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Biggest Fears of the Modern IT Manager By @TMcAlpinxm | @CloudExpo [#Cloud]

What keeps an IT manager up at night? Ghosts, goblins and ghouls?

Four Biggest Fears of the Modern IT Manager

What keeps an IT manager up at night? Ghosts, goblins and ghouls? Guess again. It takes more than a few measly monsters to cause a lack of sleep in today's IT department.

IT used to exist primarily to monitor and maintain systems, protect against data breaches and malware attacks, and repair or replace computers. However, with more automation in today's always-connected business, IT has assumed an even larger role, graduating from mere maintenance and monitoring to driving and managing numerous mission-critical processes that support core business operations. As a result, a bigger role brings bigger fears. Here is a list of the modern IT manager's biggest fears:

1. Alert Fatigue
When a major retailer suffered a data breach recently, more than one IT employee on the front lines saw alerts but nobody acted. Why? Large IT organizations can receive up to 150,000 alerts per day from their monitoring systems. How are IT employees supposed to sort through them all to pick out the one or two legitimate threats? It's simple - they can't.

So many alerts come in (many of them routine notifications) that alert fatigue sets in and IT often ignores or deletes them - even those bringing attention to a critical disruption. While malicious attacks grab headlines, a 2014 study conducted by the Ponemon Institute and sponsored by IBM revealed that 59 percent of data breaches globally are caused by either human error or a system glitch.

As this is clearly a major issue in today's modern enterprise, IT teams can address and remedy alert fatigue with the following eight tips:

  • Plan: Have a communications action plan and set processes in place with targeted alerts for a variety of scenarios so you're always prepared.
  • Automate: Build steps into your plan to save time and ensure consistent service.
  • Be Proactive: Keep stakeholders abreast of even routine updates to keep them at ease and free your techs from inbound inquiries.
  • Target: Target your communications and alerts by matching the incident to the right people and devices. According to a recent Dimensional Research survey, businesses are usually already disrupted by the time the IT team identifies the right person to resolve a major incident.
  • Be Mobile: Enable message recipients to choose their preferred devices, from smart phones and tablets to pagers and fax machines. A new IDC report shows that traditional telephony vendors are losing ground to cloud communication companies due to both cost and effectiveness.
  • Close the Loop: Require acknowledgement before considering communication received.
  • Measure: Measure important metrics such as mean time to acknowledge, dispatch, and resolve so you can adjust your alert plans as necessary.
  • Prepare: Be ready for a future that includes more connected devices, wearable technology and attacks.

In today's mobile-first world, most businesses now allow their employees to bring their own mobile devices (BYOD) to work.

The good news is that employees who bring their own devices are happy and productive. In fact, a study by a leading technology trade publication indicates that employees who use their own devices work an extra two hours and send 20 additional emails every day, and one-third of BYOD employees check work email before the workday between 6 am-7 am.

The downside is that IT departments can't ensure that employee devices are on the same platform versions, are using only approved apps and are visiting solely approved websites. Mobile phones are no longer immune from malware, and if the mobile landscape is unknown, the IT department will have a difficult time maintaining a safe environment.

Trust employees to use good judgment, but inform them of best practices and be vigilant about alerts.

3. Job Changes
Business continuity and disaster recovery situations used to revolve around whether the building would still be standing after a storm or a fire. Today, the building is just where the data happens to reside - the data is what really matters.

Major issues like data breaches or malware attacks can threaten the future of a business. For large global enterprises, the challenges can be enormous. Business continuity situations require issue resolution and communication, combined with the pressures of speed. Time, after all, is money, and downtime is extremely expensive, not to mention detrimental to the business. So pressure is squarely on IT to be prepared when critical incidents cause alerts and notifications. Gathering disparate information sources, assessing the causes and communicating with departments around the world requires technology, flexibility and strategy.

Conditions can change frequently, so be organized and prepared. If front-line service representatives are calm, the company will likely also stay calm, and eliminating panic could be the difference between disaster and recovery.

Processes have to be agile as well just to deal with business change. Re-organizations happen all the time, and employees will have to learn new skills and work with new people. Make sure they can.

4. Machine to Machine (M2M)
The widespread web of connected machines continues to be spun, and our always-on, always-connected world continues to grow. Unfortunately for businesses, this means that something as small as an operational glitch has the ability to potentially bring an extended enterprise to its knees.

As a result, it's important that machines are not separate from the IT department, as IT teams should have intimate knowledge of all the connected devices, and the ability to quickly produce a resolution to rectify a critical IT disruption.

As the role of IT continues to grow, modern IT managers now not only have to contend with routine service tickets but are also expected to contribute to business-critical decisions and operations, bringing on the above challenges and many more. However, having the proper communications plan, precautions and technologies in place early on, and working with other strategic partners and business units will help manage the burden and reduce the stress of the added responsibilities this new and exciting role brings.

More Stories By Troy McAlpin

Troy McAlpin brings more than 20 years of experience to his leadership role at xMatters, with expertise in process automation, strategic initiatives and corporate strategy. His domain experience includes IT strategy and vertical market expertise including technology, banking, consumer and retail industries. Prior to founding xMatters, formerly AlarmPoint Systems, he managed marketing, sales, development, M&A and financial aspects at two successful start-up companies and also worked at AT&T Solutions and Andersen.

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