As a citizen developer, trying to manage your IT assets can be tough. Keeping track of such things as programs, servers, policies and procedures requires discipline, organization, and best practices that those of us who were raised in the IT school of hard knocks had to learn along the way. Let’s take a few tips from the pros that have to do these sorts of tasks on a daily basis and see if we can find a few lessons to learn how to improve your game.
IT Asset Management Pitfalls to Avoid
- Know when to step out of a project and let the appropriate department take over. It is great when someone in IT has created a new project that has gained some usage and traction within the company, but it doesn’t mean that IT should control everything. And is also great when an end-user group has developed their own code. Either way, you need to know when to hold ‘em and when to show your cards to the right group of people who can continue the project and care for it. Look at some of the collaboration methods mentioned here for other suggestions.
- Involve the systems people in systems upgrades. Not every project is appropriate for the citizens to manage, especially when it comes to handling system-wide upgrades in infrastructure, network connectivity, or company-wide security policies. You may not know about or understand the implications of your actions.
- Document everything. This is something that is often ignored or postponed, even by the most well intentioned developers. It is a lot easier to write a quick bit of code than to slog through and document what this code does and how it fits into other programs and existing routines. Also, if you are going to take on a documentation task, don’t just consider it once but make sure you keep it current. Finally, it isn’t just a piece of code but other aspects that are just as important: corporate procedures, network configurations and policies are all important items that need continuous documentation. As networking consultant Bill Alderson says, "Just as the firefighters don’t engage a fire without the requisite background information, we must not tackle network problems without proper and accurate documentation."
- Don’t use a spreadsheet to document and manage the current state of your network. Speaking of documentation, look at what you are using to document your actual network infrastructure. Whether it is a list of IP addresses, a list of the various user rights or a collection of your assigned server names, chances are there is a better tool for doing this than your simple spreadsheet, such as Spiceworks and Solarwinds, among others mentioned by TechRepublic here.
- If you keep digital logs, have some process in place to review them regularly. Log files don’t do anyone any benefit if they rot away on a hard disk deep within your corporate data center. Someone needs to be examining them on a periodic basis (hopefully with the period greater than yearly) to check for anomalies or obvious or even non-obvious trends, and then be empowered to do something about what is found. Here is a recent Network World review of three such products.
- Know when to stop patching and start buying new gear. At some point, you aren’t saving anything by continuing to pay for maintenance or upgrading an aging system, and it is time to buy something new. Can I say Windows XP anyone? While it is great to be nostalgic about old tech, some of your gear belongs in the Computer Museum and not in an active corporate context. Certainly, having to find replacements for applications that have worked well for decades is a challenge (consider the IBM System/1 that is still running our nuclear arsenal), but you are better off looking at how you can be more effective and start planning on replacing this gear now.
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