PrintIt’s a fact of the IT life that technology has a finite lifespan and it’s tough to manage change in technology. Procuring new software and hardware is only half the battle. The other half falls under what happens next and runs the gamut from integration to accessibility to security. This part gets tricky.

Need help? Here are 7 of the most common challenges you’ll face when you manage change during a technology transition, and how to deal with them.

1) Cultural Pushback

IT pros think about the nuts and bolts of new technology implementation from beginning to end, including how to manage . Front-line workers care how a new CRM or analytics tool is going to affect their daily job. IT teams need to communicate why a switchover is happening, the business benefits behind it, and what great things it means to the user. Your best bet is to get them prepared, over-communicate and stay on schedule. Make sure employees and executives alike have had every opportunity to learn what to expect when the transition goes live.

2) Handling Hype

When you manage change in technology you need to manage any hype attached to it. Look at artificial intelligence (AI) solutions. Given their cultural appeal, many users have extremely high expectations and are often disappointed at the end results.  And with respect to the current direction of AI development, according to Hackaday, it’s unlikely that devices will ever live up to expectations. Instead, a “new definition of intelligence” may be required.

In another example, consider the benefits and drawbacks of implementing a new OS such as Windows 10. Some users may want to upgrade to a new OS right away, but we know that an OS switch requires a plethora of testing, such as testing application compatibility and that some of the most important updates for a new OS take at least few months to release.

So what does this mean for IT pros during a tech transition? It means being clear about exactly what new tech will (and won’t) deliver, and communicating this to everyone.

3) Failure Can Happen

Things don’t always go as planned. In some cases new technology can actually make things worse. A recent article from The Independent notes that particulate filters introduced to curb NO2 emissions from vehicles actually had the opposite effect. The same goes for IT. If you are working on a new implementation that is unproven or risky, start small and consider it an A/B test outside the DMZ instead of a big bomb you have to somehow justify blowing up.

4) Risky ROI

While companies love to talk about ROI and technology going hand-in-hand, software-driven revenue is “mostly fiction,” according to Information Week. Bottom line? The more a solution costs to build or buy, the more you’ll need to invest in organizational redesign and retraining. In other words, technology does not operate in a vacuum.

5) Prepare for People

What happens when technology doesn’t work as intended? Employees and executives will come looking for answers. The fastest way to lose their confidence is by clamming up and refusing to talk about what happened or what’s coming next. It may not be worth breaking down the granular backend for them. Being prepared with a high-level explanation and potential timeline for restoration goes a long way toward instilling patience.

6) Lost in Translation

It’s easy for even simple messages to get garbled on their way up the management chain. Before, during and after the implementation of new technology, clarity is your watchword. Short, basic responses in everyday language to tech-oriented questions have the lowest chance of changing form from one ear to the next. You also don’t need to tell all the details. Just tell your users what they need to know. Providing too much information can be harmful and lead to confusion even if they think they understand.

7) It’s Not Fair

Guess what? Even when things are beyond your control, you’re still shouldering the blame. And because new technology implementation never goes exactly as planned, it’s good to have a backup plan. Say you’re rolling out IPv6 support for your website but things aren’t going well; you need an IPv4 reserve in your back pocket to ensure file transfers and page-load times don’t increase your bounce rate or tick off internal staff.

Unfortunately, “it’s not my fault” doesn’t apply in IT, as often as you feel you can say so. On the hook for managing change in technology? Chances are you’ll face at least one in this difficult dozen on the road to effective implementation.

Whereas negative conflict feeds power struggles and individual preference, healthy conflict improves IT communication and builds trust and respect across the department. You can’t make all conflict disappear, but you can learn to use disagreements to make the helpdesk better.

1. ‘No, This Is Our Top Priority’

Between development, network, systems, security and support, IT’s sub-departments always put you in cross-purposes. DevOps wants the flexibility to write and collaborate from anywhere, while security officers want a locked-down dev environment that often restricts this freedom.

What to do: Your priority depends on the situation, and you can’t draw permanent lines in the sand. A workplace social network, whether via a company wiki or from an app like Kona, keeps IT communication fluid, enabling real-time communication about priority changes and project status updates. An added benefit of an internal social network is that it allows for streamlined communication for remote members of your IT team as well.

2.You’re Not the Boss of Me’

As observed by Dr. Jim Anderson, founding blogger of “The Accidental Successful CIO” and VP of product management at GSL Solutions, many IT department conflicts revolve around who gets to tell whom what to do. “The first signs of a problem showed up when I started to be copied on a series of emails exchanged between these two,” he says, describing a turf battle between two of his employees. “The fact that I had been CCed should have been my first clue that all was not good.”

What to do: Keep an eye out for passive-aggressive messaging, like pointed emails or verbal barbs that indicate employees are getting territorial. Catch conflicts early, sit down with feuding team members and clarify who owns which tasks and processes.

3. ‘I Don’t Want to Be on the Slow Team’

Teams of sysadmins operate on two speeds, especially when it comes to software development. The “fast” team, made up of rock stars, is in charge of fast product delivery and experimentation, while the “slow” team monitors bandwidth and other daily maintenance goals.

As CEB’s U.S. IT managing director Jaime Capella points out, no one wants to be on the slow team. “You create the fast team, give it a cool name [and] put it in new offices,” he explained in a masterclass. “They are glamorous [in that] they get a lot of accolades from senior management. And then we hit the valley of despair.”

What to do: Instead of two-speed IT, facilitate an adaptive approach by which the whole organization comes together around high-priority tasks like infosec. If you do use two-speed teams, suggest rotating personnel so each employee has a stake in both. Although dualism is convenient and simple to understand (especially for those outside of IT), every IT team will have to adjust pacing accordingly due to changing priorities .

4. ‘I Do One Thing, S/he Does Everything’

Some IT staff stick only to the parameters of their jobs. Others help anyone who asks them, working as universal resources for the department at large. But keep in mind the focused worker isn’t always selfish or lazy and the do-everything admin isn’t necessarily disorganized or off-task.

What to do: If someone is being pulled in a million directions, consider if the rest of the team needs to help more or whether they legitimately need that someone’s help. The focused worker can step up and the everywhere worker can step back, but ultimately the CTO might just need to bring in a new body to fill in the gaps.

5. ‘That’s Not How We Do Things Here’

Mergers that combine two IT teams come with their own IT communication challenges. The two teams clash over their separate sets of norms and people worry their jobs are in danger.

What to do: Bringing in a consultant often eliminates bias during restructuring, and makes for smoother integration so people know where they stand. Whatever you do, help define the culture before you begin integrating systems. In the instance of combining two IT teams, get everyone together for team building activities.  For example, a day out of the office for bowling and drinks can spark friendships and get new teammates building trust with one another.

6. ‘Can You Believe That Guy?’

Some people nod agreement in meetings but start complaining to others the moment you walk away. Don’t try to prevent these people from voicing their opinions. Instead, incorporate disagreements into your routine.

What to do: A management philosophy called Holacracy, founded by agile development veteran Brian Robertson, advises setting aside meeting time to address disagreements or “tensions.” Focus on the operational aspects, not on the interpersonal conflict, and never let unspoken tensions fester behind the scenes.

7. ‘I Didn’t Do It’

Some sysadmins don’t see how they’ve made mistakes because the (often necessary) literal thinking suggests they did exactly what was asked. Others feel defensive because they believe making mistakes means losing hard-earned status and respect among their IT peers.

What to do: Good IT communication encourages people to make the right mistakes. Creative accidents in pursuit of a larger objective are the building blocks of innovation. What about a hackathon to give people the chance to experiment? Celebrate initiative and independent thinking, and support will only become more intuitive.

8. ‘Back in My Day…’

C-suite execs can be reluctant to embrace change. Your job is to tell the difference between old-world stubbornness and skills gaps that do require attention.

What to do: Direct employees toward training opportunities, and budget for ongoing training. It’s easier (and cheaper) to improve a current employee’s skills than to hire a new one.

IT is a highly technical, left-brained place, but have fun together now and then. Whether it’s at a monthly happy hour or a quarterly party, a little revelry breaks down many interpersonal silos. Consider this Florida-based IT department’s staff Christmas party:

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Our services team recently assisted a casino with their WhatsUp Gold install. The casino outsourced network management to a third-party consultant, whom we called to get the credentials for their core router. He told us he would “call us back”.

 

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Three weeks passed. No return call from the consultant.

Enter WhatsConfigured. A quick analysis revealed a back door through the casino’s firewall and core router, exposing sensitive data assets. Back of the house compromised.

Third parties, disgruntled employees – or just simple human error – it’s critical to ensure your network is properly configured. Find out if your network security is tight – run WhatsConfigured on your network free for 30 days.

WhatsConfigured provides businesses with security and control over critical infrastructure & configuration data:

  • Archiving authorized configurations
  • Scheduling regular configuration audits
  • Alerting when configurations have been changes
  • Comparing running configurations to authorized configurations

Learn how to uncover common IT vulnerability – run a free scan of your own network to see if you’re secure.

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By Matt Cline, Senior Systems Administrator at Optim Healthcare, a network of hospitals and orthopedic medical practices based in Savannah, Georgia.

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The ultimate goal for our business – IT included – is to deliver the best care and experience for every patient and community we serve.  And this all depends on two key IT resources:

  1. The electronic health record (EHR) system that our 1,400 internal users access to track and update patient records. When this system is unavailable, the staff must revert back to paper records and update the EHR system later. If that happens, patient information could get lost in transition.
  2. Our website and patient portals are also a critical component of our success – much like any company’s websites. Current and prospective patients expect 24/7 access to our portals, whether they want to pay a bill or research our services, and it’s our job to ensure that need is met.

The quicker we can diagnose an application performance monitoring problem – before it impacts our staff or patients – the better.

I use WhatsUp Gold Application Performance Monitor from Ipswitch. In this post I will cover some highlights from the first phase of its implementation. At that time I created and then began using profiles for:

We first tested the Ipswitch IIS profile on a production server and immediately discovered the unknown: 3-4 major deficiencies were the root causes of slowdowns in our database. We found a similar problem in our Microsoft SQL server.  If we hadn’t run the test, we wouldn’t have found these deficiencies issues until a significant slowdown or, even worse, downtime.

The unified dashboard is the best interface I’ve used for these types of tasks. I get a single view at a highly granular level and am getting the data I need to proactively fix problems and eliminate downtime.

I’d be glad to hear about your experiences managing application performance. Feel free to post a comment.

If you think that public sector organizations can’t be leaders when it comes to IT management, think again.

At Ipswitch’s Network Management Division, we work with government IT teams at the federal, state and local levels every day, and get to see just how innovative they really are. It’s one of the public sector’s best-kept secrets.

Thankfully, government IT departments are finally getting the recognition they deserve. Matt Asay, blogger at ReadWrite (they dropped the Web last year) wrote a great piece last month, listing several examples of innovation in government IT. The Wall Street Journal has also profiled the steps Chicago is taking to filter previously fragment information into new analytics software that policymakers can use in the city’s infrastructure planning process:

The system will allow policymakers to analyze disparate pieces of information from across agencies, including crime statistics, building and business permits, and transcripts from resident complaints, Chicago’s chief data officer, Brett Goldstein, told CIO Journal. Goldstein hopes the system, which will be available to all agencies, will help officials parse out patterns for violent crime and allow public workers to provide better services by understanding how different factors affect city life.

Chicago’s team is also doing this with little funding, as the city works to close a $300 million budget deficit. Talk about doing more with less…

If you’re working in public sector organizations, we’d love to hear about the new projects your team is working on – and whether or not you’re getting the credit you deserve.

For IT folks in the private sector, we hope this starts to change your perspective on your government counterparts.

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The Early Days of BYOD

Happy 40th Anniversary Mobile Phone!!

How many of you are old enough to remember the first mobile phone, introduced 40 years ago today? If you aren’t, here is a picture of the first commercial handheld cellular phone that Motorola introduced in 1983, The DynaTAC 8000X. A beauty – and only the coolest of us owned one. It weighed 29oz, or almost 800g  and offered 30 minutes’ talk time and 8 hours’ standby. It also had an LED display for dialing and a 30-number recall. Yours for just $3,995 – equivalent to $9,300 in 2013.

We have come a long way! Today, employees use multiple wireless devices – alternating between smartphones, notebooks and tablets. As wireless becomes an organization’s primary user network, IT needs to deliver the availability and same performance their users expect from a wired network. BYOD complicates this by increasing network density, bandwidth consumption and security risks.

WhatsUp Gold includes the first-ever vendor neutral wireless monitoring solution – a single solution to let IT demonstrate compliance, investigate problems, and validate wireless network design. So it’s important for the Ipswitch team to say: Happy 40th Anniversary Mobile Phone and thanks for the memories!

The answer to BYOD security concerns rests in user awareness. Could it really be that simple?

Traditional security measures – such as firewalls, secure access points, passwords and remote device wipe – will always be essential to deflecting BYOD security threats. However, user awareness “might be the most important non-hardware, non-software solution available,” according to Ken Hess of ZDNet.

BYOD Security
Image complements of RainKing

According to Hess’s assessment, “An informed user is a user who behaves more responsibly and takes fewer risks with valuable company data, including email. Not only does user education make the user aware of all the potential dangers of mobile computing, it also places a lot of the responsibility for corporate security onto the user. And that’s a good thing.”

Pointing out that user awareness is critical for BYOD management and security sounds obvious but most organizations underestimate its importance. No matter how many policies and security defenses IT implements, outsiders will eventually find a way to steal your business IP if naïve employees are careless with mobile devices. Consider the following questions:

  • Do your employees store and send sensitive data on their smart phones and tablets?
  • Are you confident that every corporate employee with a mobile device has acceptable remote-wipe and password protection?
  • Do all of your employees understand the risks associated with Wi-Fi hot spots and malware?

You may not have detailed answers, but unless your responses are a confident: No, Yes and Yes, you need to add regular user education to your BYOD security measures. To make this education effort successful, we recommend that you deliver straightforward, minimally technical, step-by-step information that shows users how to protect themselves and your company. Be sure to remind users that their personal information is also at risk.

Network Monitoring tools are a must-have for organizations of all sizes. When evaluating solutions focus is often placed on comparing features and ease of use, but understanding the total cost of ownership is very important. The core licensing structure, whether it is device-based, port- or interface-based, or measurement-based, can have a big impact on license costs up front and the administrative workload for maintaining the solution in production over the lifetime of the product.

Join Jim Frey, VP of Research, at Enterprise Management Associates and Brian M. Jacobs, Senior Product Manager, at Ipswitch – Network Management Division, as they discuss what you should know about licensing for network monitoring solutions.

This webinar will cover:

  • Understanding the Cost of Enterprise Network Monitoring Tools
  • Licensing Models – Similarities and Differences
  • Choosing a Licensing Strategy That is Best for You
  • An Example:  WhatsUp Gold Licensing Approach
  • Case Studies:  Device-based Licensing Experiences
  • Key Takeaways  and Q&A

Date and time:
Tuesday, April 2, 2013
10am US EST

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Now you can isolate issues and resolve network and application problems before users are even aware anything is wrong. The new, easy to-use WhatsUp Application Performance Monitor, lets you diagnose and fix complex application performance problems quickly from within a unified dashboard.

Application Performance Monitor Highlights:
• Proactively alert and automatically repair potential problems before applications fail—to ensure continuous up-time with limited IT resources.
• Quickly identify root causes of application performance problems— across network, server or multi-tier application or component dependencies.
• Gain the valuable insight necessary to improve application availability and performance – through real time and historical reporting and analysis.

Join Brian M. Jacobs, Senior Product Manager, on Tuesday, March 26th as he demonstrates how easy it is to discover, map and monitor your network and applications with the WhatsUp Gold suite. Register now!

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Ipswitch Network Management Division is proud to announce that our award winning IT management solution WhatsUp Gold v16 is now offering its web interface in German, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, Japanese, Simplified Chinese and Traditional Chinese, at no additional cost. Instructions to help you transition WhatsUp Gold from English to the language of your choice is available in Japanese, Chinese and Russian.

For more information and to download WhatsUp Gold v16 in your preferred language click here!

We are pleased to announce that WhatsUp Gold won Silver in the 2013 Redmond Reader’s Choice Awards Best of the Best for General Network Monitoring Tool.

“We are honored to receive this award from the Redmond community,” said Ennio Carboni, President and General Manager of Ipswitch’s Network Management Division. “We take pride in the fact that our network management tool, WhatsUp Gold, is an easy to use and cost-effective solution for organizations of all sizes and is viewed in the same class with enterprise solution providers.”

The winners of the General Network Monitoring Tool category are:

  • GOLD: Cisco Syslog Analyzer
  • SILVER: Ipswitch WhatsUp Gold
  • BRONZE: IBM Tivoli NetView

The awards appear in the February issue and online.

Click here to see all of our awards.