When you consider the essence of the Managed IT Services business model, it can really be described in one word: proactive. In proactively managing a customer’s IT systems and risks, managed IT service providers (like us!) can help to prevent problems and better capitalize on opportunities for growth. The benefits of being proactive are very real and integral to our industry, so we decided to devote today’s post to further exploring what it really means to be proactive vs reactive.
When you don’t plan ahead for problems or even opportunities, you are left with only one choice – to react to them as they happen and deal with them as best you can under the (usually challenging) circumstances. It leaves
It’s certainly possible to manage this way, but reacting to problems usually ends in making short-term decisions with less research, strategic input and forethought than if you had carefully and methodically worked your way through to the best decision.
The result is that you can easily miss out on opportunities for long-term solutions or strategic gains. You may settle on a solution that is “good enough” and completely miss the game-changing opportunity, simply because it required more time to implement.
One thing that you nearly always lack when you are reactive vs. proactive is time. When just getting back to business requires quick action, taking the time to carefully vet multiple options and weigh the long-term strategic benefits is usually not a realistic option.
Even doing nothing is reactive, because when you choose not to plan (or upgrade), you are inviting problems. The problem is that when those problems do occur, they create a crisis that costs you money, time and other valuable resources. It also places a heavy burden on your staff.
Reactive management isn’t productive or efficient. It creates crises and firefights that divert your team’s energy and attention away from where it needs to be.
Being good at putting out daily fires isn’t a mark of success – it’s a flashing neon sign that it’s time for a change.
While it may be necessary to put on that fire-fighter hat when a problem truly does arise “out of the blue”, the reality is that many of the problems you face are predictable…perhaps not the specific situation, but the knowledge that a particular system or process isn’t functioning efficiently is still a window to the future and the problems on the horizon if the issue isn’t addressed.
Reactive management is also associated with:
- A stressful work environment, which can negatively impact team members
- A lack of focus around the core business, as time and attention are diverted by the crisis of the day
- Lack of productivity associated with downtime or shifting priorities
- Lower quality work
The Pitfalls of Reactive IT Management
While being proactive vs. reactive can be evaluated at all levels of a business operation, our focus of course is on how the reactive approach to IT management is detrimental. And why the more modern proactive approach is the path to success and business growth.
Reactive IT management is also traditionally referred to as a “break-fix” model. Simply put, something breaks and you call someone in to fix it. You react to the problem.
We cover here the basic inefficiencies of this reactive approach, but in summary, adopting a break-fix model is generally more expensive in the long due to the cost of emergency service visits, it doesn’t offer a big picture diagnosis (instead treating every minor symptom in a vacuum), doesn’t include any preventive measures, lacks long-term insights and is highly unpredictable for budgeting purposes.
But as technology has evolved and businesses have grown increasingly dependent on IT systems to support all aspects of the operation, the list of reasons why break-fix don’t work has continued to grow.
For example, reactive management in the face of today’s cyber-threats is very risky. Too many businesses assume that nothing will ever happen to them, only to suddenly find themselves in the midst of a malware attack. This can be a catastrophic event for a business, leading to lost revenue, lost productivity, loss of customer trust and loyalty and even a reputation that is damaged beyond repair.
This doesn’t just apply to machines either. All team members need to be continuously educated and trained about cyber-risks in order to help prevent becoming a victim.
Another example of a reactive IT mindset is failing to upgrade to newer technology. The desire to get just one (or two or three) more year(s) out of a computer or server may seem like the smart play, but it’s short-sighted and risky.
Not only does that put the machine – and therefore the network – at an increased risk for cyber-attacks or failure, it also means missing out on the enhanced features that come with newer operating systems and software applications.
Waiting for the equipment to fail puts data at risk and creates downtime, whereas planning for an upgrade lets you control the timing, secure the data, test the set-up and ensure a smooth, stress-free transition.
Failure to Update
Patch management is another proactive IT strategy that gets left behind if systems aren’t being monitored and managed proactively. Patches get issued for a reason, and that reason is often related to a known vulnerability. The only way to fix the security hole is to install the patch issues by the vendor.
And failing to install critical patches is the root cause of both the WannaCry and the GoldenEye malware attacks that recently made the news, as well as a large percentage of attacks that don’t get widely publicized.
The best way to prevent any kind of data breach or data disaster is to proactively plan for it. Any business that is asking “now what?” after a successful attack or disaster of any kind has already lost.
Consider a ransomware attack. Once infected with this type of malware, a business has two options. The first and best option is to restore their systems from the backups. The other option is to pay the ransom demand and hope for the best from the cybercriminals promising the decryption key.
Option one is clearly the result of proactive IT management. The business that is able to avoid being held hostage to this demand is one that has sound data backups management and a plan in place for mitigating this type of event.
Option two - paying the ransom -- is the only recourse for a reactive business without properly managed data backups. There is usually no other way to get that data back once it’s been encrypted, outside of a backed-up version.
It’s pretty clear that taking a reactive approach to IT management is not sufficient for the needs of a modern business.
Proactive Management is Best
At all levels of any organization, adopting a proactive management approach is best. No one reading this is going to be surprised that the conclusion in the question of proactive vs. reactive is that being proactive is better.
It’s something many of us already do in other important areas, both personally and professionally. Wellness visits to the doctor, vehicle maintenance checks, insurance policies and even consulting with lawyers and accountants to seek advice and guidance are all proactive in nature.
Moving towards a proactive management style in business can be more challenging, primarily because of a lack of time or budget or both.
It may feel like a catch-22, but taking the time (as limited as it is) or using the budget to plan ahead is what ultimately helps to avoid and manage problems, and can even reduce costs. For example, when it comes to IT issues, investing in newer technology can eliminate problems stemming from sluggish or poorly functioning workstations, enabling team members to be more productive and less frustrated.
Planning should also focus on identifying and managing your risks, and then taking proactive measures to prevent or mitigate them. And we don’t want it to go unsaid that cybersecurity is NOT just an IT issue anymore. It’s a risk management issue that affects the entire organization, and must be treated as such and have full company support.
Proactive IT is Managed IT
Over the past decade, the adoption of managed IT services has dramatically increased among businesses. Turning to an IT partner that doesn’t just proactively support and maintain the network, but also provides strategic guidance around how to use technology to move the business forward is the gold standard.
For any managed IT services provider, one of the primary goals is to prevent problems. That is accomplished by remotely monitoring, managing and maintaining our customers’ IT systems 24x7x365. Services like patch management, preventative maintenance, and network security are integral to successful IT management.
For us, Managed IT means that we take full operational responsibility for the management and integrity of a customer’s systems and data. We monitor the warning signs. When problems do occur, we focus on identifying the root cause of the issue instead of merely solving the individual symptoms. We want to focus on understanding WHY a problem ocurred, rather than just looking at what can be done to fix it.
The result is that customers have far fewer issues. Instead, the technology that allows them to run the business becomes a part of the background, where it should be, allowing these teams to do their important work without disruption.
I think a prospective customer put it best recently when she said, “I don’t want to talk to my IT support provider every day. In fact, I want to not talk to them, because that means everything is working.”
That’s about as proactive as it gets!
Ready to learn more about our Managed IT Services solutions? Find out more here, or Request a Call and someone from our Account Management Team will contact you right away.