Using RMM Technology to Align IT Strategies with Business Priorities

You've heard the pitch…an IT department can dramatically improve its perceived value to the enterprise by directly supporting and aligning its strategies with top business priorities…and here are the facts. This article is the second in a two-part series dedicated to helping IT organizations in small-to-medium businesses (SMBs) and midmarket enterprises accomplish just that and more with the use of emerging tools such as remote monitoring and management (RMM) technology.

The first article in this series addressed ways that IT can support business process improvement and reducing enterprise costs. This second article takes a close look at how aligning IT with business priorities and using business analytics to make data-driven decisions will help improve the overall effectiveness of an organization, improve workforce effectiveness and attract and maintain loyal customers.



Increasing the Use of Analytics

Analytics are the key to data-driven decision making. Having the ability to capture, analyze, and report on the performance of the network infrastructure is how IT can directly support this business priority and in so doing, implement a strategy for adding value and demonstrating return on investment (ROI) to senior management.

Delivering on this strategy means IT professionals need fingertip access to performance data on a wide range of network and operational issues. Examples of reports that deliver this type of critical information include:

  • Application availability - an overall assessment of service availability by device
  • Asset discovery - automatically provides a summary of discovered assets on a network
  • Capacity planning - identifies devices approaching utilization limits
  • Downtime cost impact report - demonstrates the costs associated with a service downtime for a given period
  • Incident report - a list of all incidents and escalations and acknowledgements in addition to resolution time information
  • License compliance - a list of all licensed software packages monitored by the license compliance service within the enterprise, the quantity of each that is installed, and the number of defined licenses
  • Patch level management report - provides a patch level analysis by status or type for selected devices
  • Security incident summary - a summary of all security-related events detected

These and many other types of reports not only provide crucial data to support decision making, they make it easier for IT to audit and track assets that require hardware and software upgrades - and ultimately they boost management confidence in the IT department.

C-Level Reporting

Tough economies put all senior resources - the vice president (VP) of Finance, VP of human resources, the chief technology officer (CTO) and others - under pressure to demonstrate the ROI of their team or business unit to the enterprise's profitability. Increasingly, these stakeholders need and expect their IT leaders to give them customized reports on key areas of the network that directly impact their productivity, often using real-time data. For example:

  • VPs of Sales or Marketing may want to know if the Customer Relationship Management System (CRM) has been up and running without interruption.
  • Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) may want to know about capacity planning and what the projected expenditures are for the next year.
  • CTOs will want to know about trending, such as firewall incidents, audit and security information.

Easy-to-read, scorecard style executive summaries that deliver this type of customized information allows IT to help senior executives better understand IT performance data. For the SMB or midsize business, these reports are also invaluable for making more informed capacity planning decisions. In good economic times and bad, the IT department will increasingly need lightning-speed access to performance reports with hard data to substantiate the status of the infrastructure, demonstrate their IT value, and get sign-off on future IT budget requests. More than anything, performance reports give IT visibility into the entire infrastructure, enabling them to become true business managers rather than technicians.

Improving Workforce Effectiveness

IT can play a significant and strategically important supporting role in enhancing employee productivity by:

  • Improving IT services to all users, including remote users in branch offices and in particular mobile/roaming users
  • Ensuring highly secure, always available, 24/7 Internet-speed business services for all applications, desktops, servers, switches, routers and printers
  • Maximizing the availability and performance of your critical business applications by ensuring your IT infrastructure is secure, available and optimized
  • Providing remote, mobile and telecommuting employees with the same service levels as local users

An Internet-based tool, such as a RMM platform, with a single console that provides centralized remote control and remote monitoring is optimal for delivering this type of IT value, particularly to small satellite and branch offices, as well as corporations that rely on a mobile workforce. This type of approach enables IT to reduce or eliminate the time it spends "in the field" while speeding-up and improving service delivery. Without remote access to device in the field, IT is handicapped in its ability to implement corrective strategies to secure, safeguard, troubleshoot and effect corrective action.

Integrated desktop management is also of critical importance to enterprise workforce effectiveness. Attending to desktop issues is a huge sinkhole for most IT departments, gobbling up as much as 75 percent of their help technicians' time. Top nuisance problems typically reported by midmarket IT departments include:

  • Resetting passwords, VPN remote connection problems, laptop boot problem, slow running PCs, desktop icons don't appear, email complaints, weird backgrounds, low virtual memory, the taskbar has disappeared, and many other desktop related problems.

This list barely scratches the surface of issues and complaints that keep IT resources working around the clock. A strong desktop management strategy will enable IT departments to eliminate many of these problems and maximize technician utilization rates while simultaneously improving workforce productivity and realizing the true value of IT-as-a-Service.

The five critical requirements of an integrated desktop management solution are patch management, endpoint security, asset management, remote control, and monitoring. When these features are managed from a single comprehensive console, IT is empowered with the ability to:

  • Remotely monitor the entire network and all devices - to deliver higher levels of proactive service
  • Provide endpoint security with anti-virus, anti-spam, anti-malware, personal firewall and host intrusion prevention - for desktops, and other devices such as laptops and servers
  • Automate a number of desktop related activities including cache clean-up and the distribution of software, upgrades, and patches

A Web-based integrated desktop management strategy with remote monitoring and control effectively frees up IT resources to manage hundreds of devices from any location in the world - home, the airport, a satellite office, or wherever you need to go. This not only improves technician utilization rates but also enables IT to provide superior service levels and resolve problems to ensure optimal workforce productivity.

Attractive and Retaining Customers

While IT typically does not interact directly with end customers, it plays a crucial role by optimizing the enterprise infrastructure for optimal responsiveness, reliability, and service delivery. In this way, an IT department directly supports client acquisition and retention by ensuring highly secure, always available, 24/7 Internet-speed business services for all applications, desktops, servers, switches, routers and printers. These are the indispensable tools and services that the entire enterprise counts on to be agile, efficient, and ultimately highly competitive in all client-facing engagements.

Problems occur when IT department are forced into a reactive, "break-fix" mode of service delivery. When this happens, technicians are deployed unpredictably in a knee-jerk reaction to resolve unanticipated problems. While it is hard to quantify downtime, at minimum it means lost employee productivity. In worst-case scenarios, downtime translates directly into reduced service levels to customers - and lost revenue from sales.

The IT strategy for maximizing enterprise agility - and ensuring an optimal infrastructure for acquiring and retaining customers should include the following:

Single view of the enterprise network

  • Having a 24 x 7 pulse on critical network devices
  • Ability to see things fail before the rest of the company does
  • Full visibility and responsibility for the network

Efficient management of distributed architectures

  • The ability to remotely support multiple office locations
  • Access to critical network devices

Leveraging IT automation to become proactive

  • Being strategic and proactive vs. fighting fires
  • Automating mundane, labor-intensive tasks
  • Effectively managing and controlling both the desktop and infrastructure

Providing transparency to management

  • Showing strategic value to C-level management for the IT work being done
  • Adding value to their role
  • Improving technician utilization rates to do more with less

In a 24/7 world, employees and customers have virtually "zero tolerance" for device or application problems, service interruptions, or system failures. By implementing an IT strategy that ensures secure, highly available systems and support, IT goes a long way to helping the enterprise attract and retain customers - and thrive in an ultra competitive economy.

Conclusion

This article has introduced a number of proven IT tactics and strategies for supporting top business priorities and delivering optimal IT value to SMBs and midsize enterprises. Today, more and more IT leaders are finding that the most effective way for delivering this value requires an integrated approach that gives the IT manager complete visibility into all enterprise assets. The approach needs to equip IT with the ability to monitor, manage, report on and control assets in a cohesive way that brings transparency to the organization and superior utilization of all devices across the infrastructure.

All of these requirements can be directly supported by technology available in today's advanced RMM platforms. A RMM platform is designed specifically to automate routine IT services while giving IT professionals the ability to monitor and manage devices, and fix issues on desktops and servers - all done remotely and easily from a central location.

About the Author

Frank Colletti is director of sales for N-able Technologies, where he drives global sales efforts for the company’s remote monitoring and management (RMM) solutions and services for managed service providers (MSPs) and IT departments.

More by Frank Colletti