Friday, March 11, 2011

De-Cluttering IT

Tech ClutterAn IT department was once relatively simple. A server, a few computers, perhaps some firewalls, internet connection and a help desk. Staff came to work to write documents, make phone calls and not much more.

Today, work is supported by computing almost every step of the way. In turn, IT departments vary in size, budget and platform but have come to share one striking element: complexity. As businesses have become ever more reliant on technology, so IT has built an intricate jigsaw puzzle of technologies. A typical scenario: no business in its right mind is going to install a hugely expensive infrastructure without taking steps to ensure it works properly. So another system has to be installed to ensure the first one is performing. It’s a basic principle of business performance management.

This layering of solutions and systems to monitor the solutions has spiraled out of control and as a result, many businesses are blinded by the complexity of their IT management setups, costing companies millions of dollars each year in downtime and staff time.

So how has it come to this? It is partly because there is no holistic, end-to-end picture of IT that its managers need: CIOs have been forced to take a segmented approach to application performance management by implementing partial solutions that monitor individual technology silos.

This partial approach is financially draining and does not give businesses the support they require. For example, when a performance issue hits online banking, often the first time the IT department knows about it is when customer complaints flood in. In spite of the use of multiple monitoring tools, pinpointing the problem will still be like trying to find a needle in a haystack – or multiple haystacks. Industry analyst group Enterprise Management Associates estimates that more down time (54 percent) is spent finding problems than fixing them.

In seeking to protect investments and ensure they deliver, IT departments have ended up with information overload that hinders resolution efforts. What businesses need is for their IT departments to be able to assess quickly where the problems are, and avoid them.

IT is made up of many applications and systems each performing small tasks to get user transactions completed. By generating visibility into these transactions, IT management can be simplified. Each transaction from a user “travels” through the system. By capturing and implementing transaction tracking, across all IT tiers, all the time, organizations can see the impact that transactions have on the business. But most importantly each business transaction provides clear evidence to how an application is performing and if there is trouble on the horizon.

Another advantage is that transactions also tell the cost side of the IT story; they make it easy to identify and resolve performance problems swiftly but also to optimize the cost of performing those transactions. An approach that was fit for purpose 10 years ago, simply no longer cuts the mustard. Businesses have to be leaner and meaner – they cannot afford to have a reactive technology infrastructure where the systems manage the business rather than the other way around.

Simplifying IT management is, in many ways, akin to clearing out your wardrobe. It might be painful to part with that tan leather jacket from the 1980s but you know it has to be done.

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