Developing a Knowledge Base and Promoting Organizational Learning

Developing a Knowledge Base and Promoting Organizational Learning

Knowledge bases and organizational learning are relatively new concepts for businesses and organizations; while these areas do not solely belong to information technologies, IT provides the tools and infrastructure needed to foster these activities. Developing a knowledge base within an organization can vary from data collection of ticketing complaints to information gathered through IT assessments, surveys, and a host of other organizational activities. Almost every organization has a significant amount of data whether it realizes it or not. The key is to capture, organize, and catalog this data so that it becomes a useful tool for the organization. IT systems are the means by which this can be accomplished.

Organizational learning on the other hand has to do with processes and procedures in place that allow more-effective and more-efficient operations.
A monitoring procedure for the implementation of project plans is an example of such a process. As the organization understands how these processes can be streamlined and made more effective, learning occurs. The same learned concepts can then be applied to other processes in the organization when
applicable. IT systems can provide the means by which such learning is recorded and cataloged. When a new procedure or process needs to be developed, retrieving data from other processes in place can offer the most effective solutions.

Information technologies can facilitate organizational knowledge and learning simply by creating methods by which information is systematically collected and stored. Systems that are able to tag and catalog data make retrieval simple and efficient. Imagine that a marketing department plans to
launch a campaign to promote a new product. While market research and consumer demographics provide a great deal of information about a particular consumer group, an abundance of information is also available internally about past customers and performance of past marketing campaigns. If a knowledge base is readily accessible, a better marketing strategy can be developed. This saves a great deal of time in information gathering and raises the chances of an effective campaign.

Examples of how knowledge bases can assist in IT troubleshooting can be with ticketing and logging systems. However, IT processes can be used to gather
and organize any data that an organization wishes to capture. This investment in data management will pay significant dividends in the long term as less energy will be spent in information search and application. Creating a knowledge base and promoting organizational learning is simply another way to get the most out of an IT system.

For more information, see my book www.ITSurvivalGuideBook.com

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Simplifying Your Support of Corporate Workstations & Laptops by Standardizing and Rotating Every 3 Years

Simplifying Your Support of Corporate Workstations & Laptops by Standardizing and Rotating Every 3 Years

Over the last several years, two camps of thought have developed over how workstations should be constructed and incorporated into an IT infrastructure. One camp, which is older and focused on short-term costs, believes that workstations should be built according to the current needs of the organization at the time. In other words, a workstation selected this month may be completely different than other workstations that exist in the organization purchased only months previously. While each workstation is connected to the network and considered a clone of all the others, a new workstation may be completely different compared to other workstations depending on when it was added. Different brands and different capabilities lead to inherent mismatching of equipment, and this can create IT problems. While the investment outlay is less as workstations are added piecemeal, the eventual long-term costs in IT troubleshooting can be significantly more, comparatively.

The other school of thought calls for a standardization of workstations that allows uniform capabilities within the organization. This may cost more initially, because some workstations have functionality not needed by everyone in the organization. However, the long-term savings in repair and downtime costs make this worthwhile. Because all workstations are the same, the failure of one workstation can be easily remedied with the replacement of an identical workstation. Workstations customized and built with different capacities are often not interchangeable. Standardization ensures that all equipment will match well within the network; this will do away with the problem of having to deal with different brands or components that may create problems in communications or functionality.

In addition to these advantages, standardization of workstations often allows better support situations. If workstations are a well-known brand (such as IBM, Hewlett Packard, or Dell), 1-800 equipment support is usually available and allows rapid replacement of non-functioning equipment. Having standardized workstations facilitates this support further. In my experience, customization of individual workstations is typically not required for most organizations, and scrimping on initial costs is usually more expensive over time. Therefore, choosing standardized workstations as part of your IT infrastructure is often the best choice.

Incidentally, I have several clients who have adopted a “purchase cycle” for their new workstations on an annual basis. Group A gets new computers this year, group B the next year, and group C the subsequent year. Everyone as a result gets a new system every three years, and all the workstations within the network are relatively new. This has benefits in terms of warranty coverage and vendor support, and the organization enjoys a planned expenditure schedule for replacement of 33 percent annually. This practice makes things more manageable, keeps the IT system current, helps stabilize corporate cash flow and budgets, and minimizes workstation variability within the IT infrastructure.

For more information, see my book www.ITSurvivalGuideBook.com

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Fireproofing versus Firefighting: You Must Proactively Maintain Your IT Systems And Stop Being a Firefighter

Fireproofing versus Firefighting: You Must Proactively Maintain Your IT Systems And Stop Being a Firefighter

In 2004, three years after “9/11”, local, state and federal US representatives met as part of a planning exercise to assess emergency disaster management abilities should a major hurricane strike the coastal areas of Louisiana. The exercise, named “Hurricane Pam”, considered the problems and response abilities should a Category 5 Hurricane strike. The representatives found multiple shortcomings. Communication infrastructure was poor. Transportation capacity compared to population needs was markedly limited. Health and rescue services were inadequate to handle anticipated human services. At the conclusion of the exercise, plans were devised and members accepted responsibilities in an effort to correct these deficiencies. However, a year later, when Hurricane Katrina struck, unfortunately not enough had been accomplished. Thousands of lives were lost or affected as a result of a lack of implementation. When the imagined crisis became a reality, preventative measures had been neglected, and the response to the catastrophe was far from acceptable.

While lives are rarely at stake for most organizations, a lack of preparedness and prevention is all too common. Maintenance of IT systems is ignored or neglected. Adoption of better technologies and tools does not happen due to financial costs or a lack of understanding. As a result, IT systems suffer more-frequent and more-significant problems over time, demanding immediate attention from IT personnel. In the process, business continuity is disrupted, revenues and customers are lost, and efforts are used inefficiently in attending to disaster management. Choosing to be proactive and adopt preventative measures is a simple solution that effectively minimizes these unwanted developments.

Information technology systems are a necessary component of organizations and businesses today. You need a smart approach to installing an effective IT infrastructure with proper technologies and tools as well as the importance of having the right IT professionals. Also, a commitment to ongoing monitoring of IT systems is mandatory if success is the goal in a competitive environment. Periodic assessments, oversight of project completions, alignment of goals between IT and the organization, and the development of an internal knowledge base are examples of this commitment. In this way, resource investments can be used wisely and most effectively.

Fireproofing your information technology system is no different than reducing risk in other areas of an organization. Organizations are always more productive and efficient when unnecessary stress is absent. For organizations that are in a cycle of putting out fire after fire, not only is productivity affected by interruptions in business continuity, but it is also hindered because of the stressful pressure of the situation. By being proactive within your organization, you can reduce the times of stress experienced and maximize the fluency of business operations. This does not require you to understand every single aspect of your IT system; it requires only open dialogue, good communications, and a commitment to establishing smart IT processes and procedures. With these attitudes in place, organizational success becomes more likely. After all, IT should be an asset, not a liability, for your organization. Stop running from fire to fire, and make the choice to invest in good IT practices.

For more information, see my book www.ITSurvivalGuideBook.com

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Virtual vs Physical Explained for Virtual Servers and Why You Should Consider It

Virtual vs Physical Explained for Virtual Servers and Why You Should Consider It

The term “virtual” originates from the study of optics as it pertains to image reproduction. For instance, a mirror reproduces an image of an object, but because the image is not real and physical, it is deemed virtual. With this in mind, the concept of virtual machines (VMs) can be better understood. By applying virtualization software to a server, a separation between the server’s hardware and its operational ability can be achieved. In essence, the software creates a virtual “container” in which all the files of the server are duplicated and emulated. This software container or layer is called a hypervisor. With this in place, multiple virtual machines can utilize a physical server’s resources through the hypervisor even though each virtual machine may use a different operating system.

Traditionally, each physical server has its own IP address. A network accesses a server based on its IP configuration on the network. However, if that server becomes disabled, the network or portion of the network is inoperable until it can be repaired. In contrast, virtual machines have their own IP configurations, with each one having access to several physical servers that run the virtualization software. If one physical server becomes disabled, the virtual machines are thus still able to function normally by using the hardware and resources of other physical servers on the network. This high availability becomes an important issue in disaster-recovery situations.

The advantages of VMs clearly stem from the more efficient use of hardware resources, the elimination of underutilized redundancy in the IT system, and the ability to minimize downtime when servers malfunction. Larger organizations therefore enjoy greater advantages from such systems. As for disadvantages, indirect access of the physical server through the hypervisor is less efficient than direct access, and if multiple VMs are accessing a single physical server, variable performance may develop if workloads are high. While these issues may require specific attention, the advantages of virtual machines for large IT systems far outweigh the disadvantages.

For more information, see my book www.ITSurvivalGuideBook.com

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Invest Time in Your IT Infrastructure and Ask These 10 Questions

Invest Time in Your IT Infrastructure and Ask These 10 Questions

We are living in exponential times in regards to growth of information technology. New developments that are occurring on an annual basis simply dwarf the developments in prior centuries. With this being understood, the need for IT sub-specialization and ongoing education is imperative. You wouldn’t want a family doctor performing open-heart surgery; likewise, you shouldn’t want a junior IT staff person managing the complex array of servers, networks, backups, and firewalls your organization relies upon. IT systems make or break organizations every day in our global, competitive marketplace. Taking the time to invest in your IT infrastructure and system is crucial, and it takes asking only a few questions to start heading in the right direction.

  1. Have any operational mishaps or warning signals been noticed?
  2. Who are the key IT personnel, and what ongoing training do they receive?
  3. What documentation regarding IT is performed?
  4. Where are the key storage areas for backups and archives?
  5. Where are key resources and staff located?
  6. What happens if a system failure occurs after hours?
  7. How do your clients or suppliers respond if no one answers communications?
  8. How often are updates performed?
  9. What protections are in place if a power outage occurs?
  10. How often are outside assessments and audits performed?

For more information, see my book www.ITSurvivalGuideBook.com

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Knowing Where to Place the X: $9999 … The value of IT consultants

Knowing Where to Place the X: $9999 … The value of IT consultants

A major corporation developed a serious problem with its IT system. Each of the IT managers had tried repeatedly to figure out why the system was operating poorly but could not find the solution. After a critical deadline was missed, the executives made the decision to call upon an IT consultant to assess their situation. The consultant walked into the main data center where the servers were located, paused for a moment, and then placed a large “X” on one of the machines. “This is your problem,” he stated and then left as quickly as he had come.

A week later, the company received an invoice for $10,000. Outraged, the CFO sent a letter to the consultant demanding an itemized account of the invoice. A few days later came an itemized invoice that contained only two items: “Placing an X cost $1. Knowing where to place the X cost $9,999.”

While many versions of this story exist, its value still highlights the importance of having both specific and general knowledge. The IT managers of the corporation certainly had expertise in their IT system but likely lacked enough knowledge to step back and see the problem. Others in the organization, such as the executive staff, probably lacked enough specific expertise to understand the essence of the problem from the start. The consultant, however, had both the ability to understand specifics about IT troubleshooting and a wide scope of experience about IT systems in general that allowed him to efficiently diagnose the problem.

To read more, see my book www.ITSurvivalGuideBook.com

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