Talking about the Elephant in the Darkened Room

    October 12, 2015

    Across the world and across the ages of man, there have been many versions of the same story told — a group of six men (portrayed as being either blind or in a darkened room) are asked to stand around an elephant and describe the object in front of them, but only using their sense of touch. The results of their combined efforts would look something like this:


    Now, consider how the majority of organizations that TeamQuest engages with approach the problem of effectively capacity managing their IT systems. Often the first contact we make comes in performing an initial assessment of the maturity of their capacity management capabilities, and we almost always find that — while they are all attempting to perform this vital function to some degree — the approach they take is a siloed one.

    As part of this approach...

    • Each of the individual platform teams have their own toolsets to gather and analyse performance data.
    • Each team has its own, pre-established goals and criteria for success.
    • Any data presented to management is rooted at a technical level, and specifically focusses on one, but never all, of the platforms.

    Whilst at first sight, this approach would appear to be better than doing nothing, the problem is that there is no common drive to focus these often very laudable capacity management efforts on benefiting the most important organization of all — the business itself. 

    The Elephant: A Sum of Combined Efforts

    Each of these organizations is in danger of falling into the same pitfall as our group of men and the elephant — no matter how well they perform their role individually, the ultimate goal of identifying the elephant correctly is virtually impossible to achieve, unless they are all extremely lucky.

    Only by taking the individual results and working together can they even hope to get an ideal result, and even then, they all need to be capable of understanding each other and communicating the results effectively. Imagine how difficult the exercise would be if each of the six men spoke a different language and came from widely differing cultural backgrounds!

    Clearly, to perform capacity management effectively, we need to work together in a way that is a benefit to the business as a whole, not individually to meet the goals of each technical silo.

    That is not to say that platform specialists are wrong in the way they approach their jobs or even redundant — the work the perform at the coalface is essential in order to keep the lights on. However, the role of governance needs to be an overarching one, in which centralized leadership takes all of the relevant information and brings it together to see the bigger picture (or in the analogy above, sees the elephant for what it really is).

    There are two techniques available to capacity planners to bring all this disparate information together — ETL (Extract, Transform, Load) or Data Federation. Each has its associated benefits and shortcomings, and the most effective solutions will likely use a combination of both, playing to the strengths of each.

    But without taking these important, initial steps — namely, taking a step back and viewing a problem in the full context of its setting — the elephant in the room will remain a mystery. And that’s not because people are too embarrassed to mention it, but because no one fully understands what it is and how it can help your business become leaner, more agile, and more efficient in every way.   

    (Main image credit: David Blackwell/flickr)

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