What’s Lurking in IT’s Dark Estate?

Explore the unknown, frightening depths of the IT estate during Lakeside’s Oct. 18 presentation at the Gartner IT Symposium/Xpo

I am looking forward to speaking at the Gartner IT Symposium/Xpo next week on “Using Data and AI to Shine a Light on Your Dark IT Estate.” No, I’m not resurrecting Darth Vader. No, I’m not talking about the dark web.

So what is the “dark estate”?

To us at Lakeside Software, the dark estate is where IT teams struggle to see what’s happening across the IT environment — where costly inefficiencies, poor employee experiences, shadow IT, software bloat, compliance issues, and unresolved problems hide. My goal at Gartner is to show how, with data-driven visibility, you can:

  • Shed light on hidden issues such as unreported issues, poor device, network, or application performance.
  • Be alerted proactively when something unusual is happening within the estate.
  • Discover operational inefficiencies by uncovering software license waste, ineffective hardware utilization, and excessive network lag.
  • Use data to guide your transformations and initiatives.

After working with IT leaders at nearly 500 enterprise customer organizations, we know that IT teams can’t solve what they can’t see. So we’re on a mission to help everyone get a better view of their dark estate. Just in time for Halloween, let’s take a quick journey into the dark estate to gain a better sense of what lurks there — then come hear me speak at Gartner to see how to emerge with a new way of managing scary IT issues with a proactive IT strategy.

Shed Light on Hidden Issues: The Unreported ‘Blue Screen’

In the dark estate, hidden issues such as poor device, network, or application performance cause reactive IT fire drills. But you also have the large swath of people who just don’t submit tickets when there are obvious problems. Perhaps the worst of them is “the Blue Screen of Death” (BSOD).

If an end user even bothers to open a ticket (rather than suffering in silence), the old-school, classic way of responding to the BSOD, after reboot, starts with the end user finding time to work through a remote session with the IT help desk agent. Then the agent tries to understand when and what happened in the past that may have led up to the issue, searching the event logs manually for possible BSOD-events, timestamps, or root causes. In the most tedious cases, the IT agent then has to parse BSOD files and (hopefully) identify issues with drivers in Device Manager, search the internet for more stable drivers for that hardware model, and then install that new driver using a software-deployment tool or, again, engage in an interactive session with admin-rights. If it is a network-related driver, then the user needs to bring the machine to IT and arrange a follow-up session with the end user to check results. The ticket is even trickier if the user is remote.

Be Alerted Proactively When Something Unusual is Happening: ‘Gizmo’s Spawn’

In the dark estate, brewing issues are waiting to proliferate on a larger scale. Remember in the classic 1984 film “Gremlins,” when Pete spills water on Gizmo, who then spawns mogwai that become troublemakers? When this sudden multiplying happens in the dark estate, it means that something unusual might be happening behind opaque doors — could be the beginning of a widespread, unwanted issue. This could be anywhere from an undetected memory leak in a new application version to a virus causing harm.

As another example, if you’re rolling out a new application that interacts with something else unexpectedly (e.g., a Google Chrome update or even an auto update) or doesn’t play nice with one of your security apps, causing Chrome to crash upon open, you’re about to get an onslaught of IT support tickets. However, if you have the visibility, you could be alerted and send out a notification to the organization identifying the issue before your Level 1s are bombarded with the famous “my computer won’t work” tickets.

Discover Operational Inefficiencies: The ‘Cost-Side Down’

In the dark estate, the problem of unused software license, ineffective hardware utilization, and excessive network lag creates a scary landscape of waste and other operational inefficiencies that can be optimized if only you could peer into the shadows. Much like the “Upside Down” in the Netflix series “Stranger Things,” the “Cost-Side Down” is a horrifying wasteland for enterprises, where you’re just throwing money into the abyss. If an organization is still doing hardware replacements based on a calendar year rather than end user needs, the amount of dollars floating into that abyss is regrettable. Once you have the visibility to see what’s there, you can emerge from that cost-sucking wayside in the dark estate.

Use Data to Guide Your Transformations: The ‘Tell-Tale Data’

In the dark estate, rich data is hidden beneath the floorboards like in Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart.” What’s the story it’s trying to tell you? Can it help tell you that you have the right hardware and software to upgrade to Windows 11? Can it inform a successful merger or acquisition so you can quickly get the visibility into the new organization in order to optimize your software, and hardware assets. Of course, you won’t know until you gain a better view of the untapped data pounding throughout the dark estate. It’s time to bring it to light in the form of actionable data insights so your IT team members don’t go mad.

Journey from the Dark Estate

Now it’s time to begin your own journey from the dark estate to a better view. Don’t miss my Gartner IT Symposium/Xpo session, “Using Data and AI to Shine a Light on Your Dark IT Estate,” on Oct. 18, 5:55-6:15 p.m., on IT Xpo Stage 4 located at the Pacific Terrace of the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort in Orlando, Florida. I’ll talk through the navigational map you need to escape from the dark estate so you can see hidden issues, see the smartest fixes, and see the biggest savings.

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