More and more organisations depend on IT. From the call centre assistant dealing with a complaint to the sales professional recording his sales call, everyone makes use of one or more applications to get work done better and more efficiently. This dependence is even so big that poor IT performance can have serious economic consequences. All the more reason, therefore, to make sure that the IT environment’s performance is always good. Traditionally, this has been a typical job for the IT department, but is this still the case these days? In my opinion, responsibility for performance should be shared more with the business. An ITOA strategy (IT Operations Analytics) can help organisations to act preventively, but to do this the business and IT will have to join hands.
The responsibility for thinking proactively about how IT can make a strategic contribution to the operating result is increasingly shifting towards the business. Unfortunately, IT and the business are frequently in separate camps and do not always have a high opinion of each other. For example, many business departments find the IT department too reactive in its service provision. They mainly see the problems and the long time IT needs to resolve these. It is also frustrating to the organisation that so much time, money and energy is required to keep the environment running and to provide service, while the effect of this is not always visible. If we want to use IT effectively and justify the budget, that has to change. ITOA can help with this.
To put it briefly, ITOA is about forecasting IT performance. The predictive capacity is
created by collecting and analysing large quantities of data and drawing lessons from it. On the one hand, it involves the data generated by the IT environment, resulting in 360° insight. Examples of this are the time it takes for an application to load, all the changes that have been made in an IT environment, or the behaviour of end users with their device. On the other hand, external data also provides relevant insights; for example, data about the weather or signals from social media. By analysing this continuously and simultaneously, one can make predictions about the behaviour of IT in the short term, the long term and everything in between. This means you can supervise the entire IT environment at a glance, enabling you to prevent poor IT performance or incidents even before they have an impact.
FOCUS ON BUSINESS OBJECTIVES
After this explanation, ITOA may seem like a typical instrument for the IT manager, but nothing could be less true: ITOA is characterised by a strong focus on the organisation’s objectives. The needs of the business and the effect of various IT measures on business processes are always central to this. For that reason, “What does a half-second delay on the system mean to the business?” is an important question. What does it mean for the helpdesk employee if he always has several seconds of waiting time when searching in a CRM system? And what effect does IT performance have on the conversion and hence the turnover of a web shop? That is what ITOA is about: not just a graph that tells you whether applications are performing properly, but an ongoing dialogue with the business. A dialogue that helps to determine what the critical criteria are.
An example: If a manufacturer knows that a specific product will sell much better in a certain period, the purchasing process is adapted to take this into account. But why should IT not also be prepared for this? After all, the website, customer portals and other systems also have to deal with a higher workload. Predicting a seasonal rush can be helpful in preventing IT bottlenecks. Integrating the data from a logistical department with that of IT makes this possible.
PRODUCTS, PROCESSES AND PEOPLE
Clearly, an ITOA strategy helps organisations to use IT in a more strategic way. But what is needed for a successful approach? Of course, in order to monitor the entire landscape and all the data you need good tooling. However, we must not forget that ITOA involves much more. As well as having a good product, organisations will also have to critically examine their processes. This means the business has to become involved to define the relevant data sources. What information does the business require to be able to optimise the results? And what insights does IT require to be able to set up its systems optimally? That’s a very necessary discussion! The success of an ITOA strategy will therefore always continue to depend on people. Investments in both IT and the business will precede this, both in terms of time and resources. The creation of a balanced team is an important part of this. Specialists are needed that can manage the tooling and that can create connections with other relevant data sources. They must be assisted by people that know the business, recognise the importance of IT and can embed the processes in the organisation. This team forms the bridge between the business and IT and bears responsibility for translating IT processes into primary business processes. After all, the connection between poor IT performance and the behaviour of clients or end users is valuable information that must be acted upon.
System downtime can already be an enormous setback today; in five or ten years’ time it might well directly cause bankruptcy. However, poor IT performance can by prevented by making IT more predictable. Bearing that in mind, IT Operations Analytics is not a point on the horizon but an immediate priority.