With the adjustment to the new normal of remote work, IT Operations teams are struggling for a variety of reasons. One of the biggest problems is disrupted communications patterns. At the office, it's easy to ask a coworker a question. For most, their subject matter experts — who were a desk or two away — are no longer readily available. Organizations now face a lack of tools that can funnel information one place leaving an operator to view multiple IT operations tools on different systems.
To deal with this situation, businesses should start by virtualizing your Network Operations Center (NOC). Here are five tools that can help:
Group Chat Tool
Operations teams need to modify their processes to remain effective in a remote working environment. Issues that once required a quick walk over to the IT team now demands a chat or call.
There is also a lot of benefit in just hearing other people talk about something that you can add value too, which goes away when you are remote.
Person to person chat tools have been around since AOL, but group chat tools provide new functions that are particularly useful for IT teams.
Single Pane of Glass
A recent study by Enterprise Management Associates shows that, on average, IT Operations teams have 23 tools. When working at an operations center, moving between the screens of various tools, while inefficient, is not impossible. There is a lot of desk space for all those monitors or wall space for projection.
For example, I have two monitors in my home office, and could even do three, but not 23 (remember that's just the average). I can bring up more virtual windows but that is not always as efficient as separate monitors.
To avoid the need for 23 separate monitors, IT teams should integrate tools to be condensed into a "single pane of glass." This makes it easier for an operator to keep track of everything going on and ensures everyone sees the same data.
Correlation and Analytics
A follow on to the single pane of glass is bringing all alerts and metrics into a single tool that you can apply event analytics and AIOps to all data.
For example, integrating synthetic monitoring data with system and network data can link an application performance slowdown with a network or system problem that is causing an application performance problem.
ChatOps, in this context, is the ability of IT operations tools to communicate with humans via a group chat tool. A chatbot takes commands from the group chat software and passes it on to the IT operations tool, then takes the tool's response and puts it in the group chat. This improves staff efficiency by allowing anyone in the chat room to issue a command where everyone can see the results. ChatOps becomes the physical version of everyone standing behind you while you type commands and see results on your monitor.
IT Process Automation
Automating tasks provides multiple benefits. It reduces human error, speeds execution, and can roll back a change. With advanced orchestration tools, you can control access to the workflows representing each task and can provide an audit trail.
Automation has the added benefit of reducing costs. In fact, I've seen customers save upwards of $4M by adopting IT process automation.
In conclusion, while most of the discussion has been focused on tools, a change in processes or culture may be needed to make the most of them. For the current situation and with the prospect that this situation will repeat in the future, your operations teams need to be able to be virtual when necessary. If you haven't started virtualizing your NOC yet, the best places to start are group chats and a single pane of glass. Group chat gets communications as close to being in the office as possible. Consolidating as much information as possible in one place minimizes context switching, which disrupts focused thinking, increasing the amount of time to find and fix the problem.
Most disaster recovery plans never thought to account for the situation we are going through now, but given the current realities organizations still need to ensure their teams remain effective. The tools described here help increase the efficiency and quality of your operations, even if you never had to work at home before.
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