Big Data isn’t just for techies anymore. Dennis Drogseth chats about his new research report entitled Leaders in Advanced IT Analytics (AIA): A Buyer's Guide for Investing in Innovation.
On today’s episode of PICNIC, host Jeanne Hopkins speaks with guest Dennis Drogseth about his new research report entitled Leaders in Advanced IT Analytics (AIA): A Buyer's Guide for Investing in Innovation.
Dennis is a VP at Enterprise Management Associates and has been with the company since 1998. He supports EMA through leadership in IT Service Management (ITSM), CMDB systems, as well as megatrends like advanced operations analytics, cross-domain automation systems, IT-to-business alignment, and service-centric financial optimization.
Dennis’ report report is unique (almost experimental) in the sense that he used a “listening first” rather than “judging” approach. “It wasn’t about giving prizes, it was about listening and hearing the truth, each one being an individual story,” he remarks in the interview. After years of foundational research, Dennis authored this is nearly 100 page document that cites around 20 documented case studies and analyzes a ton of data - it’s no joke.
This podcast dives into what Dennis has learned through his research regarding Advanced IT Analytics, the parameters of his research, the people and companies involved, the practical application of AIA, and the future of this technology.
What is Advanced IT Analytics? And Why Talk About it Now?
Jeanne sets the stage for Dennis’ report by first asking what Advanced IT Analytics is. How is this different than Operational Intelligence? How wide of a net does this term cast?
Advanced IT Analytics (AIA) is commonly known as “Operational Analytics.” The term AIA was coined because it has application far beyond just operations. It can support DevOps, Integrated Security, business stakeholders, and IT Executives. While the core of AIA is still in operations, a new label was needed to express all that it can encompass.
The Buyer’s Guide certainly was not written overnight, nor was all the research completed since March of this year when Dennis officially started working on the project. Years of research came together as Dennis began to see that the topic of Advanced IT Analytics was really “coming of age.”
The research had progressed to the point where people no longer viewed this topic as that only studied by those in a hypothetical sense; it had real world application. Dennis explains, “this is not a science test anymore… [run by] 16 people in white coats.” He goes on to say that, “there are good 3rd party opportunities” for companies in terms of AIA application that can meet their needs today, not years from now.
Criteria for Companies Studied in Guide
Jeanne then brings up the topic of how the various companies were chosen for Dennis’ guide. What were the requirements for participation? What technology was tested?
Dennis chose 13 vendors to participate in his case studies based on his experience in working with them. He knew that these vendors would have to give him access to a lot of their time and information, so he chose carefully based on the companies having access to the below three requirements:
Advanced Machine Learning
Having heuristics surrounding this topic was crucial for a company to have before Dennis chose to study them. “At the core, what Machine Learning gives you is insight into what you didn’t know you had to look for,” Dennis summarizes. Since a problem might lie apart from the original KPI’s that were studied, Advanced Machine Learning can discover where else the issue may be hiding.
Multiple Data Sources
There are good solutions that are based on just one data source (such as packet data or wire data), but another one of Dennis’ requirements for this particular study was to have multiple data sources. This could have included log files, events, time series, etc. This allowed Dennis to get a complete view of what he was studying.
Finally, Dennis was looking at systems that were cross domain. He was looking for broader infrastructure awareness here in these 13 vendors chosen. Some were more infrastructure centric, some were more app centric, but they all had the cross domain handshake.
Relevancy Beyond IT Only
Dennis explains that while performing these case studies, he not only worked with architecturally minded IT representatives from each company, but with marketing & sales personnel as well. The question of, “Who do you sell to, and why?” was extremely relevant to this research in order to frame it in digestible and practical terms.
After a quick break in the action, Paul pipes up and asks the question of Dennis, “Who is analyzing all of this data?” The answer to this question clearly demonstrates Dennis’ earlier point that this data is relevant to many more people than just the IT specialists who gather it.
“What this is really all about is taking big data… and making it accessible to a wide variety of roles. Not just IT, but business stakeholders as well.” Marketing & Sales leaders want to see visualization of massive data sets that inform what is happening in their stores and how customers are making purchasing decisions. The logical next question after acquiring this data is, “how do we leverage it in the marketing world?”
This data also helps business stakeholders (from IT to operations, to the Help Desk, to Executives) move from a reactive to a proactive response to solving everyday problems. Instead of a “this happened and I don’t know to do about it” approach to the headaches encountered in the business world, AIA helps predict issues before they happen in order to develop solutions before a crisis is reached. Dennis even goes on to say, “The performance of IT and the performance of the business are forever more and more closely linked.”
Surprises in Research
When asked if he encountered any surprises in his research along the way, Dennis replied cheerfully, “One of the pleasures of being an analyst is that you’re constantly learning. And if you’re not, you know, it’s probably time to retire.” So there was plenty that Dennis was happy to learn while writing this Buyer’s Guide.
Although all 13 vendors were different, Dennis began to see certain clusters and patterns emerge, “I began to see some groupings around those that were primarily big data platforms in various ways. Those evolved as a separate group from suite and monitoring tools toward analytics, so that was another group.” These different groups helped Dennis, and potentially buyers as well, know which group to start with based on what they are looking for.
The Future of AIA
Immediate Practical Impact
As referenced previously, Dennis knew the time was right to write his Buyer’s Guide because this research had moved beyond the “science experiment” stage, and Dennis thinks this trend will continue. Some of the solutions explored in Dennis’ guide could be deployed now with valuable impact within a day. These solutions are already dynamic, flexible, and ready for action.
A little further down the road, Dennis believes we can expect faster deployment, ease of use & deployment, and less administrative overhead. Additionally, we can certainly expect a large breadth of functionality across many different fields of work. Impact on Devops support, security, and stakeholders’ roles will be among the many areas we will see AIA take a role in.
Jeanne ends the interview by asking Dennis if he has any recent stories related to the name of the show (Problem In Chair, Not In Computer).
Dennis explains how by measuring the amount of keystrokes it takes different employees to complete certain actions (in an SAP application, for example), he can determine their end user efficiency rate. This has many practical applications including physically placing the desks of two people with opposing efficiency rates next to one another so that the person with the higher rate can train the one with the lower rate and improve this metric!