In many ways, the IT team is the backbone of any company. They help keep employees connected to the data and applications they need, while ensuring that the organization is kept safe from external threats. In this week’s installment of Inside NetMotion, we spoke with Mohamed Elcott, IT Manager at NetMotion, to learn how this small but mighty team is keeping up with sudden changes in work environment within a growing company.
To say that the IT team is constantly busy is an understatement. Most organizations know the importance of digital transformation, and had some kind of slow rollout on their roadmap for the coming years. With so many people now working from home, however, some of those plans got shelved while others have been greatly accelerated. It’s up to each IT team to figure out their own unique circumstances so that priorities can be laid out.
State of play
NetMotion’s IT team is lean. Having just four members in total, they’ve done a good job of approaching current challenges and future challenges by dividing roles between the team members. They have a vast array of experience in the field, including network administrator, server admin, storage, DevOps, infrastructure and more.
Leading the team is Mohamed Elcott, the IT manager. He joined NetMotion in April of this year, having had both technical and business roles throughout his career. Next is Theon Wier, NetMotion’s Senior Network Engineer, Chris Woytko, IT Systems Engineer, and Sean Gronholt, IT Systems Administrator, who splits his time between helpdesk needs, server administration and security.
“Our job is to make sure that the corporate IT infrastructure is up and available and providing the services to the employees.”
Each member of the team is working on something different. Theon is working on a private cloud infrastructure that will provide a better evaluation environment for customers with the added benefit of giving us more control. It’s a big project that’s been happening all year and should be up and running before the end of this year.
Likewise, Chris is working on a number of projects, especially to improve patch management for employee laptops. Patch management for end users, patch management for the company’s Linux and Windows servers. There are constant updates to the operating systems these days, so it’s important to ensure that updates are regularly pushed out. Rather than the current system, which requires manually logging into each server, backing up its data, loading the update and restarting, the new patch management system offers a single pane of glass that pushes patches from vendors out to each machine automatically. This one change alone keeps machines more up to date and saves hours of time each month.
With almost all employees working from home now, securing devices has become an even greater priority. That includes locking down corporate emails more securely, improve multi-factor authentication (MFA), implement encryption across all corporate devices and more.
Security is key
Choosing the right balance between locking down devices and allowing employees to install the applications they want is certainly challenging. Unfortunately, there’s no one answer. According to Mohamed, security needs to be approached on a case by case basis, looking at how a tool might be used to enable employees to do their job, while also making sure that nothing malicious can enter the mix.
“You don’t want security to be the thing that stifles productivity or creativity. It’s a matter of how much you want to keep turning the dial before you know you can’t really do anything. Anything you introduce in terms of security, you just need to make sure that you understand the consequences, understand the benefits, and then assess whether or not the risks are greater than the reward.”
Ultimately, security needs to be as seamless as possible for the end user. That’s not always going to be the case, but if it’s transparent to the end user then it’s going to result in a better user experience.
The most difficult part of an IT teams’s role, according to Mohamed, is understanding the environment and the needs of the employees so that the team as a whole can provide the most value add. Seeing where the gaps and holes are and trying to make positive changes that don’t cause too much disruption.
One of IT’s roles is to ensure that employees have the applications they need. Before any new application can be chosen and rolled out, however, it’s important to evaluate it based on its benefits and use case.
NetMotion’s IT team is going through this process now, looking at the pros and cons of JIRA, Freshservice and Zendesk. JIRA is very good for certain things, like Agile, but not strong in other areas, like server development. If an employee asks to deploy Slack but we already use Teams, it’s important to figure out why there’s a need so that duplication and extra expense can be avoided.
As Mohamed explains it, this necessary evaluation process can be a double-edged sword. It’s designed to help the company maintain control while reducing cost and risk, but it can result in the IT team getting a reputation as the team that says ‘no.’
The misconception is that employees shouldn’t come and ask for something, so it’s better to find a way to circumvent IT. In reality, the IT team’s role is to facilitate success and keep the organization moving forward, but without adding risk. In order to avoid shadow IT, users need to be given an IT environment that is collaborative, productive and efficient.
At the end of the day, the IT team is the backbone of the organization, so if it isn’t doing its job right, it’s going to stifle the company and hold everyone back. Fortunately, that’s a mantra that NetMotion’s IT team lives by.