Here at the Westbury campus we’ve been having a few discussions recently about who our target audience is; their desires, their hopes, their fears… And one of the really interesting things (well, interesting to us, at least) that came out of those discussions was the subject of Heath Robinson style ad-hoc solutions to the problem of pulling reports out of an ITSM database. It’s of particular interest to us, because these sorts of solutions are our competition, so we pulled together a list of the top three reasons why customers ditch the home brew and get with the out of the box. The list was pulled together largely based on anecdotal evidence, so there’s bugger all science involved, just our own experiences collated into a hastily assembled list.
So, in no particular order, here are the top three:
It’s going to cost how much?
You know how this one goes: someone high up in the company decides that measuring the performance of IT is probably a good idea, and this directive gets passed down the line until reaches that guy who has far too much time on his hands and far too much autonomy, and who decides it would be just peachy if he could use this as an excuse to test out some of those theories he’s been working on about data warehousing and middleware. Next thing you know he’s put the order in for a new liquid-cooled server room, twenty-seven new servers and a team of DBAs, programmers, BI experts and coffee-fetching monkeys to look after it all.
Most frustratingly, the system works, and the high up gets those reports he or she wanted, so it’s really hard to argue against the installation of Deep Blue. “That’s the only way to get that data out,” your prodigal wastrel will tell you, shouting above the noise of twelve dozen case fans whirring. The truth of the matter is that he’s probably just doing what many of us in tough times – he’s making himself (and his over-built system) indispensable.
I need that report yesterday!
Number two on the list is also about money if you apply the time = money formula that I learned from watching too many 80s movies. But time is one thing you can’t buy and many of our customers are impatient people. They don’t want to wait around for their reports, just because someone else claims to be busy. When there is a separation between the person who requires the report – and who knows just how important and urgent the report is – and the person whose responsibility it is to actually run the report, then you get a disconnect. And, ultimately, the person who needs the reports will think twice before requesting them because it’s going to be too much of a hassle. And the fewer reports that are generated means the less that organization is paying attention to the measurable performance of IT, which means that any efforts towards process improvement or ITIL are doomed to fail. Conversely, when the time lag between thinking about an aspect of ITSM that you might like to report on and actually seeing that report on your screen or in your hand is shorter, the desire to run new reports increases. Suddenly, you’ll start reporting on seemingly unimportant aspects of performance just because you can, and any increase in a culture of measurement has big ramifications for how well your IT department is run and how well it is perceived externally.
She’s Lost Control
The final point is all about control. Having a specialist BI team in charge of a tool that exists for your benefit – and not having control of it yourself – can be frustrating. It’s a bit like when your Mum wants to upload the pictures she took of Uncle Dave’s 60th to Facebook, but needs your help to do it. And rather than just let you do it all yourself in five minutes, she insists that she keeps hold of the mouse while you talk her through the steps; getting the pictures off the camera and onto her PC, then uploading the pictures to Facebook, then publishing the album and so forth. Not that the BI group / your Mum are necessarily incompetent, just that when instructions have to be relayed, the process encourages mistakes and the need for repetition.
And often that disconnect between end user and ad-hoc system is there for a very good reason, in that the system is just too complicated to operate, or doesn’t have user access security nailed down enough to be opened up to anyone outside the BI team. But that doesn’t stop it being frustrating.
And of course, if I told you the answer to all of these problems was to use Westbury’s SMI Suite then this would turn into some sort of sly sales pitch. So I won’t.