If there’s a problem to be solved, there’s a technology to solve it.

If there’s a technology problem to be solved, the solution lies with more technology. True?

One could certainly be forgiven for believing so.

The incident response world is awash with technology to help prevent, detect, diagnose, monitor and manage incidents. Such tools are necessary for every organisation’s resilience strategy, playing a key role in taming the growing complexity of modern technology led businesses. Uptime Labs is one of these tools, but does “necessary” equate to “sufficient”?

Eliyahu Goldratt, author of the famous business novel “The Goal” and inventor of the Theory of Constraints, stated:

“Technology can bring benefits if, and ONLY if it diminishes a limitation.”

Do you agree with this statement?

On the surface it seems like a statement in the blatantly obvious: ‘of course I only ever invest in a technology that promises a solution to a specific problem!’

Goldratt’s statement was deeper however. He follows with four questions which, if answered carefully will help ensure that the technology you use achieves the goals you desire.

  1. What is the power of the technology? The tool providers will be more than happy to answer this one for you.
  2. What limitation does the technology reduce? Precisely, what is the limitation that this new technology addresses?
  3. What rules enabled us to manage this limitation? Prior to adopting the new technology what rules/practices/processes/behaviours did you employ to manage the limitation?
  4. What new rules will we need? How will these rules/practices/processes/behaviours have to change in order to make the most of the new technolog

If one is under the forgivable assumption that a new technology will immediately solve a problem, questions 3 & 4 may appear odd. Goldratt’s point here however, is a limitation existing before the introduction of a technology, will not be fully resolved after its introduction unless the incumbent rules/practices/processes/behaviours also change. These rules and behaviours effectively become the system constraint until they are adapted to make the optimal use of the new technology.

This is all very theoretical so let’s try an example. Imagine we’re adopting our favourite observability tool.

  1. What is the power of the technology? Allows us to monitor the reliability and performance of all our software systems.
  2. What limitation does the technology reduce? The difficulty of monitoring and troubleshooting our complex, distributed technology stack
  3. What rules enabled us to manage this limitation? Key person dependencies, periodic manual systems checks, on-call rota, specific incident playbook rules, alerting configuration, diagnostic processes.
  4. What new rules will we need? Familiarisation with observability platform, removal of periodic manual systems checks and replacement with real-time dashboards and alerting, incident playbook rule adaption, on-call rota changes, changes to diagnostic processes.

These are merely examples and the answers in your scenario will likely differ but the point is that the effectiveness of your technology adoption is a function of the technology itself and the rules and practices adopted by the human beings in your organisation. And while much of the focus resides on the former, the latter is just as critical in achieving your resilience goals.

The power of Uptime Labs its ability to allow your organisation to practise a wide variety of technology and tooling AND to develop the rules, practices and behaviours that are so critical to getting the best out of technology, particularly under the stressful conditions of incident response.

Here’s Uptime Labs’s CEO Hamed Silatani with a talk on monitoring tooling and how to get the best from your tooling choices. Presented at OOPS, London’s Outage Operations and Incident Response Community.

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