This is part of Solutions Review’s Premium Content Series, a collection of contributed columns written by industry experts in maturing software categories. In this submission, BackBox CEO Andrew Kahl offers guidance for how to communicate the importance of network health and automation to your board.
Business continuity is critical to the success of any company. With IT downtime comes the loss of profit, a decline in customer trust, and the inability of employees to be productive. With the COVID-19 pandemic came an increase in company distribution, with many operating both remotely and in-office, as well as across multiple regions. This distribution of work environments, combined with a wide variety of vendors represented in companies’ IT infrastructure, has made network management that much more challenging, leading to a greater risk of misconfigurations or other incidents that can cause an outage.
Ensuring the company is properly prepared to recover and able to resume normal activity in the event of a disaster is impossible without network automation. IT teams, company executives, and board members alike must be aligned on the importance of network automation to their business continuity strategy. Automation improves the overall health of your network, prevents outages from occurring, limits downtime, and ensures that businesses are prepared to recover quickly in the event of a disaster.
To achieve business continuity in the event of a disaster, IT leaders must be proactive and transparent in communicating the status of their network’s health, as well as what their team’s priorities, goals, and concerns are to the board. The following are tips IT leaders should follow to effectively frame these conversations.
Align Overall Business Goals with IT Priorities
The network is the backbone of any business, and in order to meet business goals, IT objectives must be understood and taken seriously throughout the entirety of the company. Without a properly functioning network, routine tasks cannot be carried out as expected, and goals cannot be accomplished. To achieve overall goals, it is important for the board and executive team to communicate with IT leaders on these goals– both short and long term– and for the IT leader in turn to explain how their projects and priorities support those overarching objectives.
What many companies fail to take into consideration is network health’s direct correlation with productivity. Poor network health can result in increased IT downtime, leaving employees unable to do their jobs. The network structure should be able to properly react to and support sudden changes, such as the COVID-19 pandemic that created an overnight shift in company operations and distribution of work, while still supporting the company’s overall goals and success.
Demonstrate How Network Automation Enables a Company to Scale
Scalability is incredibly important in ensuring company growth, whether that be organically or through M&A, and networks must be able to support this growth in a fluid manner. The C-suite and board of almost any company are concerned with how the business can scale– framing the benefits of network automation around how it supports these objectives will help capture their attention.
With business growth comes added complexity and bandwidth challenges for already strapped and understaffed IT teams. Network automation fills this void by taking a lot of the weight off of their shoulders, automating numerous tasks and processes that were previously done manually. This reduced time spent manually managing networks allows administrators to focus on other work that adds value to the company.
Proactively Communicate With Your Board on a Regular Basis
Although your board may seem far removed from day-to-day IT functions, it is important to be on the same page when it comes to network health, business continuity, and how the IT team is aligning projects and priorities with overarching business goals.
Things can get lost in translation traveling down the pipeline from board members to network administrators and vice versa, so it is crucial that IT team leaders are regularly meeting directly with board members and the executive team to discuss any developments, concerns, and current priorities, rather than relying on word-of-mouth.
Avoid Fear-Mongering and Scare Tactics
While fear, uncertainty, and doubt can occasionally scare board members into investing in IT programs, constant worst-case scenarios can backfire and undermine credibility. Repeated scare tactics with strong warnings send unintended messages that can reflect negatively on the company. It is important to be realistic about risks and accurately relay the current status of the network, its vulnerabilities, and how it can continue to improve.
Exercising these tips in your relationship with your board members will help to productively and accurately communicate the importance of network health to the overall success of the business, and how network automation can optimize these objectives. Ultimately, it isn’t safe to assume that everyone within the company knows the overall plan for success, and how network health plays a role in that. Communication is critical, and leaving something as critical as the backbone of your company operations open to interpretation or third-hand conveyance could backfire and leave the company unprepared.