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Reporting To Executives

CmdrTaco posted more than 4 years ago | from the justify-your-existence dept.

IT 301

chopsuei3 writes "As a System Administrator, I am charged with providing more insight into the functioning of the system. What types of reports and information do other System Administrators submit to executives and on what frequency? Measurements such as uptime and average page latency are useful, but our site is relatively stable and we see minimal downtime, so I'm looking for other important and useful information I can report up to better illustrate my efforts. Our system is also unique in that about 70% of the traffic we see is from devices and not human browsers. I am a lone System Administrator in a 20-person company which specializes in web-based irrigation management. I also simultaneously perform all IT-related tasks in the office, which may also be important to report up to executives on regular basis."

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Dear Slashdot.... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30032514)

Dear Slashdot, How do I do my job? Sincerely, Chop Suey

Re:Dear Slashdot.... (-1, Offtopic)

Evil Shabazz (937088) | more than 4 years ago | (#30033154)

+1 Insightful

REMOVE LOUIS FROM L4D (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30032526)

To: Valve
I propose that we remove Louis from L4D, nobody can relate to him because he is a nigger.

I'm sure people that play left 4 dead will get on their computers and join a lobby for some No Mercy campaign fun, only to find that all the infected are taken. this is undeniably the case most of the time.

You decide "oh well, at least you can play as bill, hes a badass Vietnam veteran and probably raped some azn girl while he was setting villages on fire" But, you are disappointed as somebody already joined and took him first... hes always taken first god damnit.

well, then there is the next best choice, Zoey. The lovable teenage slut has always provoked some kind of perverted thought in L4D gamers and when they go to patch her up with first aid they cream themselves at getting this close to a woman, virtual or not. So with all the extra help around, playing as Zoey should be a breeze, right? Well, some fucker already took that second... now the sudden realization dawns on you, you have two choices left.

One is the faggot biker Francis, that only acts like hes interested in Zoey as to throw of the trail that he secretly would fuck Bill so hard in the ass given the chance. The other choice, though, is worse. it's a fucking nigger.

I mean sure, he isn't hindered in any way, well... not in physical gameplay at least. But you soon will realize after playing a couple rounds being a nigger, every time you get pounced, smoked, or somebody accidentally clips him with a bullet, he has to open his fat lips to shout louder then any of the other survivors and speaks in a vernacular that just makes me sick to hear it.

If we were to get rid of Louis, teamkilling "accidents" will be cut down by 50%, and the survivor morale will increase dramatically, no longer burdened by some filthy, loud, beast.

But, I am only one person, I will need the help of all you fellow people that enjoy L4D, but their experience is hindered by the sight of this dirty chicken eating coon. Shall We receive enough signatures, Valve will soon know the errors of their ways and create an alternative to being such a disgraceful character.

Sincerely,

The Undersigned

Here's an idea... (5, Insightful)

smooth wombat (796938) | more than 4 years ago | (#30032542)

how about asking them what they want to see? Prepare a short document listing what information you can provide them and in what format, and ask them what they want to see. How often, what detail, etc.

I know, I know. Talking to people, particularly executives, is a daunting task for some in the IT world, but you'd be amazed at how much easier things become when you ask people what they want.

Re:Here's an idea... (3, Insightful)

nomadic (141991) | more than 4 years ago | (#30032690)

how about asking them what they want to see? Prepare a short document listing what information you can provide them and in what format, and ask them what they want to see. How often, what detail, etc.

That's a good idea; I'd also suggest maybe mocking up 2 or 3 examples and letting them see.

Re:Here's an idea... (4, Funny)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 4 years ago | (#30033560)

I'd also suggest maybe mocking up 2 or 3 examples and letting them see.

Mocking up? You might as well just make it up. Stick a few trekkish terms in there - quasitron throughput and such - and see if anyone bites.

They won't.

Re:Here's an idea... (3, Insightful)

peter in mn (1549709) | more than 4 years ago | (#30032708)

Also, think about it yourself. What does the network do? What measures can you make that describe whether it's working well? If someone were trying to improve the network, how often would they want to see those measures? Management usually doesn't know enough to know what to ask. You're the expert, figure out what they should be looking at.

Re:Here's an idea... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30033544)

Also, think about it yourself. What does the network do? What measures can you make that describe whether it's working well? If someone were trying to improve the network, how often would they want to see those measures?

Management usually doesn't know enough to know what to ask. You're the expert, figure out what they should be looking at.

Just a small reflection on this comment.. I think this points out a flaw in how us engineers think. Management doesn't know enough to ask about the network but does it matter? How the network works is really not that important to them. How is your network contributing to the business as a whole? What metrics management want are probably more related to that and the business side of things then trying to educate them on how it works. After all, their job is not running a network, it's running a business.

Management is looking for you to bridge that gap between technology and business, which can either be bridged by you framing things into a business perspective or making them learn more about technology so they can do it. Your value to the company will increase if you take the former approach.

Re:Here's an idea... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30032858)

Except that most of the time they won't have any clue what they want.

In the past, many executives used to be engineers, or at least had an engineering or technical background. As an IT worker, you could have technical discussions with them and they'd understand the general concepts, even if their background was in mechanical or civil engineering, for instance.

In the US today, that's no longer the case. Being a executive these days isn't about providing leadership and making decisions based on knowledge. It's about knowing how to manipulate accounting statements to look good on a quarter-by-quarter basis.

Part of this is because we've transitioned away from manufacturing real products, to manufacturing "financial instruments", even at "manufacturers" like the Big 3, who these days basically just assemble parts that are actually manufactured outside of the US in Asia and Mexico, but make the bulk of their income from leases and other financial bullshittery.

Re:Here's an idea... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30033094)

funny little rant. it's not insightful, hell it's not even relevant, but funny it came pouring out.

Re:Here's an idea... (4, Interesting)

Penguinisto (415985) | more than 4 years ago | (#30032878)

Agreed perfectly, with one big, fat caveat: Have a very good handle on what you have, and can and cannot be done. Also, never, EVER promise anything up-front w/o studying the problem.

Recently, I got one for my own employer, in that our CEO wanted to simply open his cell phone and search all contacts in the group...

...err, the whole multinational group, across four continents. At first, it sounds easy (IIFP doing most of the grunt work), but then the fun began. One site used GroupWise instead of Exchange (which by default apparently reverses the contact info names from MSFT AD's 'Last, First' format). The version of Cisco Unity (VoIP handling) we have only reads one field - "IP Phone", and will only let you do one forest as a whole, or 5 OU's max (which means even more scripting). We had to deal with language localizations (esp. Korean). We had a huge bucket of duplicate contacts. I've had to learn more about Exchange 2007's GAL handling than I ever wanted to. We had to coordinate it all across multiple time zones (12 hours back to Asia, 8 hours forward... oh, and the South African office), which means a lot of early mornings and the occasional late evening.

Long story short, it's doable, but it eats a lot of resources to get it done (fortunately, we haven't had to spend any real money for it, but it's not quite complete just yet). While I doubt that every request would start getting hairy like that, you'd be amazed at how often the most innocuous of CxO requests can end up eating a mountain of time once you get into the minutiae.

Finally, I'd suggest that no matter the request, you never take your eyes off the prize - keeping existing systems running with as much uptime as possible. ;)

Re:Here's an idea... (4, Insightful)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | more than 4 years ago | (#30032906)

Wear a tie. Polish your shoes. Make sure the colour of your belt matches your shoe colour, and your socks match. Get a haircut the day before.

Small things, but they make you look professional. I'm not sure if you dress like that every day, maybe you do, but if he glazes over during technical blurb you may find him considering whether you get a bonus based on whether your shirt does or doesn't have a burrito stain on it.

Re:Here's an idea... (2, Insightful)

Duradin (1261418) | more than 4 years ago | (#30032954)

"... but you'd be amazed at how much easier things become when you ask people what they want."

The problem is, especially with suits, is that what they want probably isn't in the same galaxy, let alone ballpark, as what they need or what they can use.

The upshot is once you get that report all nice and automated they'll ask you for the exact same report three months later having entirely forgotten its existence. Don't tell them they've been getting that report daily/weekly already for the last three months. They don't like that for some reason. Re-title it, move some columns around, maybe add a new bit of information and then call it good.

No questions allowed. (4, Insightful)

NoYob (1630681) | more than 4 years ago | (#30032964)

how about asking them what they want to see?

...

I know, I know. Talking to people, particularly executives, is a daunting task for some in the IT world, but you'd be amazed at how much easier things become when you ask people what they want.

Ask?!? Actually asking a question is verboten in IT! First, you have spend meaningless hours researching the question and finding your own answers and then, after exhausting all of your options, then, and only then, can you go and ask a question.

If you don't follow those steps in that order, you will get a snarky condescending answer of "What? You couldn't google it?!" or some other asinine statement. Or the fact that admitting ignorance in IT is equated with stupidity.

It's really awkward when you have to report to someone who's not in IT and they ask "Why couldn't you have just asked in the first place?" It so hard to explain the childish and retarded social dynamics of IT to folks who act on an adult level.

Re:No questions allowed. (2, Insightful)

vadim_t (324782) | more than 4 years ago | (#30033354)

Ask?!? Actually asking a question is verboten in IT! First, you have spend meaningless hours researching the question and finding your own answers and then, after exhausting all of your options, then, and only then, can you go and ask a question.

Well, guess what the IT guy did to find out the answer to your question. He probably googled the answer, before or after you asked him. Since googling isn't exactly complicated, it's not such a terrible requirement to expect you try to figure out on your own first.

Also, there's a large set of questions that are hard to answer from memory. For instance, I don't remember how to mail merge in MS Word, yet I could still do it easily, by looking around in the menus and checking in which of them is it.

People seem to assume the IT guy just remembers the exact steps for everything, when most of the time what they know is where should they look to find an answer.

If you don't follow those steps in that order, you will get a snarky condescending answer of "What? You couldn't google it?!" or some other asinine statement. Or the fact that admitting ignorance in IT is equated with stupidity.

Well, and why couldn't you? Google and the help file exist for a reason.

Re:No questions allowed. (3, Insightful)

somersault (912633) | more than 4 years ago | (#30033436)

There's a big difference between asking a question of random people on the internet when you're too lazy to google (although, it sucks when the answer is not available on google and you still get berated), and asking your boss about your perceived performance and any goals he may have for your dept..

Re:Here's an idea... (5, Insightful)

h2oliu (38090) | more than 4 years ago | (#30033326)

I too worked for a 20 person company for in a role similar to what you did. I tried asking them what they wanted, but I quickly learned that I need to guide what they asked of me. You will probably need to educate them on the what you do.

I had a weekly status meeting with 2 execs to where I prepared a one page document with:

1) Here is what the main projects are, and my perceived priority (chance for them to change the IT priorities to match the business priorities).
2) Here are any potential roadblocks to the projects (keep them aware of business risk).
3) Here are tasks that were completed from the last week (advertise yourself).
4) Here are the some potential large money items or other significant items that could occur in the next 6-12 months (depends on your company's planning horizon) (prevent surprises).

Number 4 is very important. Good executives don't like surprises. If you see ANYTHING that could be a major problem down the road. Tell them that you have discovered something, what the potential ramifications are, and what you are doing to identify, isolate, reduce the risks associated with the discovery. If your executives do like to keep their head in the sand, then you should keep an eye on the long term viability of your company.

an executive summary (4, Informative)

jschen (1249578) | more than 4 years ago | (#30032550)

Numbers and stats are nice and all, but beyond the headline numbers, your job is to give an executive summary. Here is what I've been doing. These things are working well. These are improvements that I am targeting or hope to target. Here are the unique challenges (you described one) and risks that we face and how I plan to deal with them.

I'm not a system administrator, but I don't see how the above is any different no matter what your job description.

Oblig... (4, Funny)

Stenchwarrior (1335051) | more than 4 years ago | (#30032552)

"What types of reports and information do other System Administrators submit to executives and on what frequency?"

TPS reports, of course!

Now bring on the Redundant Mod!

Re:Oblig... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30033490)

"What types of reports and information do other System Administrators submit to executives and on what frequency?"

TPS reports, of course!

Now bring on the Redundant Mod!

You forgot to mention the coversheet. It's just we're putting new coversheets on all the TPS reports before they go out now. Did you get that memo?

Re:Oblig... (0)

cashman73 (855518) | more than 4 years ago | (#30033602)

Didn't you get that memo? If not, I'd just like to remind you that we're putting new coversheets on all the TPS reports now. So, if you could just try to remember . . . that would be greeeeaaaaat! Thanks!

Random figures (1)

fph il quozientatore (971015) | more than 4 years ago | (#30032558)

Dude, just slap together some random figures like the number of occupied inodes in your hard disk -- they are executives after all, what do you expect them to understand about technical stuff? Getting "mean web-page loading time" is already a big step.

Re:Random figures (2, Interesting)

houghi (78078) | more than 4 years ago | (#30032866)

A previous manager I had was always asking me different kind of numbers. I knew that manager did absolutely nothing with those numbers and also had no clue what I was talking about.

So one day I said that those numbers would take two days to retrieve. I then made up some numbers that looked like they could be correct and presented those while doing nothing during two days.

Absolutely nothing happened. I would not be surprised if that manager did not even looked at my fiction. Luckily now I have a manager who asks me what would be important numbers for his goals (which he explained) AND he is not afraid of bad numbers as they must be used to explain budged for staffing, upgrades, ...

"What do you want to achieve with the numbers?" is one of the first questions I ask. I and he know that numbers are statistics and can be presented in different ways without being wrong.

Re:Random figures (3, Insightful)

R_Dorothy (1096635) | more than 4 years ago | (#30032952)

I used to work for a head of department who demanded all sorts of printed monthly reports and would start getting on people's backs if it was late. Not only was it a boring time drain but it wasn't difficult to see that they didn't really know what the reports meant but weren't prepared to admit it. So for three months I handed in the same report with the headline date on the first page changed, on the fourth month I didn't hand in my reports and, when taken to task about it, took them aside and showed them the last three months reports I had haded in and the real data I had kept back. Fortunately I managed to get out of that company but I didn't produce any more routine reports after that.

Re:Random figures (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30033260)

Exactly - the less they understand it (and they won't be able to admit that), the more impressed they are. Show some graphs showing how the disk space on your servers is being consumed over time. How many inbound viruses your mail server is catching. Network capacity usage if you have a managed hub that shows this sort of stuff. The kind of thing you should be doing anyway - just show them that you're on the ball.

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Some Simple Suggestions (4, Interesting)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 4 years ago | (#30032570)

Start out your presentation stating that you're willing to dive as low as the executives ask you to but you're going to give them a high level view. Have slides after the end of your presentation as backup to support this claim. Keep large numbers of systems generalized with figures next to them to let the executives know how many devices or users you're supporting. Include meaningful statistics like 'requests per hour' to give them a good hint of how capable your system is.

If you're briefing one or two executives, see if you can pull up their calendar for the past few months and see what kind of meetings they've been in. If anything overlaps with what you're presenting do not brief the same thing twice. If you have multiple executives, tailor your presentation to the top one or two in importance. Nobody wants their time wasted with something they've already seen.

If they want a low level view, you might put together an example story of the flow of information from the sprinkler A all the way back to your server and the response back with all the challenges faced along the way. Keep it interesting, uncluttered and as simple as possible unless further questions are asked.

If you've got budget, pick up the three Edward Tufte books [wikipedia.org] on The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, Envisioning Information & Visual Explanations. Read them and incorporate that sort of data presentation into your reports.

Another great thing is if you can get interesting metrics established and defined and then develop scripts to ingest this information automatically into weekly reports (think of a perl script that digests very large log files). Have them create a cover sheet with the most general metrics and convert it to PDF or whatever the execs prefer to view them in. If you've got time, tailor them to the specific reader (your CTO is going to be interested in different things than your CEO or marketing director).

Re:Some Simple Suggestions (2, Insightful)

JerkBoB (7130) | more than 4 years ago | (#30033074)

Start out your presentation stating that you're willing to dive as low as the executives ask you to but you're going to give them a high level view.

This is a really REALLY important point for just about anyone, really. I suppose it's a rehash of the old aphorism: "Know your audience." It took me a while, but eventually I learned that most people (even technical people) really don't care that much about the gory details and supporting data. Boil it all down into factoids and front-load your presentation, email, whatever with the simple stuff. If people want more, they'll ask for it.

Really, it works. And it often leads to quicker meetings. You have to be able to back up your factoids with real data, of course, but over time people will learn to trust your high-level analysis and not ask for more (unless you're awful at it, in which case you've got other problems).

If you are worried (1)

codepunk (167897) | more than 4 years ago | (#30032588)

If you are concerned about supporting the reasoning behind the
existence of your job, it is time to depart.

Re:If you are worried (2, Funny)

nomadic (141991) | more than 4 years ago | (#30033130)

If you are concerned about supporting the reasoning behind the existence of your job, it is time to depart.

Never a better time than moving now, the job market is BOOMING...

Ops is a bottom line gig. (3, Insightful)

epiphani (254981) | more than 4 years ago | (#30032616)

Operations is a bottom-line game. It really comes down to how you're providing the service at the lowest possible cost.

I'd suggest trying to plan and execute projects that will bring down the hardware cost per user (ie, start compiling PHP. That could drive down cpu-cost-per-user).

It sounds annoying, but really that is the math game. Identify cost per user, cost per hit, cost per account or some other metric that management will understand, and then work to push that cost down.

Report on those efforts.

Log files are not a replacement for interaction (4, Interesting)

bigredradio (631970) | more than 4 years ago | (#30032622)

better illustrate my efforts.

Presenting executives with log files, or web stats is no way to communicate with your boss. This will give him/her an idea of the work the server is doing, but not you. You might want to present your to-do lists. These to-do lists should include completed and incomplete tasks. Since it is a small company and you are the only SA, you might try to attend the companies planning meetings. Be a part of the company instead of just an employee and you won't have to worry about CYA all the time.

Re:Log files are not a replacement for interaction (1)

think_nix (1467471) | more than 4 years ago | (#30033258)

You might want to present your to-do lists.

9.00 get to work (check)
9.05 get coffee (check)
9.07 check nagios (check)
9.10 read /. (check)
12.00 lunch (check)
12.30 ciesta (check)
16.00 get coffee (check)
16.05 check nagios (check)
17.00 go home (check)

Pretty is the answer (1)

vvaduva (859950) | more than 4 years ago | (#30032628)

Pretty "executive" reports is what they like to see, bar graphs, pie charts, etc. Also, stick with "top x" reports rather than 50 page reports which mean little to executive level people.

The problem is that most free tools out there really lack in reporting so you may want to figure out ways to export your data and write some sort of custom reporting tool in whatever environment you are familiar with, ms excel, php, python...etc. The answer is not easy, sorry.

Ask them (3, Informative)

houghi (78078) | more than 4 years ago | (#30032634)

I do reporting and give that to executives. I ask then what numbers they want and also why. The question as to why will imply that they will take action at certain points. It does not mean that I change the numbers, it means that I have some insight in what they want.

Asking them will explain what is important to them. That could be completely the opposite of what you think they would think is important. Uptime might not be important if all your downtime is outside of office hours.

Also look at what your own goals are.

However do not give them more then 3 or max 4 numbers. They won't understand and will not know what to do with it. Save details for the quartely meetings. I have made so many reports onn request where they say: what are the numbers for XYZ and each time I ask them: what will you do if they are good/bad?

There is no reason in measuring things where there will follow no actions due to those numbers.

Also be prepared to answer questions that you can not explain or are very hard to defend. "Why is the uptime not 100%? That is what we pay you for."

Re:Ask them (4, Informative)

idontgno (624372) | more than 4 years ago | (#30032760)

The question as to why will imply that they will take action at certain points. It does not mean that I change the numbers, it means that I have some insight in what they want.

The phrase I hear a lot is "actionable decision-quality information." If the executive has to ask "what does this mean to me and the company", you're presenting too much raw data. It's not filtered enough, cooked down and crystallized. Really, if you understand something of the business goals the execs are working towards, you'll know you've distilled the technical data enough if you feel like you can make the business decision with that data.

Re:Ask them (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30033668)

Don't forget: most high-level executives get there by failing upward. Don't expect them to actually *make* decisions - just present information that leads to the correct decision, and get the chimps in ties to sign off on it.

They really have no idea what you're talking about (4, Interesting)

jollyreaper (513215) | more than 4 years ago | (#30032650)

I don't mean to sound flippant or like a cocky IT jerk but they really have no idea what you're talking about. You'll have to translate it into terms they can understand.

In my company, the issue we're looking at is trying to quantify the value of IT. What management does not understand it devalues. So there's a bunch of geeks in a room doing shit. But what does it mean for the bottom line? Just filing reports on trouble tickets doesn't do the job. One ticket could be for showing a person where their start menu disappeared to and another could represent an continuing problem that took a hundred hours of work to resolve.

Staying until 2am to fix a problem in the server room doesn't count for diddly if all anyone sees of you in public is you being rude to a secretary for losing her word icon. That's all that will be remembered.

Adjust your prioirities (2, Insightful)

idontgno (624372) | more than 4 years ago | (#30032666)

The only executive who would be meaningfully impressed with technical metrics would probably be in your direct up-chain (e.g., CTO), so tailor those metrics towards their concerns. Things like performance measures that allow you to spot trends ("Is it me, or do those new servers crash more often?") and predict future necessary action ("Are we nibbling into our system resource reserve? Time to budget for upgrades.").

Outside of geek-ville, measure stuff which translates into business terms. Compute uptimes and responsiveness and scale transaction measurements against sales, or eyeballs, or whatever your company is really about.

Small company (1, Insightful)

Joe U (443617) | more than 4 years ago | (#30032674)

How many execs do you have in a 20 person company?

I worked in a 15 person company that had a CEO, 4 VP's and 2 high-level managers, too many chiefs, not enough braves. I used to get advice from the CEO about how we should go and rewrite our software in PERL, or PHP, depending on the article he was reading.

They went out of business, obivously.

Re:Small company (2, Insightful)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 4 years ago | (#30032920)

15 person company needs 1 CEO and that is it. if the CEO cant manage 14 people then he is a incompetent idiot.

One Competent CEO with 4 competent staff below him can easily, EASILY manage a company of that size. Idiots that hand out titles like candy are incompetent, be wary of a small start up with all executive staff.

Re:Small company (0)

nlindstrom (244357) | more than 4 years ago | (#30033092)

PERL is Perl, and not an acronym! Or do you write PERL on your Apple MAC?

Re:Small company (2, Insightful)

Joe U (443617) | more than 4 years ago | (#30033300)

PERL is Perl, and not an acronym! Or do you write PERL on your Apple MAC?

Practical Extraction and Report Language?

Yeah, I know, it's written Perl. I write too many reports with too many acronyms to care anymore.

On another note, does the increase in the use of automatic spell checkers make you feel all sad inside? What I mean is, after losing your main hobby and apparently sole purpose in life, I could see you getting depressed.

Re:Small company (1)

tompeach (1118811) | more than 4 years ago | (#30033460)

How many execs do you have in a 20 person company? I worked in a 15 person company that had a CEO, 4 VP's and 2 high-level managers, too many chiefs, not enough braves. I used to get advice from the CEO about how we should go and rewrite our software in PERL, or PHP, depending on the article he was reading. They went out of business, obivously.

Why on earth is this modded offtopic? The comment is totally relevant, reporting to management within a company of 20 is effectively the same as sending a report to you immediate team within a big corp, my biggest surprise is that the OP doesn't have a good enough relationship with this small team to ask them directly. Anyway....If you offer a list of every possible metric you could report on as suggested earlier you will typically get asked for everything whether it is of use to the recipient or not. Speak to your management, ask them what they have to provide to their stakeholders and come to an agreement about how best to present it to them. Don't simply assume they want more reporting and send it to them, there is no point in doing the work if nobody reads it.

Ask the executives (2, Informative)

harmonise (1484057) | more than 4 years ago | (#30032684)

Why don't you ask the executives what information is important to them? They are your customer so you need to gather their requirements, not ours. Once you know what questions they want answered, you can then generate reports that answer them.

Re:Ask the executives (2, Interesting)

Knackster (858532) | more than 4 years ago | (#30032888)

Here are some items that my execs liked to see as they could understand them: 1 Amount of spam based on incoming email blocked. 2. Attempted intrusion attempts on firewall. 3. Virus outbreaks on network. 4. Since you run IT do you get phone records? Maybe the number of calls per department or inbound vs outbound and where all of your ld costs are. 5. You might want to look to see how accounting has your department's financials set up and maybe present those. Just thoughts.

Think Business Functionality (5, Insightful)

lbalbalba (526209) | more than 4 years ago | (#30032694)

Focus on the benefits the systems provide for the business. For example, if you were sysadmin for a website of a major airline, you would focus on the amount of tickets sold online. Management is way more interested in seeing how much money the web site makes, or in what ways it helps people do their job better and more efficient, than purely technical data like system/service uptime or page visits.

Re:Think Business Functionality (4, Interesting)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 4 years ago | (#30033068)

Reporting numbers that are from a different department is silly. sysadmin for an airline website? report costs of operation, and current load with a reminder of where you need to upgrade. if you are a sysadmin and you are dipping into the database to look at sales numbers, you are not doing your job, you are doing the accounting departments job.

Website operational costs $xxxx.xx per month we had XXXXXXX visitors in that time period and are operating at 46% capacity. Currently experiencing a 6% growth from last month and a 1% growth from last year at this time. At this growth rate barring any hardware failures, we will not need any capacity upgrades for XX months. We had to replace a hard drive array at a cost of $X,XXX.xx and will be scheduling a 12 hour downtime window later this month for software upgrades to protect the company and site from fraud.

That is what an executive wants to see, distilled down to a small paragraph that gives him everything he wanted in less than 30 seconds. Also if you distill it tightly like that, you end up showing up the other guys that report because you are concise and to the point not wasting any of his time. They REALLLLY appreciate that.

Re:Think Business Functionality (1)

iamhigh (1252742) | more than 4 years ago | (#30033586)

Those are good if you run an airline... but this guy doesn't seem to be in that boat. This may be small enough they only have a few u's at a colo, or in house servers. Their system costs could be hundreds a month, not tens of thousands. When the yearly cost of IT services is under 10 grand, even a 50% cost cut isn't really big news. In that case, you have to show how you have improved the usability, improved information availability and BS like that. It's actually much easier to just report tech numbers, cut and dry, and while the CIO/CTO might like that paragraph you wrote in a company with dozens of servers, it sounds like that would bring a silence in this case. They want to to know how the business is affected by IT, not how awesome your systems are. This is a fundamental difference in big vs small companies.

VMWare? (1)

Stenchwarrior (1335051) | more than 4 years ago | (#30032720)

Not sure if you are virtualized or not, but VMWare client offers many great reporting features to give you CPU, MEM and HD utilization usage per server. Also, if you are running Cisco networking, the management interface can give you detailed reports with pretty graphs and such (which we all know executives LOVE to see). Another tool which I find useful for web-based environments is Statcounter [statcounter.com] . They provide very detailed information about pageloads and unique/returning visitors, all based on IP.

Re:VMWare? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30033382)

Executives love to see traffic graphs? Also, why is this a Cisco feature? Any network vendor has such things. You come off as a low level IT drone and have *no* idea what executives want to see. Why would they want to see resource utilization.

Coming of Age (2, Funny)

yttrstein (891553) | more than 4 years ago | (#30032732)

It's always heartwarming to see a Sysadmin ascend to the point where they begin to slowly realize that justification for their salary is going to have to involve some lying.

Pareto (1)

Gothmolly (148874) | more than 4 years ago | (#30032734)

80/20 rule - show them the biggest, heaviest hitters. if someonly happens .01% of the time, its a waste of your time to investigate it, work on it, etc.

Re:Pareto (1)

ircmaxell (1117387) | more than 4 years ago | (#30032786)

Unless that 0.01% occurrence causes catastrophic system failure. In which case you can absolutely justify investigating it (You'd be bad at your job if you didn't)...

Re:Pareto (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30033588)

Company with 20 people and 1 it guy. 0.01% chance (per day?) of a catastrophic failure is not worth investigating, or reporting to management.

Re:Pareto (1)

ctrl-alt-canc (977108) | more than 4 years ago | (#30033016)

> Our system is also unique in that about 70% of the traffic we see is from devices and not human browsers

Now you know who is to blame, if anything goes wrong in the network...

Provide market data. (4, Funny)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 4 years ago | (#30032740)

Collect the amount of water pumped reported by each sensor as a trace between 9:30 AM and 4PM on the days the market is open. Find the correlation between this trace and the S&P500 index with a two minute time lag. See which sensor has a correlation coefficient more than 0.05. Use that info to come up with a trading strategy to buy and sell the exchange traded fund IVV. Propose a project find the leading indicator sensor for more securities like QQQQ, Diamond, XLF, XLU, XLV, XLP and the stock ANSS. Upper management is mostly made up of idiots who fall for such things. Build an empire under you. Watch the cash flow of the company. Just before it goes bust, put all this experience in a resume and get a job in the ultra high speed trading division of Morgan Stanley.

Everything is working perfectly (1)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 4 years ago | (#30032766)

Due to all of your decisions being brilliant. As you can see from thesereallyquicklydisplayedpiecharts, Nobody in the history of $WHATEVER_WE_DO does $WHATEVER_WE_DO as well as we do $WHATEVER_WE_DO, thanks to your amazing leadership. I recommend that we keep on doing what we're doing, only with 5% more budget for my department.

That's the smart answer. Or you could tell them the truth, but please be aware that all companies shoot the messenger. All of them.

throw the dead cat in the neighbors yard (2, Funny)

SethJohnson (112166) | more than 4 years ago | (#30032784)

This is a one-off idea, but you could meet with marketing and ask for a list of the various campaigns they've launched over the past year. Then you could parse the web server logs to see where traffic was coming from during the dates of those campaigns. It would give execs a metric by which to measure the effectiveness of the marketing efforts. This is important, because as your ship sinks, the execs will look to you for help in determining the ballast that needs to be dumped.

Seth

Executive Reporting -- A Problem of Perspective (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30032796)

Reporting to executives effectively requires that you try to understand what is important to them as opposed to what is important from a system administration perspective. Some years ago I was responsible for a 24x7 data center operation and had the same dilemma. In the end I formulated a number of indexes based on operator workload and processing -- as absence of user complaints around service delivery were their hot buttons. As long as they saw workload and results as independent variables they were more than happy to cut back on resources. But by tracking workloads and report delivery it was possible to show the relationships. It is not the data but how it is represented to the exec -- simple words suitable for children and important executives. Their time tends to be pretty fragmented -- and their perspectives can be very different from the yours. It might be helpful to talk to them a bit to learn what matters to them. And if you can connect their issues to yours -- bonus.

Don't do it! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30032798)

You'll just gave yourself more mandatory busy work for no reason. Then if mgmt decide they want these every week or month, that's less time you have for projects or fixing things that are more important.

My boss did the same thing at another company, and now one day every week he has to spend creating charts and getting this information from baselines from scratch because he can't script for information and the company won't buy him any software.

They don't want know ! (1)

theoldwizard (613044) | more than 4 years ago | (#30032806)

I worked for a Fortune 100 engineering/manufacturing company as a Sys Admin for over 20 years. In my last position I worked in a small niche of the company outside of major machines and applications but still in a place where a system problem that lasted more than 24 hours could shutdown multiple factories. My immediate management did not want to know anything. My favorite quote was, "The best you can do, is to not let my phone ring with a complaint !" Any management above that level (incorrectly) assumed that the PCs on engineers desks were all that was required for them to get their work done when in fact all of their work was conducted on servers under my control. Worse, the servers in use averaged between 8-12 years old, some running "retired" OS's, most of which had no hardware maintenance contract as we had "spares" or could reconfigure them with less CPUs/memory until replacements could be obtained from the used market.

They need to know future costs and plans (1)

RichMan (8097) | more than 4 years ago | (#30032900)

Very important for management is future planning.

Track Hardware age.
Present at least a 2 year out management plan for hardware upgrades with likely costs.
Do the same for software. But you also need to watch for potential compatibility issues.
Do you have spares?

Watch for potential migration opportunities of software and hardware platforms for efficiency and cost. These would not be indepth studies as management would have to approve those. Just keep you eyes open and report when something looks interesting. Especially with future scaling issues.

Give time, get cooperation (1)

NervousWreck (1399445) | more than 4 years ago | (#30032826)

I would recommend taking some extra time to provide an explanation of what all the information means in terms of that executive's department so that they can accurately tell you what they want you to report. Many people want to hear everything because they aren't sure exactly what they are looking for but end up suffering info overload and read nothing. As eldavojohn said, your CEO will be interested in different things than your CTO.

I manage about 50TB of storage and my reports (1)

mandark1967 (630856) | more than 4 years ago | (#30032844)

are high-level summaries of how the space is assigned out to our various branches located all over the US. I follow that up with a summary report that lists the total amount of storage each branch is allocated compared to how much storage they are actually using.

That's followed up with a per-branch breakdown of total number of files, total space used, and how many of each type of file are being stored at each branch. Going deeper than that is not always necessary, but I have the following reports ready in case I am asked:

How much data (per branch) is duplicated (same filename, same modified date, same file size)
How much data (per branch) is over 3 years old, over 5 years old, over 7 years old (legal requires us to keep some files for up to 7 years)
How many files have ###-##-#### in them or ######### (in case someone got stupid enough to save a file with someone's SSN in it)
How many Audio Files & space taken by them
How many Video Files & space taken by them
How many Picture Files & space taken by them
How many Executable Files & space taken by them
How many Outlook PST Files & space taken by them
Folders with "Personal" or "Backup" or "Archive" in them (users are not allowed to store personal files on shared space)
etc...
(there are actually a lot more options and queries I haven't mentioned)

I also use access enumerator to show the differences in ACLs of folders in case there are permissions issues.

Re:I manage about 50TB of storage and my reports (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30032966)

Yeah, I used to do that until some of them started thinking that if they used MORE space it owuld look like they were doing MORE work so I just started giving them pictures of shiny ponies.

Mission Statement (1)

PinkyDead (862370) | more than 4 years ago | (#30032852)

Agree with your executives what your mission is: security, stability, reliability, user friendliness, whatever...

Then the reports you need are those that demonstrate how well you are fulfilling you mission. Anything else is just extraneous BS.

include some educational concepts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30032862)

Ask them, but some examples are Costs broken down, expected time line of current equipment, most common IT issues (with some breakdown of cost to the company). Then depending on the Tech awareness of the company, have a pie chart of where their IT budget goes, or an automated report where they can get more granular results.

But as a Sys admin that also does all the IT needs for the company, or at least coordinates them, you may also want to include some educational concepts, like links to articles about ideas that you believe can be done and would improve the bottom line. However know your audience so articles from Financial Times (FT.com) or other trade publications in your industry would be helpful.

Be bright, (4, Insightful)

cptdondo (59460) | more than 4 years ago | (#30032904)

be brief, be gone.

That's about the best I can give you.

Your whole summary should fit on 1 sheet of paper, with bullet points.

The whole presentation should take less than 3 minutes.

Ask yourself, if you were flying at 30,000' over your operation, "What would I see?"

That's what the execs want.

I report to executives too (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30032930)

And if I were in your position, the very first thing I would do is ask them what kind of reports they want.

Unless your executives have loads of extra time on their hands (very unlikely), they will only want a short, concise report, aptly named an executive summary. So you will want to focus on making things concise and to the point. Loads of numbers are usually not appreciated, only the most relevant ones, and a short description that may overview other issues that aren't representative of those numbers.

Your executives will probably give you a fairly good description of what they want to see, it will be your job to interpret that into the actual numbers you have available, how you will present it, what is or is not relative, and so on.

E-strategy (1)

Heliode (856187) | more than 4 years ago | (#30032942)

Aside from reporting statistics etc., what would be most useful from a business point of view would be some sort of e-strategy that is aligned with the overall strategy of the company. Executives usually spend lots of time envisioning where they want the company to be in X years. Figure out what this is, and formulate a plan for IT to facilitate this.
These days, the role of IT in all sorts of business ventures continues to increase, and can offer real strategic advantages for companies. They just have to realize this, and make the most of it. You can help with that.

Business information. (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 4 years ago | (#30032946)

What pages are people reading?
What are they searching for?
Country/city/network do they come from?

There is a wealth of market information in web and email logs.

Understand your business and how you can make it better, cheaper, faster, more profitable.
 

My experience (4, Insightful)

br00tus (528477) | more than 4 years ago | (#30032956)

I started working at an organization a while back and I would file a trouble ticket whenever I came across something broken, even if it was unimportant and with an overflowing workload might not be done for a while. A manager was hired after a while who decided to use the trouble ticket system as a meter of progress for tasks done. When he announced this, I immediately closed all of these types of tickets, saved them locally on my machine, and even went into the database so as to delete all vestiges of these tickets. I began only creating tickets when I knew a task would probably be done on-time and quickly. The manager was canned after about two years there - the thing that saved him for so long is that his manager changed three times while he was there, the third one axed him.

What management wants to see is that their investment in you is getting results. If they spend X amount of dollars on something, they want to see how it is helping the company or whatever. Show how successful your projects have been, how your uptime rate is always increasing etc. Use lots of colorful charts, lists with 20 goals and "accomplished" next to 18 of them and "partially accomplished" next to the other two. That type of crap. I mean, if management wants this nonsense from the sysadmin, you're in Dilbert land already.

In France in 1968 there was a massive general strike, with workers taking over factories and the like, and De Gaulle even planned contingencies to leave France and invade it at some future point with the French army and possibly NATO support. One of the wall posters of that time said "The boss needs you, you don't need the boss". Sometimes I think these exercises are more to psychologically mess with you than anything. You do all the work and create all the wealth, the bosses and shareholders don't do anything and collect salaries and profits. By making you do a pointless exercise like this to justify yourself to them, they're putting the idea out of your head of the reverse - of why *they* are necessary to the company. After 13 years in this industry, I'm becoming convinced that the dumb, pointless things management makes you do does have some strange psychological point along these lines. I've quit agreeing with my co-workers that these presentations are dumb and pointless, I think they do have a point - keeping us disciplined, from requesting sane hours and on-call rotation and all of that.

Re:My experience (1)

CannedTurkey (920516) | more than 4 years ago | (#30033014)

I like your ideas, and would like to subscribe to your newsletter.

Reports (1)

gone.fishing (213219) | more than 4 years ago | (#30032970)

I don't know what you want to put in the report but I do know I would call it a TPS Report.

Depends on the industry... (1)

stakovahflow (1660677) | more than 4 years ago | (#30032974)

It really depends on the industry you're in, as to whether or not there should be daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, or semi-annually generated reports. Personally, I would speak with the boss, first (if this is the first time you are being asked to provide reports, etc). Find out what the boss wants and press on. Ask if he would like a graph (Well said, waduva...) or a detailed list (by user, etc...). If you are working for small-medium company, you will probably be asked for a graph, possibly for each network user, once a month. The larger the business you work for, the more detail will be required, generally. However, be warned whatever information you gather is owned by your employer and not for you to judge. I've seen network admins dumped after water cooler talk about some other user's network habits (surfing, etc...). Remember, with great power comes great responsibility. And, a final thought, Remember that most CEOs, CFOs, and Presidents of corporations will understand a good percentage of what you're talking about. Do not talk down to them, but just give them the basics. Nothing too specific, unless they ask for it. Good luck and God speed, man! --Stak

common grounds? (2, Insightful)

X10 (186866) | more than 4 years ago | (#30032976)

Is the average manager able to understand the type of information a systems administrator is able to provide? Or, put otherwise, is a systems administrator able to provide the information that a manager can understand? I think we have an issue here.

Cover your ass (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30032982)

You don't want some bright young MBA to come along and wonder if your job could be offshored or done part-time. You want a metric that shows that you are irreplaceable. Hours spent on various kinds of task is a good one.

A lot of your reporting should be verbal. Make sure you have a good personal relationship with the higher-ups. Whatever you do, don't just hide in your office diligently doing your job. When the bright young MBA comes along, you want the big boss to be able to tell him that you can't be replaced and the place would go to hell in a handbasket if you weren't around. Only a personal relationship can do that for you. All the paper reports in the world won't cut it.

Mod Parent Up (1)

mpapet (761907) | more than 4 years ago | (#30033568)

This is the only defense against the next Carly Fiorina working in your company.

Spams blocked Statistic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30032998)

How much spam you've thwarted can be an interesting statistic, we're at about 3 Billion in the past year. Though, we don't actually report this to management, but it's an impressive number nonetheless.

First mistake (2, Insightful)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 4 years ago | (#30033002)

As a System Administrator, I am charged with providing more insight into the functioning of the system

There's your first mistake. No, providing more insight is not what you're doing. Your job is to:

  1. Give them executive summaries (a.k.a. "pap") that mostly conform to their pre-conceived ideas;
  2. Give them material for CYA
  3. Help them justify their jobs
  4. Prove that you're working - because they have no real way of measuring your job, since they don't understand it all that well

Everything else about any reports you fill in for them is just incidental.

Go grab a copy of Dilbert and read it in the can (might as well do it on company time). That's the real world.

Re:First mistake (1)

NervousWreck (1399445) | more than 4 years ago | (#30033268)

If you want to take that attitude, then your job is: -1. CYA forget about the execs 0. Actually keep the system up and running at least minimally. Proceed to above steps 1-4 Or, if you want to go above and beyond and give them service they don't really deserve, follow my earlier comment.

Remember your audience (1)

noric (1203882) | more than 4 years ago | (#30033004)

Be cognizant of the fact that while the executives can translate actionable data into... action... they are often unable to figure out the information the data is conveying. Remember your audience. Instead of a latency chart, you might explain that 99% of customers (devices, etc) wait no longer than 10 seconds. Other great points above are: ask the executives, and agree on a mission statement. Is your job just to keep the computers running, or to lower capital costs? Do you take ownership of investigating possible hardware upgrades and new technologies?

Better in Terms of Value ($$$) (1)

Comatose51 (687974) | more than 4 years ago | (#30033008)

Depending on how technical your executive is, a lot of times they understand things better once you've translated all the technical stats into value and cost. For example, if X problem is keeping you occupied for a day a month, you can translate that into costs to the company. If your proposed solutions cost less, then it's easy to justify. If the executive is technical, then give him the technical stats but also do the monetization for convenience sake.

Efficiency (aka ROI) (1)

pz (113803) | more than 4 years ago | (#30033022)

Executives want to know how well their business is working. One of the basic metrics for that is ROI -- return on investment -- and the way that translates into capital holdings is efficiency. Or, in other words, is it worth having all of those servers sucking power, consuming AC, and justifying your salary and benefits.

If you've already got uptime nailed (congrats!), then mean, median, and max response times are useful. This speaks to efficiency, and helps you, as IT guy, determine how many servers you actually need.

The other main criterion for efficiency is cost; standard costs are bandwidth charges, power, and A/C. But be warned, if you give them a number, executives will want to optimize it, so be prepared to do so.

Focus on the business.... (5, Insightful)

LibertineR (591918) | more than 4 years ago | (#30033044)

and not so much the technology.

Show how the various systems and services directly support Business operations and overall goals like profitability, customer service ratings, etc..

Point out wherever technology is a business hindrance or obstacle, and provide multiple options for systems or software integration to alleviate the problem.

In short, use the opportunity to remind the execs that IT is more than a cost-center, and how its proper usage can enhance profitability.

Careful though; if you do too good a job, they might make you a (gasp) manager, and then of course, you are screwed.

Report Writing (1)

Stormcrow309 (590240) | more than 4 years ago | (#30033088)

Write a detailed report, explaining all the jargon simply, and then summerize it to about 150 to 350 words. Most executives will read the "executive summery", but you will get bonus points from having the further content. However, if you decide to fill the body of the report with junk, you will find out that some of your reports are being read front to back.

Working on my Ph.D., I have a tendency of writing work reports within the 10 to 20 pages range, using APA citing. I use extended abstracts (~350 words, check the report section of APA 5) and use a clear style of writing, expecting my readers to be college educated, but not to the extent that I am educated. However, I tend to be writing lengthy project plans, audits of projects and systems, and in depth analysis of business processes and products.

I treat status reports differently. Status reports are rarely over ~350 words, weekly reports trending at ~150. Brevity is king here. I put in a table of all of my projects with their status, next milestone, CPI, SPI, and EAC. I might also include PDFs of relevent reports that I had published that week.

20 person company + executives + reports??? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30033118)

You work for a 20 person company that has executives and reports? What kind of company is this? My experience (as a sys admin and with simultaneous IT support) has taught me that reports are for shareholders' piece of minds unless you work for a really large company. And if you're a private company then the shareholders are the partners/founders and you should just talk to them like as needed.

A few ideas (1)

V!NCENT (1105021) | more than 4 years ago | (#30033196)

Just look at your job as anyone else who is not a sysadmin would look at his job. I mean: what is your goal? Then answer:

Did you reach your goal? If yes/no; what's your progress?
What are your next goals? Do you have the manpower, being on your own? How long will it take? How's the planning going along?
How is the system doing on a technical level? Is it fast enough? Room for improvements? Is the security up to par with todays threats? And how do you keep up with the latest IT developments and security threads?
How is the system doing for personel? Is everybody satisfied? Room for improvements there? Etc.
Is the system 100% fit for its purpose? Is it still functioning well enough? Do you need hardware upgrades? Etc.

Awnser these questions in a nice format. Google a status report format that is NOT an IT status report and use that one. Finally give it to the person. Just ask him if he wants a monthly or quarterly status report.

That should get you going.

PS: Do not report on anything too technical like "Our BLT drive just went AWOL" and you should be fine ;)

% of utilisation & growth availability (1)

Shishak (12540) | more than 4 years ago | (#30033206)

As an executive I want to see how much additional growth I can add to a system before I need to expend additional capital.

A report saying XYZ resource is at X% and can handle Y% more growth before we need to spend $Z to expand capacity is immensely valuable.

Think like a non-sysadmin (1)

HockeyPuck (141947) | more than 4 years ago | (#30033210)

Don't assume that he knows what some feature is. Think like his level. For example, from a technical standpoint he might only care that you just successfully rolled out a major software upgrade (if your company writes lots of software). This would be the equivalent to eBay rolling out a major release of their trading software, NOT them upgrading their linux boxes to the latest kernel. The only CXO level folks I've worked with that consistently cared about response time were those in which whose businesses depended on response times (like financial trading companies, where response time = trading = money).

How are you saving money? (ROI, reducing expenses such as power/cooling/hardware). How are you improving efficiency (automation, consolidation etc..).

Also as someone that has presented many times to CxO level people, remember this if you have to give a presentation of your findings, "You are not in control of the presentation." No matter how much you prepare for it, or think you'll be giving a controlled presentation; fully expect them to look at your first slide and ask you a bunch of questions which are not covered anywhere, completely derailing/hijacking your presentation. Be prepared for "buzzword" questions, "Have you considered transitioning to a cloud based...?"

Last one. Check your ego at the door.

What management needs of you (1)

managerialslime (739286) | more than 4 years ago | (#30033222)

As a System Administrator, I am charged with providing more insight into the functioning of the system ... What types of reports and information do other System Administrators submit to executives and on what frequency?

First, management needs to know what indicators they need to follow to know how to prepare for equipment and line replacements and upgrades. That includes staying current on the moving target of what constitutes "best practices" for network security and capacity management. If your utilization is low enough that there are no spikes to capacity, don't worry about charts and reports. Management wants to know about exceptions and opportunities and most other stuff is not of interest.

While your text implies a static system, are your backups not consuming more bandwidth each year? What will be the implications of moving voice and video onto your network? Do you have the granular levels of QOS required? Would file de-duplication lead to lower bandwidth costs and lower costs site-to-site?

You indicate your company's purpose is "web based irrigation management."

Is there anything you can propose about the use, and/or deployment, and/or expansion of your network that would make your company an ever better choice for your customers?

Are you at the end of your contracts and can you combine voice and data lines and cut costs?

Could your network be expanded to provide any of your customers with bandwidth and service they don't get now?

Could you save your company money by outsourcing any part of your network or could you bring in more revenue by marketing your extra bandwidth to to others?

In general, what intersection might there be between things your team does best and challenges annoying your customers?

Combine your technical expertise with any knowledge you can develop about your employer's industry and opportunities and your contributions may increase in their value.

I hope one or more of these questions leads you to the answer you seek. Good luck.....

Don't Get Fancy (1)

ggraham412 (1492023) | more than 4 years ago | (#30033226)

You should avoid long winded discussions of operations that sum up to "everything's OK". You risk looking like an attention grabber if you try to cram too much detail on the way.

Time based statistics (1)

EasyTarget (43516) | more than 4 years ago | (#30033254)

I'm in a similar position; so long as the systems I look after are running OK I can fade to invisible, and only show up when there is a problem.

So; I do a small statistics collection every week, and update a spreadsheet (with some attached pretty graphs), and have it included as a slide in the weekly management overview my department submits. I keep a log of these over time. The sort of things I measure includes number of users on our internal issue tracking system (colleagues/customers), total number of new issues this week. Size and number of objects in Subversion, Maven, TFS, ActiveCollab, etc...

Big trick is to have graphs showing usage increasing over time, and to be able to put numbers on these (we have doubled the number of items in our repositories this year!!!) etc. management like that; and find it very easy to justify.

All of these comments....and no $$$$ (1)

tacokill (531275) | more than 4 years ago | (#30033270)

Lots of good recommendations but I can't believe nobody has mentioned the most important thing to executives: dollars and cents!

If things run reasonably smoothly at your locale, then the only other thing I care about is this: what are you doing to lower costs and make more money for us? Assuming you are not in govt or some non-profit, the profit is all we care about it. Anything else is just doublespeak for "profit".

How about telling him what you are doing to drive a 5% reduction in costs next year? Get creative. At worst, even if it doesn't work out, they will at least know you are focusing on the right thing: the bottom line. Then do it again next year. The point here is this: you should be relentless in your pursuit of driving money to the bottom line. ie: profits. That is the minimum expectation for anyone working for a business. Yes, by being employed, you are on a team. Act like it and try to attain the team's goals (profit).

Too many IT shops operate as one giant suckfest for money. Then, when having to explain themselves, they hide behind fancy jargon and technology -- none of which the typical executive cares about.

Report in dollars (1)

Skapare (16644) | more than 4 years ago | (#30033308)

Make your report in dollars. Seriously, that's all that these people understand. Since you are a cost center, there's no profit to report. You report costs in dollars (computers purchased, maintenance performed, electricity used, etc), effectiveness in dollars (how this all affects the ability to provide the product or service to your customers or clients), and liability in dollars (the risks of failure due to insufficient spending on certain resources, such as better security, reliability, performance, etc). Lots of pretty, shaded, colorful, pie graphs will help.

Don't think in numbers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30033338)

Numbers are nice, numbers are safe to hide behind. But giving executives numbers means they automatically get something to hit you with regardless of whether they understand it. Thus, you make yourself their victim by doing that. Do something else instead.

Ask yourself what you'd want to know if you were in their position. What things should executives know to take the right strategic decisions about system administration?

One of the first things I'd think about is my workload. Am I achieving what I want to achieve? What do I need for that? Money? More hands? A weekly chat with the top bigwig?

The thing about executives is that they have this tendency to get stuck in full-out "tl;dr" mode regardless of whether them being them justifies that. It really is quite insulting to well-written missives and worse, all too easily abused, but it appears to be the status quo of global management, which isn't very good at that. So, you really need to look at it their way and tell them within an elevator pitch and with a very few numbers (as already pointed out) to basically make it a rubberstampable decision, except that if I were an executive I'd demand at least three options with explanation what it means for cost now and later and doing the same thing in the future again.

And yes, this comment is too long; I really should cut it down to just half of the previous paragraph. (Excercise for the reader: Which half?) But! I'm not an executive, and neither are you. Deal with it.

Collect data. (1)

jandersen (462034) | more than 4 years ago | (#30033400)

I think you should turn this the other way round - you are in charge of keeping the whole thing flying, and what is important is what YOU need to keep a tab on in order to do a good job. I don't know what kind of problems you tend to encounter on your site, but for many it would probably be something about how much your resources are being utilized. Like, how fast are disks filling up? You need to be able to be proactive - ie. to tell your managers that you need more diskspace before the disk is too full.

What I am still working on is data collection - simply putting things into a relational database. I try to collect everything that might be interesting - user logs, running processes, network traffic counts, etc. I find that managers don't really want to be bothered when things are fine; they just want to know when they have to take action. So I would suggest that you focus on giving them data that allow them to predict what money they will have to spend on upgrades and repairs.

Show them what WASN'T there before (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30033426)

In my experience, if you demonstrate an enhancement of some sort, something that shows value...they'll love that. Create something - execs appreciate that.

Normal Stuff (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30033642)

Just a starting point.

Uptime / Unplanned downtime
MTBF
MTTR

% CPU Utilization
% Disk Utilization

% virtual servers
% virtual workloads

Any counts of hardware failures by type and vendor.
Any software logical failure issues by type and vendor.

Help desk tickets resolved over time and unresolved.

Average time to new equipment deployment (lower is better), provided it doesn't impact other "failure" stats.

Some of these things help determine whether good decisions were made previously. Bargain networking equipment isn't always a bargain. Cheap servers aren't always cheaper. Commercial software isn't always better than free and vice versa. Not having a SAN can prevent flexibility, increase time to deployment, and increase downtime.

Then discuss which statistics the business users may want. Be cautious to measure something important and statistically measurable, not something to make someone feel good or bad.

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