In an economy where organizations are trying to cut operational costs and maximize current IT infrastructures, dashboards may prove to be the most insightful of technology investments. Many organizations find that a centralized dashboard can pinpoint underutilized legacy systems and processes – assets that could be redistributed and used with a renewed purpose without major technology investment. Across all industries, the companies that remain resilient during thorny economic times are those that continue to derive value from previous investments do so by devoting support to solutions that can optimize the performance of existing assets and systems.

 

In a car, the dashboard is the home of information. At a glance, the driver can tell the speed, distance traveled, fuel level, engine temperature – in essence, everything needed to keep moving and make it to the destination on time and on budget.

 

Dashboards in IT are essentially the same – a one-stop place to find all the information necessary to keep the organization up and running. At its most basic level, a dashboard showcases general system health and performance. By successfully pulling important information from throughout the infrastructure, dashboards provide at-a-glance status updates on the overall health of technology assets to keep the company running smoothly.

 

Get Smart: Proactive Dashboards Cross Borders

 

Dashboard technology pulls data from sources throughout the organization and compiles it into a single user-friendly interface. “Smart” dashboards take this premise a step further by correlating data received from different sources in order to predict system problems and recognize impact on the overall business. These next-generation tools allow companies to take a proactive stance on managing assets, promoting the overall customer experience and protecting the business’s bottom line.

 

For instance, the CTO of ReallyCoolTravelWebsite will be notified on Monday night that, due to a helpdesk ticket that will take a server offline on Tuesday morning, projected site traffic during that time will overtax the remaining servers. The warning will alert him to possible site downtime and the overall potential revenues lost during that time. He’ll also be able to see – in real time – that his trusted IT administrator was also notified, and steps were taken to redistribute traffic before the overload occurred. The result: customers to the site saw no change in transaction time, revenues stayed on track and the IT department brought recognizable and measurable value to the business – thanks to a “smart” dashboard’s ability to take data from one system and apply it to correctly extrapolate an end result in a different system.

 

Dashboard Roadmap: Custom Builds for Business Success

 

Does your company run like a minivan or a Porsche? Either way, the organization needs dashboard technology that is a custom fit, showing all the key indicators and metrics that are important in keeping your organization rolling on even the rockiest road. With this in mind, consider the following strategies to implement when contemplating real-time information delivery to build a dashboard that showcases the metrics you need, when you need them.

 

  • Move beyond "old ways" of thinking: Conventional monitoring tools require manual thresholds, rules and scripts. These methods rely on baselines by determining “normal” within a constantly changing environment. This approach consistently fails because the information varies from day-to-day, week-to-week and month-to-month, as new users are added, new services deployed or procedures changed. With the shifting of normal behavior on each of hundreds - if not thousands - of systems within the data center, it becomes humanly impossible to determine baselines for any given point in time. Accept that there is no “normal” and shake off the shackles of rules, scripts and thresholds driving data to your dashboard.
  • Implement "smart" technology: Analytics and automation are important tools within the dynamic IT environment – you can’t possibly keep track of all of the constantly changing components and events that affect the quality of service and the user experience. Rather than trying to model constantly changing performance variables, advanced monitoring technology analyzes behavior in real-time and correlates infrastructure performance to discover trends and patterns. Dashboards based on these self-learning tools facilitate predictive incident resolution, adaption to constantly changing IT environments, and an overall increase in operational efficiency.
  • Visualize the IT-business connection: Monitoring system performance has always sat squarely on the shoulders of IT administrators. As dashboards have become increasingly easier to set up and customize, many businesses are discovering room for many employees in the driver’s seat. In addition to IT gurus, dashboards provide harried business owners the ability to keep at least one eye fixed on the ebb and flow of inventory and give major financial executives the capability to constantly monitor the organization’s fiscal health. By giving each area or management level its own dashboard view, employees see what they need to in order to correlate departmental cause and overall business effect. By tailoring the content to the individual, metrics are delivered that workers care about and can take immediate action on.

The IT Dashboard Roadtrip: Are We There Yet?

 

Not quite. Advanced IT dashboards must deliver results in real time. A dashboard that showcases data based on intermittent scheduled reporting is one that is – at best – a history lesson. Companies across all industries are in the quest for real-time information, allowing them to react quickly, negate system problems and improve the customer experience.

 

Next-generation dashboards leverage the complete power of performance management tools - rich user interfaces, the ability to use multiple data sources, fast performance and integration with other business intelligence (BI) tools. With earlier dashboards, a choice was often required between accuracy and speed. That choice is no longer necessary, as dashboard tools have evolved to allow custom sourcing from multiple databases and the integration of both text and numbers with blistering speed and remarkable accuracy.

 

A dashboard is only as effective as the information that supports it. It is incorrect to assume that just because the data is displayed in a dashboard that this is the right data, and the user will know what to do with the information. This is where intelligent technology, automation and custom-view interfaces come into play. Just as a faulty fuel gauge can leave a driver marooned roadside, bad data can distort IT information and leave your company likewise stranded.

 

Dashboard Driven: Across the Business

 

When aligned with strategic objectives and plans, IT dashboards empower users to work more efficiently and effectively toward a common set of goals. Dashboards can reconcile in a glance the past, the present and the future, allowing organizations to adjust strategy and tactics in real time to maximize performance.

 

By aggregating appropriate summary information from around the network, IT can provide valuable BI; highlight proactive projects that help the organization save money, be seen as a strategic partner and participant in major organizational changes and collaborate closely with representatives from different areas across the business.

 

Today's leaders are relying on dashboard technologies that provide reliable, at-a-glance views of existing technologies and encourage optimization of previous investments. Dashboards that drive on real-time information unleash IT from a reliance on an arbitrary normal baseline, utilize advanced approaches to automate and analyze data, and provide customizable interfaces to cross silos and show direct relationships between IT and the business. While an IT dashboard differs from that on a minivan or a Porsche, the one common denominator across the board is this: the ability to have meaningful, trustworthy data within reach at a moment’s notice provides everything needed to keep your company moving and arrive at the destination on time and on budget.

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