People Problems: Going From Good and Great in I.T.

Team Typing is Best Typing.

The relationship between man and machine is a lot less dramatic (or in some cases, ridiculous) in real life than it’s often portrayed in fiction– but that doesn’t mean the potential for trouble is less real.  At Recast, we have a unique opportunity of getting to talk with thousands of senior-level system administrators about their environments every year.  We often begin conversations with a frank discussion about what’s working and what isn’t– and why.  From our experience, and with few exceptions, the success or failure of a systems management effort at any organization hinges on the ability of it’s IT department to manage people problems.

What Do You Mean “People Problems?”

Simply put– people are messy.  All the great things we can do when we work together are easily turned on their head when we don’t.  In IT, this is often more pronounced than in other professions.  More often than not, those with the technical knowledge to make well-reasoned decisions are not the ones granted decision-making power, which means IT is faced with a fundamental problem and responsibility: communication. 

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How Bad Can It Be?

Organizations that operate on the highest levels of success in IT are also the ones who have the best communication strategies.  Organizations who utterly lack the communication skills to overcome people problems, well– they end up in the news.  The point is, communicating well, especially when faced with a technically-important decision, is paramount. 

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Don’t end up on the news.

Tips? Best Practices?

By and large, organizations who do this well have a few things in common.  Here are a few places to get started:

  • Technical teams and Organizational leadership regularly meet and discuss ways to meet the needs from both sides.
  • I.T. puts SLA’s on response times for different tasks and sticks to them.
  • I.T. over-communicates updates, outages, successes to userbase, and consistently requests/acts on feedback.
  • When a poor decision is made– iterate, re-litigate, reiterate.  Decisions shouldn’t be set in stone, as technology advances, so should you.

Right Click Tools Can Help

With smarter data, comes better decision making.  RCT Enterprise’s Security and Compliance Dashboards can help you communicate, decide, and act on common fall-down points for most organizations.  You can get a 1 on 1 session with an expert anytime by scheduling a walkthrough here

RCT Tip of the Week: Add AV Exclusions to Avoid Console Slowdowns

In some scenarios, installing RCT 3.2 can cause noticeable console slowness due to Endpoint Protection or other AV apps having to scan additional XML files that Right Click Tools add into the console.  If this is something you’re experiencing– this week’s blog post will take you through what you need to do to add AV exclusions and avoid the slowdown.

Step 1: Download the Latest Release

We always recommend getting and staying current with Right Click Tools, but in this instance we’ve added packs of the necessary exclusions for SCEP into the latest .msi for the tools.  You want to be on version 3.2.6859.27396 or later.

To download Community Tools, navigate to our website and click “Download RCT Community”

For Enterprise Customers, simply login to Recast Portal to view/download the latest releases anytime, selecting version 3.2.6859.27396 or later.

If you can’t update yet for some reason, you can find the packs of exclusions on the troubleshooting page of our Wiki.

Step 2: Import Exclusions

Navigate to Endpoint Protection->Antimalware Policies in the console.  Select Import.

Navigate to where the exclusions are stored– the default if you’ve updated your tools is C:\Program Files (x86)\Recast Software\Recast RCT\Extras.

Select the SCEP exclusion you wish to import and hit “Open.”

Step 3: Deploy

Now that we’ve imported the exclusions, the last step is to deploy them.  Simply select the exclusion in the console and hit “Deploy”

Select the collection you wish to deploy these exclusions to and hit ok.  Worth noting that this policy will take effect on your normal cycle unless you force a machine policy retrieval and evaluation cycle, which you can do from the Client Actions Menu.

Surface – Refine – Act: Data-Driven Decision Making

Configuration Manager creates a lot of data.  We can be better systems managers if we can use that data to make decisions, but that process is not always as simple as it sounds.  Often, getting at the data you need in the  console feels like traversing a crevasse. You can see where you want to go, you have a good idea of how you might get there, but when it comes to actually getting across the gap there’s a lot more to it than first meets the eye.

This problem often leads to something I like to call data paralysis.  In the same way you might look down with trepidation over the edge of that gap or break out in a cold sweat at the broken rung, surfacing the data you need to make systems management decisions has a lot of ways you can get sidetracked.  We take one look at the gap we need to cross to get make the decision we need, and spend days trying to find a way to fix or fill it– spending a lot of time and effort but going nowhere.

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Build a Better Bridge

The solution to many of the procedure issues that cause gaps in the decision making cycle is to build a better bridge.  This is one of the main reasons we created the Right Click Tools in the first place– when we can surface data more easily, refine that data to a usable state, and then act on it immediately, we avoid data paralysis altogether.   

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The RCT Enterprise Query tool is a perfect example of this: 

If you would like to see more of how the Query tool and other Right Click Tools can help you improve your data-driven decision making– schedule a walkthrough with us.  It’s a quick, low pressure way to learn more about the tools, ask technical questions, and see how the tools can help in your environment.

RCT Tip of the Week: Using SUDS to Check Your ADR Work

The Software Update Deployment Status (SUDS) tool, is a great way to check on software update deployments and more proactively manage your environment.  SUDS can also help you address some of the more common Automatic Deployment Rule (ADR) issues so you can refine your automation and make sure your processes aren’t missing anything.

Navigate to SUDS: Monitoring tab-> Recast node-> Software Update Deployment Status tool.

Run a scan on the collection your ADR’s target for deployment.

Looking at the non-compliant results, you can determine if there might be ADR issues by checking the “Deployed” column.  If the update is part of your ADR’s and the column shows “False”, check out your ADR’s to see what you might have missed.

For more information about SUDS and the other RCT Security and Compliance Dashboards– check out out the video below, or visit our Wiki.  You can also schedule a demo to talk more specifically how RCT Enterprise can help in your environment.

A Happy You is Good for the Org, Too

At Recast, we often get asked about the Right Click Tools in terms of dollars and time saved, and how we can help admins like you be more productive in the time you work.  It’s important stuff, maximizing your time and effort as a System Administrator can have sweeping effects on the productivity of the entire organization.  That being said, today’s blog post is all about something much more important and with much more impact: being happy.

Being Happy and Engaged in the Work is Critically Important… Especially in IT.

Systems management is hard.  Somewhere between all the technology changes, revolving security concerns, people/process issues, organizational policy/politics, and myriad of ways things can just go wrong– there’s a real person who wants to achieve their career and personal goals.  Too often in our industry, the needs of the person get lost in favor of the needs of the organization or the needs of the technology, but this thinking is actually backward for those seeking high performance from their sysadmin teams.

In an 3 year survey report published by Towers Perrin ISR, organizations with high employee engagement had nearly 6% better operating margin and 4% better profit margins compared to those with low employee engagement.  In a field that already has the potential for sweeping impact on an organization, making sure that sysadmins enjoy and believe in their work is critical for maximizing organizational success.  The fact is, when sysadmin teams are engaged in their work, magic happens.  Systems are more secure.  Downtime is decreased.  End users are better trained in the use of their technology tools and therefore more effective at their jobs.  The organization stands out from the competition because the team is more effective.  

You Can’t Be Happy if Everything is On Fire.

This might sound familiar: Well-trained, highly skilled SysAdmin is hired on and tasked with managing an environment.  SysAdmin quickly realizes this actually means putting out metaphorical fires in the environment all day, while simultaneously being blamed for starting those fires in the first place. In this scenario, job satisfaction, happiness, and engagement are going to be hard goals to reach!  The solution is to get out of the business of firefighting, but you can’t stop firefighting unless you can stop the fires from starting, but you can’t stop the fires from starting until you have time to stop firefighting.  It’s a recipe for dissatisfaction, organizational friction, and high rates of turnover.


This was the reason we created the Right Click Tools from the beginning– if we can give you the tools you need as a SysAdmin to be more productive/proactive, offer easier ways for you to get the data you need to make better decisions, and improve/integrate with the tools you already use, you might just have a chance of shifting from firefighting to fire prevention.  Tools like the Status Message viewer– which lets you troubleshoot a task sequence in seconds rather than hours.  Or the enhanced Query Tool, which lets you surface data more effectively, sort/filter results to where they need to be, and then take action immediately.  You can learn more about the what the tools can do to help you get out of the firefighting business by scheduling a demo.

How to Delete User Profiles in ConfigMgr in Less Than a Minute

The System Information tool has a wealth of actionable information available at your fingertips.  Here’s how to use this tool to delete User Profiles from a device.

Step One: Right Click and Navigate to Recast RCT>Console Tools>System Information

Step Two: Select the ‘User Profiles’ Tab

Step Three: Select, then right click on the User Profile(s) you want gone and select ‘Delete Profiles.’

You’re done!  

5 Ways RCT Enterprise Saves Organizational Resources

1: Troubleshooting

When task sequences and other areas of SCCM fail, it can put a serious time strain on productivity across the organization.  Not only is IT productivity stalled while logs and other potential causes are explored, but anyone waiting for a new computer, tech support ticket, or new image has their productivity hamstrung as well.  RCT Enterprise’s Status Message Tools let admins jump directly to the causes of trouble in 21 different places around the console, so that they can address issues at an increased rate., saving the organization’s resources.

2: Automation

SCCM is one of the largest and most complicated product Microsoft sells, and is used by an organization’s best, brightest, and most experienced (and expensive!) IT resources.  Significant organizational resources can be saved by giving these highly skilled professionals the tools they need to offload and automate complex, repetitive, and challenging tasks.  RCT Builder allows the creation of custom organizational automation tools on a grand scale, leaving the most skilled IT resources more time to better manage the constant forward march of technology and potential security threats.

3: Help Desk Enablement

RCT Enterprise reduces the skill and knowledge barrier to many common tasks in SCCM, and with its robust Role Based Administration model, enables organizations to safely offload SCCM tasks to those with less experience.  This makes the organization more effective at IT administration and helps foster employee growth.

4: Proactive over Reactive

RCT Enterprise includes several tools designed to help admins become more proactive in their systems management, stopping problems before they occur:

The Content Information dashboard gives a clearer picture into the process of managing, updating, and deploying content, letting admins keep task sequence content fresh, thereby reducing update time with the end user.

RCT Security Dashboards allow admins to surface, refine, and act on compliance data for Active Directory vs. SCCM devices, BitLocker and LAPS, and Software Update Deployments.

RCT Querying allows for bigger, more complex queries (without console crashes), with results that can be refined and acted upon immediately.

5: End User Self Help

StateLocker, part of the Lab Management Suite, enables end users to self-help when they experience tech support trouble—simply restarting their machines to return the computer to a healthy and updated state.  This allows IT to reduce tech support tickets in areas where they are most likely to cause the most organizational disruption, without forcing IT to create new device management procedures or deploy a host of group policy changes.