IT Metrics -Tech Trends in Monitoring

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The following is an excerpt from an article Rich Razon wrote on IT Metrics, Systems Management Metrics and Tech Trends in Monitoring- published in the May 2013 edition of SupportWorld.

Now more than ever, IT has to keep up with a rapidly changing landscape that includes consumerization, BYOD, convergence, virtualization, security and a multitude of other management challenges. This is pushing the evolution of monitoring tools and their reporting systems to keep up with the rapid change IT is undergoing. Along with the big shift is increasing demand for business-centric perspectives of performance across all of IT, including monitoring.

What does it All Mean?

In yesterday’s simpler world, monitoring was mostly about tracking the downtime of networks, servers and the state of related infrastructure. Today’s business demands services that are faster to provision, lower in cost, more secure, and more reliable. To keep up, we monitor applications, service offerings, private clouds, security and all the other critical nuts and bolts that hold IT infrastructure together. While operations groups are mostly focused on technical aspects of monitoring, the business is only interested in what the data from monitoring ultimately means to the business.

Business Value Metric

Infrastructure and Operations teams increasingly need to focus on the translation of technical and operations-focused metrics into metrics that express business value. The first real challenge here is in the aggregation of the flood of telemetry generated by multiple monitoring systems. Second is the organization, summarization and translation of the metrics into the few critical and often time-sensitive insights the business needs. Once ‘translated’, metrics derived from monitoring can directly impact the way the business operates. Value-based metrics create visibility across (normally isolated) IT camps and the increased business visibility leads to more cohesive operational, tactical, and strategic decision making. Value-based metrics validate and justify what IT is doing and help it do things differently. If, for example, uptime is represented in terms of the dollar impact the few minutes of corresponding downtime cost to the business, you’d have one embodiment of IT business value in a single metric – the holy grail of CIOs and what they hope to communicate to the business.

Dashboards Don’t Work

When considering the translation of output from systems management tools into business-speak, it is good practice to put on a CxO hat and ask, why? What is the business objective of consolidating monitoring telemetry from a number of disparate systems management tools? All too often technical stakeholders get obsessed with using output from monitoring tools to showcase a flashy dashboard. The reality is that in the enterprise, flashy dashboards alone are not effective.

Putting a Metrics Management Strategy to Work

What does work is a coherent, cohesive metrics management strategy that is all about the ability to manage metrics, ie, having control of all aspects of metrics aggregation, transformation, dimensioning, security and publishing. All of these things are ways to be able to translate monitoring metrics to Business value Metrics. As far as the business is concerned, these are the only metrics that count.

Properly executed, a metrics management strategy will consider discrete metrics needs of each type of stakeholder or role in an organization. Ideally, a metrics management tool should have a method to accommodate setting up each view and the metrics within each view through simple configuration. A sure sign of success is when the views you publish become indispensable and stay indispensable to business users. As part of a metrics management strategy, a universal catalog of metrics for your organization needs to be established. The metrics management tool should have cataloging capability since this will be the system-of-record that captures what metrics the business defines as important on an ongoing basis. The ability to consolidate and summarize metrics within a metrics catalog is also key since it is typical to have three, four, five or even six disparate systems management tools that metrics need to be automatically consolidated from.

IT Metrics Catalog
While on the topic of metrics management tools, the most important feature to seek out is the capability to create new, formula-based metrics from existing metrics. The routine creation and management of formula-based or compound metrics should be a simple configuration exercise versus a ‘project’ for a programmer. The ability to apply unusual denominators to metrics derived from systems management tools is what adds context (and subsequently, value) to metrics. This is how technical, more granular monitoring metrics are translated into Business Value Metrics, representing some aspect ofproductivity, compliance, cost and quality.Since the practice of performance management is a constantly evolving one, a catalog-based approach to metrics management assures the ability to quickly respond to rapid-fire changes going on in the IT landscape. As the business mandates increasingly sophisticated and complex measurements, the metrics catalog becomes a critical component towards the success of a metrics management strategy.Rich Razon is a co-founder of PureShare and when he isn’t flying an airplane upside-down somewhere, can be reached at rrazon@pureshare.com