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Don’t Confuse Being Busy with Being Productive

Bill Coon
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For fans of college basketball, you know John Wooden. For those that don’t, just know that he won… a lot. He’s recognized as one of the best coaches ever, across any sport, at any level. What does this have to do with Riverbed Technologies, Don't mistake activity for achievement.a digital performance company that focuses on visibility into end-users, applications, and networks? It’s what he said when asked about the secret to his success: “Don’t mistake activity for achievement.” An alternate version: “Don’t confuse being busy with being productive.” Let me explain.

If someone asks if you are too busy to talk, what is your response? Are you letting phone calls go to voice mail? Ignoring emails? Using words like slammed, buried, overloaded, lots of irons in the fire, tied up, have a full plate, in a meeting, have a lot of fish to fry, up to my ears, and so on and so on? Are you being productive?

I/T productivity

Cavemen too busyWe can all agree that everyone in the I/T business is busy … but can we agree we are all using our time efficiently and achieving our goals? Or are we confusing activity with I/T productivity? I’m sure Coach Wooden was busy too, but he made sure his players were coached with purposeful activities to reach their goal, which was to win games and ultimately championships.

Achievement in the I/T industry can mean many things to people. But one of those goals has to be ensuring the best digital experiences to all users, across all applications, supported by different types of networks, and using all kinds of devices. No matter what your I/T role is, take notice of how you accomplish that goal. Can you be more efficient and productive? What is the 1st thing you want visibility into when you’re asked to fix a performance problem?

Does a network dashboard of green lights translate to superior digital experience? A performance table of database queries with fast response times mean there aren’t any database issues? No PC problems found by your desktop tool confirm it must be the network? Having that visibility is certainly required…the complexity of delivering end-users the performance and availability of applications they need is driving the requirement to instrument end-to-end, and fill visibility gaps for a complete picture of end-user experience.

But where do you start? Whatever your role, you likely turn to the visibility tools that are instrumented based on that role. For the network operations team, maybe that’s an SNMP-based dashboard of red/green status lights monitoring availability of the network or capturing packets for deep-dive network analysis. The application team has tools that look inside the application framework to identify slow methods and classes and understand the underlying code of the application. And the server team is looking for spikes in server CPU and memory usage.

How many times have you found no issues? Wasted time proving it’s not the networks fault? The servers fault? The applications fault? It’s nobody’s fault! You start thinking, is there even a problem? I ask again, is this productive?

That’s why even the most experienced application developer, help desk operator, and network support engineer need to realize there really is an “easy” button that can improve productivity and help reduce the amount of activity you spend troubleshooting user performance issues.

Start with the end-user!

But wait! You’re a Wireshark expert and can fix any problem with packets; you’ve got a utility that can scans the network for issues; a central log analyzer that collects almost anything; a DevOps tool that locates application bottlenecks. What can instrumentation of the end-users do for you? Let me count the ways:

  1. Eliminate guesswork–validate there really is a problem and its impact to the business
  2. Proactive awareness–most user problems aren’t even reported; what you don’t know can hurt you
  3. Stop the finger pointing–isolate the problem to user, network, or application to prioritize efforts
  4. Quit wasting time–don’t dive deep unless you must

Your time is valuable…being busy is usually good, but being busy and productive is better. Leverage instrumentation like Riverbed’s SteelCentral Aternity that goes beyond device health and statistics.

Measure end-user-experience  from the point of consumption that targets all applications wherever and however they are provided. Validate the issue and isolate the problem domain first…it’s easy, it saves time, and can help improve your productivity no matter your role within I/T. And don’t stop there. Consider how this end-user experience monitoring integrates into Riverbed SteelCentral, a multi-perspective, integrated solution that is the only end-to-end digital experience management platform that combines end-user, network, and application perspectives.

Are you going to stop being busy? I doubt it. Are you going to free up time to focus more on other high priority goals? Absolutely!

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