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The Discipline of Systems Management

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No matter how much money you put into your IT hardware and software, your system will never achieve high availability without an effective systems management practice. In this article, Floyd Piedad explains the principles behind the various systems management processes, and why they're aptly called "disciplines."
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One of the problems brought about by the proliferation of advanced user computing platforms (desktop PCs, notebook PCs, PDAs, and even smart phones) is that it makes the task of maintaining the entire corporate information system much more complex and difficult. Bear in mind that even these end-user systems need to be treated as part of the whole IT setup, because corporate data is stored, processed, and transferred by and through these devices.

Systems management is the combination of processes, data, tools, and organization needed to manage a system efficiently and effectively (see Figure 1). Processes deal with how to perform the systems management task, and data refers to the information required to perform this task. Tools are the equipment needed to perform the processes. Finally, organization refers to the people who support the process and how they're grouped together to do so.

Figure 1 Effective implementation requires attention to all these components.

Systems management is not merely a set of procedures for running a system; rather, it integrates all four elements mentioned above. Too many IT organizations come up with exhaustively detailed procedures, yet fail because they haven't tackled all four key elements.

Effective implementation also requires a balance between planning and performance to ensure that the processes laid out are not too detailed at the expense of flexibility, but also not so vague that the implementation is subject to individual interpretation. As Figure 2 shows, it's a continuing "tug of war" between the two objectives of implementation and control.

Figure 2 Effective implementation requires a balance between these two objectives.

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