MIS Best Practice
This document is a pot-luck of things that I recommend to have a good MIS department.
- Hire high-bandwidth, hard-working, enthusiastic people, who master 80% of the requirements (so that they still have things to discover, which makes for a more interesting job, provided they are effectively willing to learn.) Credibility of the MIS team requires that there should not be too wide a gap in competence and knowledge between development, QA, and MIS
- Be generous with training and/or book purchases. Not only does a book cost a lost less than a training class, but it can be used successively by several people, and studying is done on employees' free time
- Take advantage of online ordering to make it easier to buy equipment. As a plus, use a purchase module such as the one available in Peregrine's AssetCenter, and find a way for approved purchase requests to trigger an actual order on the supplier's web site
- For emergencies, resort to brick and mortar computer stores in the neighborhood
- MIS should always have sufficient spare parts available. Purchase policy should neither be too tight nor wasteful of company $. Always keep in mind how much one wasted work hour costs to the company. Purchase requests are no fun, so red tape should be kept to the minimum
- At least one test host for each member of dev/QA/MIS
- If your PBX supports those features: have a light flash for a couple of times before the phone actually rings, to keep dBs low (especially important when working in an open-space office); remind people to keep their voice low if they share an office; use the loudspeaker of all ISDN phones as a PA system; internal DB to map phone #s to contact names to provide better caller ID; generally speaking, consider CTI systems to improve call dispatching
- No unlicensed or offensive files in company computers.
- Deploy groupware tools, including good instant messaging (eg. Lotus Sametime: send msg to one or more hosts, have the client beep/flash to prompt users that someone is trying to contact them, etc.) that make it easy to share knowledge (technical notes to point users to), purchase equipment (if a user needs equipment, they only need to create a purchase request in the MIS database and are kept abreast of purchase/delivery details), solve help-desks issues (barring emergencies, problems should be handled by filling a basic help-desk ticket, so as to promote pro-activity instead of re-activity.
As of October 2K, it looks like no open-source solution matches what can be achieved with Lotus Domino/Notes.
Like all dep'ts, MIS needs to spend as little time as possible doing context-switch and putting out fires, and more time handling issues as part of a schedule. This leaves more time to think about future needs and problems). Consider advanced infrastructure management tools like Peregrine, PeopleSoft, etc.
Also remember that good indexing is a must!
- I don't trust proprietary tools for mission critical tasks like e-mail. On the other hand, a groupware tool with its e-mail feature unused is a waste. Therefore, I recommended setting up a *nix-based servers in the DMZ (e-mail server to act as smart-host, and Apache server as public web server). In case the groupware server in the private network goes down, e-mails from the Internet are safely spooled on the smart host in the DMZ. As for the web server, check that your groupware server can easily export documents in HTML/XML to the Apache server.
- NT Resource Kit
- With merges & acquisitions being all the rage, it's only a matter of time before your company is merged with another, possibly in a foreign country. All documentation (including comments in source code) should be done in English from the start.
- Install a good online English dictionary on each host, ideally one that includes sound files for each dictionary entry so people get to improve their English as a by-product