Create harmony between your users, technology and IT efficiency  

How do your colleagues, clients and suppliers feel about your IT infrastructure and operational technology (OT) systems? Have you ever asked them? What do they think about infrastructure stability or the impact of IT efficiency, incidents and problems?

The honest answer for most businesses is that you’re not sure and you haven’t asked for their views.

It’s time for that to change and here’s why.

Our primary focus for IT and OT systems tends to be functional. We work out what we need our IT to do and then we work hard, often behind the scenes, to ensure systems run smoothly, without interruption or performance issues. We keep our focus on the needs of the business, such as reducing costs.

Understanding user perspectives of the IT and OT infrastructure that they rely on is a gateway to improving user experience. Combining learnings from the real life impact of incidents with proactive IT infrastructure monitoring will help to identify and mitigate problems before they impact wider business operations.

Our Challenge for You

Work in partnership with your users to identify problems and to set up automated processes that help prevent incidents before they happen.

Let us know how you get on at challenge@ripleysolutions.com

Why does IT efficiency matter?

Technology incidents can hinder productivity and impact your bottom line. It can also effect employee morale and motivation. Frustration and dissatisfaction grow, expectations are lowered and problems go unreported as individuals or teams develop work-around solutions or miss significant steps in the operational chain to avoid technology challenges, ultimately impacting customer experience.

If you don’t know about performance issues until they are reported by your users, then you’re missing a valuable opportunity to avoid incidents and to improve the relationship between your users and the systems and technology they use on a day-to-day basis.

Improving your customer experience

It’s essential to know your users, to think about their needs and perspectives and build two-way lines of communication so that you can all share information. This serves a critical role in identifying and addressing problems and improving IT efficiency before they have an operational impact.

The relationship between technology and users isn’t limited to just employees and can also include customers, suppliers and partners as well. What happens when a customer can’t place an order or get the information they require? What short cuts have people put in place to bypass an operational system that doesn’t quite meet their partnership needs?

Start by mapping out your internal and external users: how, when and why do they interact with your IT infrastructure and operational technology? What do they need to achieve and what problems arise that stop them doing this? An easy way to do this is to ask them directly: you might be surprised by their response. Explain that you want to work together to meet their needs and to establish processes that will let you know if problems are looming, as well as digital transformation solutions that can prevent incidents in the first place.

Shine a light on hidden work

How do you share what you do? When your work is technical and complex, it’s easy to just concentrate on getting it done. But when the work you do is essential to keep your business operating, consider ways to share your successes and processes. When your colleagues understand the efforts you make behind the scenes to keep things running smoothly, they will certainly appreciate the skill and determination you bring to fixing problems, reduce costs and preventing incidents.

Prevention not firefighting

Improving IT efficiency and supporting operational technology systems can often feel like being a firefighter, dealing with performance issues when they are reported, moving from one fire straight onto the next. Not every incident can be anticipated, but there are often tell-tale warning signs, and the key lies in early detection.

Implementing tailored automated monitoring systems will give you a real-time view of the health of your business-critical IT and operational technology systems on a dashboard. You’ll be able to detect issues as they occur and alert the right people to resolve the issue, meaning your users won’t be the first to spot the problem. You’ll also gain a better insight on what’s causing problems, so you can fix underlying causes before they have an impact on customer experience.

You might ask why you need an automated monitoring system and whether having someone run a few daily checks would be sufficient. If all your business-critical systems appear to be working first thing in the morning, then surely everything must be okay? In reality, most IT and OT systems rely on a complex array of components that have the potential to create in multiple and sometimes subtle ways.  The depth and breadth of checks that an automated system can perform are more likely to pick up on these details in time for you to implement solutions.

Does automated monitoring improve IT efficiency?

  1. Data is automatically collected from multiple sources
  2. Data is aggregated and analysed to determine whether it is within acceptable limits
  3. Key information is provided via dashboards
  4. Where necessary, action are taken in response to an undesirable or unexpected situation

Collecting Data

Data about the health of IT and OT systems broadly falls into two categories:

  • Metrics indicate how a component is performing, ranging from processor and memory utilisation for servers, or the number of orders processed in the last hour.
  • Events are things that have happened, such as a server no longer responding, a backup that didn’t complete successfully, or malware detected on your network.

Aggregating and Analysing Data

Raw data needs to be aggregated and analysed to create meaningful information that stands out from the noise. An automated monitoring system compares the aggregated data against acceptable thresholds and acts when these limits are exceeded. Thresholds for metrics can be pre-determined or based on historical averages.

Dashboards

  • Dashboards are an excellent way to present a lot of information quickly and are often used to display Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and information about the overall health of your IT and OT systems.
  • They are not designed to support situations requiring immediate action.
  • Dashboards should be tailored for the people that will consume the information. It may be useful to provide senior managers with high level KPIs and other relevant information, whereas operational and support staff may benefit from more detailed information about a specific system or technology.

Actions

Once an undesirable or unexpected situation has been detected, the monitoring system can act to either resolve the problem automatically or notify someone that a problem has been detected.

Programmatic actions could include automatically rebooting a server if it becomes unresponsive or allocating additional resources to a server in response to an increased workload. Notifications can be tailored to the severity and nature of problem detected to alert the right people at the right time.

4 Steps to achieving IT efficiency

While it can be tempting to monitor everything and tell everyone as soon as a performance issues are detected, make sure your monitoring reflects what you – and your users, need.

Follow our four steps to kick start your monitoring:

  1. Identify which systems or parts of your business would benefit the most from being able to automatically detect problems. Think about which systems have been problematic in the past or where an outage would cause a significant impact. To help prioritise, talk to your users to understand how past issues have impacted them and to find out if they see any potential problems emerging. #TopTip: Think back to the last major performance issue that affected your business-critical systems. How would you have responded differently with advanced warning?
  2. Identify what type of information is important to track. It’s important to find the right balance between monitoring everything or monitoring nothing at all. One extreme will inundate your team with irrelevant alerts and the other be the equivalent of the “check engine” light on a car. Set up comprehensive alerts that monitor the things that are important, meaningful and can be acted upon.
  3. Identify the best way to notify people at the right time. Information can reach people in many formats (dashboards, emails, SMS messages or notifications pushed to a phone). Make sure you distinguish between alerts that need immediate action and less critical alerts to improve customer experience.
  4. Keep your users informed. Let them know how your monitoring and response process works, and keep a dialogue going so that they can help you keep your systems running.

How Ripley Solutions can improve IT efficiency

We hope these tips help you see how monitoring and communication can improve the relationship between your users and your systems by detecting problems as or before they occur.

If you need extra help, we can support you at all stages of your monitoring journey, from assessing the landscape and deciding what to monitor to implementing a monitoring system that allow you to detect problems as they occur and alert the right people to resolve issues.

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