Question 5: Would You Like Everything With That?

On a recent episode of TechPod, I had a chance to talk to Holger Mundt () Many will recognize Holger as a THWACK MVP and frequent SolarWinds guest on webcasts and at THWACKcamp. But on this session, Holger graciously offered to join me to talk—not about the deep technical experiences for which he is known—but instead about his equally impressive knowledge of how to speak to management and business leadership ABOUT monitoring. As I was giving it a re-listen, something he said caught my attention:

“Managers tend to somehow want to have a high-level overview of a very detailed information.”

It echoed back to last month’s post (“Sound and Significance”) and the common request to have so-called “FYI alerts.” In the podcast, I joked it was like saying, “I need you to tell me everything but make it quick!”

Ultimately, this arises from not being clear on exactly what you want, but even more so, it arises out of a lack of clarity on what information is relevant to the business decisions you need to make. And sometimes, all it takes is this asking yourself a reframing question—“When I get this report, what is the action I’ll be able to confidently take based on the information in it?”—to get you back on track.

At the heart of it is a (valid) desire for efficiency. Getting three important pieces of information on a single screen/page/report/alert is great! How about five? How about 10? The ultimate expression of this desire is, “Can we aggregate ALL the important points of info into a single place?”

No. No you can’t.

Why not? Because understanding what’s important can only happen with context. And the context for three or five or 100 “important pieces of information” likely have multiple, rather than singular, contextual settings. Sales (current, compared to the last year/quarter/day/hour/minute), customer experience, supply chain, critical path... all these high-level business drivers map to specific elements in your infrastructure. But (I hope at this point it’s obvious) it can’t all appear in a single place.

So, before you ask for “everything,” take a moment to define (for yourself, and then for the IT team) what you’ll DO when you receive the report/alert/whatever.

Because monitoring begins with collecting raw data. Robust, effective monitoring solutions turn data into information. And this information should be driving action from you and your team.