Service Monitoring: Give Customers Real-time Visibility

During a recent training engagement with a new customer, we received a somewhat frantic call from our IT contact. She sounded a bit stressed and said that our consultant would need to remain on-site one more day for a follow-on training session. The IT contact emphasized that this was not something she had planned for, nor foreseen, and it had come up quite suddenly.

Indeed, the IT group had given a presentation to the company’s executive team on their recently deployed network monitoring software. Upon seeing a demonstration of the top-level Business Service dashboards that displayed key metrics on the performance of critical business services, the VP of Customer Care immediately requested that he wanted himself and his directors to be trained on accessing and customizing the dashboards. Interestingly, this is not the first time we have experienced this kind of a reaction from senior managers and business owners.

Whether an internal IT organization supports the business or whether MSPs manage the IT infrastructure and applications, the business and management constituents want real-time visibility on the performance of business services that are dependent on the underlying IT infrastructure. They are no longer content with after-the-fact reporting, and want direct access to the relevant data to view service performance and validate compliance against targets. The prevailing assumption has been that IT monitoring tools are not able to deliver actionable information that is relevant to business owners or senior managers. That is no longer the case.

Opportunities and Challenges

The demand for greater visibility presents both an opportunity and a challenge for MSPs. Being able to provide timely and relevant performance information to business owners and senior managers through mechanisms like service impact dashboards and real-time status reports will enhance MSP offerings. On the other hand, MSPs will need to make investments in the appropriate systems that enable providing a service-oriented view of the IT infrastructure and applications.

Monitoring software systems will need to have two primary underpinnings to meet the challenge:

  • The first, and the more critical one, is having built-in, pre-integrated Business Service Management (BSM) capability that links the underlying IT infrastructure to business services. Within a fully integrated BSM environment, information is presented in a way that is relevant to the user roles within an organization. The business owner can access a rolled-up dashboard view of the metrics on which the business services depend. The information in this view is described in business terms. An IT operations person can simultaneously view the detailed performance data plots for a given piece of the underlying IT infrastructure, where the data is defined in technical terms. To learn more about BSM solutions, read a BSM overview whitepaper.
  • The second requirement is that the monitoring system needs to have full multi-tenancy support. The application has to allow creation of read-only, read-write and admin users within a domain, and admin users across domains. The ability to enable look-and-feel that is driven by the customer login (e.g. custom logo, role-specific layouts, custom stylesheets, etc.) will be important to ensure an intuitive and high-quality user experience for business users and senior managers.

Given the appropriate tools, such as service health dashboards, MSPs can enable business owners to proactively monitor/verify the status and trending of business service performance. To get started, MSPs need to learn more about some of the organizations that are embracing BSM solutions.

With the right level of integration (and correlation) between the business service monitoring layer and the underlying network/IT monitoring technology, business owners can better understand the impact of the complex mesh of underlying infrastructure on the specific outcomes of interest in their business services. MSPs should consider adopting tools that deliver real-time business service assurance capability, and give business owners the visibility they desire.