Back in the dying days of the 1990s, a truly funny movie called Office Space came out. While the Y2K bug was all the rage at that time, this isn’t what the movie chose to send up. Instead, its most memorable moments revolve around whacking a defenceless printer to pieces in a field, and the endless, mindless ‘TPS reports’ demanded by an overbearing and insensitive boss.
Whether you’ve seen Office Space or not isn’t important. What is, is the lesson those TPS reports provide to this day. The lesson is that reports of any kind, if done by rote, are probably meaningless. If they aren’t ever reviewed by anyone, then they are most definitely meaningless, no ‘probably’ about it.
That’s why IT Quarterly Reports, which should be provided to you by your Managed Services Provider, should never be automated.
It is tempting, perhaps, in this age of ‘Artificial Intelligence’ and the obvious benefits attached to much of the automation that good technology systems deliver today, to imagine that a machine-generated report can do everything you need it to.
But here’s the thing. Machines are really good with numbers and indisputable facts. They are really, really not good at context, interpretation, inductive reasoning or creative thinking.
In other words, despite the claims of AI, computers don’t think all that well at all.
Automated is easy (and low/no-value)
Most MSPs, we included, have the systems which can produce automated reports. These systems track and monitor everything happening in your environment, tirelessly collecting statistics, performance numbers, throughputs, usage. Everything that can be measured is measured and then analysed and then reported on.
But those automated reports, quite frankly, just don’t make for good reading for ‘normal’ people. It’s a jumble of numbers, acronyms and jargon impenetrable except to trained IT professionals.
It’s easy to hit a button and punch one of these reports out. In fact, it’s so easy that we could do it monthly or even weekly if you wanted it.
Most clients don’t, though, because such reports are low or no value.
Where the value comes in, is when the data contained in the report is interpreted and turned into valuable information that your business can use. And that’s where people who work in IT, but know how to apply it in business, add the value that you should expect from your MSP. Any report presented to you should convey insights for informed business decisions, rather than confuse you with technobabble.
Why context and interpretation matters
Make no mistake, the technobabble is important. Its interpretation is where the value lies.
Additionally, what no automated report can provide, but which is essential for an effective and valuable Quarterly Report, are the following elements:
Health & Risk Assessment
Knowing the status, performance and ability of your IT systems to meet today’s requirements and those of tomorrow is a primary purpose of the report. A translation of the technical assessment – that’s the dry stuff of raw data – into business risk is invaluable. Details should include the assessed likelihood of failures, their potential impact, and recommendations for risk mitigation.
Standard performance metrics include response and resolution times. More important is the identification of the underlying reasons for problems, particularly recurring or ongoing ones. Root cause analysis means your MSP can start moving from reactive, to proactive support. What could be better than stopping problems before they stop you!
This is really the culmination of the value a Quarterly Report should provide. Recommendations are essential in taking your business forward with the sort of technology that enables rather than inhibits progress. Recommendation items should include priority and clear explanations which contextualise requirements against business needs.
It’s the human touch
What automated reports cannot provide is context and insight. These two ingredients are essential to an effective IT strategy for YOUR business.
Automation just delivers the raw material. It’s turned into true value in the hands of a skilled professional.
And the biggest measure of value? Helping you understand where your business technology systems are, where they should be and how to get them there. If you’re not getting information that helps make decisions or inform productive discussions, then it’s time to insist on better reports from your IT provider.