D+H replaces sneakernet approach

When Mark Bryant gets behind the wheel of his car, he doesn’t worry about how the engine works. He just gets in and drives. He wants the users in his IT department to have the same experience.

“We should run the IT operation the way a car should run,” says Bryant, the Toronto-based director of technology operations for Davis + Henderson (D+H), a financial services organization. “You get in the car, and it just runs – you never think about the mechanics. I don’t want [IT] to be like a broken-down car.”

In order to ensure D+H’s IT department runs smoothly, the company recently implemented three modules of CA’s Unicenter.

Bryant wanted to make it easier for his Toronto-based IT team to manage the company’s infrastructure. D+H is spread out geographically over seven to eight locations, which meant IT staff had to spend hours driving to remote locations such as Pickering or Waterloo.

Bryant faced a dilemma last summer when deciding how to replace the company’s existing systems – should he go with a piecemeal solution or a single suite? He decided one integrated suite was the best strategy, as it would offer the most advantages.

The first piece D+H rolled out was the Unicenter ServicePlus Service Desk. Prior to implementing it, D+H outsourced its service desk management and decided to bring it back in-house in hopes of lowering the cost of ownership, Bryant said.

The interactive dashboard and knowledge base allows D+H to retain knowledge when staff members leave, Bryant said. “There’s always a constant turnover in IT. If we lose a person, we can still retain the knowledge.”

All changes made to D+H’s IT system are now stored in one common database. Any time there’s a change made to the system, the company knows who made the change and what was done, which helps the company stay compliant with Bill 198, Bryant said.

The company also rolled out CA’s Unicenter Asset Management suite, which replaced D+H’s sneakernet approach. Before Asset Management was installed, someone would have to go to each machine to record what was on the device – a time-consuming process. And the information wouldn’t be updated until the next round of visits to machines. Now, there’s an agent on every machine, which lets D+H know what they have and ensures that non-standard software isn’t installed, Bryant said. “It looks through the machine on a daily basis to see what’s there.”

D+H’s software delivery system was also sneakernet – which meant IT staff would have to go out to hundreds of machines in several locations. With Unicenter Software Delivery, D+H can push software to desktops automatically. “It saves me a significant amount of time and travel,” Bryant said. He no longer has to interrupt users or install updates during off-hours. A standard image is deployed to all desks and a different one to D+H’s call centre computers. This saves IT staff from having to rebuild problem machines, Bryant said. “I can re-image them overnight.”

The company is also planning to install Unicenter Network and Systems Management. With it, D+H hopes to cut down on service interruptions and take a proactive approach by assessing the problem areas. “I can interactively assess problems or challenges before they occur,” he said.

Today, if a service fails, someone gets a page and has to go and restart the service. If this means getting someone out of bed in the middle of the night, it could take a while before service comes back up. The new suite, on the other hand, will issue and close a ticket if a problem can be fixed automatically.

The Unicenter modules help the IT department keep problems to a minimum, Bryant said. “I can proactively manage rather than reactively solve. My goal as an IT manager is to stay invisible.”

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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