How to Effectively Manage IT Operations Using an Information Technology Service Management (ITSM) Platform

Azunna Anyanwu

Director of IT at Aronson LLC

Learning Objectives

Every organization needs systems to effectively run the business and perform their functions. In this presentation, you will identify the most critical IT system and how to use it to effectively manage IT operations. The end result will be IT operations that run smoothly.


Key Takeaways:



  • ITSM Platform enables IT organization to obtain actionable information to manage IT operations

  • ITSM Platform can be extended to the rest of the organization

  • ITSM Platform can be a key asset in developing or enhancing information security program


"For IT operations to run smoothly, it needs to be managed. It's as simple as that. "

Azunna Anyanwu

Director of IT at Aronson LLC

Transcript

Hello, my name is Azunna Anyanwu. I’m the Director of Information Technology for Aronson LLC. Aronson is a mid sized provider based in the Washington DC metropolitan area that provides audit, tax, and consulting services to many firms, different sizes and different types.


I will be talking today about systems. So, let me go ahead and share my screen so you can see what I’m going to be talking about how to effectively manage IT operations using systems. This subject is particularly relevant to me, as I’ve seen many IT departments, both the ones that I’ve been a part of as well as the ones that I advise, struggle with this issue over the years.


A little bit about me. Over 20 years experience in IT industry. My areas of expertise span IT strategy, IT operations, cybersecurity, business process enablement, you name it. I really do bring a diverse and unique set of skills to my role. I oversee in my role, as Director of IT, all of IT operations, all of cybersecurity, and all of digital business transformation activities for Aronson. Feel free to follow me on LinkedIn. My contact information is down there.


At a high level, just to kind of put this in simple terms, IT operations typically those are the purview of the Chief Information Officer. IT strategy and architecture, defining technology, vision, strategy, objectives, those are typically the purview of the Chief Technology Officer. And IT security, typically a purview of a Chief Information System Officer.


What I’m going to talk to you today about is systems, and how I’ve implemented these systems to effectively manage IT operations, and how you can implement these systems as well to help you in your business. Let’s face it, every organization needs systems to effectively manage your business operations. These systems can be manual, for example, paper based, these systems can be automated. In my terms, when I refer to systems, I’m referring both to applications—computer applications, SaaS applications, on premise applications. I’m also referring to the set of policies and procedures that are put in place to manage something so they could be more manual in nature.


So, what are some of the key systems within a business? There are some obvious ones within our organization. The HR organization or the HR department has a system to manage personnel records, the HRRs, some of the HRMS, there are HR information systems. The accounting system has a system—hopefully this is not manual or paper based—to manage the financial information, so the financial accounting system and your ERP. Even your business development teams typically will have some sort of CRM, Customer Relationship Management System, to track who the clients are, who they’re selling to, what opportunities they may be pursuing.


When I go into an organization for first time, I will pose the question and say, “So what is the most critical IT system?” Typically, I’m posing this into an IT Director or an IT Manager or some sort of IT staff and leadership. I’ll typically get answers such as, well, maybe it’s Active Directory. Active Directory because it contains all the records of your employees and contractors and everybody who has an account. I may get answers such as Infrastructure. Well, we wouldn’t be able to operate without our servers, or we wouldn’t be able to operate without our network.


I would actually argue that your most critical system should be the, or is, the IT Service Management Platform. This may not be true today, right? You may not have an IT Service Management Platform. You may be using the wrong one, you may not be using it effectively. But if you have the right one, and you’re using it properly, it can be a goldmine, and the key to having the proper information to effectively manage IT operations.


In a nutshell, what is ITSM? It’s actually a little bit more complicated definition on Wikipedia, but I’ll spare you the details. At a high level, ITSM identifies the activities required to manage the successful delivery of IT operations. Simple as that. It defines and identifies the activities required to manage the successful delivery of IT services. Why is this important? In my experience, for IT operations to run smoothly, it needs to be managed. That’s not just my experience, that’s what kind of industry standards tend to dictate.


What are some examples of quote unquote, manual ITSM? You’ve got a shared mailbox. Great start. You’ve moved from individual requests for support to some sort of shared mailbox. Maybe you’ve even gone, and also implemented, files and you have checklists or forms that are on your shared drives that people can kind of submit. Maybe it’s even on an intranet. Maybe it’s all paper. Maybe there’s literally a cabinet full of your policies and your procedures and your documentation, things of that nature. Tend not to see it as much of the IT staff, tend to see that with some of the other kind of function business functions. That’s kind of, obviously, the manual example.


On the automated side, you have some sort of integrated service management platform. I’ll go into more detail around some of what the capabilities are later in the presentation. I have my own preferences. I’ve been doing this long enough that I have go to organizations or go to systems that I’ve used effectively in different places, but I’m not here to advocate for anyone. Platform, based on my preferences, really, it’s important that your organization has one and the one that you have meets your needs.


So, what kind of questions can an ITSM platform help you address? What assets does the organization have? Where are those assets? Who has them? Who’s been assigned to them? What documentation do you have that or that document how your systems and applications are configured? If something were to break, would you know that there was a linkage between system A and system B rights and dependencies that you need to be aware of when you’re fixing that?


Audio recurring incidents that are support requests that kind of come in that might indicate maybe you have a larger problem that you might want to have some process to improve? What kind of contracts do you have within the organization? What subscriptions does an organization have? When they come available due to be renewed? Your processes, your checklists, your procedures, where are they located? Do you have evidence that the team is following them? This is particularly effective or particularly relevant when you start to embrace some of the cybersecurity standards that are out there. These just some of the types of information an ITSM platform can help you address.


At a high level, just want to share what some of the operations are that are enabled by an ITSM. Most IT providers or most IT departments will be very familiar with kind of the incident management. You track and categorize your support requests based on scope, based on responsibility. Maybe you can even elevate that into some sort of problem management. Track a bunch of incidents and try to figure out, there may be solutions to address some root cause.


The service catalog is one that’s particularly relevant. You can take your workflows, so you hire offboarding, computer replacement, whatever that workflow is for which you have some sort of checklists, and you can actually implement that in the system. Knowledge management is nice because it allows you to develop solutions to enable self service or smart suggestions for your support requests. Instead of people asking, How do I set my password or how do I reset my password, they have a portal that you can kind of go to where they can have access to that information readily. Then, contract management. This is actually one I find very valuable, because I need to know what those contract terms are. I need to plan ahead for renewals and cost and budget and things of that nature. So, again, at a high level, some of the different operations enabled by an ITSM platform.


Connecting the dots. When I start a new role or client project, I frequently find that the team has some sort of shared mailbox. That’s normally kind of the bare minimum. So they’ve figured out that there should be some help accounts, IT account, help IT, or to move up using some free or bare bones, quote, unquote, incident management system, to manage request for support for email. That’s great. That’s a great start.


However, I also discovered that a lot information that I need to assess the state of the environment, and they need, frankly, to manage the environment is scattered across various tools. As I mentioned, network share drives, intranet note taking tools, siloed applications, or in many cases, it actually doesn’t even exist. This makes it particularly difficult to manage IT operations effectively. You wonder why your systems are failing, you wonder why you’re having outages all the time, you wonder why IT can’t get it together. It’s the lack of an IT operational, IT Systems Management Process.


These arrows kind of represent linkages between a distinct elements within an ITSM. But the reality is that really, it’s more like a graph. There are many many correlation that can be captured within the elements or the entities of an ITSM platform that are relevant to manage an organization. The ITSM platform can also help the IT department obtain actionable information, and even export it for like detailed analysis or reporting.


For example, a vendor just released a vulnerability or released a critical path patch, which one of my systems are affected by this vulnerability. If you don’t have that list kind of pre defined or pre documented, it’s a little bit harder to determine, are you susceptible or not? How many licenses or a particular product might be deployed? This is particularly relevant for me when COVID hit, because now suddenly, we went from 10% of our population, or whatever the number was, remote to 100% remote. One of my first questions was, did we have enough VPN licenses to be able to support that? Another related question was, how much spare inventory that I have? Because now people who are typically working in the office and are gonna be working remotely, this wasn’t the time for me to go start manually counting sheep, if you will, that are out there.


Another question that ITSM platform can help is, how will a pending change on upgrade impact my environment? Do I understand what configurations needs to be updated? Do I understand what systems and users will be impacted?


At a high level, I kind of shared with you, if you have an Incident Management System, or you got a ticketing system, you got bare bones, that’s a great start. That’s better than a shared mailbox, but I would actually push you or recommend that you go further than that. I’d encourage you to not just generate tickets from email, but really maximize utility of an ITSM platform for effectively managing IT operations. An ITSM platform enables the organization to obtain actionable information to improve IT operations. It can actually be extended to the rest of organizations.


In my roles, I’ve been a big champion for the platform that we’ve kind of picked. Frankly, I’ve picked a platform that could serve the needs beyond just it, whether that’s facilities, HR, marketing, any other part of organization that typically deals with requests from the end users can find some value in the platform. Everybody’s got contracts that they need to manage. Everybody has incidents, or many of the of the operational functions have incidents that they need to kind of manage and track. I’ve extended those to the rest of the platform.


I’ve also found the ITSM platform to be a key asset as I develop and enhance security information security programs. Same thing as IT. You can’t have an effective cybersecurity program, if you don’t understand what assets you protecting, what risks are inherent in your environment, what vulnerabilities may be available within your infrastructure. I have found that I’ve been able to leverage the ITSM platforms that I’ve used to be able to answer these questions, and to be able to serve as a repository for some of the documentation that I need, even as I kind of build out that platform.


Quick reminder: For IT operations to run smoothly, it needs to be managed. It’s as simple as that. The reason why the IT operations are not running smoothly is because it’s not the manage. In order to manage it, you have to have some systems put in place. I would argue that where IT that system should be some sort of automated platform. At the very least, I would say that you want to have some standardization in terms of how you approach some of the activities.


A little bit about Aronson. As I mentioned, I’m the Director of IT for Aronson. I am responsible for both internal operations, as well as advising clients on IT operations, IT strategy, and IT security needs. Feel free to follow up with me directly. Feel free to follow me on LinkedIn. I’d be happy to share my insights on how I’ve successfully turned around multiple IT departments, and how I might be able to help your organization as well. Thank you.


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