Omnitracs' Road Ahead blog

The who, what, how, and why involved in IT operational excellence

Philip DeYoung
Philip DeYoung
IT Director

Today's the day your sports car-enthusiast heart is practically bursting from its seams. You have an appointment at the car dealership to pick up your dream sports car — a new raving-red automobile. You eagerly open the car door and sit inside, shocked by what you discover.

You: Is there a reason the dashboard is empty? Where are the speedometer, gas gauge, and warning lights? All I see is the steering wheel.

Salesperson: The car doesn't come with anything else.

You get back in and reach across the seat to find the glove compartment and look for the instruction manual, hoping this might be one of those new, self-driving cars where all the dashboard instrumentation wasn't necessary.

You: Where's the glove box? I want to read the manual.

Salesperson: There's no glove box or instruction manual. The engineers back in Detroit are still writing it.

You: How do I know when to change the oil? What about my maintenance needs? How do I know the car is operating correctly?

Salesperson: Oh, that's easy. Just drive it up to Detroit so that the designers of the car can check everything for you.

As outlandish as this scenario sounds, when designing, developing, and deploying new Information Technology (IT) systems in business operations, this metaphor aligns.  

You wouldn't want to buy a car without a speedometer or gas gauge, and your teams and customers wouldn't want to work with your business operation if it wasn’t equipped with all the metaphorical equipment a well-executed IT department requires. When you focus on the what, who, why, and how involved in designing a successful IT operation, you can leave your customers and teams with the whole package — not a car with missing parts.

What are the key events involved in operational support?

Depending on the size and needs of your business and the complexities of your systems, countless situations would require you and your teams to utilize IT.

Rather than identify all of them, we can place the top, IT-associated situations in three distinct buckets:

  • Human-triggered events

  • System-triggered events

  • Planned-triggered events

Human-triggered events are what we most associate with IT support. If a customer has an IT issue or question, they often pick up the phone, send an email, or start a chat online.

System-triggered events occur when the system notifies your teams of an issue. System monitoring and alerting need to be considered an integral part of any system, along with the processes, documentation, alert prioritization, and many other aspects of your operational setup.

The third and often least considered event trigger is the planned event. Human and system events can occur randomly, while planned events are calculated. Just as you put gas in your car or change the oil, our systems have operational aspects dependent on timing. This can look like a monthly server patching or planned daily reboots.

Who are the teams involved in support?

Next, it's vital to identify which teams will be responsible for each of the three primary IT event triggers.

At Omnitracs, we have multiple teams that are staffed to handle each main event trigger. These teams are considered first-touch teams. For human event responses, such as customer phone calls, our tech support team is there to offer external support.

We also have an internal IT team that responds to monitoring alerts 24/7, 365 days a year for system events and much of our planned events. They also handle the majority of the system patching in our environments and watch for security certification expirations.

As a car manufacturer must provide documentation and training to service centers working with customers, we must enable teams to provide quality support. So, to support our customers, we must assist the teams closest to our customers.

How are teams empowered to provide quality support?

When you call a business for IT help, you want the person on the other end of the line to be friendly and helpful. Your entire perception of the company may be based on the capability of the other person on the phone and how well they're able to resolve your issue. The majority of your customers think the same way.

If you took your car to a mechanic, you would want them to understand your vehicle's operational aspects thoroughly. So, you must empower your first-touch teams to provide that same level of support.

There are multiple ways to provide needed knowledge. It's imperative to contextualize understanding to one of the three main trigger events, since that is what your teams will be addressing. Your first-touch team should have the most subject matter knowledge of related first-touch events, just as your systems-focused team should have their unique understanding.

Why is support necessary?

When your gas gauge notifies you that you're low on gas, you know you have time to take care of it before the situation becomes more serious. When your check engine light comes on, however, it could be indicative of something more catastrophic. You'll want to address a check engine alert immediately because of the severe impact it could have on your car if you don't.

Your systems are the same way, and that's why support is so imperative. It enables your offerings, solutions, and all the moving parts of your operation to flow smoothly. Most importantly, a strong IT foundation enables your teams to quickly identify and get ahead of potentially serious issues ahead of time.

Not all system issues or incidents are created equal. At Omnitracs, we have processes and guidelines for each incident. High priority incidents require an all-hands-on-deck type of teamwork, where subject matter experts collaborate immediately to resolve the issue as quickly as possible. A lower priority issue still receives thorough care, but it's balanced with other equal-priority issues. To help define your levels of prioritization, you should create a priority matrix for your IT teams, providing them with clear direction as to which priorities coordinate with different IT event types.

When you understand the what, who, how, and why involved in your IT culture, you position your operation for lasting success.

For additional IT thought leadership, read this blog article to uncover how you can make IT a flowing force for innovation!