Follow the Workflow: Reframing the ITIM Conversation
Great IT makes for great business. Everybody now takes this for granted—but maybe not deeply enough. It’s one thing to invest in the latest tools and tech, quite another to innovate in how you manage these assets. As our IT ecosystems are changing, so must our perspective on IT monitoring and its purpose.
If you’ve been trying to reframe the conversation on ITIM internally, this post will help. In it, we’re laying down the basic rules for business-aligned ITIM and providing a structured, 3-step approach to implement the rules in your organization.
What Has Changed in ITIM—And Why
Before we dive in, let’s briefly look back. Once upon a time, applications ran in the data center and end users worked nearby. IT monitoring meant checking on the data center’s servers and ensuring the connectivity between it and the end users. Thankfully, things have become way more interesting.
Today, businesses can only operate through the fulfilment of complex IT workflows, spanning across hybrid IT infrastructure, from the cloud to the edge. They are the first performance impulse that jolts a business to life. Mess up with the workflow, and sooner or later, the user or customer experience will be affected. Add it up, and the overall business operation is impacted, and yes, the bottom line too. Think of:
- Saturated storage that starts a chain reaction and cuts users from a critical app.
- Power outages in a remote facility that stops the production chain.
- Latency between cloud and physical data centers that make customers drop their eShopping carts.
ITIM Under the Performance Lens
ITIM is your first lever to operational excellence. How can you action it; you may ask? By shifting from monitoring infrastructure and applications to maintaining constant performance of each business-critical IT services.
Selling, manufacturing, storing, transporting, insuring, accounting … these are critical ops relying on a complex, interconnected web of apps and data flows. This is how ITOps create value for the business. Full visibility on those crucial workflows is how business-aware ITIM brings value to ITOps.
The Ground Rules of IT Performance
Turning the tables on ITIM to make it the first checkpoint of operational excellence requires that you adopt three ground rules:
- Building a monitoring perimeter that is complete and accurate, from the cloud to the edge, even in the most diverse and dynamic environments—No soldier left behind!
- Modelling business-critical IT services to define the KPIs that show and measure the impact of IT performance on the business—No more guessing work!
- Sharing with all stakeholders clear and meaningful information about how IT performance is impacting or contributes to operations excellence—Knowledge is power!
Rules are nice, but you need to put them to work. Let’s now action them in just 3 steps to redefine IT monitoring as a business-value enhancer:
- Discover dynamic infrastructure, from the cloud to the edge
- Model business-critical workflows that impact the enterprise bottom line
- Share how IT Performance impacts Business Performance
Wonder where to start on implementing those steps? Here’s a quick round-up of helpful info to get you on your way.
Know What’s Out There and Monitor It
Infrastructure complexity and diversity are the reason you are refocusing your monitoring approach. Two trends are at play:
- Applications are now developed around a collection of microservices that leverage public and private cloud technologies. A single IT service will usually leverage over a hundred different cloud infrastructure functions.
- The combination of edge computing and IoT expands the user experience far away from the data center and virtual clouds to where the actual user is conducting tangible business transactions: on premises, in a restaurant or shop, on the factory floor, at the branch office…
Adapting to these trends requires a set up of two distinct mechanisms that will work together so that you can automatically discover and monitor the full scope of your IT environment.
- IT Automation – API
- Discovery – Service and Host Auto Discovery
With an API-centric monitoring platform such as Centreon EMS, you can trigger an automatic suite of processes to update the monitoring platform when new equipment is deployed. The caveat is that automation focusses on newer cloud technologies, often leaving legacy and on-premise infrastructure aside. That’s when auto discovery becomes handy.
Automatically discovering IT assets is a complementary method to fully account for modern IT workflows that typically rely on a diversity of on-premise, legacy, and multi-cloud technologies.
“Don’t believe DevOps when they try to convince you that only the latest and greatest container and microservice architectures are dynamic. On-premise can just be as dynamic, when you oversee a multitude of remote sites where edge computing and IoT are as vital to business productivity.”
Understand the connections between the infrastructure and the workflows to identify business-relevant KPIs and stay true to your SLAs.
A popular Centreon EMS functionality, service modeling, correlates the performance and availability of an IT service with the performance and availability of all IT components that support it, those that typically relate to your SLAs. At this point, you’ll need a white board and some erasable markers.
How to Map Your Top Business-Critical IT Services
Best ITOps practices recommend that you focus on the top-12 business-critical IT Services. More precisely, the first services to model are those that are linked in some way or other to the SLAs that make you accountable to the lines of business: responsiveness and uptime, service availability and performance thresholds.
Draw on a white board the IT workflows supporting each critical business operations, mapping them in all their complexity and interactions. You’ll need to involve internal subject-matter experts and application owners.
The magic of service mapping
Modelling your workflows into multi-level dependency trees have two very compelling purposes:
1- Create high-level KPIs that accurately monitor the performance and availability of each IT Service
2- Facilitate root-cause analysis when problems happen by showing any faulty workflow component.
Granted, if you’re a long-time Centreon EMS user, you know that we introduced Service mapping a long time ago, part of the correlation-dedicated Business Activity Monitoring (BAM) module.
Make everyone in the organization aware of the links between IT performance and business performance
No one works well in the dark. Switch the light for ITOps teams, applications owners, line of business managers and DevOps teams by giving them visibility into the health of key IT workflows. Make it brighter for C-Level management as well, with insights to plan and build the IT Operations that will best support the organization’s business objectives. Don’t forget end users, as they too can use some level of awareness on the IT they’re relying on to perform daily tasks.
IT Views for All IT Stakeholders
Dress-up your all-stars, critical IT services so they will be featured at their best in a range of stakeholder-specific views:
- ITOPS →cockpit real-time views of overall IT operations showing the health of all critical IT services in one single easy-to-read screen, typically displayed on large TV monitors in open-space offices.
- Management →weekly and monthly analytical reports supporting decision-making
- Owners of highly distributed operations →geographical maps showing the performance and availability of each remote site (in a retail distribution network, for example).
- Technical teams →detailed dashboards with real time and aggregated data to help technical teams maintain the operations excellence of key infrastructure subsets they’re in charge of, along with graphical network view of each subset.
- Level 1 support teams →event management and log console to provide swift support.
Prop in Some Data for Context
If teams are expected to take proper actions when they suspect a problem, then provide them with some contextual data. What is context, exactly, as far as ITIM is concerned? It’s any non-IT data informing the current level of business activity.
It may include numbers, such as:
- Users visiting a website or using an application
- Active shopping carts or daily revenue of an e-commerce shop
- Students connected to the academic WIFI infrastructure…
- Or just any other information that may impact business activity, up to something as inconspicuous as current weather information, if your industry is tourism or leisure, for example.
The Centreon EMS web interface natively integrates the four tools you need to create and customize this full diversity of views:
- Fully featured event management and notification console
- Customizable widget-based operational dashboards that combine real-time and analytics data
- Choice of real-time graphical draw-it-yourself or automatic geographical views with drill-down capabilities and integrated tooltips.
- Over 40 templates of automatically created and distributed Analytical Reports
The bottom line?
Everyone works better when they get visibility into the essential IT systems supporting the business—but it’s even better when everyone is navigating the same map. A common benefit reported by our clients is that collaboration across teams and processes were improved from sharing a common ITIM platform.
There you are, in just 3-steps, your IT infrastructure has come to life, telling the stories you need to hear: is service being delivered optimally to your end users?
Do you need help implementing these 3 steps? Give us a shout.
Want to read more about our integrated approach to ITIM? Download our ebook: Monitoring on the Edge of Chaos.