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5 IT operations management best practices you need to know

ITOM staff play a vital role in IT platform performance, but limit human interaction and utilize tools and automation to keep everything running smoothly.

ITOM teams are an incredibly important part of an organization. The team's main goal is to keep an IT platform running at peak performance. If everything runs as it should, the organization shouldn't even notice the work an ITOM team performs. However, when things do go wrong, IT operations management teams need to have processes in place to quickly rectify a problem.

IT platforms need to be optimized, resilient, highly available and up to date on maintenance and updates to perform at their best. However, performing all these critical tasks with manual skills isn't the best approach. Despite their ability to find and handle easily identifiable problems, humans are still error-prone creatures. And when humans make mistakes, they can be costly.

Thankfully, there are IT operations management best practices that teams can turn to and limit the chances of a damaging problem in their IT platforms. Here are five best practices every team should follow.

Alignment with the business's priorities

IT is not a separate business department. IT is there is to ensure that the business can respond to the changing market and support its customers in the way they expect. Ensuring that all IT operations management activity is driven by the business's needs is a must.

IT operations management (ITOM) staff may want to pursue new technologies or more technically interesting work. However, the team manager should reel in these desires and ensure that the team is following best practices that align with the business's priorities.

For example, few organizations need services that are passed off as artificial intelligence now. Instead, tools and services with machine learning and data analytics are more likely to provide added value payback to the business. It is ITOM's responsibility to fight back when development teams try to introduce technology for technology's sake. However, ITOM staff need to be involved with upstream groups and decision-making to stay ahead of potential technology intrusions.

Automated system upgrades and patches

ITOM teams should never manually upgrade or patch a platform. There's a plethora of tools available to automate these tasks. Any organization that tries to manually update and manage its IT platform is asking for trouble.

Not only is the use of automated workflows less error prone, but it is also a faster and cheaper means of ensuring that a platform remains optimized and more secure.

IT help desk operation

Another ITOM best practice to follow is to allow the team to operate and maintain the organization's technical help desk. When combined with the use of continuous monitoring tools, it will provide early warnings when things go wrong on the IT platform and help identify where improvements can be made.

However, help desk operations should still be as automated as possible. For example, when users need to contact the help desk for the most common issues -- such as a forgotten password -- there should be an automated response to the query to avoid any time or cost associated with a human intervention.

The help desk will also need intelligent access to all prior issues that have been raised and solved to make it easier for future questions and answers. Although the desirable scenario involves automated issue resolution, users shouldn't need to jump through hoops to find a resolution. If a problem can't be resolved within a few mouse clicks, then bring the user through to a qualified help desk person who can apply human skills and solve the problem.

Continuous monitoring and remediation

IT platforms have become increasingly complex as virtualization and cloud have become more commonplace. The move to a more hybrid workforce has also enlarged the scope of the IT platform and introduced more attack surfaces for malicious actors. As such, ITOM staff must ensure that rigorous monitoring is in place, not only to ensure that any technical issues on the platform are caught as early as possible, but also to identify any potential malicious activity.

The use of security information and event management tools will quell this danger, along with other tools that identify issues such as DDoS and infiltration attacks. Teams can also perform deep packet inspections of incoming streams, email and web data to avoid the likes of phishing attacks and URL-based payloads.

Every device will also need antivirus software to provide some basic level of protection against hackers and malicious actors. With more employees working remotely and away from organizational safeguards, businesses should implement a zero-trust approach to security.

A codified and practiced emergency response system

Despite all the processes in place, ITOM staff must accept the fact that things will go wrong. It may be in the form of a security breach, a system failure or even a ransomware attack, but something can go wrong at any time. It's what happens after the incident that separates the good ITOM teams from the bad. If teams don't have sufficient plans in place, recovering from such issues can be a problematic, and potentially catastrophic event that an organization may not survive.

ITOM teams must have processes ready to kick in when issues occur. These plans must be tested regularly and updated as necessary to reflect changes in the technical world. Although introducing such issues into the live environment can result in pushback from other teams inside a business, ITOM should be able to hive off part of the overall platform as an air-locked environment where example issues such as complete power loss, malware intrusion or malicious actor attacks can run and test the team's response. After the scenario runs, teams should evaluate their plans, identify any shortcomings and update their procedures to remedy any issues that arose during the simulation.

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