Instead of Extinguishing Fires, Concentrate on Prevention: Preventive vs. Reactive Maintenance in IT
System downtime can be extremely costly and stressful. For IT teams, it’s a nightmare.
A downtime might cost the company thousands of dollars in lost profits over a short period of time. The whole organization suffers from it, which means that IT teams will do everything within reach—and beyond—to solve the problem as soon as possible. They sometimes manage to do miracles and solve complex problems in record time. Nevertheless, they’ll be working under a lot of pressure—and stress is not conducive to good results.
Uninterrupted uptime and continuous availability are key strategic goals for all tech companies. If you have been relying on reactive maintenance most of the time, it might be difficult to switch gears and start addressing issues proactively, and actually achieve those goals. But it will almost certainly be worth it. Shifting from reactive to preventive maintenance has many benefits for teams, and one of the ways to achieve that is by adding a robust, scalable integration platform to your toolset.
In this article, we’ll be looking at the different types of maintenance in IT, and how software integrations can help you build a more efficient long-term maintenance strategy.
Can a software integration platform help you shift towards prevention?
Connecting your software tools and letting them automatically speak to each other is helpful in both handling outages whenever they happen, and in making the transition from corrective to preventive maintenance.
- The detection of defects and anomalies is nearly instant. This means that it can happen well before breakdowns occur, and help you fix minor issues before they turn into major problems and lead to downtime.
- Communication between teams is easier. Different teams are closer to each other, and work together more efficiently to fix issues.
- Time to repair is shorter. As you streamline communication and simplify the work of your teams, they become much more efficient in handling problems.
- SPOG gives you full transparency into each issue. Thanks to the single pane of glass (SPOG) capabilities of integration platforms, you can see each problem from a few different angles, and make sure you’re not missing anything. Root cause analysis is easier when you have your data from different tools in one place.
As a result, organizations who choose to invest in integration and automation early on, manage to move from reactive to preventive maintenance.
Preventive, predictive, and reactive maintenance in IT
In IT, as in most other industries, a fine balance exists between proactive and reactive system management and maintenance. Companies often employ different strategies for different systems or assets. However, one thing is common in many instances: teams often have limited resources available, and need to do more with less. This means that they often need to run to extinguish fires, rather than concentrate on long-term goals and strategic objectives.
Let’s first define the different approaches to maintenance and system management in the context of IT. After that, we’ll discuss how organizations can transition from reactive maintenance to prevention.
Here are three of the most popular maintenance strategies in IT:
- Preventive maintenance aims to eliminate failures by regularly inspecting equipment or systems and addressing issues before they turn into problems. Preventive maintenance can be based on calendar time (service a given system every week and check for malfunctions), or on usage time (service the system every 100 run hours).
- Predictive maintenance is a sub-type of preventive maintenance. Its goal is to predict exactly when a breakdown could occur, so that maintenance can be done before that. In it, you use monitoring tools to detect anomalies and predict when a given asset needs to be serviced. Single-pane-of-glass (SPOG) is ideal for predictive maintenance, because you get all your data from different tools into one UI. The team that works on a given issue is able to look into it from different angles, and everyone can use the tool they’re most familiar with. Additionally, predictive maintenance relies on the accumulated data (both historical and real-time) to predict any upcoming problems before they have happened.
- Reactive maintenance means that teams fix problems as they arise, including system downtime. Downtime is costly and its consequences for a company can be disastrous, both in terms of a brand’s image and of financial losses. Nevertheless, reactive maintenance has its place in your global management strategy, and is useful for non-critical assets that are easy to replace.
Both preventive and predictive system management and maintenance are proactive in nature. For both approaches, it’s necessary to analyze data from different software tools—f.e. on uptime, availability, resources used—and make informed decisions based on that. And that’s where ZigiOps can help: by integrating your software tools, you get full transparency into your data and workflows. This allows you to easily shift from the big picture to the details, and enhance both root cause analysis and defect resolution.
Reactive maintenance and system management can also be simplified if you’re using an integration platform. When you’re correcting issues as they appear, their early detection is even more crucial.
In theory, preventive and predictive maintenance are superior strategies. Some specialists advise on an ideal ratio for preventive to reactive maintenance of 80/20 or 6/1. In practice, however, this might often be nearly impossible to achieve. Is your company in a similar position? Many are.
Moving towards a more balanced strategy is possible. It does take time, effort, and planning, though.
Let us explain.
Shifting the balance: moving from reactive to preventive maintenance in IT
With a solid strategy and a scalable, easy-to-use software integration platform, you can start making the switch from reactive (corrective) to proactive maintenance. This helps you concentrate on prevention, and shift away from extinguishing fires and running after whatever the most urgent problem is.
To avoid overwhelming your teams, start with your most critical assets, and then add more systems as you go. The whole process becomes easier if you break it down the process into 5 steps:
1. Assess where you stand at the moment
Analyze your current approach, and use the data that you currently have at your disposal to track the biggest issues that drain the most resources. Determine the amount of reactive to preventive system management you’re currently doing, and check the state of your assets.
2. Perform a criticality analysis of your systems
Determine which assets would incur the biggest losses in case they break down, as well as the ease of monitoring of each asset, and the speed at which you can deal with failure. Organize your equipment by its risk level, from highest to lowest risk, and go from there.
3. Get different departments involved
In order to make meaningful changes, your whole organization needs to be involved in one way or another. Get people from different departments on board, and help them communicate the value of a successful preventive strategy. This guarantees the ownership of efforts, and helps you make sure that you’re not missing any critical elements.
4. Match your assets and systems with the best approach that is currently available
Prioritize easy to achieve improvements at first, and move on from there. Getting good results early on will guarantee smooth implementation and wide acceptance.
5. Analyze and finetune your strategy
The last step is, of course, making sure that the changes you’re implementing have a good return-on-investment (ROI). Analyze what’s working and what isn’t, and replicate or modify as needed. Your maintenance strategy needs to help you achieve your goals, not to overwhelm your employees with excessive maintenance work.
How can ZigiOps help you make strategic changes?
For all of the steps outlined above, a robust software integration platform, such as ZigiOps, can be particularly helpful. It allows you to:
- Sync, access and analyze all of your data in real time, without replicating it. This guarantees that you’re eliminating the human error factor and getting instant visibility into everything. Having access to all data in real time allows you to predict and prevent problems. This way, you can act on anomalies before they actually lead to a downtime.
- Improve team cooperation. As you streamline end-to-end dataflow, your teams work better together and cooperate easier. At the same time, everyone still gets to work with the tools that they’re used to. Both prevention and reaction are simpler: for complex issues and maintenance tasks, a multidisciplinary team will often be gathered, where people from different departments work together.
- Integrate and sync data between many different enterprise tools. Those can be, for example, Dynatrace, AppDynamics, NewRelic, VMware vRealize Operations, Micro Focus Ops Bridge, ServiceNow, BMC Remedy—and more. Like this, you get operational data in a single pane of glass (SPOG), in ZigiOps’ dashboard, which allows you to be much more efficient in analyzing and solving issues. You get to look at them from all possible angles, and any work that gets done is instantly reflected in all tools. Research and root cause analysis become simpler when you have a single dashboard to analyze your data.
- Expand the functionalities of each tool. Benefit from a large functionality pool at your fingertips. If you’re using one main application for your monitoring, by connecting it to other applications, you get to use their capabilities, as well. This allows you to get very precise and granular in the detection of anomalies, while also filtering out irrelevant data.
- Benefit from a closed loop incident process (CLIP). For example, if a monitoring application detects an issue, ZigiOps automatically sends it to the tool of the incident management team (say, ServiceNow or Cherwell). They can then manage everything, and assign it to a developer, if needed. As soon as the developer solves the issue, the monitoring tools detect that the problem is resolved and updates the incident in the incident management tool. This closes the loop of the incident process and no further action is needed.
Shifting from extinguishing fires toward prevention is challenging. It takes effort and dedication from everyone involved, and requires long-term strategic planning.
Most of the time it’s not possible to fully switch to predictive maintenance, but that might not even be necessary: some assets might even be best left to run until they fail. For your most critical systems and infrastructure, however, prevention might make all the difference between 99% uptime and a catastrophic single event that derails your business.
Start with small, incremental changes that allow you to implement meaningful changes early on—and to slowly move towards preventing problems, instead of running after them.