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The opposite of war room isn’t peace room

Last week, I was trying to come up with a term for the opposite of war room.

Why? I made a note a few months ago while reading a Gartner paper extolling the virtues of wire data, specifically as applied to the modern data center’s availability and performance management disciplines. Among other insights, the authors recommend convening frequent war rooms “…to encourage cross-team exploration” of performance data. Since the term war room carries a negative connotation, I thought I’d look for a more constructive alternative.

The glaringly obvious “peace room” didn’t cut it, in part because it conjured a vision of people sitting around relaxing. More to the point: peace may be the absence of war, but it is not necessarily the opposite. So I did what most of us would do and turned to Google.

Google screenshot

This led me to a Forbes article called “The Opposite of War Isn’t Peace, It’s Creation” (which takes its title from the hit musical “Rent”). The article has nothing to do with IT – at least on the surface. Its gist is that war is destructive; therefore, its opposite must embody a constructive concept, and the article quite effectively points to creativity as a good answer. It also offers a quote that I’ll return to shortly: “The more we are connected, the more irrelevant war becomes.”

If I may summarize: Peace is not passive; it must be a proactive pursuit.

IT and the war room

We know that war rooms, at least in their commonly understood sense, are reactive exercises in fighting unexpected problems, sapping critical IT personnel resources. War rooms are rife with finger-pointing, with significant negative impact on revenue. They’re frustratingly inefficient due in part to the fact that participants have isolated perspectives of service quality, focusing on domain health and performance; accurate, perhaps, but not informative.

As a result, vendors love tag lines that shout “The end of the war room!” implying you can avoid these exercises if you just buy their stuff.

The opposite of war room isn't "peace room". It's too passive. It's not creative. It's not practical.
The opposite of war room isn’t “peace room”. It’s too passive. It’s not creative. It’s not practical.

But that’s passive. That’s not creative.

An APM Digest article calls out a new war room paradigm in the context of digital and IT transformation initiatives. It emphasizes that success is not solely about technology (although technology is a foundation), but also about cooperative teams with a focus on optimizing business outcomes. The author suggests yesterday’s war room could be transformed into a “digital services center;” I’ll borrow that term temporarily.

Is yesterday’s war room today’s “digital services center”?

The opposite of the war room must leverage technology to foster collaboration, creating ongoing connections between operational disciplines such as network, server, storage, etc., where convergence has already blurred traditional lines. These connections must also extend to embrace development and business stakeholders.

Suddenly we’re in DevOps territory

DevOps offers an advanced perspective of effective war rooms, enabled by highly-effective APM solutions that measure user experience and business transactions, most commonly for applications built on Java and .NET platforms. But IT operations teams in large enterprises are responsible for hundreds of applications, many of which do not benefit from such visibility. In fact, many apps of record – ERP systems are a prime example – run on proprietary platforms that don’t lend themselves to agent-based APM instrumentation, and instead rely on infrastructure-centric monitoring.

The digital services center

What changes the dynamic of a war room, transforming it by increasing its efficiency and leading it towards a more proactive endeavor? What are the technical characteristics that enable effective inter-team collaboration? A few themes are clear:

  • A common view of performance from the end user’s perspective aligns teams and enables effective collaboration with business peers
  • A clear understanding of business impact enables prioritizing problems that matter (and deferring those that don’t)
  • Transaction-level visibility at each dependent tier enables effective fault isolation and collaboration with development teams
  • Visibility into how system and network performance impact transaction response times correlates application and infrastructure metrics across operational teams

Not surprisingly, these are the core characteristics of Dynatrace’s wire data approach to APM, a highly-scalable passive solution for platform-agnostic performance visibility.

Returning to the earlier quote from the Forbes article, I’ll simply rephrase it slightly:

“The more we collaborate, the less reactive our battles become.”

What do you call (or hope to call) your war rooms?