Seizing the Big Data possibilities - Understanding analytics

We’ve all heard the hype that surrounds “big data” and how it’s changing everyone’s business. But how do businesses make the most of this data? And how do they make sure that the data is relevant, and will play a role in achieving positive business outcomes?

Today’s IT Service Management (ITSM) professionals are uniquely – and arguably - best placed to take advantage of the opportunities big data presents. Not only do they understand what it means to gather data and to act on alerts based on that data, they also have data collection and analytics capabilities at their fingertips.

Every part of an organisation’s IT infrastructure, no matter what sector, creates data. Ranging from metrics on machine performance, to software and hardware usage, to the ways by which devices are patched and updated. With the right outlook, ITSM professionals can turn this data into insights to help them offer the most proactive and high-performance services, and also run the most successful and most profitable business possible.

But the transformation of big data into relevant data is all in business intelligence - bringing meaningful understanding to this information. Furthermore, knowing how to leverage the right data is key. Traditionally there are three types of analytics – descriptive, predictive and prescriptive. While descriptive analytics is based on historical data, predictive analytics can forecast future performance and growth. Prescriptive analytics is however becoming increasingly prevalent – not only does it look at data and predict what might happen, it also gives intelligent pointers of actions to take based on that data, allowing you to avert a problem or take advantage of an opportunity.

Descriptive analytics

Descriptive analytics essentially describe the state of the IT environment. Based on historical data, descriptive analytics can provide businesses with useful chunks of information. These can be used for a range of analysis:

  • An overview of the devices being managed and how they compare to other businesses in the same sector
  • The software installed and how it compares to other to other businesses in the same sector
  • Devices missing crucial security updates 

Armed with this data, ITSM providers can take action based on the state of a huge IT universe – whether that is updating clients’ software or performing security checks.

Predictive analytics

Predictive analytics is the next level and can help predict potential future states in IT estates. For example: 

  • If disk space is predicted to run out soon
  • Whether a patch is predicted to very likely fail upon first installation attempt 

By comparing both historical and recent data, predictive analytics can make informed predictions about the future. Take patches for example – if data shows that five patches have a high failure rate, predictive analytics can make an informed prediction that this may fail again, and to take caution when installing.

This proactive approach to analytics is important because it not only provides insights on opportunities, but it also highlights potential risks. Predictive analytics can allow ITSM professionals to predict the financial liability it client would face in the event of a data breach, and help address the riskiest issues first.

Prescriptive analytics

Prescriptive analytics goes further than both descriptive and predictive analytics, and actually provides suggestions to prevent problems before they occur. For example: 

  • Recommendations based on dangerous viruses or malicious websites on the rise across the IT estate
  • How to overcome threats from cybercriminals who are planning cyber-attacks
  • How to react to risky user behaviour 

Essentially, prescriptive analytics provides a course of action or ‘solution’, as it can predict possible consequences. For example, if a virus is on the rise, IT service providers can ensure that all devices are running the latest and most up-to-date security software. This will avoid any client’s falling victim to the virus, saving time and valuable resources rectifying the problem.

The power of data

Ultimately, data has the power to transform the support ITSM professionals deliver to their customers. By being able to access valuable data on a client’s IT environment, as well as a wider community, it will allow better service while ensuring they are using their resources wisely and running a successful and profitable business. A win-win solution for all involved.

As the “Internet of Things” explodes in the next few years, there will be an almost unlimited potential for new opportunities. Everywhere you turn, someone will be generating gigabytes of data that don’t speak for themselves. 

Whether you like it or not, data and analytics will be common place within the business environment moving forward. And knowing how to use this data properly will make a huge difference in the success of your ITSM business.

Dana Bullister, Program Manager, Strategic Data Initiatives, SolarWinds MSP

Image source: Shutterstock/Carlos Amarillo