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APM Digest: Shifting to Analytics Driven Management for IT Operations

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APM Digest: Shifting to Analytics Driven Management for IT Operations


 

by Sasha Gilenson

Originally published in APM Digest (Formerly BSM Digest) (October 25, 2011).

apmToday's market environment demands businesses to change and adapt rapidly according to market dynamics, while still remaining in control. For business, these dynamics can mean sifting through what can amount to petabytes of data to act tactically and strategically.

Business Intelligence (BI) analytics tools help companies catch what could have been missed opportunities, using robust infrastructure to sift through mountains of data, and applying intelligent analytics. This way, business can identify hidden trends, customer relationships, buying behavior, operational and financial patterns, business opportunities and other vital information allowing business to take part in the market proactively.

Through BSM initiatives, IT is charged with supporting the changing demands of business, maintaining availability and ensuring that performance remains high. Similar to the business side experience, the IT landscape has grown in complexity, supporting a wider and growing range of technologies and platforms (Virtualization, Cloud, Open Source etc.), and accelerated application release schedules. This now means IT faces near-overwhelming quantities of information.

So while business progresses via BI, adopting analytics for management decisions, ironically the organization supporting this infrastructure, IT Operations, has adhered to an older, static-process driven paradigm. By not applying the analytics-based approach (like business) for their own operations, IT jeopardizes system stability, ultimately exposing business to the risk of devastating consequences.

Mountains of Data

Mountains of dynamic information confront IT. One of the prominent areas is in the cloud scenario. Self-service provisioning has multiplied the amount of activities occurring outside of static processes. The new provisioning opportunities are beyond IT management, leaving IT with limited visibility to what happens there. For example, an organization sets up a private cloud with a dynamic management system, allowing self-service provisioning of servers for the testing team. Traditionally, testing professionals would have come to IT and request an environment, and IT would oversee and manage this entire process. Now the process is independent, when testing needs an environment, they just create it.

Today's Approach: Static Processes Drive IT

IT Operations has been running on static processes and strict workflows. For instance, ITIL has a process for IT Change Management that works according to certain steps. There are also a set metrics for measuring performance, like the amount of changes that successfully went through or failed.

IT Ops can plan as much as possible, but it won't ensure that everything will occur as planned.

For example, when IT implements an application upgrade, and makes changes to the environment, IT administration can go through an entire established process, and still the application doesn't function as planned. IT managers check the processes that the upgrade went through, yet still performance lags. Then they need to go into the fine, granular details and see every step, identifying the make-up of even minor changes, seeing how the application deployment was carried out to all the servers, what is the consistency between servers, have there been additional interference to the servers. They need to take this enormous amount of data – configuration and granular changes – and pinpoint what was the root cause.

Workflow-driven Management Processes

Static processes operate through workflows. The workflow only supports part of the process but there are so many things surrounding the workflow, happening outside the workflow. Business demands can force shortcuts to be taken. Steps in the workflow can be skipped in order to get immediate approval, even omitting the test stage.

Workflows Create False Security

Even when processes are enforced, like having registrations as part of the workflow management, this creates the belief that everything has been solved. There is no organization that can claim they operate completely within the bounds of established processes and approvals.

This situation creates a sense of false security that IT is on top of all the changes. Configuration Management can think that everything works perfect and then the organization religiously adheres to their processes, relying on CMDB systems and workflows, ultimately undermining operations.

A Shift in Paradigm to Analytics Driven Management

Neurologists will explain that the brain has two distinct hemispheres. The right side of the brain collects information, while the left side is cognitive and analyzes this information, translating all of the sensory input into usable data.

This is really the same model for today's IT organization, where operations need to know what is happening now. IT Ops can find itself stuck, trying to adjust static processes while keeping track of and handling dynamic events, and then getting caught off-guard when issues arise. The solution is to approach this situation with dynamic analytics, for dealing with all the changing data, and to see what is really happening. This goes beyond those few designated indicators that were usually watched, rather IT Ops needs Analytic Driven Management, similar to how business has adopted BI, extracting actionable information out of mountains of data to help decision makers respond efficiently.

About the Author
Sasha Gilenson
Sasha Gilenson enjoyed a long and successful career at Mercury Interactive (acquired by HP), having led the company's QA organization, participating in establishing Mercury's Software as a Service (SaaS), as well as leading a Business Unit in Europe and Asia.

Sasha played a key role in the development of Mercury's worldwide Business Technology Optimization (BTO) strategy and drove field operations of the Wireless Business Unit, all while taking on the duties as the Mercury's top "guru" in quality processes and IT practices domain. In this capacity, Sasha has advised numerous Fortune 500 companies on technology and process optimization, and in turn, acquired a comprehensive and rare knowledge of the market and industry practices.

Sasha holds an M.Sc. in Computer Science from Latvian University and MBA from London Business School.