Elise Carmichael is the CTO of Lakeside Software, where she oversees the design and delivery of its digital employee experience platform.
IT teams often struggle to see what’s going on across the IT estate—that is, the entire digital ecosystem of devices, from laptops and desktops to servers and mobile devices, that keep your company running and enable employees to be productive.
When everyone started working from home, dispersing endpoints into thousands of individual offices, IT visibility across this now “dark estate” became murky. It was no longer easy to walk by someone’s desk and help them with a problem.
While there is a way to gain complete visibility across the IT estate (via gathering endpoint telemetry data) many organizations have not yet taken advantage of using it to fill in known visibility gaps. A common misconception is that leveraging endpoint data opens Pandora’s box of data privacy issues. Many may shudder at the thought of endpoint data as an all-seeing eye. How many keystrokes are happening in any given hour? What rabbit hole of YouTube or TikTok videos did an employee fall into? How long did that lunch break really last?
Certainly, there are endpoint monitoring tools reminiscent of George Orwell’s “Big Brother” in the dystopian novel 1984. But that’s not the purpose of using endpoint telemetry data to close the broad gaps in visibility that notoriously keep IT teams in the dark.
There are many hidden issues organizations must know about for the sake of cost, system uptime and employee satisfaction—all of which have nothing to do with Orwellian oversight of the dark estate. These include costly inefficiencies, poor digital employee experiences, shadow IT, software bloat, compliance issues and unresolved IT problems.
With access to endpoint telemetry data, IT can analyze the device’s performance and digital health. Still, there are challenges to understand so they can be overcome.
Three Things Complete Visibility Across The IT Estate Can Tell You
Endpoint visibility is all about what IT teams know and, worse, what they don’t know. I like to break down this visibility into three layers.
1. You know what you know.
This layer is easy. An employee opens an IT help desk ticket with the common (yet still infuriating) refrain, “My computer is slow.” The IT technician can leverage endpoint data to figure out what’s wrong with the laptop instead of engaging in a tedious, back-and-forth guessing game in which the employee must try re-creating what they were doing before and after the slowdown.
With telemetry data in the IT toolbox, the technician can see what’s wrong, empowering IT to become hyper-productive and proactive.
On the flip side, it’s important not to overwhelm the help desk with too much data. Alert fatigue is a common problem, making it challenging for level 1 and level 2 help desk agents to quickly figure out where to direct their attention and prioritize alerts. While telemetry data can fill in blind spots, you don’t want to risk creating a wall of data that is meaningless without timely and relevant context.
2. You know what you don’t know.
This layer is a more frustrating one for IT. They know that workers routinely leave their computers on at night, wasting electricity and creating the typical system performance problems that happen when someone doesn’t reboot their computer regularly. Or they know that many employees have software licenses that are never used. In classical IT, teams just don’t have the precise data to do anything about this waste.
With endpoint telemetry data, IT can uncover cost-saving opportunities by reclaiming unused software licenses or asking employees to shut down at night. Once IT finally knows what it doesn’t (or didn’t) know, they can make a dent in curtailing operational waste. A global bank and customer of Lakeside Software, for example, uncovered a large savings opportunity by shedding unused software licenses after gaining a view into its dark estate.
On the other hand, uncovering waste doesn’t mean enterprises are set up to act. As the saying goes, you can lead the horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. Perhaps the budget cycle doesn’t align with these discoveries. Also challenging is the likelihood that many employees will not want to trade in their super-powerful computers for a lighter laptop. Similarly, some employees hold fast to software seats they don’t actually use to retain their souped-up hardware. While telemetry data can reveal waste, eliminating that waste requires thoughtful internal communications and strategic change management.
3. You don’t know what you don’t know.
This is the scariest layer of visibility—or more accurately, the total lack of it. You may think that all your organization’s laptops are fully compliant with company policies, for example. This could mean that they are always encrypted with BitLocker. What your IT team doesn’t know is that, in reality, this full compliance is probably not the case. Or perhaps shadow IT (e.g., software, applications or browser extensions employees install without IT approval) is lurking throughout the dark estate.
Not knowing what you don’t know isn’t always a security issue. Your IT team could be rolling out a new application that interacts with something else unexpectedly (a Chrome update or even an auto-update) or doesn’t play nice with one of your security apps, causing Chrome to crash upon opening.
With visibility enabled by endpoint telemetry data, IT can shine a light across the digital estate to see and catch these problems before they wreak havoc.
We must be realistic, however. The best way to capture the value of data insights for uncovering the unknowns is to integrate AI capabilities, including ChatGPT integrations. Still, many enterprises are understandably cautious about the trustworthiness of AI models, especially large language models that could create security and data privacy risks if not used properly. Although many companies are still captivated by generative AI, there are inherent trust issues that need to be sorted out carefully and pragmatically before anyone can leverage the full value of telemetry data for feeding these models.
‘Know what you know, what you don’t know and what you don’t know you don’t know.’
That’s now my mantra as a chief technology officer working to solve this long-time IT visibility problem—the bane of every IT team’s existence. I hold fast to this manta and hope to break down misconceptions about endpoint data.
Telemetry data can help get out of the dark estate and shift to a proactive IT approach, though it’s not without its challenges. Still, it’s not Big Brother. It’s good business that can help your IT teams and your employees when approached strategically.
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