How Frequently Should I Do a Review or Assessment of My IT Systems?

I was recently asked to edit and comment on a letter that we would be sharing with Alvaka clients in regards to a program we call NQC.  It has long been a “pet” of mine since I was the father of the NQC.  This process has been adopted by hundreds of other IT service providers across the country after I shared it at conferences like TPG, CMP Exchange and others.

At one point we sought to rename the NQC, which originally meant Network Quarterly Check.  I started this quarterly check to shine a light on the operational practices within management of IT at all of our NetPlan clients.  The quarterly frequency proved to be a point of resistance for many clients so we acquiesced to twice or even once per year for many clients.  With that change in frequency we changed the meaning to NetPlan Quality Check, but that has sat wrong for me for several years. 

Upon a recent update to the program I gave this program and the NQC name a lot of thought.  I finally figured out that I had two issues with the term NetPlan Quality Check.  The first issue is that this program is not really about quality per se, but about how IT is being managed.  You can call it quality, but it is really an “operational” practices check to make sure things are getting done right in IT or to make changes in IT management as required.  That is sort of a “quality check,” but not really.  It is more accurately an IT operational practices review.

My second issue was the changing of the term “Network” to “NetPlan.”  When coupled with the phrase NetPlan Quality Check, all of a sudden it becomes all about checking the quality of our NetPlan service and not about the “operational/management integrity” of the IT system.  This then puts all the burden and stigma on Alvaka, our engineer and our NetPlan program.  That fuels some of the debate we have with some clients.  I remember two separate debates with an executive at a 20 year long client.  He said he “should not have to pay for us to check our own work.”  I have two answers for that objection:

1.        He has two of his own guys that work on his IT system, along with other vendors.  His employees can do things unintentionally, etc.  This is not about checking on our Alvaka engineer.  It is all about checking the overall integrity and operational state of his IT system, which has changing needs over time and changes due to different people touching it.  It is simply a matter of doing a periodic review to make sure nothing is getting missed or looking for things that need to be done a different way.  Changing and updating tape/disk backup jobs to accommodate new servers and software is a classic example.  Without review these jobs don’t often get updated and that leads to tragic results down the road.  I have seen it way too many times in 30 years.  It is preventable.

2.       Even if a client does not have their own IT staff, it is prudent to periodically check IT systems to make sure everything is working right, that the current needs are being met and that important requirements/practices are not getting overlooked or wrongly configured as those things happen in real life.  You can call it checking on our own work, but that does not mean it is not a prudent and billable activity.  Ultimately it is the client that directs what they want us to do every time we are engaged to do work for them.  If time is not set aside to periodically review the state of the system it will never get done.  If that is the case I guarantee that disasters are looming on the horizon.

Anyway, I made changes in the letter to reflect my thoughts and desires for this program in 2015 as we present the authorization request to you.  Even though the NQC is not always requested quarterly, I elected to return it to its original definition so that it reflects my belief in the purpose and frequency from which it was born.  You can read that letter below:

Dear Client,

Welcome to the Network Quarterly Check (NQC) Process!

Now that you have been part of the Alvaka NetPlan services family for some time now it is time to schedule your first Network Quarterly Check!

The NQC process is just one of the many tools we use to take a proactive stance to assure uptime and maximize your performance. It is an essential part of the NetPlan process recommended by our CEO Oli Thordarson, and should be performed at least once a year for all clients. Oli recommends these checks be done quarterly in order to protect the Confidentiality, Integrity and Availability of your most valuable company assets, the IT system and data.  We realize four times per year might not be practical for your firm, but certainly once per year is the minimum.  The more important your IT system is to your operation, the more frequently you need the NQC.  The NQC allows you to better manage your network, as well as provide technical direction for your business.  The NQC helps to identify IT operational problems so they can be corrected.  As your needs change, the NQC also provides insight so we are better positioned to make the recommendations you are always seeking.

The NQC provides a snapshot of the current status and health of your network.  The review process gains integrity through a proven and structured checklist to make sure all of the essential systems are reviewed. This program got its inception in 1999 so it is well developed after several years of refinement.  Over the years we have seen preventable problems bring our clients grief and cost them valuable time, money and reputation. This list has been tested and refined to help prevent those problems from happening. The information is gathered and organized into a document with deliverable recommendations and can be expected 30 days after the NQC is complete.

To bring even more structured integrity to the process we bring in a different engineer to perform the NQC. No matter how good your incumbent Network Engineer is, he or she is just too close to the network to be the best person to conduct this review.

The estimated time to complete your NQC is 8 hours per 50 users and is billed at your regular NetPlan rate plus a trip charge. With your permission to proceed, I will create a ticket and schedule our engineer; “Engineer name”, on mm/dd/yyyy.

Please contact me at 949 428-5000 ext. 325 if the date mentioned above will not work with your schedule.

 

Kindest Regards,

 

Service Coordinator

Alvaka Networks

949 428-5000