In IT we have this term “Greenfield” which defines an environment with no legacy and no existing technology. It is, in essence, a totally fresh start where no decisions are forced and you can build from the ground up, free to make your own choices. Given such an environment, as a new IT manager, what would I do?
Establish an Apple Business Manager Account. Even if you’re not planning on doing any sort of Mac management at the moment, this allows you to retroactively add your Macs, iPads and iPhones to an MDM such as Fleetsmith or JAMF through Apple’s DEP (Device Enrollment Program). In essence, it establishes the business’s ownership of each device purchased and allows you to enforce management on them, now or later.
Establish a relationship with a trusted VAR (Value Added Reseller) to help with your procurement. VAR’s generally have experts they can bring in for advice, can offer NET30 terms and have much higher buying power than any IT org. For example, CDW can actually beat Apple’s own business pricing on Macbooks given their volume, and can offer things such as complimentary next-day shipping. Other large, trusted VARs include Insight and eGroup.
Evaluate your requirements and pick the following tools:
- Cloud Office Suite, Either Google’s GSuite or Microsoft’s Office 365.They both have their strengths and weaknesses, yet are truly excellent tools. It’s 2019- there is no reason to host your own email anymore. I’ve found G Suite to be more effective, easier to use and manage in smaller companies, startups and more technical organizations, where Office 365 dominates the enterprise.
- Standardize on your hardware early. Do all non-technical employees get MacBook Airs and engineers get MacBook Pros? Are you going to do Windows instead? For field workers and others using only web applications Google’s Chromebooks are an excellent choice- cost effective and easy to use and manage if you are on GSuite. What sorts of monitors will you be buying? Will you be buying laptop specific docks, USB-C docks, or just using video adapters?
- Standardize on your networking stack early. Even at the beginning, I would not rely on the routing and Wifi provided by your ISP. It’s important to control routing/firewall, switching and WiFi yourself. Cisco Meraki has a reliable, effective, fully cloud managed stack of firewalls, switches and WAPs (Wireless Access Points). Although not the cheapest, I find the Cisco quality and Meraki cloud management to make network management incredibly easy. Other great platforms are Ubuiquiti, Fortinet, Aruba Networks and non-Meraki Cisco.
- Chat Platform. In essence, you’ll either use the thousand pound gorilla, Slack, or the integrated tools Google’s Hangouts Chat or Microsoft’s Teams. Personally, I feel Slack is more intuitive and a better platform than anything else, but Teams has been growing quickly and is also a very good product.
- Video and Voice Conference. This is especially important for distributed teams, but is also very useful in traditional organizations just so you can look your clients and partners in the eye. Google GSuite comes with Hangouts Meet, and Microsoft Office 365 Teams includes functionality ported over from Skype. They are both decent options. However, there are standalone platforms that I feel are even better. Zoom leads the market in quality, reliability and interoperability and is my personal favorite. There are also Blue Jeans, Vidyo and others in the market worth considering.
Immediately start two things:
- A Service Catalog– a list of all SaaS tools, Desktop Apps and other services provided to end-users. Include whether they are under SSO, monthly or yearly, payment terms, support contacts, admin URLs and anything else you can think of. This can be as simple as a spreadsheet.
- A Hardware Inventory. Every piece of Network Gear, every Laptop, every Desktop, literally every piece of gear should go into your inventory, and it should include the basic specs, purchase date, whether it was bought or leased, the serial number and to whom it is currently issued to. Just like the service catalog the hard part is not starting it, but keeping it up to date. This requires discipline, and it helps to have a standing reminder on your calendar to update both on a frequent basis.
Work with your HR and Legal teams to define some important policies and documentation:
- The AUP, or Acceptable Use Policy. What are end-users allowed and disallowed to do on company equipment and networks? Is personal use allowed? May their use be monitored? Is it OK to stream things like Spotify during the day? Are users allowed to install their own software? This document forms the basis of your relationship and the permissions you give to your end-users. It provides clarity for end-users on whether Netflix at lunch is OK, and legal protection for the company in the case of misuse or breach of policy.
- The Retention Policy. Depending on the industry, you may be required to retain certain information (financial, tax, legal, etc) for a certain period, such as 3 or 7 years. This is not IT’s decision, but IT enforces this retention after getting written guidance from the Legal Department. Tools such as Google Vault for GSuite or eDiscovery in Office 365 make it easy to implement these policies.
Figure out two very important end-user facing tools: the Ticketing/Request System and Knowledge Base. You want a way to track all support and knowledge requests that come into IT, and also a self-service way for user to find knowledge of things like “What’s the Guest Wifi password?” I may be a little biased here recommending Spoke as a smart, intuitive Ticketing and Knowledge Base tool, but there are also some other very good tools such as the Atlassian Suite, Zendesk, Freshdesk and others.
This is just the beginning of where I would start! Look for part 2 of this series upcoming in the next few weeks.
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