Performance Management – do we know what we’re doing?

Splashing the cash is not always enough

Application performance management is one of those topics which has been bubbling under for a few years, and now finally seems to have captured the imagination of the IT market, writes James West.

It is not hard to see why performance management is a hot ticket. It promises to make sense of the complex array of IT systems and processes that companies have. Performance management will tie up IT assets, applications, the network, the mainframe, and the mobile environment, into a neat, digestible package.

It is a given that software suppliers often get over excited with these claims, so it is wise to ask ourselves two questions in relation to performance management:

  1. Does anyone actually believe the kind of hyperbole which says that in buying one more product, all our problems will be solved?
  2. Do we need technology to manage technology?

The answer to both of these questions is yes, but should it be no? Some people obviously believe the sales pitch down to the letter, whereas the more savvy or the ones who have been stung before will see the potential for benefits, but will not expect the earth.

More unfortunate is that some people believe that by buying more technology, we can make the technology we already have work and this shows the mess that many IT departments have got into. Buying technology, on the scale we are talking, never solved a problem without planning, process change and a good assessment of the impact the technology will have.

Before looking into performance management software, consider the two ways that you can monitor your existing software. The first involves looking at it in isolation and ensuring it is doing what it should. Most enterprise software offers reporting allowing you to gather exactly the kind of data you need to assess the performance of the software in question. The second assessment entails looking at IT as a whole and if you use a process-led, goal-orientated approach to IT, and have clear aims and benchmarking data, you should be able to tell if an individual technology is helping to meet your end goals.

If this is the case, why do we need more software to tell us how IT is performing? The answer is that few organisations allocate or design IT to look at its own performance in this way. In essence, software is installed and then fixed when it fails. Few departments have the resources to really get to grips with each application, learning how to get the best from the software and tailoring the reports to produce meaningful and insightful information.

If this sounds like your department, you need to push the case for expanding your resource so that you can start to look at the wider performance implications of the work you are doing. Although you may have to fight to get more backing, the payback is two fold. Firstly, if you can begin to tweak and improve the performance of IT, the business will see benefits. The more you understand IT in a wider context, the more time you will be able to lend to making further improvements. In summary, the process to manage performance is what is missing, not a piece of software.

The best starting point for this cultural overhaul is the service desk as it is already the function that best understands the practical implications of IT failures and successes. Your service desk probably already has many tools for understanding performance. The reporting capabilities on a product such as Sostenuto and Enterprise are huge, but how many people have fully explored the potential of such powerful products? It’s time to start looking at what you have before deciding to buy a separate tool that you may not need.