Unpacking the firefighter metaphor: from extinguishing to prevention

Rik Burgering
4 min read

Most of us get firefighters all wrong. We immediately associate them with emergency situations, battling to put out blazes that have already started. But the crux of their job isn’t fighting fires. It’s preventing them. This lies in proactive methods: building inspections, identifying fire hazards before they go up in flames, and encouraging organizations to invest in fire safety devices and alarms where needed, in order to keep their employees and premises safe.  

In a sense, IT departments are weighed down by the same misconception. When it comes to securing funding, it’s easiest to prove that a budget was invested well if it went towards putting out a blaze. There’s a ticket submitted by an employee, an IT response and a resolved outcome to back that up. But what about actions that are taken so that an employee never has to log a ticket? In other words, how can IT departments justify spending money to solve problems that haven’t even happened? 

Moving away from reactive firefighting to solely focus on proactive fire prevention is any IT department’s goal state. Generating buy-in for this idea, however, can present problems. Here, we’ll look at strategies to shift the thinking on this, and garner support within your organization for proactive IT. We’ll also introduce ServiceNow — a handy ally to have throughout this process of IT evolution. 


Gaining buy-in for preventive investments with ServiceNow

“It’s tough to argue that investment in prevention is paying off. For decision-makers in your organization who aren’t aware of all the nuances, no incidents can often look like a reason to cut IT budgets, rather than maintain or increase them,” explains DXC ServiceNow expert Rik Burgering.  

The only way to effectively demonstrate that investment in preventive measures is working is to show incidents, or near-incidents, reducing. Often, this process starts with a reactive response. Say, for example, that several employees experienced an unstable connection in the virtual conferencing application your organization uses. People were flipping on and off the call, with unreliable audio and video. The immediate response from IT? Disabling video to save on bandwidth, to enable the call to continue. 

Then the proactive work begins. Before another glitch happens, the IT pros devise an improved, automated response. As a result, a similar future situation won’t result in an outage. It’ll lead to temporary service degradation instead, until everything’s back up to speed. Going forward, monitoring the correlation of bandwidth pressure to related deliberate service degradation will demonstrate that this preventive measure pays off. 

At DXC, we work with ServiceNow — an adaptable application toolbox designed to enable enhanced monitoring of organizations’ digitized workflows — to bring this kind of clarity to our clients’ operations. With the specificities and data to hand thanks to ServiceNow, it’s easier than ever for IT departments to justify, and increase, preventive spending. 

Maintaining a proactive culture with ServiceNow

With a little preventive spending, a lot can be gained. But the curve does flatten above a certain base-level threshold. So how can clued-up IT departments continue to motivate investment in their proactive working methods? 

Perspective is key here. There’s not a great deal of sense, for example, in investing to prevent your organization’s internal email going down for a few minutes during any given day. In reality, that method of communication won’t be adversely affected by a few minutes of delay. In fact, it might provide some much-needed headspace for employees to put the admin tasks aside, and focus on actual value-creating work. 

However, taking proactive steps to prevent login issues on Monday mornings between, say, 9-11am is key. “Consider an individual’s 30-minute period of frustration, ticket submission, and eventual login. Multiply that by 2,000 or so for a large-scale organization, and you’re losing serious productive hours,” adds DXC ServiceNow expert Rik Burgering.   

It’s also important to communicate the right information to the right people to ensure your organization continues to strategically invest in proactive IT. If there’s already 99.95% uptime, it might be tricky to swing a multi-thousand IT budget to bump it up by another 0.04%. In those circumstances, it’s wise to compile other data sources to make a strong case. 

Has the proactive IT strategy led to crucial increases (or decreases) in employees’ data consumption rates, or time spent on certain sites and applications? Has organization-wide productivity consistently increased when service levels have improved, based on your preventive actions? If that can be demonstrated, it’s a clear win for funding your approach. 

User or employee satisfaction rates can be useful here, too. Have they continued to rise steadily with every incremental improvement brought about by your proactive, preventive IT, rather than plateauing after the first few major changes? That’s the making of a key supporting metric. 

With ServiceNow’s capabilities to streamline and monitor digitized workflows throughout enterprise organizations, collating these types of data becomes a far simpler task. 


Goodbye, reactive extinguishing. Hello, proactive prevention with ServiceNow.

At DXC, we pride ourselves on providing a tangible pathway to incident prevention and proactive IT, along with comprehensive change management strategies to help organizations take this leap.  

To find out more about shifting from reactive to proactive IT with ServiceNow, as well as gaining the internal funding and mindset shift you need to get there, don’t hesitate to get in touch with the DXC team here.


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