Take Five: Keysight’s CIO Talks User Experience and Digital Transformation in IT
2021-07-19 | 7 min read
This interview is excerpted from Keysight's Geek-to-Guru Guide: Proactive Network Monitoring
A lot has changed over the last few years. Remote work is here to stay, and hybrid architectures are shaking things up. But despite all that upheaval, one constant remains: user experience is as important as ever. That’s why we sat down with Dan Krantz, Keysight’s chief information officer, to get his thoughts on monitoring distributed networks, leading network operations teams, and the evolving role IT plays in digital transformation.
Organizationally, how much importance do you place on user experience? In your opinion, how much effect does it have on the business as a whole?
Dan: We put a lot of focus on user experience in IT. In fact, two years ago, I started an employee recognition program called the Smarter IT Awards, where we hand out little Yoda statues because we’re “battling the Dark Side” of bad user experience. The goal is to incentivize people to come up with new, Yoda-worthy ways to improve user experience through fewer clicks, faster response times, or clever automation. We have both a peer recognition award and one selected by management — and I always highlight the winners at my quarterly all-hands meetings. Then, at the end of the year, I present a Jedi Master award to someone who is not only battling the Dark Side of bad user experience but is also teaching others to do so as well.
User experience is so important, in my opinion, because bad user experience leads to wasted time. Time is the one resource we share with our competitors, and none of us can get more of it. So, the more time I can get people in Keysight to spend doing something productive, the more competitive we’re going to be. Conversely, if people are less productive — wasting time on bad user experience or bad IT interactions — we’re just going to be less competitive. I always tell people on my team, it’s not really about people liking the systems and applications — or even liking IT, for that matter. If something looks and feels really cool but takes just as long to navigate through, it’s not worthwhile. For me, the business value of user experience is all about time compression — and how much faster someone can get something done.
For example, as we help Keysight achieve its own digital transformation goals, our IT department is undergoing its own transformation. Whether an employee has an issue with a PC, wants to order a headset, or needs a user account on a reporting platform, we want to automate every one of those requests and fulfill them through an artificial intelligence (AI) engine. That way, if you put in a request and approval is needed, it’s automatically routed to your manager — who simply needs to say “yes” or “no” before the action is autonomously fulfilled on the back end. Instead of taking days, it’ll take hours or minutes. It’s a real game changer. It’s going to require everyone in IT to tackle things differently, automate a lot of stuff, and essentially turn us all into software engineers.
What are some common challenges you’ve experienced with network monitoring and maintaining consistent quality of service?
The biggest challenge with network monitoring is trying to go beyond the basics. We are emerging from a place where we were very human-driven, relying on our outsourced partner to manually monitor and react to each switch, each router, and each circuit in our global network. To scale our growth, we’ve moved this in-house and begun automating. We want our systems and tools to inform us when there’s an issue and, ideally, self-correct if they can. It’s been hard enough to set up the basic, automated up / down tracking, but I really want to go beyond that. I want to measure performance at the raw level — like throughput, megabits per second, or latency — and measure the real user experience.
The other challenge is filtering out the noise, like false alarms. Now that we’ve moved past the human approach to a systems-based approach to monitoring, you have to get things configured properly. Otherwise, you can easily drown in meaningless alerts — and have to revert to people making sense of all the data that’s coming in.
In your opinion, how do synthetic monitoring tools fit into a NetOps tool stack? Do they work well in concert with more passive tools, like packet-fed application and network performance management platforms?
Synthetic monitoring tools are where an organization needs to be. You want to get to the stage where you can really see the true user experience, but you need to make sure you have your basic table stakes monitoring in place first...