Your Infrastructure Monitoring Tool May Be Holding Back Productivity

Productivity is one of the measures economists use when looking at the health of and growth (or lack thereof) of economies. Productivity growth is the ability of people to do more with the same or only marginally more effort. So, when Henry Ford introduced his assembly line to automobile manufacturing, he dramatically increased employee productivity.

In the case of Henry Ford, the benefits of massive increases in productivity included:

  • The amount of time to produce a car went from around 12 hours to just over 90 minutes
  • Vastly increased production to over 300,000 cars in 1914 (which was more than all Ford’s competitors combined)
  • Increased profit margin and decreased cost to consumers (thus increasing sales)

From just this one example, we can see that increased productivity led to numerous benefits both for the company (and Henry Ford himself) and society in general (lower cost of purchasing a Model T). There were also significant benefits for the employees. Ford increased wages as part of the transition to the assembly line and decreased hours. This resulted in happier workers, who were able to spend some of their newfound financial gains on new Ford cars. New spending power led to more demand, and the cycle repeated itself.

Productivity in the United States has increased pretty consistently over the past 70 or so years. There are definitely periods of negative or stagnant productivity growth, but if you look at the following chart you can see that most productivity growth has been positive.

Productivity is one of the measures economists use when looking at the health of and growth (or lack thereof) of economies.

Reasons Behind Productivity Gains

There are many reasons why productivity goes up or down. One of the driving factors behind significant productivity growth is increased use of technology. To see this in more detail, let’s think about the inter-office memo.

Reasons Behind Productivity GainsBefore email, instant messaging (IM) and the dozens of other types of co-worker communications available today, there were inter-office memos. These were typed (maybe word processed and printed but probably typed) documents containing information someone else needed. To get the memo from the person writing it to the person who needed the information, organizations had entire processes in place. Without getting into too much detail, these processes consisted of special envelopes in which the document was placed. Entire mail rooms were employed to pick up, route and deliver these documents. Needless to say, while it was (and still is in some places) a very effective approach, it is nothing like using Slack or e-mail. An inter-office memo might take a few hours (or more) to get from point A to point B. An IM takes a few milliseconds.

Productivity goes up when things are more efficient. Instead of having to type a document (which takes time), put the document in the envelope and address it (which takes a small amount of time), wait for the pickup, sorting, and delivery (all of which take lots of time), the critical information is delivered directly to the person who needs it.

Productivity and Infrastructure Monitoring

So what does all this have to do with Infrastructure Monitoring (IM)? A lot actually. If you are using an IM tool that does not focus on improving workflows, operating efficiently and most importantly, on ensuring your employees know what they need to to do their job, then your employees are not operating at their peak efficiency.

Let’s look at some examples of things an IM tool should do to help improve productivity.

Single Pane of Glass

Providing the information your employees need when and where they need it is key for all IM tools. Pursuing the proverbial “single pane of glass” is likely to result in getting a “single glass of pain.” Typically, a single pane of glass tends to result in either:

  • Insufficient information for anyone to get what they really need to do their job
  • So much information that it is almost impossible to find or understand what you need

Both of these scenarios are problematic. Not enough information means you are unable to make informed decisions and makes solving problems more difficult. So much information that you cannot find what you want is just as bad – I still need the information to solve the problem.

Generating Useful, Actionable Alerts

Alert fatigue is a real and serious issue, and tools that generate thousands of alerts (or more) per day are going to hold back productivity. When lots of irrelevant alerts come in, people tend to tune them out, which ultimately leads to missing important alerts. Examples of this abound across pretty much all of society. Whether it is a nurse missing a critical patient alert or someone ignoring the check engine light in the car for months, the effects of alert fatigue are visible everywhere.

Events and Intelligent Alerts

The right IM tool provides intelligent alerts on events that are created. When tools generate too many alerts for issues that are not real issues, employees end up having to spend a huge amount of time tracking down and validating alerts that may not be an actual issue (every 20 minutes you spend focused on an alert that is a non-issue is 20 minutes wasted). A good example of this is when a switch goes down, every device connected behind the switch is suddenly unreachable. Does your IM tool create an event for each and every one of those devices? Just because the device is unreachable does not mean it is down. And your IM tool should be smart enough to know that.

IM Tools Are All About Efficiency

The reason you have an IM tool is to ensure your organization’s infrastructure is operating as efficiently as possible. Efficiency, in this case, means being as productive as possible. The same holds true for the relationship between an IM tool and your employees. You acquired an IM tool to help your IT employees be able to do their jobs as efficiently as possible (or, again, being as productive as possible). This can come into play from several different perspectives:

  • Some employees end up spending all their time fighting fires, leaving them little time to perform their “actual” jobs. The entire organization suffers when this happens, since the things these employees are supposed to be doing (perhaps applying security updates, planning for the big data center move, or developing specifications for the planned cloud migration) are either not getting done or taking too long to get done.
  • When problems do arise, it is important to resolve them as quickly as possible. Having too many alerts means everything takes longer. Extending the example of a switch going down, if your tool alerts about all the devices behind that switch, your engineers are going to have to spend a lot of time figuring out if the devices are really down or not. And, in a sort of worst case scenario, if one of the tens, hundreds or possibly thousands of devices is actually down but the alert gets lost in the flood of alerts, the overall recovery process is delayed. If I know a switch is down, I am likely to just discount every device behind the switch until I know things are working again.
  • When not fighting fires, IM tools are critical to the employees. Being able to understand the configuration, see the software versions and more for a device, means an employee tasked with upgrading all devices running a specific version of software will have an easier time finding those devices.

To Put a Bow on It … That is, a Bow on IT Monitoring

Business efficiency is about driving productivity. Whether you’re assembling cars or sending interoffice messages, advances in technology should always be about improving productivity. When you look at infrastructure monitoring tools, don’t forget how important your infrastructure is to the overall productivity of your entire organization. Do your homework, choose wisely and your IT monitoring tool will help you deliver significant productivity gains for so much more than your IT department. And you may want to consider giving Netreo a test drive.

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