A convergence of events – including the global pandemic, a shift to remote work, and increased use of the cloud – has accelerated companies’ digital transformations over the past few years and resulted in an ever-growing labyrinth of hybrid networks and endpoints. Digital transformations may have allowed companies to keep up – to a point – with the changing business landscape, but managing this expanding, layered IT environment has become an extremely complex task.
Many organizations have turned to dashboards as one way to gain a unified view of their networks and allow IT staff to monitor the environment’s health. But even newer, more comprehensive dashboards have their limits, creating the need for companies to find another option.
For starters, IT environments have become so complex that deciding what to put into a dashboard can be a perplexing problem, and one that’s easy to get wrong.
Teams need to decide what data needs to be monitored – and what data doesn’t – based on the impact an anomaly could have on the business. They need to determine what preset limits need to be measured, and how alerts are to be prioritized. A dashboard needs to be customized for each business, and making the wrong choices could result in costly downtime.
Beyond what goes into a dashboard, there’s also the question of who does the monitoring. A shortage of skilled IT workers is another fact of business life that companies have to deal with. Organizations have fewer experts capable of interpreting the data on a dashboard, and that’s probably not what they need to be spending their time doing since there are such a limited number of them available. But giving the dashboard-monitoring job to junior-level staffers would require further customization to account for the skills they don’t have.
As a result, relying on dashboards may not give an organization what it needs – a real-time high-level view of essential metrics with the ability to quickly drill down to find actionable insights. As cloud infrastructures, remote access, and skills gaps continue to grow, the challenges will likely become more difficult. That opens the question of whether dashboards, as effective as they have been in the past, have outlived their usefulness. And that leads to a bigger question: What would take their place?
Runbooks Can Take Over Remediation
Organizations could take advantage of the latest in automation and contextual alerts to move away from dashboards and toward automated remediation. Recent advances in automation include intelligent automation, which combines artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and robotic process automation (RPA) to streamline end-to-end business process automation. It also can offer guidance on subsequent actions, helping to both speed up and improve decision-making across an organization.
Automated remediation can benefit an enterprise in several other ways, as well. For one, it frees up an organization’s limited IT staff to work on more urgent projects, such as building a better network.
Automated remediation also can address the “brain drain” many organizations face from the pending retirements of baby boomers. The skill sets required to effectively divine the meaning of data in a dashboard will be in increasingly short supply as workers retire. To keep their expertise on hand, companies are creating runbooks that make use of workers’ experience while executing automated processes.
Corporate IT dashboards, after all, can at times fail to recognize a problem. And even when they do, the workers monitoring the dashboard may not know what to do with the information, particularly if they’re a junior staffer with limited skills.
Recent advances in AI and ML have improved dashboard performance, but those advances also are enabling automated workflows, in the form of runbooks, based on the expertise of people on staff. So, rather than a junior staffer pulling a seasoned expert away from a more important task to put out a brush fire, an automated runbook puts the expert’s experience to work remediating the problem.
Automated Remediation Makes for More Productive, Happier IT Teams
The benefits of using automated runbooks can spread through an organization in other ways. In addition to allowing senior staffers to focus on more strategic business projects rather than performing the tedious work of solving small problems – or spending time guiding junior staffers through the same processes – it frees up junior staffers as well. Rather than being tied to a dashboard, they can work on other projects that improve their own skills and benefit the company in the process.
As a result, members of IT teams will be happier, being able to focus on the kind of work that attracted them to the technology field in the first place. And having all staffers able to focus on productive work rather than basic maintenance allows organizations to function with smaller IT teams at a time when workers with advanced skills are hard to come by.
In an ideal world, dashboards would alert IT teams to trouble as it crops up, allowing teams to quickly solve the problem. But with ever-expanding networks and limited IT staff sizes, reality often plays out differently. Legacy dashboards can fail to provide enough information and context to allow teams to act quickly. We will likely see dashboard use change over time, focusing on a summary view of what the AI/ML and automation has already done, instead of just showing performance metrics and relying on the user to interpret those metrics.