​Machine data cure to IT's existential crisis, says Splunk's Andi Mann

​Machine data cure to IT's existential crisis, says Splunk's Andi Mann

Crisis is a self inflicted wound argues Splunk chief technology advocate, but 'metrics that matter' can save the day

IT departments are facing an existential crisis of their own making, says Splunk chief technology advocate Andi Mann, but "metrics that matter" can save them from oblivion and increase their value to the business.

"Have a few beers with anyone whose been in IT operations for a while and they're worried about what their role is going forward," Mann told CIO Australia at Splunk's annual user conference in Orlando last week. "I think the existential crisis is real, literally the existence of IT and especially Ops as an IT discipline."

Mann, who began his career in IT with Westpac, American Express and Esso in Australia, and joined Splunk a year ago, said there had been a "history of stagnation" in IT departments which left them out of step with the wider business and had given rise to shadow IT.

"I say up front: IT did it to itself. It's a self inflicted wound," said Mann. "You've got this fragmentation that's happening. You've got sales people going to the cloud, you've got marketing people picking up apps by themselves, you've even got production teams outsourcing production.

"A lot of people ask how do I cope with speed? And how do I cope with agility and people that have gone rogue?"

Guiderails backed by data

The answer, Mann said, was in providing "guiderails" to all business functions and presenting them with data that applies to them.

"We can't have this seperate mindset where its IT versus the business," Mann said. "It's got to be connected. Data and making data driven decisions is how you can show your value. As an IT team, if you have Splunk and you have that ability to visualise data across a broad service you can go to the leadership and talk in their language."

Data, when presented in the right way, allows IT teams to talk to various business functions in their own terms, Mann said.

"A lot of IT leaders are going to have a problem because all they can talk about is IT. Speeds and tech and latency and lag and transaction rates. When you talk to a finance or sales leader they tune out and go glassy eyed."

Mann recommended IT teams use machine data to find "metrics that matter" to different business groups. Splunk's IT Service Intelligence product was a great tool to do this, Mann said. As well providing monitoring and analytics to IT services, bolstered with machine learning to detect patterns and highlight anomalies, the product also put the data into a business context with relevant indicators.

"If you can talk to them about things that matter to them – metrics that matter – they start to trust you. How can I get that data out of my system in a way that relates to them? You can react to these requests for speed and agility and security and compliance because it all comes together in the data. And data don't lie."

Mann was confident IT teams could secure their future within organisations, adding: "But we got this. We done this before. We know this pattern, if only we can recognise it."

The author travelled to Splunk .conf 16 as a guest of Splunk.

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