The purpose of monitoring should be insight

the purpose of computing

According to Richard Wesley Hamming one of the founding fathers of IT, the purpose of computing is not numbers, its insight. Insight is the ability to gain a deep understanding of something that has ramifications for how we should select our IT solutions and how we should present them.

The reason for this is explained by another of IT’s founding fathers, a chap by the name of Herbert Alexander Simon. He said “What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients”. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention, and a need to allocate that attention efficiently among the overabundance of information source that might consume it.

Once you pair those two statements up, IT’s purpose is to deliver insight, and that too much information leads to a lack attention (and therefore insight) from the consumer. Also your consumer is time poor these days, and therefore needlessly asking him or her to spend ages wading through numbers is bad practice.

This is why when you are selecting any solution for use within your business you should check against these two guiding principles. 

Monitoring of any kind is especially one area where we can fall foul of these rules. A solution that lacks intelligence will simply tip pages of data on to your screen. In the industry we call them “Christmas Trees” because they light up and change colour for no apparent reason. Agentless technologies are the most common perpetrators of this heinous crime. The intelligence is at the core and rarely of the same standard as a rules based agent technology where multi criteria alerting is the norm. 

However that is still only half the story, and we must ask ourselves what insight are we looking to achieve by these solutions? The answer is emphatic and two fold. The technical teams in an ever more complex need to understand what piece of the puzzle is broken and what affect it is having on the rest of the world.  More importantly STILL is what “business activity is being affected by this problem, what business process is degraded or denied. If your solution is not intelligent enough to lower the volume of alerts to technical  and business insight, if it’s just pouring abstract data on to a screen with several more behind that. You most likely have a new problem.  A poverty of attention, consuming your team’s time with little or no possibility of delivering the insight you need to maintain your business processes.

Richard and Herbert knew a thing or two, we should still listen and take heed.


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