A military strategy is great for managed services, says O’Neill-Craven of Ward Solutions

Liz O Neill-Craven, Ward Solutions



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17 November 2014 | 0

The military in all countries through the ages are famous for discipline. It could be because in so many societies throughout history the army was the only organised, structured and effective organisation. It might have been the uniforms and the coordinated marching drills that impressed on public occasions, but to this day these are simply the outward display of the tight discipline that holds armies together in combat and emergencies.

The military require tight discipline and order but initiative, ingenuity and flexibility also play a role in the delivery of mission goals. While the discipline and order ensures efficient, effective and consistent results, the initiative and personal judgement add to a soldier’s taught responses in unknown situations.


Since I developed my leadership skills as an officer in the Irish Defence Forces for over two decades, it is probably no surprise that I tend to see ICT in broadly those terms. In managed services, the line of business which I now lead in Ward Solutions, it is particularly applicable both as a management philosophy and as a practical approach to organising for a combination of routine and emergency. We take 24×365 responsibility right across the client’s ICT environment, from network and infrastructure to applications. There are hundreds if not thousands of tasks potentially involved, utilising a wide range of technical skills. So methodology and discipline are essential.

But a key point about ICT today is that it is constantly changing and developing. The old days when a system was configured, set up and then ran for several years until upgraded are long gone. There are changes in the external environment, like ever-higher levels of mobility, new devices and technology and the risks that unfortunately come with that progress.

There is also a process of change to be managed in a client’s ICT stack, from infrastructure to applications to communications of all kinds. Some of it is standard, like systems monitoring, upgrades and patches, health checks and maintenance and of course security at all levels. Not unlike the military, a disciplined and consistent approach is required across this broad area to ensure that the highest standards can be maintained even where tasks are repetitive or routine. It involves a process of continual service improvement which is achieved through the implementation of the ITIL service delivery framework.

On the other hand, dealing with unexpected contingencies is a crucial element of ICT management. Clients of a managed service expect all contingencies to be dealt with effectively, from a simple disk failure to more dramatic events like invoking emergency business continuity measures or even full scale disaster recovery. But unexpected does not mean unforeseen. Just like any military unit, our teams are heavily involved in contingency planning and in practical scenario exercises to ensure that real life events can be responded to successfully.

There is a phrase that has long since entered the vocabulary of marketing people about products and services: military spec. It conveys the idea of top quality, top performance and resistance to adverse conditions or events. I like to think that we endeavour to deliver a ‘military spec’ secure managed service to our clients.



Liz O’Neill-Craven is head of security integration practice and secure managed services with Ward Solutions.

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