Monday, 16 March 2015

What do they really want to know? - not all presentations are face-to-face

As I previously mentioned not all presentations are face-to-face and the act of e-mailing a report to your boss or having them visit a portal is still a "presentation", even though you are not there in person when they read it.

In many ways the requirements for clarity and appropriateness of this type of report are much higher than if you present it in person, because the report has to speak for itself in every way - it cannot get any more assistance from you, the author.

Automatic reporting is a practical technology that is appropriate for many routine presentations and further value can be added to automatic reports if the information on the graphs can be summarised and interpreted in plain English.

Even more benefit can be obtained if the interpretations are used to trigger exception events, for example to warn automatically that a critical system will become overloaded in some number of months' time unless corrective action is taken soon.

Many performance analysts are tasked with producing regular reports on the performance of one or several servers (possibly including mainframes) for which they are responsible. These reports are often, but not necessarily, in the form of Word or HTML documents or on-line screens containing annotated graphs. They fall into a number of categories:
Near-real-time reports. Examples of these kinds of reports include continually updated graphs or charts that are posted to an intranet web site, accessible through a standard browser. Each new data sample will cause a new point to be displayed on the chart. These reports are rarely or never printed out as hard copy.

Daily reports. Data is typically presented at relatively high resolution, with data samples every two to five minutes. These reports are intended to convey detailed information about recent events. This type of report, and the following ones, may be distributed as hard copy, or (more likely) as an e-mail attachment.

Weekly reports. These are presented at a lower resolution, perhaps with one data point for each aggregated hour, or possibly with just one aggregated point per day.

Monthly reports. The graphs in a monthly report will typically show one aggregated point per working day. A month's worth of data is usually the least amount that can be used for trending purposes.

Year-to-date reports. The graphs in a year-to-date report will be at the lowest level of resolution, certainly with no more than one point per day and more likely with one point per week. Depending on the particular measurement(s) being reported on, the primary objective of such a report is to display trend information.

Automatic reporting has its dangers as well as its benefits. How many reports are produced, pinned to the wall or posted on the intranet, and never looked at again?
In order to make reports relevant, interesting and useful, think about the following.

Top N reporting. Concentrate on the few busiest nodes, or devices, or users. Ensure that your automatic reporting application (if you use one) can identify the Top N instances itself, even if they are different each time, without any intervention from you.

Filtering. Ensure that reports are produced for periods of time that are important to the business. If you are in a 24*7 environment, then all times are important. If your organisation works a 5-day week and even lets you off for public holidays, then the non-working days should be filtered out of the reports.

Correlation. What are the key resource drivers? Which particular activities have the biggest effect on the total pattern of system loading? In many cases, correlation analysis lets you predict large-scale performance changes caused by relatively small changes in the nature of the workload or in user behaviour.

Exception reporting. If you have 100 nodes in your installation, do you really want to report on all of them? Much more likely, you only want a report to be produced if some kind of exception condition is detected.

A good Automatic Reporting and Automatic Advisor regime will incorporate all these facilities.

I’ll be looking at outlines for Automatic Reporting on Wednesday but don't forget to register for our Essential Reporting for Capacity & Performance Management webinar

Rich Fronheiser
Chief Marketing Officer

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