“It is a method by which you can resolve disruptions before they occur,” says Ymor CEO Martin van den Berge. He explains what else it involves and can do for the CIO.
We live in a time of digital transformation, as a result of which IT is becoming the heart of companies that want to remain competitive. For the IT department that means they in particular are no longer the only ones that are involved with IT. In fact, everything and everyone within organisations wants to benefit as quickly as possible from the opportunities that contemporary IT offers. This refers, for example, to marketing, sales and the external sales team, who quickly benefit from various mobile apps, cloud applications and IoT devices. Therefore, they want you to help them as soon as possible and, if that does not go quickly enough, they will not hesitate to take this back into their own hands. This is because the deployment of IT has become much simpler for people without an IT background. By way of illustration: at a Mendix hackathon that was held recently, not a developer was to be seen there. There were only marketing and business people that had made the applications.
Direction is needed
But if it is so important for everyone to implement IT and if everything must be done so quickly, it is difficult as CIO to maintain in control, while every CIO knows that control must be maintained. This is because without that control, efficiency is sorely lacking. The wheel is being reinvented everywhere, systems are working at cross purposes despite the fact that they can reinforce one another and data ends up everywhere and nowhere, while data is particularly valuable if it is stored in one large pool. Not to mention the risk of valuable or privacy-sensitive data being made public, with all of the consequences that entails.
But just try to keep the slick sales and marketing guys in line with these arguments. They want move ahead and as quickly as possible, regardless of the long-term consequences. And they are well represented on the Board. As CIO, you must therefore find a way to justify why all of the IT efforts must be connected and that demonstrate that you have the resources to put all of this on the right track. “Therefore, you must offer them something that they can’t refuse,” says Martin van den Berge. “A mature IT department ensures that disruptions are avoided to the greatest possible extent and that the disruptions that occur are resolved quickly. This is because the business requires uptime, and downtime costs money.”
Mature IT department
To achieve this, you as an IT department must have a preventive attitude, Van den Berge continues. With this, he refers to the maturity model that runs from reactive, by means of aware and proactive, to preventive and finally to empowered. A preventive IT department collects all relevant data that can impact the performance and availability of IT. All monitoring data from various systems come together in this IT department and can be analysed in real time. Based on those analyses, IT departments can take preventive measures, even before problems arise. This is known as IT Operations Analytics, or ITOA for short, and is seen as the next step after Application Performance Management.
“We see that when CIOs can exert influence over business objectives, they actually have something to say in the Board. For that reason, we have build a technical platform around this with which they can actually achieve this.” In essence, IT Operations Analytics is about ensuring that all of the monitoring is linked. To do that, all systems and applications must be set up as a whole, that functions in synergy. “If you do that well, you make the complex IT landscape predictable and as a result more manageable. You identify potential problems before they grow to become an actual risk. Using ITOA, you can often predict in advance whether an application is going to demonstrate erratic behaviour so that you can take measures before they arise. And that means therefore that you are working preventively.” According to Van den Berge, that is really valuable for the business, because downtime there really hurts. And downtime is certainly a threat in a complex IT landscape, because various components can harm each other.
Linking data sources also helps us to be able to act quickly and effectively if a disruption nevertheless occurs. “For one of our clients, the environment suddenly became too slow,” explains Martin van den Berge. “Within a half hour, we analysed that numerous intensive writing actions to the network drives had taken place because all of the virus scanners at a few thousand workstations became active simultaneously. One system therefore slowed down the behaviour of another system. Because both monitoring tools were linked, the entire system could immediately be checked for abnormal behaviour at that specific moment. If the monitoring had not been linked, that would certainly have taken a day to resolve.”
Additionally, the integrated monitoring is being expanded, for example with configuration monitoring, so that you can always see whether and when something has changed in the settings and who made that change. Moreover, you can also include external data. You can add weather forecasts that for example ernables you to anticipate peaks or drop-offs in use. You can then scale up or down. Data from social media can be important, as can other external data – whatever is relevant for the business. “Measuring means that you know what you are doing,” says Martin van den Berge. “Furthermore, you look at the same information together with the business. For example: what does a one-second performance improvement mean for the conversion in the webshop? This way, as a CIO, you can make cost-efficient investments and justify these investments to the business. By keeping the IT department agile, secure and stable in this manner, you as CIO regain control.”
Martin van den Berge
Martin started his career with developing and selling technical solutions at Data General and Hitachi. In 2003 he decided to become an entrepreneur and founded Ymor. What started as a small business seconding people in the area of performance testing, has now become a successful international company with its own monitoring software, lots of experience and a strong vision on APM and ITOA. January 2018 Martin decided to pass on the baton and resigned his position as CEO. He is now involved with Ymor as a shareholder and strategic advisor.