Monitoring. Fortunately, everyone does it. Unfortunately, hardly anyone obtains the insights that can prevent critical incidents. Monitoring is a part of IT management, and is often viewed as a cost item and a task for an ‘IT nerd’. Nothing could be less true. When monitoring is set up in the right way, it gives you shorter resolution times, less downtime, improved performance and – strange though it may seem – lower costs. The old saying that “prevention is better than the cure” is absolutely applicable here. Of course, this does not sound very innovative or sexy, but when IT is not performing at its best it often has major (financial) consequences for your organisation. With the current extensive digitization, everything has to be viewed in terms of management and we should stop talking about monitoring and monitoring tools.
Monitoring means continuously checking the status of IT to ensure that it is doing what it is supposed to do. You often hear assertions such as “We already have monitoring!” or “The IT department does it, but the monitoring has hiccups” or “We are a coordinating organisation, and we have outsourced our monitoring.” The problem with such traditional assertions is that they give the impression that a little bit of monitoring, or monitoring by a third party, gives you control over your IT. Of course, that is not the case! And for that reason I suggest that we should avoid talking about monitoring; after all, we know better in the present technological era. To have a grip on your IT, you have to work on it every day.
To keep a grip on IT, the right solution has to be selected for every application. And when a solution is selected, it should fit in with your organisation’s goals and processes. This is where the point of departure from traditional monitoring lies. In the past, all the individual components in a chain – hard disks, servers, network components, virtualisation etc. – were monitored. When an end user reports a problem, all the ‘traffic lights’ are quickly read and the teams report “All our lights are showing green!”
A broader perspective
What traditional monitoring tools really lack is a broader perspective. Put it this way: is it your organisation’s objective to have all the servers working? Or is it to ensure a good, efficient customer experience on your website or at the digital transaction point? Of course, your staff need the aid of IT so that they can help customers as well and as quickly as possible. Whether a particular server is working or not is less of an issue. For that reason, one has to look at things from the perspective of your business: what are the consequences for your organisation and its customers if that server isn’t working?
Stay in control
Whether your IT is outsourced or not, controlling it remains your responsibility. After all, you have the biggest stake in the smooth running of your IT solutions. Of course it is possible to use support from partners, but when it comes to monitoring you need to set your own requirements and interpret reports yourself. If you don’t stay in control over what your partners are doing for you, blind spots will always develop, and these can cause major disruptions.
Create a single point of truth
You probably know the game of ‘Chinese whispers’ from your school days: the teacher whispers a message to the first pupil, and by the time it reaches the eighth the message has changed beyond recognition. The same applies in work situations: all the parties need factual information at first hand. Without shared factual knowledge, a ‘blame game’ often starts, with internal teams and external suppliers pointing the finger at each other. Or resolution times are too long because all the teams say that all the lights are showing ‘green’ for them. For your most critical chains, it is a good idea to have everyone involved working together on the basis of the same factual insights. If you get everyone who is active in your chain to share their available insights and present them together, everyone will know what they are about. A collaborative arrangement that is not based on facts is doomed to failure.
Fortunately, there is monitoring available these days with which you can inspect an entire chain, regardless of the number of partners, the technology or the presence of different applications. This is presented as ‘end-to-end monitoring. To obtain end-to-end insight, a variety of solutions is available, based on various investment possibilities. Your partners will probably not make the investment to provide you with these end-to-end insights, but that is understandable; after all, your partners invest in detailed monitoring of the components for they are responsible.
As a coordinating organisation, you are responsible for maintaining a complete overview of the IT used in your organisation, and the satisfaction of your end users. For many organisations, this means a change of vision: finding it logical that one should take responsibility and invest in keeping a grip on IT.
Application Performance Management
OK, so we won’t talk about monitoring any more, but what is the alternative? I would suggest that we start talking about Application Performance Management (APM). This term implies that the chain is responsible for application performance, and that this has to be managed. The aim is to handle IT in a responsible and sensible way. In simple terms, to be successful in digitisation and handle your organisation proactively you need a different mindset.
Reason on the basis of the business
So how are we going to do things, starting from today? A first step is to express your goal and your vision of management and operations. When you work with a complex IT environment in a knowledge-intensive field, it is important to set a clear goal and to express this to your internal and external suppliers. After that, there is an awful lot that you can talk about. By reasoning on the basis of the business or service, and reporting on the user experience, you ensure that you can focus on the things that really matter.
Don’t expect to find a ‘silver bullet’. After all, that is why ‘monitoring’ has failed as a word. When you deal responsibly with the challenges in your IT and, for each challenge, look for a solution that supports the ultimate goal, good things can happen!
Rolf van Anholt
Manager Products & Services
Rolf translates the challenge of customers into standard products, is product owner of Ymonitor and co-crates the services to deliver Ymor’s products. His focus is bringing knowledge, products and services to our European customers that can be used to gain factual IT insights, cope with the fast changing IT landscape and leverage IT to achieve business goals. Rolf’s 10+ years in Operational Services at two of the largest Dutch system integrators and 4 years of experience in the APM & ITOA market has given him insights in a great diversity of markets and IT landscapes. In this respect he advises organisations such as Eneco, Rabobank, SSC-ICT and Liberty Global on their APM and ITOA.