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Create an operations plan

Why you should have one; how to go about it

All network systems require maintenance. Some procedures are required on a daily basis, others on a weekly or monthly basis. Infrequently you will find that some tasks such as loading analysis are best done on a yearly basis as part of an annual budget.

Most IT organizations don't formally consider their maintenance as part of an operations plan, but they should. Having a formal plan that is both written and agreed to lets you better plan your resources, synchronize appropriate operations that have dependencies, as well as allow you to measure the performance of your staff against a meaningful and measurable metric.

The very best place to create your master plan is inside planning software such as Microsoft Project. However, even a simple template in a spreadsheet program will do. You will likely find attractive third party templates to aid you in your task. Even if you choose not to use special software, key variables can be collected into tables that contain the critical information: task name, priority, duration, assigned personnel and resources, dependencies, funding source, and any other factors of importance to you. Priorities and dependencies are factors that are often overlooked. However, not all planned events can be accommodated and factors such as maintenance windows (e.g. backup windows) must be accommodated.

The goal is to be able to produce an overall calendar, as well as calendars and action plans for your specific staff members.

It's a really good idea to review this plan on a monthly and quarterly basis, and perhaps redraft your plan annually based on the performance you were able to achieve. Keep in mind that this is a living document that is in many ways similar to a business plan, and you should make changes as you need to - but require appropriate sign-offs when you choose to do so.


Barrie Sosinsky is president of consulting company Sosinsky and Associates (Medfield MA). He has written extensively on a variety of computer topics. His company specializes in custom software (database and Web related), training and technical documentation.

This was last published in June 2003

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