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The Real Problem is Visibility

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The Real Problem is Visibility

It has been said that we don't know what we don't know. There is so much complexity in IT environments that IT operations doesn't have the necessary visibility anymore. They aren't going to get that visibility by continuing to use the same old tools and practices of manual discovery as well as relying on tribal knowledge. So why is visibility the main culprit for IT problems? 

This is a case of having the 'unknown unknowns'. Reminiscent of a very confusing speech given by Donald Rumsfeld (then US Secretary of Defense), he talked about 'known knowns' and 'unknown unknowns' in regards to issues that would compel the US to go to war in Iraq. While his phrasing was very confusing, he was actually dead on. It's these same 'unknown unknowns', which we don't know that we don't know are the things that can undermine and surprise IT operations. 

In response, IT has built defenses against these 'unknown unknowns.' Yet how do you defend yourself against something that you don't know? This is really hard to do, and puts into place a culture of fear leading to overreaction.

"We put more controls into place to combat these unknowns and we keep feeding this system. This is another vicious cycle and what happens is you basically get to a catatonic state where you can't do anything. So this visibility or lack thereof is not something that can be solved by more controls, this is something that has to be solved by technology and process and applying this in the right way with the right people."

Glenn O'Donnell, Forrester

Get Some Visibility

Getting visibility is really the bottom line. Without visibility, nothing can get done effectively by IT operations. While having taken steps to collect enormous amounts of data, IT operations has felt like this is ok, and even that this constitutes having visibility. However, IT teams are now drowning in data, with more data than they know how to deal with. They have all this data, and don't know what to do with it. Even though they have all this data, they don't really have much usable information. As noted in the recent Forrester report - Turn Big Data Inwards, the analysts explain that a new approach needs to be applied to get visibility, "You need machines to analyze conditions to invoke the appropriate actions. These actions themselves can be automated. To perform adaptive, full-service automation, you need IT analytics, a disruption to your existing monitoring and management strategy. This report helps IT infrastructure and operations (I&O) leaders prepare for IT analytics that turns big data efforts inward to manage the technology services that run your business." 

What IT operations really needs to get through all of this data is analytics, to help them sift through all of that data and find patterns in the data. And that's really what big data is all about.

"Most of the big data focus is on business intelligence and things that are relevant to your marketing department or somebody else in the organization. But if you're doing it for them why not do it for ourselves? If we don't we're going to continue to struggle and continue in a downward spiral. So let's apply some of that same thinking to the work we're doing in IT."

Glenn O'Donnell, Forrester

Threat of Complexity

With all of this data, once IT operations really looks into all the data in the right way can anyone know what's really going on. That's the truth, and this will help in 2 major ways. 

  • Reactive Management: Help with the whole reactive side of IT and the processes that are being done there, the management, and incidents that are going to happen. IT operations needs to respond to incidents more quickly, and get to the root cause identification, and dramatically shrink resolution time. Today, it takes too long to respond to these things and resolve them.
  • Proactive Management: Moreover IT needs to be proactive. That's a term that gets thrown around a lot. People in IT say things like "Lets have proactive incident management" and "Of course our tools are proactive." However, all that's really been happening is that the reaction times are shrinking. That's good, but that not being proactive. This means preventing incidents from happening in the first place through good design and engineering, re-engineering services and systems that support business services. Capacity management needs to be handled well, making sure that this resource won't run out of steam somewhere along the line. To a certain extent, cloud can help, but it still remains a difficult platform to rely upon for proactive management. If IT operations can better manage changes, then they will be more proactive, preventing many of those incidents from even happening.

"If you have good change management we don't have as many incidents. Those incidents as a result of change can drop dramatically and that's a great thing."

Glenn O'Donnell, Forrester

Make Change Work

Glenn O'Donnell, Forrester Research's Principal Analyst, was our guest presenter in our Make Change Work webinar. An amazing crowd attended to hear his impressive insights on how IT Analytics can help validate changes and increase the rate of change success. The webinar highlighted key findings from the recent Forrester report, Turn Big Data Inward With IT Analytics.
About the Author
Martin Perlin