two worlds: they must understand end-user perceptions of, say, e-mail service, and work with the underlying technology that users aren't concerned with.

Second, realise that you are increasingly managing services supported by devices you don't own. Case in point: your executives no doubt rely on a few critical Web sites for competitive information and news. Are they happy with that service, and what can you do to improve it? This goes beyond looking at uptime on your ISP link.

Adopting a service management strategy can help you improve your department's standing in the company and get the resources you need to enhance infrastructure and applications.

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