How to “Level Up” your Information System Management

How advanced is your organization’s information system management? Here’s a simple framework for thinking about your organization’s infrastructure management capabilities:

Level 0: We can’t get it to work.

Level 1: We got it working!

Level 2: We got it working and documented the process so that we can set up similar systems on a repeatable basis.

Level 3: We got it working, documented it thoroughly, and implemented the configuration in an automated system to create similar systems. The configuration is version-controlled, and we can track changes.

Of course, these four levels are a little over-simplified. For example, there’s a state between Level 1 and Level 2 in which you got one system working and documented it, but haven’t tested the process by configuring a fresh instance from scratch. When you’re doing something for the first time, you tend to try a lot of things, and sometimes you can’t be sure which one actually solved the problem. The first draft of the documentation may not reflect the minimum necessary steps to get the system working. Ideally, you’d have a different person follow the procedure on a fresh system, to make sure the documentation contains the “necessary and sufficient” information.

Which level is right for your organization? It depends on what meets the organization’s needs at time. A stable business that depends upon a complex information system needs to operate its core systems at Level 3. However, that same company’s internal R&D may operate at Level 0, 1, or 2. An early-stage start-up that’s building an MVP (minimum viable product) and searching for product/market fit should probably operate at Level 1 or 2. When you have limited capital and are struggling to find product/market fit, getting to Level 3 too quickly might waste precious resources that could go into product development. However, the startup’s management needs to remember that the MVP will incur technical debt that will have to be paid off as the product matures.

Craig Finch & Mike Soule, Rootwork’s experienced infrastructure management consultants, would be happy to help you evaluate your organization’s capabilities and develop a plan to make sure that your information systems meet your needs.