Getting various stakeholders in an enterprise to agree on whether an application is healthy and meeting business needs has often been an elusive task. In the commonly known parable of six blind men meeting an elephant for the first time, each one feels a single part of the elephant and makes his own conclusion as to what an elephant is by touch alone. Their descriptions are obviously in disagreement on what an elephant is, as they come from their own experiences while disregarding those of others.
Lines of business owners, IT operations directors, ITSM managers, heads of application development and CIOs develop their own notions of application health and what successful IT service delivery entails. While this itself may have been a tolerable inconvenience in the past, with IT making sub-optimal operational decisions across the application portfolio, the current digital transformation of business makes this status quo untenable.
Aligning IT Operations with the Business
IT applications have now become the blood, sinews and nervous system of enterprises. With increased competitiveness through technology disruption, CIOs and IT senior executives now need to align their initiatives closely with that of the business, while also being able to justify resources and investments to business owners.
According to the 2017 SIM Annual IT Trends survey of CIOs from 769 unique enterprises, IT business alignment was ranked as the 2nd most critical issue facing them after cybersecurity. IT operations need to provide effective and efficient IT delivery with credible and universal application health metrics across all performance, people, project and portfolio vectors.
IT application delivery is a confluence of various connected disciplines, teams and processes. In the best of scenarios, it is choreographed across IT operations, IT service management, applications development, DevOps, deployment and release teams to deliver business services to end users and customers. With so many domains and disciplines involved, it is easy to lose track of what constitutes as credible sources of truth or pertinent metrics across data sources that all stakeholders can use to make operational decisions and take corrective action.
IT Business Services Delivery
True Composite Measures of Application Health
Application health is viewed by various vendors and pundits as a set of individual metrics to track applications and related infrastructure performance. As a reaction to previous metrics that focused on infrastructural monitoring and IT support, end user performance is now commonly promoted as the most pertinent yardstick for application health. For lines of business owners, this is the most critical factor as to whether user experience is optimized for maximum revenue, productivity and user satisfaction.
Clearly, application performance management (APM) and IT operational analytics (ITOA) solutions provide critical metrics, albeit at a more diagnostic and transactional level, for gauging application health across the portfolio. These include crucial measures of performance degradation, usage, and the true business impact of IT deliverables.
Though application performance from a user perspective is very important, it does not, by itself, provide the sole measure of application health. It ignores other technical and business health metrics that contribute to the comparative TCO/ROI and operational health of applications.
IT operations directors, IT service managers and CIOs also want to track health across people, process and supportability metrics. These would include change success/failure and risks, MTTR, volumes and duration of outages, problems, incidents and application usage trends. Metrics such as these, together with application end user performance, construct a true composite picture of application health.
Our customers indicate a strong need for these consolidated views of application health. These views are constructed from credible sources of truth and based on a unified understanding across all stakeholders. These shared insights across the portfolio, with scorecards and combined health scores, need to straddle all facets of IT service delivery in order to enable consistent prioritization of operational decisions by IT leaders.
These universal views must, therefore, provide analytical insights more holistically to IT leaders. IT leaders will, in return, rectify systemic issues across applications and the surrounding people, process, and projects, just as a Systems of Intelligence approach for IT would do.
Application health is the means for IT operations, the program and portfolio management office, application and business owners, to have a common shared view and vocabulary on cases from ITSM incidents, problems, outages, changes, application performance, to business impact and risk. It also allows IT Operations to communicate the value of IT services back to the business, all with an agreed upon framework that aligns application health scores with the enterprise’s business models.
As a result, application health surfaces applications with the highest variable performance, greatest customer impact, and enables leaders to spend their time prioritizing remediation projects with drill down to contributing factors.
This is the first in a series of blogs proposing systematic approaches for optimal decision making around enterprise IT’s application health, rationalization and modernization initiatives.