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An IT Carol: How the Ghosts of IT Past and Present Can Help Improve the Future

Just like Ebenezer Scrooge, IT teams can learn from the past and present to improve their future, with a lot of help from AI.

Kevin Kline, SolarWinds

December 21, 2023

5 Min Read
John Leech illustration of Ebenezer Scrooge being visited by a ghost
John Leech illustration of Ebenezer Scrooge visited by the ghost of Jacob MarleyAlamy

"I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach."

― Ebenezer Scrooge, in Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens has remained one of the most iconic and beloved stories of the holiday season. Part of the reason the story has stuck with us since its Victorian-era publication lies in the lessons it teaches us. At its heart, the story is about the need for kindness and charity, and most importantly, how we can use the lessons of our past to become better in the future.

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This holiday season, the IT community should use A Christmas Carol as a guide to visit our own past, look critically at our present, and see where we could be heading.

Ghost of IT Past: Monitoring and Remediation

You are sitting at your desk on a snowy December evening. Your company has had a strong year, and your colleagues in other departments are making one last push before the holidays to wrap up accounts payable, send off those final reports, and close the last few deals. You look down with a sinking feeling as you see an alert pop up — a network issue. You start hearing from colleagues that they are having problems and desperately need to get back on the network. Together, you and your IT team start looking for the cause. The time it takes to detect the issue is adding up, and the pressure from teams is building. Finally, you find the source, a gradual packet loss issue that eventually grew to a critical point. You get the network back online.

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However, the outage caused a delay throughout the entire company, meaning plans to get out early ahead of the holidays seem to be off the table, and your colleagues are blaming IT. Unfortunately, this was not the first time this has happened, leading to the loss of time and productivity across the business. Yes, your monitoring system was sending you alerts, but only after there was already an issue and a potential outage. You headed in almost completely blind trying to fix every issue. There must be a better way.

Ghost of IT Present: The Overworked Service Desk

Now, you're back in the present in your home office. It's the end of the year, and finally with the extra time you have you are planning to make improvements to your company's network. You are just about to dive into your work when you see a ticket request come through your ITSM platform for help with a printer. There goes your evening plans as you need to dive into this printer problem. You hop on a call and walk your colleague through the simple solution — something your colleague could easily have fixed themselves. When you turn back to your computer, you see two more requests to help update Microsoft Office and fix a WiFi issue.

You finally finish helping your colleagues and don't even want to look at your computer and see what other tickets might be waiting for you. While you can't blame your colleagues who work in other departments that struggled to fix these issues on their own, you're also frustrated you had to step in.

Ghost of IT Future: Help Is Critically Needed to Avoid Being Overwhelmed

Now we pay a visit to one potential future. You see yourself sitting at your desk, frantically trying to juggle more service desk tickets than you ever thought were possible. The trip to the future also shows the vast number of new complex systems that teams are using. As applications, networks, databases, and infrastructures grew in complexity, so did the tools and solutions we need to manage them. This has created a future where IT pros are trying to navigate and manage some of the most complex systems and environments imaginable. Teams are more overworked than ever before. You spend so much time fighting fires that you have no time to build better technology that provides important new capabilities. You have almost no time to think about anything else, let alone spend the holiday with family or friends.

Thankfully, this is not a future that has to be, but rather one we can avoid if we take the right steps today. Right now, we are on the path to improving the lives of IT teams through the integration of artificial intelligence (AI). IT solutions powered by AI, such as observability and ITSM, can help manage the complex IT environments we are witnessing through ongoing digital transformation and the move to the cloud.

AI is already helping manage IT tickets from users, where AI assistants empower employees in other departments to address issues themselves and resolve problems on their own. This frees up overworked and stressed IT teams to move beyond the ghosts of the past and present and avoid future ones. However, we are only just beginning to see how AI will improve the lives of IT. If we continue to develop and use the technology correctly, it will play the role of a crucial partner in the future of IT. AI can work alongside IT pros to make the lives of teams and the end users better by improving experiences and increasing productivity. This holiday season, we should take the lessons of A Christmas Carol and reflect on our past and present to build the future we want.

Kevin Kline is Senior Staff Technical Marketing Manager at SolarWinds.

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