3rd Grade Kick Ball and Systems Management: Not Much has Changed


When it comes to employing Enterprise Systems Management (ESM) solutions, too many pointy-haired bosses fall into the same trap the third grade teachers in my elementary school fell into during the annual Kickball tournament: they got lazy when assigning the “unglamorous” positions.

kickballKickball in my elementary school was the Bomb. It was thesport for the boys. We all loved it (except for a kid named Ben who was always hanging around with the girls playing dolls and four-square) and I am sure we all thought that we would go pro. My class won the championship. We even beat the older grades. Why? Certainly not because of me. No, the kudos need to go to my teacher, Ned Aikau. He was serious about the game. All the teams had good pitchers and basemen. The throw-away positions were the outfield and, for some reason, catcher. EVERY other team had an apathetic girl play catcher. (I should state that playing kickball was pretty much mandatory so all students had to play, even the bored ones). Usually, playing catcher in elementary school kickball is not at all like playing catcher in baseball or softball.  But Mr. A took the second best “jock” in the class and made him play catcher. That was Randy. If some baserunner rounded third you could bet Randy was waiting with a smile. He could catch any ball thrown and he would mercilessly throw the ball at the oncoming runner. Mr. A made the only girl who seemed to like sports play shortstop. He had me play right field ( a place where the lethargic team members usually congregated to talk about anything but the very game they were playing). Every position that was usually given to the bored or throw-away students was given to a capable player. As I mentioned, we won every game.

ESM is often the catcher position. Management has already purchased data-center servers and had a collective heart attack when funding last OS upgrade. Trying to get them to pay for Systems Management can be pretty dangerous. I once heard a pointy-haired boss say “I have real issues with paying for tools that make your job easier. With the money we pay you, you should be able to do all this stuff without these expensive purchases”. He wasn’t actually speaking to just me, but to a team of us. I remember one tool I had requested was WinBatch from Wilson WindowWare. I ultimately got the software, but I’m still not proud of how low I had to go to get it (but that’s for another post).

Think about the urgent demands that you face every week. Make a list… it might look something like this:

  1. “Find all the software that is loaded on our company’s computers. I heard some companies are getting busted for having pirated software!”
  2. “Why the hell are games loaded on our computers? I thought we didn’t allow that! Remove the games now.”
  3. “We have some new time-management software that we need installed on all the company’s computers. And we need it installed now so that we can process all of our current timecards in the new system.”
  4. “I just read an article that said too many users have Administrative permissions on their work computers. Do our users have Administrative permissions?”

That is just a very simple, ordinary list. Whether you are an administrator of 23 or 2300 computers, you have probably had similar demands made of you. All of these are common dilemmas resolved in some fashion by ESM. Some administrators use “point solutions” to solve these. Some administrators use “all-in-one” solutions. And some administrators use self-made scripts, GPO’s and perhaps a touch of sneaker-net to get the job done. All four points can be accomplished with Admin Arsenal which is available for $999.

A well maintained Systems Management environment would be able to fulfill requests 1 & 4 immediately and requests 2 & 3 within a day or two (depending on how much testing you like to run through before uninstalling or installing software.)

If you are storing lists of installed software in an Excel spreadsheet that you maintain, then STOP. Software in your company is constantly being installed, upgraded, removed or replaced. Trying to keep up with such a dynamic environment with such a static approach will burn you sooner, rather than later.

If you have no idea which users have local administrative access to your company’s computers then you have a new priority. Actually two. Thumping yourself on the head is the first one. Remedying the situation with a tool (or tools) that provide this data is your second priority.

Installing and removing software across your computing environment is one of the most in-demand tasks asked of administrators. So many applications can easily be installed or removed en-masse that if you still approach these tasks via sneaker-net, then you either need to A) get with the program, or B) send me a picture of the boss that denied the purchase of the software installation tool. I think I used to work for him.

Some days, I wish my boss was Mr. Aikau. He would expect hard work and competency from the whole team, but he would also make the tough call to put Randy in as catcher.