Thorny IT management challenges and solutions

The usage of information technology and infrastructure has been an extremely critical component for various organizations and governments in supporting the mission and vision of protecting people and assets. While technology has helped in managing the risk of COVID to a great extent enabling social distancing they also bring in new challenges as well as increase the complexity of existing challenges. While there are umpteen challenges faced by IT management on a day to day basis.  The solution to them revolves around having the right people, the right process, adequate budget, and security inbuilt into each of the processes to enable revenue and drive profits. We shall discuss the challenges and some of the solutions revolving around the four important pillars viz budget, skill gaps, agility, and cybersecurity.

Poor Budget Allocation: A lack of budget and resources is one of the key challenges facing IT decision-makers and staff. The budget has always been one of the major roadblocks impeding professional training, hiring and retention of quality human resource personnel as well as technical resources such end to end VPN, High-end firewalls, switches, etc. that could play a major role in ensuring smooth flow of work and minimizing help desk calls. With economic activity down in most parts of the world, the solution would be to maximize benefits in a constrained budget.

There are a number of ways to maximize a constrained budget. For training-related purposes look for discounts on programs or group discounts offered by training providers to organizations. Invest in associations like PMP (Project Management Institute), CFE (Fraud Examiners Global), ISACA (Information security association), etc. One subscription would do, circulate manuals of these associations to all members to ensure dissemination of knowledge.

Build a process that shall ensure people who download useful materials or articles from the Web document the key takeaways of those articles into a knowledge base. These knowledgebase articles can later be approved by SME (Subject Matter Experts), providing SME with approval gives a sense of importance to SME that can help in the retention of key personnel. Reward personnel optimally build the maximum knowledge-based in a year.

With a plethora of useful resources available on the internet look for free videos on YouTube on technical as well as management-related disciplines, have them vetted by identified Subject matter experts and upload them on the organization website and ensure members complete all of their allocated training.

For maximizing benefits on technical resources, IT management can look forward to the cloud and increase capacity or decrease capacity-on-demand that shall help save TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) and also ensure better ROI (Return on Investment).

Skill Gaps: One of the thorniest issues facing organizations worldwide. Based on a specific survey [2] in India, executives in India feel only 63 percent of the workforce is able to adapt to new ways of working. The positive side is 82 percent are willing to learn them. To bridge skill gaps the management in conjunction with the business leaders and HR must first build a skill competency matrix and address those gaps through training programs internally or externally through various methods such as online webinars, external specialists, etc. Alternatively, management can ask employees to get trained on required skills outside of the organization and bear the cost after they feel that they have achieved a certain level of expertise. This ensures accountability and better-skilled personnel. The organization can also conduct in-house training programs through Subject Matter experts periodically and review the progress of staff members for efficiency and adequacy. It must be made mandatory to review all training programs periodically every 3 months for relevance and adequacy.

Lack of agility: To survive in an increasingly competitive environment, build sustainable products, and provide better services to customer’s organizations need to be agile, however, the majority of the organizations are weak or flawed in their approach. Organizations that aim to incorporate agile methods mostly end up in a hybrid model that incorporates agile as well as waterfall practices in the short worst of both worlds. Usually, an agile model extends beyond the organization IT department to other wings of the organization including HR, Finance, Marketing, and Legal to name a few. However, most of the organization are doing this in a siloed approach. To address this issue, it is therefore suggested to build a PMO (project management Office) involving multiple stakeholders who understand the business. Such a setup could help the organization respond to business challenges faster, reduce fire drills, increase customer satisfaction, and generate better revenues.

Cyber Security: Probably one of the major nightmares of every IT management that could derail any of the initiatives put forth by the organization and create potential damage in revenues and profits. With cybercrimes growing at a never before astonishing and innovative rate propelled by a huge shortage of cyber skills, 76% as per SC magazine [1] it is essential that cybersecurity is managed effectively. Also, cybersecurity is taught in a siloed approach, which must not be the case. To address the growing challenges of cybersecurity

Train and retrain all resources on various aspects of security such as network layer, application layer, and even people layer. If on a constrained budget use method outlined above in allocation of budget. To build better security the organization can also host bug bounty programs that could bring in the missing expertise where potential business damaging bugs can be avoided. Remember there are bug bounties providing millions while certain others provide T-Shirts.

In a post-COVID scenario, data security has become more important wherein data loss has become even more vulnerable with family members around. To minimize the impact of data loss, ensure employees connect to the organization network only through the organization provided (Desktop/Laptop) patched regularly through an End to End VPN enabled with MAC address filtering. Also, ensure the employee is liable for intentional as well as non-intentional disclosure of confidential data access to which will be provided only on a needs-based approach through enforceable contracts and access management.

Conclusion: As the saying goes culture eats strategy for breakfast, the new norm Is culture eats everything and could leave you hungry. While there are umpteen other challenges such as digital disruption, cloud computing, new models of business, etc., without the right people, process, budgets, and security inbuilt into them everything else would go flat which is what I have tried to address. For more innovative solutions and challenges, you can reach out to me mentioned on my profile below.

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By Vinoth Sivasubramanian
Principal Consultant
Chennai, India

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