Expanded IT visibility, historical data, automation, and app analysis are necessary components for modern RCA strategies
This is the second in a two-part series exploring the unique challenges IT faces with hybrid workplaces and the solutions that can be found using comprehensive root cause analysis. Read the first part here.
Picture the workplace of 20 years ago. You’re probably imagining an IT environment that looks neat and orderly compared to today’s workplace — one where all endpoints connect to the same network and are kept in the same building, while all apps and storage are hosted in the same on-prem data center.
When something went wrong in an environment like this, IT could follow some tried-and-true root cause analysis (RCA) procedures to find the source of the problem. Once the root cause had been identified, having complete control over the IT environment meant the issue could be fixed without too much extra hassle.
But today, centralized IT has given way to a distributed and varied technology landscape, and that has forced organizations to rethink root cause analysis. This isn’t news to anyone, but what may be news is that even approaches to RCA that originated within the last decade are often insufficient today.
That’s because the way we work and use enterprise tech looks drastically different than it did just a couple years ago. Hybrid work is gradually becoming the norm, with one study finding that 53% of employees are considering switching to hybrid work in the upcoming year. Employees expect to be able to switch between home and the office without any significant changes to their user experience. Meanwhile, web apps and other services managed by cloud vendors have become increasingly common — in many cases, more common than apps managed in-house. And technology has become integral not just to how employees do their jobs, but to how they connect to colleagues and to the company as a whole.
As these changes continue, effective RCA becomes harder and harder to achieve. At the same time, though, it has become more and more integral to employee satisfaction, productivity, and ultimately, long-term business success.
The Role RCA Plays in Hybrid Workplaces
The benefits of remote and hybrid work are now widely recognized. We’ve all learned that the remote worker who secretly watches TV all day is a myth — data shows that on average, working from home results in better productivity. On top of that, in a year of unprecedented recruitment and retention challenges, location flexibility is a key demand of top talent.
So, hybrid work is here to stay, and many organizations are benefiting from it. But that doesn’t change the fact that RCA is much more challenging in a hybrid environment. There are simply more opportunities for tech issues to arise due to:
- The proliferation of third-party apps and infrastructure. Remote and hybrid employees are more likely to depend on web apps and other third-party platforms for their day-to-day work. These are tools that IT has little direct control over, so discovering the root cause of any failure is exceptionally challenging.
- The increase in “shadow IT.” When working from home, employees are more likely to work on their personal devices or use web apps that IT hasn’t authorized. If an issue comes from one of these unauthorized devices or platforms, IT has almost no visibility into what is causing it or how to fix it.
- The use of personal or public networks. People working remotely are working on networks IT doesn’t control, introducing yet another failure point IT doesn’t have visibility into. Some employees will be required to use a virtual desktop or VPN for better security, but that adds yet another layer to IT and, therefore, another potential failure point.
- Complexity caused by a variety of work locations. When the IT team is addressing tickets that originate from both inside and outside the office, it adds complexity. Getting to the root of any particular issue is more challenging IT can’t quickly gain an understanding of the tech environment the issue originated in.
Despite all these complications making digital experiences harder to perfect, giving employees good user experiences is now more important than ever. When digital spaces take replace the office as the place where employees come together, technological failures are that much more devastating.
For one thing, any technological failure means a remote employee can’t work — they have to just sit and wait for the issue to be resolved. A hybrid employee who moves between home and the office will keep more of their work on web apps and other online platforms, so even on days they’re in the office, their productivity can be completely frozen by a tech failure.
Not only that, but remote and hybrid employees connect with their colleagues through online platforms. They hold meetings, chat with colleagues, and come to know the company culture entirely online. Any technical issue that makes this difficult hinders collaboration and isolates people from the company as a whole.
With so much riding on technology performance, the root cause of any tech issue needs to be found and resolved quickly.
Q&A Featuring Forrester Analyst Andrew Hewitt
Making the Business Case for Root Cause Analysis
Root Cause Analysis for Modern Workplaces
Unfortunately, many RCA solutions don’t have the right capabilities for the kind of robust analysis needed for hybrid or remote companies. To keep today’s workforces thriving, organizations would benefit from upgrading their RCA capabilities.
In today’s modern workplaces, essential elements for effective root cause analysis include:
- Expanded IT visibility
- In-depth web app/cloud service monitoring and analysis
- Automated investigations at the endpoint that are constantly running
- Historical context that pinpoints issues over time (much like a black box)
- Automated actions and fixes, such as mass-healing, self-healing, etc.
Visibility into any device, anywhere
Many of the issues caused by remote and hybrid work stem from IT’s lack of visibility into what employees are experiencing. IT needs to correct for this lack of visibility by gathering all the data across the digital environment, and to do so regardless of whether an endpoint is being used inside or outside the corporate network. Digital experience management solutions, for example, can deliver data on endpoint performance, resource usage, and network health.
Tracking SaaS apps
A larger and larger portion of modern business is done via software-as-a-service (SaaS) apps that are not managed in-house. These apps bring major productivity advantages, especially for remote and hybrid employees who need to be able to access their work from anywhere on any number of different devices. They also save IT time and resources.
One of the downsides, though, is that it’s very difficult to monitor and manage the performance of these apps. Modern organizations need to invest ways to collect enough endpoint data to obtain metrics on usage, performance, and error frequency so they can see when a SaaS app is failing and how to fix it.
It goes without saying that IT doesn’t have the time and resources to manually investigate every issue. Instead, teams need to ensure that automated checks are running all the time. Not only that, but data has to be automatically and continuously analyzed so alerts can be raised when IT needs to look into something.
As organizations grow more dispersed and complex, artificial intelligence has become a key requirement for this kind of automation. Pattern analysis and AI-driven investigations let IT detect potential issues that would otherwise go under the radar.
Along with expanded real-time visibility across digital environments, good root cause analysis also hinges on IT’s ability to identify when issues first happened. That means being able to tap into a rich repository of data that allows IT to go back in time and pinpoint the circumstances around issues as they occurred.
Quick actions and fixes
IT can’t solve everything manually. A root cause analysis solution that’s automatically monitoring and surfacing issues should also be able to automatically resolve simple problems. Automated fixes, such as self-healing on endpoints or mass healing protocols, can help nip problems in the bud, cut down on reoccurring issues, and even prevent problems from impacting affected end users.
Help Hybrid Employees Thrive with Advanced RCA
Today’s hybrid work environments are agile, but that agility means it’s all the easier for something to go wrong. To take full advantage of the productivity hybrid work can offer, organizations need to be just as agile about improving employees’ digital experiences. In fact, studies show that improving digital employee experiences through good RCA can result in a near 12% increase in revenue and an 18% reduction in costs.
In many ways, successful RCA depends not just on the data collected, but on how it’s monitored and visualized, too. Yet reporting is increasingly difficult in a distributed environment where there might be blind spots, and solutions that may have delivered sufficient visibility a few years ago likely fall short now.
Today’s IT leaders and executives don’t have time to manually dig into granular data. They need versatile solutions that can show the overall health of an IT environment at a glance, as well as drill down into the root cause of problems. By distilling information into clear, executive-level insights, IT is in a better position to prove the effectiveness of advanced root cause analysis, its impact on digital experiences, and its value to the overall business.
After all, great digital experiences can only be guaranteed with root cause analysis that’s up for the challenges of modern, distributed workforces.
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