How Good Are You At Blamestorming?
April 10, 2013
Vincent Geffray
Share this

Blamestorming is a well-known game IT organizations spend hours playing every week. There are different leagues and names for this game. Some call it the "war room", others the "service restoration call", but they basically follow the same simple rules. The goal of the game is to figure out the origin of an IT service degradation issue and collectively identify the one person — or the team — to blame for it, then hold them responsible for the resolution and the business consequences.

It often occurs in the form of a meeting, where the players meet in a conference room or on the phone.

The game usually starts with an IT performance degradation that impacts your most critical business applications. The cause, and this is important, should not be obvious; nothing in plain sight like a load balancer or a web server being down.

And there are plenty of events that can make a great game if your company is:

- An e-commerce company and, for some reason, your payment processing system is unexpectedly slow, preventing sales from being booked online

- A manufacturer and your supply chain system does not respond, causing delays and production to stall

- A hospital and the clinicians start complaining about the system performance

- A bank servicing remote locations from where the tellers can’t access the system

Remember, the more complex the application architecture, the better — it will make the game more interesting with many different players. The reason these games are so popular is that they are most often unplanned and unforeseen.

So how do you get to play? You will most likely get invited by your boss directly. When your phone rings the game play is on.

There are some indicators that will let you know if this is going to be an interesting game.

First, is the location the usual meeting room or a different one because the former is too small? The larger meeting room means that there will be many players, which should make the game last longer.

Another sign is the attendee list: if your boss’s boss is invited, then you know it's going to be an intense game. We have heard of games being kicked off by the CIO or the CFO and hosted in a hotel conference room because they could not accommodate all the players. The number of players will give you an idea of the complexity of the mystery to be solved. We have seen teams so good that one game could last more than 24 hours.

There are different types of players and many styles you can adopt, just like playing poker:

- The guessers. They don't have a clue, but they will guess anyway. They usually don't bring anything relevant, and you will hear them say things like, “There must be something wrong with the web servers because the team in Houston can't even access the system, or maybe it's the configuration of the database, or maybe it's the network itself?”

- The fact checkers. They come to the table with some kind of evidence that they can't be blamed for the problem. We have found that the network teams are usually pretty good at this, as they are used to being suspected at the beginning of the game, "It has to be the network."

- The screamers. They will try to intimate the other players. Sometimes the loudest screamers win or at least buy some time.

- The quiet. They will stay quiet until other players question them. Then they start challenging the elements and ask for evidence.


Basically, decide who is to blame for the screw up, and be ready to give enough evidence that will justify a deeper investigation by the players.

The other teams, if able, will try to disprove your theory by showing you one piece of evidence that exonerates them.

And this goes on until the case is solved and all the false possibilities have been eliminated. In the end, whoever is wrong, owns the issue and resolution and loses the game!

It’s important to note that we are witnessing a trend in companies to limit the possibilities for IT staff to participate in blamestorming competitions. They claim that these games are costly for the company due to the loss of revenue involved with revenue-generating application issues. They also complain about drop-offs in employee productivity when the issue prevents end users from doing their job, such as ERP failures.

Be aware that IT directors will often try to limit the number of games and their duration because they think this activity consumes too much of the IT staff time. They feel this time could be better put to use on more strategic projects.

As a result, we have seen IT management teams put into place new generation APM solutions. These solutions provide too much troubleshooting information upfront, which eliminates the mystery and the suspense.

Recently, a large producer and distributor of eyewear reduced the average duration of their games by 85% from 20 hours to less than 3 hours today, reducing the number of players at the same time. They are just killing the game!

Comic strip by Siobhan Ohmart and Vincent Geffray

ABOUT Vincent Geffray

Vincent Geffray is Senior Product Marketing Manager of Enterprise Solutions for Compuware’s APM business and has more than 14 years of experience in the IT Operations Management industry, with specialization in datacenter performance improvement.

Share this

The Latest

June 25, 2020

I've had the opportunity to work with a number of organizations embarking on their AIOps journey. I always advise them to start by evaluating their needs and the possibilities AIOps can bring to them through five different levels of AIOps maturity. This is a strategic approach that allows enterprises to achieve complete automation for long-term success ...

June 24, 2020

Sumo Logic recently commissioned an independent market research study to understand the industry momentum behind continuous intelligence — and the necessity for digital organizations to embrace a cloud-native, real-time continuous intelligence platform to support the speed and agility of business for faster decision-making, optimizing security, driving new innovation and delivering world-class customer experiences. Some of the key findings include ...

June 23, 2020

When it comes to viruses, it's typically those of the computer/digital variety that IT is concerned about. But with the ongoing pandemic, IT operations teams are on the hook to maintain business functions in the midst of rapid and massive change. One of the biggest challenges for businesses is the shift to remote work at scale. Ensuring that they can continue to provide products and services — and satisfy their customers — against this backdrop is challenging for many ...

June 22, 2020

Teams tasked with developing and delivering software are under pressure to balance the business imperative for speed with high customer expectations for quality. In the course of trying to achieve this balance, engineering organizations rely on a variety of tools, techniques and processes. The 2020 State of Software Quality report provides a snapshot of the key challenges organizations encounter when it comes to delivering quality software at speed, as well as how they are approaching these hurdles. This blog introduces its key findings ...

June 18, 2020

For IT teams, run-the-business, commodity areas such as employee help desks, device support and communication platforms are regularly placed in the crosshairs for cost takeout, but these areas are also highly visible to employees. Organizations can improve employee satisfaction and business performance by building unified functions that are measured by employee experience rather than price. This approach will ultimately fund transformation, as well as increase productivity and innovation ...

June 17, 2020

In the agile DevOps framework, there is a vital piece missing; something that previous approaches to application development did well, but has since fallen by the wayside. That is, the post-delivery portion of the toolchain. Without continuous cloud optimization, the CI/CD toolchain still produces massive inefficiencies and overspend ...

June 16, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has exponentially accelerated digital transformation projects. To better understand where IT professionals are turning for help, we analyzed the online behaviors of IT decision-makers. Our research found an increase in demand for resources related to APM, microservices and dependence on cloud services ...

June 15, 2020

The rush to the public cloud has now slowed as organizations realized that it is not a "one size fits all" solution. The main issue is the lack of deep visibility into the performance of applications provided by the host. Our own research has recently revealed that 32% of public cloud resources are currently under-utilized, and without proper direction and guidance, this will remain the case ...

June 11, 2020

The global shift to working from home (WFH) enforced by COVID-19 stay-at-home orders has had a massive impact on everyone's working lives, not just in the way they remotely interact with their teams and IT systems, but also in how they spend their working days. With both governments and businesses committed to slowly opening up offices, it's increasingly clear that a high prevalence of remote work will continue throughout 2020 and beyond. This situation begets important questions ...

June 10, 2020
In recent years, with the emergence of newer technologies ranging from the cloud to machine learning, IT modernization has evolved from a replacement of end-of-life infrastructure to an enabler of innovation and business value. It is a complex process that can take months or even years, but a recent survey shows that the effort begins to deliver measurable results almost as soon as an organization executes the first steps on its roadmap ...