Wednesday, 15 March 2017 13:14

Spreadsheet hell – the IT department's silos of data

By Michael Bosnar and Ray Shaw

The modern IT department generates vast volumes of data, yet very few organisations are capitalising on the value and insights it can offer. Few departments have a single pane of glass, a dashboard source of truth.

Data is generated by users, applications, service desk, incident response tools, and security systems. It can yield powerful insights into how an organisation’s overall IT infrastructure, service delivery or staff are performing. It can also be used to demonstrate business impact and better inform senior management when making strategic decisions about changes and future investments.

However, the key challenge is that these valuable information sources tend to be siloed in separate applications and databases and the data generated by one is not easily accessible to combine with the data from others.

iTWIre asked Michael Bosnar, area vice-president ANZ, Ivanti,  to pen a few words about the issue. Ivanti is the new name for LANDESK, Heat Software, Wavelink, AppSense and Shavlik that now has more than 1600 employees in 23 countries and serves more than 22,000 broadly diversified customers across all industries.

His words follow.

Ivanti BosnarSiloed data lacks context, is often out-of-date by the time it is available and at best has limited value and at worst is misleading. In fact, creating reports and analysis based on the multiple data sources can be very time and resource intensive, often resulting in a static view that cannot be mined for individual nuggets of information

Consolidated Real-time Data

Obtaining the maximum potential value from the data being generated within the IT department requires the use of powerful reporting and dashboard tools that can quickly and easily aggregate and consolidate data. Through using links to existing applications and monitoring software, the tools gather data and enable self-supporting users to analyse information in real time to provide comprehensive insights.

It is important to note that the most effective tools do not alter the data in source applications. IT managers can be confident their data cannot be altered and is secure.

Powerful Insights

Once the data has been aggregated, users can manipulate information gathered from across IT systems in one place. Powerful dashboard visualisations of information make it easy to quickly cut through the mass of data to identify patterns, trends, risks and financial impacts that previously would have gone unnoticed. The benefits this can deliver to an organisation can be significant.

For example, a large Australian retailer is using reporting and dashboard tools to monitor usage of in-store scanning devices. The retailer is able to see the status of all devices when they were last used, and their physical location. This capability ensures that devices are used as effectively as possible, maximising productivity.

Another company is using the approach to gain better insight into its call centre operations. Data from multiple sources, such as the CRM system, the telephony infrastructure, and financial applications, is combined to show how workloads are changing over time. Managers can quickly see how many calls are coming in, how many jobs are being logged in the CRM system, and how long agents take to resolve issues. Using these information insights results in improved productivity and higher levels of customer service.

A large financial services company is using reporting and dashboard tools to determine which components within its IT infrastructure are the most costly to maintain or are causing the largest number of problems.

To achieve this, data is sourced from IT management platforms and financial applications. IT department staff can then run comparisons between different types of equipment and identify trends.

For example, a particular model of server may require higher levels of service than another, or certain desktop configurations are identified as more reliable than others. These insights can guide future investments and maintenance schedules.

Such insights are made possible through the use of a tool like Xtraction. Consisting of a lightweight server application and a web-based interface, the Xtraction server connects to one or more enterprise applications and any relational database in an organisation using read-only rights.

Users access the aggregated data via reports and dashboards from the intuitive, role-based interface that connects to the Xtraction server. Through the user interface, they are able to interact with data; change parameters to obtain different views, drill down and filter to focus on a single data point or see the big IT picture.

The system is simple to install, typically taking less than two hours to deploy.

Insightful reporting

Industry research has found that 85% of senior executives want more data from their IT department. However, they also want this data to be in a readily digestible form that can aid their role and not require hours of work to decode.

A role-based system means it is possible to provide executives with tailored reports and dashboards that give them access to the information they require to reduce the risk of decisions being made on incomplete data.

The addition of tools such as this to an IT department will allow staff to add significant value to their organisation's operations. The true value of this large amount of data already being collected can be unlocked and put to work.

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