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RESOLVE ’22: AIOps: Not just a buzz phrase anymore

RESOLVE ’22: AIOps: Not just a buzz phrase anymore

Thinking back to the rapidly expanding tech world of the 2010s, it’s easy to list off a number of buzzwords and phrases that became IT Ops mainstays over time. “Internet of things,” “big data” and even ideas as simple as the cloud were all once considered little more than slick marketing talk.

In terms of today’s supposed “buzzwords,” it’s increasingly clear that “AIOps” has evolved into the same mental space as IoT and cloud: a way to group up a large (and growing) set of tools, practices and philosophies.

Ken Serembus, BigPanda regional VP of sales and moderator of our RESOLVE ’22 event AIOps: Not just a buzz phrase anymore, said it himself when he paraphrased Gartner: “There’s no future of IT Operations that doesn’t include AIOps.”

Meet our panelists:

  • Sean McDermott, president and CEO of Windward Consulting
  • Isaac Sacolick, president of StarCIO, InfoWorld contributor and bestselling author

AI for IT Ops: the future of IT Ops modernization

Sean noted early in the panel that his company, Windward Consulting, considers AIOps “a strategy, not a tool.”

It’s a valid mindset and one we’ve seen a high number of tech and business leaders exhibit in our RESOLVE events. And Sean’s enthusiasm for the practice came supported by his 30-year tenure in everything IT.

“I’ve been through it all,” he said. “And I really consider this a transformational era for IT Ops. AI and machine learning entering into the IT Ops domain is really transformational. And it’s going to show up everywhere.”

Sean further noted his consultancy followed this line of reasoning with many customers, precisely because part of their job is preparing customers for the future.

Ken called the conversation back around to DevOps, another former buzz phrase that has since come into its own as a respected practice—with a focus on practice.

“When we talk about the old DevOps, it’s not a product. It’s not a platform. It’s a strategy,” Ken said.

Isaac, the StarCIO president and author, agreed with the notion. He said he’d been writing about AIOps platforms, technologies and practices for a few years now out of a general interest in the topic. Over time it became clear to him that the practice approaches “problems that have been out there for a long time. Ones that are only getting harder and more complex” because of the rapid modernization of tools.

“Just putting up an IT service desk ticket and using scripting to automate some of the response… that’s not going to keep up with complexity or demand,” he said. “AIOps is actually a culture transformation. We’re going to be relying on bringing all of our data together with all of our analytics—and using that to guide the intelligence of our teams.”

Thinking through the process of making AIOps measurable

Likewise, the complexifying nature of business tech isn’t going to slow down. If anything, the last 30-plus years tell us that as systems evolve, the complexity that IT Ops face will only continue to double and redouble.

Isaac continued with this line of reasoning later in the panel, with a focus on the AIOps-enabled companies of the near future.

“If you flash forward to most companies in five years, AIOps is going to be a part of their platform,” he reasoned. “So the question is: what are you solving for now, and why are you solving that earlier than other problems you have on the priority list?”

The notion is not to criticize the company’s order of problem-solving, but to put a mirror to the exact reasons problems are being solved in the order they are. By “really listening to the objective of the company and its pain points,” Isaac said, companies can “find the right opportunities early to introduce this mindset and technology into your business.”

Sean said that technology, process and philosophy click most closely when companies are still in the planning phase. As they continue to grow their models to a more digitally dependent future, companies need to understand exactly what IT Ops has become—and where it is going.

“It’s all about the service availability of your digital infrastructure,” Sean said. “It used to be just your infrastructure, but now, it’s really your digital infrastructure. And when you start looking at that and say: ‘Okay, let’s look at the things driving or affecting your service availability,’ probably the biggest use case right now is in the ability to look at the data and understand what’s going on.”

Making the case for AIOps with key stakeholders

“It’s not a new problem to solve,” Ken said, referencing the need to draw real insight from the cascading amounts of data business technology systems/services produce. “But it has gotten worse.”

He went on to ask our panelists how one might be able to “justify to senior leadership” added investment in AIOps platforms, resources and technologies.

“It’s realistically going to come down to a cost issue,” Sean said, referencing high-level stakeholders needing to choose between competing projects on the desk. “When you’re trying to make the case for AIOps, the one key thing is to understand the vision of what you’re trying to do and how to tie that back to your service availability strategy.”

Sean further broke the concept down, drawing on his years of expertise. When following that tie-back process, he said, IT Ops stakeholders should be careful to note tangible and intangible goals. Executives tend to want value demonstrated in hard numbers.

“The tangible metrics tend to be around things you’re pretty much measuring daily already,” he said. Volume, capacity, alarms, service response time and service restoration time… and if you can benchmark it, you can show improvement.

“I’m just going to be frank,” he said, doling advice that might be painful to some ears. “I think a lot of IT organizations could be better aligned with the business.” And presenting tangibles over intangibles like general business value, he said, is a great way to demonstrate alignment.

“That also translates back to: how do you make vision a reality?” Isaac added. He said if a company was implementing AIOps tools, it was ostensibly treating the DevOps team as a customer. And for this “customer,” reducing the number of issues escalated to them is a fine place to start.

“Now I have my dev teams onboard,” he said. “I want to reduce the amount of time spent recovering from issues. Who’s impacted by that? Maybe sales because it’s a sales app. That creates a sense of urgency around it—you have to start looking for trends like that.”

He continued: “There’s a limited amount of time a business can spend investing in any single one aspect of the company. What you’re trying to do is say: ‘Let’s spend it over here.’”

Thought leadership, insight, and more at our Not just a buzz phrase panel

With decades of expertise on the stage, it’d be impossible to put every bit of knowledge contained in the panel in one blog post. We encourage readers to view the full recording here.