Thoughts on Data Science, IT Operations Analytics, programming and other random topics


Unlock the Power of your IT data to Drive Innovation

18 Aug 2015

(first published on IBM Service Management 360 site)

Spend too long doing things the same old way, and pretty soon, you'll be out of business. Whether it is because the problems to be solved are getting larger and more complicated or your competition is solving them faster and more cheaply, the fact is that innovation is critical to remaining competitive. This is particularly true in a fast-paced technical domain like IT Operations.

As we go about our daily efforts, attempting to innovate, we can hope for a 'Eureka' moment, that quick and relatively low-effort dramatic insight leading directly to an valuable innovation. The reality is that these moments are exceedingly rare. In The Eureka Myth, Harold Evans describes innovation as 'a long hard slog' (but hopefully fun!)

In IT Operations, the monitored IT data is the essential ingredient to us understand how our environments are behaving, and we continue to be overwhelmed that data, both in terms of volume, velocity, variety etc. Gaining insights into how our environments are behaving, theorizing about how they may be made to behave, and confirming that they behave as we intended following changes we might make, are all critical stages as we travel along the path to improvements and innovations in those environments.

The key to getting at the knowledge and insights locked up in all that data is IT Operations Analytics (ITOA). Analytics provides the lens to help you bring the potentially overwhelming operational dynamics into sharp focus, helping you make sense of your current reality, which in turn forms the basis for thinking about innovative improvements.

ITOA is simply the next stage of what has been a decades long evolution of tools and techniques to manage our IT environments. As such, they require a certain level of operational maturity to be in place before successful application. What I'm talking about here are is having an environment with reliable mechanisms (e.g. Performance Management systems) in place to gather and store the data, be they events, logs, performance metrics and so on, as well as facilities to provide efficient access this data.

This is table stakes, but you might be surprised to if I told you all the potential sites and trials I've encountered where people, with the best possible intentions, had hoped to apply ITOA to environments were not ready at all. So before wasting your time, make sure the foundations are in place. First things first etc. Often, a typical IT environment is an ongoing project, always in flux, so the best you can do, is pick that subset of the environment that is sufficiently mature.

With the necessary environment established you should ready to go! Understanding current behavior is the key starting point. ITOA can help guide and inform you as you explore all kinds of potential improvements and innovations. Exactly which analytics to apply will depend entirely on your areas of interest. For example, using ITOA Analytics capabilities you could

  • proactively identify emerging problems and resolve them before the become service impacting
  • determine where system bottlenecks are negatively impacting customer response time
  • identify areas of your environment that are being under utilized
  • better understand the root causes of systemic recurring issues in your environment.

This little set just bubbled to the top of my head in a minute or two as I thought about recent trials and deployments and some of the problems clients had expressed to me. As understanding your current reality sharpens with the help of ITOA, you will start to see all kinds of opportunities to solve previously daunting problems and drive innovation in your environment.

ITOA will be your key to understanding as you bring together the key data from the various relevant sources, explore and interact with this data and from there, to generating ideas for improvements. ITOA is also essential as you continue to assess the environments to see the effects of any changes you have made, and decide whether you've really improved things!

As Steve Job's once said 'You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards'. In this case, 'connecting the dots' is all about understanding what is going in your environment. IT Analytics is the essential capability to enable you to connect those dots. Without the latest generation of Analytics, the dots are just an incoherent blur. Once you can clearly see and understand, the present situation with all it's nuances and complexities, the the innovative ideas start to flow.

I’d love to hear about thoughts on innovative applications of your IT data or indeed Operations Analytics in general. You can contact me here in the comment section below or on Twitter @rmckeown

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