Skeptics in the Church of Data, Pt. 3: New Partners

Skeptics in the Church of Data, Pt. 3: New Partners

This is part three in a series about monitoring all coming from a talk that I gave in Austin, TX at GalaxZ'17 and originally published at In part one I introlduced the problem and in part two I discussed how we should start to change. Today we're looking at who, in our organization are our...

New Partners

Hopefully with all we've talked about this point you're on board with me. And maybe you're thinking "Sure, sounds good, but where do I start? Who do I even talk to?" And that's an awesome place to be, you're eager to move forward and that energy is going to be needed for really encouraging organizational change.

Everything starts with a first step and encouraging change in any organization is going to be hard work. It's going to take longer than you expect and be harder than you want, but there are some groups we can target that just align with the basic tenants of Data and Monitoring really well.

As always, I want to preface this with Your Mileage May Vary. Each organization is a complex, breathing thing that reacts uniquely to adversity and change. So take a moment right now and think about the departments in your organization outside of the scope of the monitoring tools you employ. Who cares the most about data? Who might already be using some form of monitoring in their own right, but aren't getting the powerful correlation you can provide by tapping into the technological vital signs of your company?

Actually take a moment here and think about it. Meditate on it for a bit. Before going forward so you can think about real life people as we move forward.

If you can't think of anyone or still aren't sure, what about the marketing team?

Your marketing group is probably the best partner you can get to expand your monitoring toolset. They're already tracking things like site visits, customer engagement, site conversions, email click throughs, people reached, people engaged, SEO effectiveness; what if your monitoring tools can collect this information along side page load times, data base performance, error counts and site traffic origin? What if your team could partner with marketing to know when a big traffic or order surge is expected? And if they aren't already monitoring a ton of information about the effectiveness of their campaigns and the target audience of your clientele, imagine what powerful tools you could give your company to drive real revenue.

"And it'll all be sunshine and rainbows!" (Please feel free to roll your eyes here.) No. It's not. It is going be hard to get that first team on board with you and it'll probably be hard to spend time and money on your monitoring expansion efforts. Unless you control your budget and totally buy into my message already, you're going to have to do hard work. You're going to have to do extra work, too. And be vulnerable and honest with co-workers you normally don't talk to. Also you have to talk to new co workers who might not really "get" what it is you do and listen to them even though you might not really "get" them. But it is so worth it; the insight I've gotten from working in diverse teams is amazing.

You've heard of the parable of the 6 blind men and the elephant, right? If you haven't, the basic recap is this:

6 blind men touch a part of an Elephant. Each one tries to make a guess as to what it is they're touching. Each one is wrong. It's only after they understand all of the available information that each person's limited experience provides can they put together a whole and accurate picture.

It's easy to look at this and step back and say, "Obviously it's an elephant" or explain why this doesn't apply to me. I hate to say it, but even as technologists and other incredibly smart humans, we, too, are one of the blind men. That's the whole point of the parable. None of us — no one in any department or position — has the whole picture. The only way to understand the whole truth is to share information rather than trying to guess at the whole with our limited knowledge.

Once you've started sharing knowledge with the marketing team, imagine looping the sales team in on the information sharing so they can see in real time the impact of the work they're doing and begin to expect trends. Then bring in finance, your physical operations teams, executives, security, logistics if you have to transport actual atoms to places. You start to see the overlap and the information collection that can be valuable. When departments inside an organization start to share information they each consider vital to the overall health of that organization they can start to answer mysteries; you start to be able to see the elephant for what it is.

Theoretically, now, we've got the momentum started on getting your entire business organization monitored and measured (notice that's the M in the DevOps CALMS acronym?), but as I've mentioned, change is hard. Part three will discuss more about change and what we can do to continue to drive change forward in our organization rather than just creating a dissenting voice.