Exploiting ITOA - What IT service management can learn from Patient Care

Ever stopped to consider the similarities between corporate IT support and healthcare? 

Hospitals and medical centres provide cutting-edge healthcare services to patients in need – it’s the equivalent of the corporate IT department’s break-fix process and preventive maintenance activities. 

Doctors, nurses, and other healthcare specialists rely on sophisticated monitoring and assessment capabilities to acquire the data and insight needed to treat the human system’s complex state and performance. With proper information, they make informed decisions and can ultimately take the correct actions to heal or to prolong the life of the patient. 

Medical capabilities are often more than one-dimensional. They allow medical practitioners to simultaneously look at multiple aspects of the human state to understand what the real root causes of the patient’s symptoms are. They also look at the larger population to spot trends or to identify population-affecting issues before they get out of control.

But what about “IT health” professionals? 

So what about those responsible for the health, performance and availability of the corporate IT infrastructure, applications, and services? Have IT professionals kept pace with 21st Century medical practitioners or are they stuck in a bygone age, where their local doctor equivalents made house calls with nothing more than the contents of their physician’s bag to help them? In many companies, “turn it off and reboot,” is still the IT version of the old-fashioned “take two of these pills and call me in the morning” remedy. Just imagine if medical best practice still promoted this “one size fits all” approach to patient care. 

Of course modern IT professionals already have access to more than the IT equivalent of the physician’s bag. There are a multitude of monitoring tools for hardware, networks, applications and IT service management (ITSM) tools that provide knowledge management and problem management capabilities. However, these tools and capabilities typically focus on one thing at a time – they don’t look across the enterprise-wide spectrum of IT activities, through a single lens, to see how many “patients” have the same issue or to spot a potential outbreak if preventive measures aren’t quickly applied across the population.

Rising Above Collective Symptoms to Address Root Causes 

Some would argue that this is classic ITSM problem management – you spot a trend, you investigate, you identify the root cause or causes, and you apply a fix (probably via change management). But this is commonly a one-dimensional approach, and dependent on human intervention to firstly, address repetitive or multiple-impact issues and secondly, to identify a particular problem to be rectified. There’s no way of knowing if all such opportunities are taken, if the taken opportunities are the most important ones to take, or if there are connections between different issues that are missed through the one-dimensional approach.

Using the medical analogy again, what if a particular ailment is fine to leave alone untreated unless another medical issue appears? A first issue may be amplified or triggered only by the occurrence of a second issue.

Prescribing IT Operations Analytics 

IT Operations Analytics (ITOA) is an approach to IT operations data that allows you to understand and make informed decisions about your IT environment. By analysing all your data, you can see the full extent of what's happening in your environment and take control of your IT. 

Recent research from the analyst firm Gartner indicates that many enterprises are now hiring data scientists and integrating a new class of data gathering and analysis tools, ITOA, to enable multi-dimensional analysis that will yield more informed IT “patient” health decisions and outcomes. Designed as a method for consuming and distilling vast amounts of IT related activity data, or Big Data, ITOA aims to help IT professionals address the multitude of operational issues that “keep them awake at night.” 

Although data scientists weren’t on many radars a decade ago, their sudden popularity reflects how businesses now think about Big Data. That unwieldy mass of unstructured information can no longer be ignored because, as long as there is someone who can unearth business insights that no one thought to look for before, it can be a virtual gold mine. 

Gartner research states that “By 2018, 50% of global enterprises will have deployed machine learning technologies in support of two or more major ITOM functions, up from fewer than 10% in 2015.”

Furthermore, Gartner estimates that by 2019, 25% of global enterprises will have strategically implemented an algorithmic IT operations platforms (AIOps) platform that supports two or more major IT operations functions, up from fewer than 5% today.

These analytics solutions use cognitive computing capabilities to learn your IT systems behaviour over time and provide early warnings of abnormal activity, helping you:

1. Predict problems before they impact service and cause costly outages.  

2. Search quickly across your operational data sources for faster problem resolution.  

3. Optimise your IT infrastructure and end-user endpoints to meet service levels efficiently. 

In simplifying issue detection, diagnosis and prescriptive resolution of complex IT support and performance issues, ITOA solutions can enable IT professionals to see the real end-user experience, measure the impact of changes, apply proactive remediation to recurring issues and accelerate issue resolution by quickly determining the probable cause. 

Returning to the medical analogy, IT “health” issues can be simultaneously diagnosed across all “patients” – the patient doesn’t even need to make a call to the doctor. Instead, the end-user clients are continuously monitored, in real-time, for immediate awareness and action. For CIOs who are measured on service availability, service delivery, and customer experience, ITOA solutions are a great way to ensure that the wealth of potentially accessible IT data is exploited to make improvements across these three performance criteria. This results in a much healthier and productive enterprise IT estate, less downtime, and an easier life for IT professionals. 

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