IT groups often get so caught up in keeping pace with internal requests that they are not afforded the time to think about what could make their own lives easier. They fanatically support the onslaught of requests for data, reports, and BI dashboards while sacrificing visibility into how to perform their work more efficiently. It is quite easy to become too focused on hammering down every loose nail without stepping back and taking a holistic view of the IT function.
Just as BI dashboards provide executives and business users with information that is needed to make important business decisions, IT dashboards give us key insights into the technology happenings within the company. Using IT data, we can maintain perspective on everything from support tickets to project management to server maintenance. IT dashboards add stability and efficiency to technical projects that otherwise would be vulnerable to scope creep, blown budgets, or missed deadlines.
IT Reporting for Support Tickets
Support tickets are perhaps the single most likely culprit for chewing up the IT professional’s time. On a day to day basis, IT deals with requests for new or fixed hardware, BI reports, software bugs, and anything else technology-related imaginable. To make things more difficult, requests have a tendency to be hammered through under the false pretense that they somehow take the crown as the most urgent business need. Those making the request often complain about the time it takes for it to be completed without regard for the number of other tickets that are waiting to be completed as well.
With IT dashboards, we can easily view the number of outstanding support tickets, the ages of those tickets, and escalations that have been made. Even better, the dimensions by which we might slice and dice this information are virtually endless. We can create an IT data visualization that filters tickets by urgency, requested department, assignee, or any other dimension that would be useful for managing IT towards efficiency.
Once created, these dashboards can be embedded into the ticketing system itself for in-context IT reporting. When IT analysts log into the ticketing system, the dashboards might only show tickets that are assigned to them, whereas the IT director might see reports for all tickets across the organization.
Enhanced Project Management with IT Dashboards
While support tickets tend to fill up IT’s day with ad-hoc requests, larger planned projects often require strict project management that keeps them on track for months to years at a time. There are dozens of software providers offering project management tools, but few can offer the type of IT reporting that provides a full view of the scope, time, and cost aspects of the project.
For example, when it comes to tracking milestones, most tools will allow the project manager to update schedules and Gantt charts. However, automatically tracking which data sources have been connected or how many reports have been created typically requires data gathering from other sources before the information can be inserted into a report. Likewise, trackable costs such as cloud computing services can often be pulled into a data store as well. In many cases, these project-related data sets can be used to create powerful IT dashboards that are embedded into the project management software or another related tool.
IT Data Visualization for Server Maintenance
Particularly with the rise of cloud data services, data related to server and computing management is becoming easier to gather than ever. Whether tracking costs, predicting server errors or downtime, or streaming server logs, we can create IT data visualizations that provide insight into the infrastructure. We might embed these types of reports into a cloud management tool or some other software for in-context IT reporting. This way, we can create reports related to a specific project, department, branch, or any other view.
Embedded Reports for Business Users
As we laid out in our article on embedded analytics for the business analyst [link to previous blog post], there are benefits for embedded reports across the entire organization. Although those for the business user and CXO do not pertain particularly to IT reporting, they do present an opportunity to make IT’s lives easier. By thinking through reports up front and providing business users with automated, context-specific embedded reports, IT stands to free up resources that are much better allocated to the core needs of the business. Rather than focusing on IT as a reporting factory, we can instead move towards self-service analytics in the business while IT gives more attention towards keeping infrastructure running efficiently.
Let Reporting Guide IT Management
The above are only a few examples of how embedded analytics can help the IT professional. For just about every aspect of IT, there is a report or dashboard that can help to provide insights to manage the infrastructure or project more optimally. We should embrace these opportunities to move away from managing IT like a hammer and towards a smart, informed approach to best satisfying the company’s needs. We must recognize that embedded analytics and advanced BI in general provide an outstanding opportunity to better all aspects of the business, including the IT function.
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