Next to reliable service and maximum uptime, the greatest value an IT organization can provide an enterprise is real-time visibility into the current state of the business and the impact, if any, of IT on the business’s key performance indicators (KPIs). At any moment of the day, a line of business manager, IT executive or other decision-maker needs the ability to answer questions such as “how are we doing right now,” “are all of our locations, channels and services performing as needed” and “if there’s a problem, is it somewhere in IT.”
Those questions can in fact be answered today, through a performance monitoring approach that Gartner analyst Jim Sinur calls a real-time management cockpit, an improvement on typical executive dashboards that integrates and displays business activity, customer experience and IT operations KPIs side-by-side in a single console. Highly valuable in its own right for making the connection between IT performance and business impact, when such a cockpit is built on the right enabling technologies, it can be just the first step towards a new approach to service management — one that increases visibility, enables isolation of performance issues and delivers proactive notification of behavior anomalies so they can be resolved before they spiral out of control and impact the business.
Many companies gain valuable insight into the state of their business through a dashboard that displays important business KPIs derived from business activity monitoring (BAM). Executives in a national or global enterprise might want to see at any time business KPIs such as transactions or dollars per minute, peak throughput and completed or failed transactions, not only for the organization as a whole, but broken out by geographic market or territory; by application, such as point of sale, provisioning or fulfillment; or by channel, such as retail stores, phone order or online sales. Increasingly, these business KPIs can include customer experience metrics such as how much time it is taking for web pages to load on a company’s online retail site.
Without a cockpit delivering this type of information, management is essentially flying blind. A General Manager of West Coast Operations for a major consumer products retailer recently confessed to having been embarrassed one day when colleagues asked why things were “running slow” in one entire state — a question he couldn’t easily answer because he wasn’t aware of the extent of the problem. Customers were experiencing delays in technical support, and the point of sale system had slowed to a crawl. In fact, for 4 hours that day, zero customers were served in the company’s retail locations in this state. Needless to say, this executive has become a believer in the importance of monitoring business metrics as near as possible to real-time.
But why stop at business KPIs? Since business activity is so technology-dependent, wouldn’t it be more useful to extend the dashboard to one that also tells you how the underlying IT infrastructure impacts application performance and how that in turn impacts the business?
Consider the following situations in which a service health dashboard that integrates business and IT performance could expand your insight:
• Business KPIs indicate a problem but IT metrics are fine – indicating some type of business issue outside of IT; for example, a competitor running a promotion.
• IT metrics indicate a problem but business KPIs are fine – meaning that something is brewing in IT, but you still have time to isolate the problem in the application and fix it to minimize or even eliminate negative business impact.
• Both IT metrics and business KPIs indicate a problem – you’re in fire alarm mode.
Your current BAM dashboard probably doesn’t help you relate IT performance to business impact, which also means that when it reports low business KPIs, you have no way to confirm or exonerate IT as the problem.
To learn more how you can correlate all of this to achieve a composite view of your line of business performance, check out this new white paper.
Graham Gillen is the Product Marketing Director for Netuitive. He currently leads Netuitive’s initiatives to market solutions in the areas of applications performance management and private cloud management. Before joining Netuitive in 2008, Graham worked at VeriSign and webMethods (now Software AG). Graham’s educational background includes executive training in Marketing at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business, a Master of Science degree from Georgia Tech and a Bachelor of Science degree in Engineering from the University of Virginia.