The Digital War Room Isn't Dead - But It Is Changing
September 17, 2018

Vincent Geffray
Everbridge

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Are digital war rooms obsolete because they're just a place for managers of siloed business units to find someone else to blame for a critical IT event such as a security breach?

Far from it. Enterprises find these emergency response teams just as important, if not more important, than ever. The more formal and established the war room, the more effective it is likely to be. And those war rooms that involve more people, and more functions such as developers, tend to be more effective.

Those are some of the findings from an Enterprise Management Associates (EMA) survey of 272 respondents in North America and Europe. Its aim was not only to understand the state of the digital war room, but how it is changing – and needs to change – to resolve critical IT incidents more quickly.

What Works

EMA looked at how emergency response teams – war rooms – are formed and optimized to glean insights from across the organization before IT service interruptions threaten the health of an enterprise.

Among their findings:

■ 50 percent of respondents said that "effective war room capabilities are becoming more important in the digital era;" 43 percent saw their importance as unchanged; and only six percent saw them becoming less important.

■ Three out of four respondents feel their war rooms have been transformed through automation, analytics, or both.

■ In a move away from the siloed war rooms of the past, more than half the respondents see a trend towards involving more people in the process – a move that aligns well with improved war room effectiveness.

■ Seven out of ten said there was a single organizational owner for their war rooms, which also correlated strongly with both overall war room effectiveness and more effective team optimization.

■ But organizations are still taking too long to respond to IT incidents, reporting an average time of about 90 minutes just to assemble an effective team, and a total time to resolution of about six hours.

■ When asked which technology was most valuable in identifying relevant stakeholders and resolvers, respondents scored an automated IT alerting system the highest at 48 percent.

Among the specialists more likely to be found in war rooms these days are application developers. 37 percent of respondents said application developers are becoming more involved in war room decisions. This only makes sense, as those with the most complete knowledge of an application's structure can provide unique insights into the causes, and cures, of service interruptions. EMA, in fact, found "a strong alignment between development becoming more involved and (organizations that) were extremely effective in optimizing war room outcomes."

Overall, the research shows the number of people in the war room during major incidents keeps growing for 52 percent of organizations, and now stands at an average of 15 people.

Another significant positive trend is that, for nearly half of respondents, war rooms are becoming more formal and established, which the research shows strongly correlates with more effective team optimization and incident resolution.

Next Steps

On the down side, the EMA report also found a significant number of organizations where inconsistent or inaccurate data, fragmented data, reactive versus proactive insights, lack of automation, complexities due to cloud-related resources, and cultural/political issues within IT, still held back war room effectiveness.

"The digital war room proved to be far more proactive and engaging than classical ‘war-room' caricatures would have it based on our research and dialogs," said Dennis Nils Drogseth, VP, Enterprise Management Associates. "It can become a unifying web across IT for not only serious incident resolution, but also a factor in supporting cloud-related, SecOps and DevOps initiatives. However, to succeed, the digital war room will increasingly depend on advanced levels of automation, relevant intelligence and analytics, and leadership that truly supports cross-silo awareness, dialog and effectiveness."

As IT becomes even more critical to enterprises, and their infrastructure (on site and in the cloud) become more complex, war rooms are here to stay. The challenge is to adapt them to an age of cloud and digital applications.

Vincent Geffray is Senior Director, Product Marketing, at Everbridge
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