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IT Managers Need a Vacation Too

By | August 4, 2015 in Service Desk

IT Managers Need Vacation

It’s summer time in the Northern hemisphere, and many of us are getting ready for our annual holidays. It’s really great to get away from work for a while, but some people don’t get much relaxation because they are constantly interrupted by emergency calls from work.  There are things you can do to make these calls less likely, and that’s just as important a part of holiday planning as booking the flights and the hotel. If you’re going away tomorrow then it’s probably too late to do these things now, but you could get started as soon as you get back, so that next year’s holiday will be more restful.

Share Some Knowledge

Think about the things that only you can do. What would be needed so that someone else can do them? Could you provide written instructions, or teach somebody else how to do it? If so, then share that knowledge. It will have benefits for you and your organization all year round, not just when you’re on holiday.

Automate Routine Tasks

One great way to reduce the impact of being away for a while is to automate some of the tasks you usually carry out. You should only automate things that are well understood, reasonably frequent, and fairly simple. If you don’t understand the task thoroughly then automation will go horribly wrong. If the task isn’t reasonably frequent, then the effort needed to automate it will be too high compared to the effort it saves. If the task isn’t simple, then it will be really hard to automate, and the automation is likely to miss out on some complex cases. Even if the task is fairly simple you should always see if you can simplify it even more, before you automate it. Many routine tasks have built up complexity over the years, but could be much simpler if we started the design again.

Like sharing knowledge, automation is something that can really pay off in terms of benefits every day of the year, not just during holiday season.

Pay Off Some Technical Debt

Technical debt is the effect of compromises that you made in the past. Like financial debt, it is not always a bad thing, but you should never have too much, or let it be outstanding for too long. Here are some examples of technical debt that need to be managed:

  • A new service was put into production even though it failed some operational tests, and backups don’t quite work properly. This is a perfectly reasonable thing to do, but you shouldn’t just forget about the issues afterwards. Investigate why the tests failed and fix the problem. That way you will avoid a disaster when you need the backups.
  • You upgraded the firmware on all your servers to fix a security vulnerability, but one server couldn’t be shut down that day because it was running a critical task. Don’t just leave that server indefinitely, plan the upgrade for a time when the server is available.
  • A disk failed in a RAID set. The data is all still available because the RAID set can operate with one disk missing. However, if you don’t get that disk repaired then eventually another disk might fail and then you will lose your data.

Every IT organization has some technical debt, but if you don’t actively manage it then it can get out of control and result in lots of incidents, problems, and urgent phone calls, probably just when you want to lie on the beach soaking up the sunshine.

Adopt Continual Service Improvement

If you have a culture of continual service improvement, then you’re probably already sharing knowledge, automating tasks, and paying off technical debt. If you don’t, then why not think about how you can start?

Continual service improvement doesn’t need to be a big, complex process with lots of documents and activities. It’s mainly about attitudes, culture, and behavior. You can start by simply noting down things that ought to be done, prioritizing them, and picking one or two off the list whenever you can. Over time you will find that things are looking much better, and next time you go on holiday you’ll really be able to relax.

Image credit

Stuart Rance

About Stuart Rance

Stuart is an ITSM and security consultant, working with clients all round the world. He is one of the authors of ITIL 4, as well as an author of ITIL Practitioner, ITIL Service Transition, and Resilia: Cyber Resilience Best Practice. He is also a trainer, teaching standard and custom courses in ITSM and information security management, and an examiner helping to create ITIL and other exams. Now that his children have all left home, he has plenty of time on his hands for contributing to our blog - lucky us!

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