How To Get Buy In To Support Your Observability Efforts

March 15, 2022
Categories: Learn

We’re well into 2022, and it’s full steam ahead addressing challenges and moving IT and SRE projects to completion. Are you ready for the challenges ahead of you? Do you feel prepared to handle the work you know about…and the work that’s sure to come your way? Are you ready for the end-of-the-year budget planning process that will be here before you know it?

To help, I’d like to share my learnings from 20+ years in IT. It’s never too early to prepare to ask for money, so here’s a few tips to guide your planning and resource allocation process, preparing for budget conversations, and communicating your needs to make your observability service a strategic partner in the enterprise

Your guiding principle behind all this planning is to protect your team and advance your service. Your team is what drives the innovation and value behind your service. Protect their productivity at all costs. Good planning is what allows you to be successful and gives you the ability to say no to work you know your team cannot handle. Executives are much more likely to support your decision to say no if you can support it with careful planning and documentation. The below ideas will give you the foundation for a successful year, and get you ready for the future.

Where Do You Want Your Platform to Be in a Year?

Before you do any project planning, start thinking about where you want your observability platform to be in a year.

  • Do you want to add an observability pipeline?
  • Do you want to expand your use cases to operational analytics to support business operations?
  • Do you want to improve its High Availability?

Think big, be ambitious. This is your service and you want it to stand out and bring major value to your enterprise.

Planning for what you know is coming

Start with known projects:

Business as Usual (BAU) projects:

  • Adding new hardware
  • Patching
  • Refactoring your parsing code
  • Upgrading your log shippers

Work with your leaders to prioritize new projects that move the business forward and BAU work to keep your platform running. Allocate 60% of your time to project work. I cannot emphasize this enough, it is incredibly important to focus on automating everything you do one way or the other. It is the only way to scale and keep up with an ever-increasing workload. Automation is the only way to keep your team engaged and not heading for the exits.

Planning for the Unexpected

As you plan for the rest of the year, always allocate resources for the unwelcome issues that make an appearance at the worst time. (Looking at you, Log4sHell!) This is usually the on-call doing urgent unplanned work so I allocated 20-25% to support work. If you have an offshore team, you take a ton of overnight work off your main engineers by having that team handle the first contact tickets and support calls and only escalate to your on-call engineer if the first-level team cannot manage it. Protect your team and attempt to limit work to daylight hours.

Start Building Your Budget Plan and Spend Justification

Always have a budget plan and justifications in your back pocket ready at a moment’s notice. Think of it as the elevator pitch for your startup. Your executives need to understand the value of your service and you need to have a list of projects you want to fund handy in case resources become available.

For example, you own Splunk for your enterprise and you get pulled into a budget meeting and the CIO is asking “why are we paying so much money for Splunk?” You need to be ready to answer this question since this is the kind of situation that can go well or go bad depending on how it is handled. You want to talk about how your entire enterprise is using Splunk from operations to security to business operations.

  • Document the number of users
  • List the number of applications that send data to Splunk.
  • Talk about how since Splunk was implemented application MTTR has gone down
  • Have a quote from a security leader to show its value to security

Start your budget planning by thinking down the road to where you want your service to be in a year and then two years. What is the cost for each feature you want to add to your service? A guess is fine but you need a starting point. Also, think about short-term spending that would help. Would more hardware help? You would be surprised how often money frees up and the first executive to have a prepped use case for the money gets it. Know your hardware costs and be ready to say, “Yes, I can use more hardware and each server I need costs 22k.” Just that small amount of walking about knowledge can get you a nice surprise in the middle of the year.

The moral of the story is always be thinking about what is next and always have some requests and some basic numbers if you are asked if you need budget. Never say no to money. Finally, have 3-4 key performance metrics in mind at all times to justify your service to leadership (Metric examples could be: reduced MTTR for Tier 1 apps, increased uptime for Tier 1 apps, increased data fidelity, tools consolidation/ optimization, etc.).

Getting Visibility in Your Organization

Organizational politics are a fact of life and you need to be able to compete and gain visibility for your service and your team. The right people have to know how good your team is in order to be successful long term. For many technical people, this is very hard, but it is important to brag about your team’s success. The best service no one knows about will not get the attention it deserves.

Some ideas for getting leadership buy-in:

  • Offer to present about your service at any leadership events and all hands
  • Partner with the security leadership and emphasize how your service will bridge the ops vs security silo
  • Use the Governance Risk Compliance (GRC) function to highlight your work by showing how standards are being applied and enforced
  • Speak up at budget meetings about the ROI that your service provides

Above all, be a visible cheerleader for your service and your team.

Putting It All Together

  • Start planning early for the year.
  • Allocate 50-60% of engineering time to new projects and BAU work.
  • Allocate 25% of engineer time to on-call support and unplanned work
  • Prioritize your planned work with leadership to make sure your priorities are aligned with theirs.

Keep thinking about where you want your service to be in a year and drive towards that goal. Be a relentless cheerleader for your service and most of all, your team. Use these tips to be the best leader you can be for your team and enterprise.

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