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About Intelligent Alert Systems

CAST Dashboards provide significant advantages to businesses by providing the visibility and insight you need to manage your IT Software risk and support fact based business decisions.

A very valuable addition is what I will refer to as an intelligent alert system.
The picture below show an example of such a system developed in Excel to monitor the portfolio perforce of a composite KPI's dubbed the "IT risk Index" which combine various metrics from CAST quality analysis results.

There are really 4 key reasons that alert systems are valuable:

  1. they are threshold-based
  2. they trigger action
  3. they can be easily maintained
  4.  they allow passive and unbiased monitoring

And they can be used to monitor system, team performance, contract SLAs, outsourcing relationship and almost anything else.

Threshold Based

By defining and using target levels your company can set a threshold value that sends alerts before actual problems exist.

  • Scenario: you have outscored the maintenance of a mission critical application and while you fully trust your outsourcing partner to do a great job you want to keep under control the risk factors affecting the growth of the application TCO.
  • Solution: Your alert system could send out alerts when the measured technical debt exceed the control thresholds a preset number of time in a control period or a maximum amount. This event in turns may trigger appropriate reviews and actions such as a special maintenance cycle to specifically reduce Technical Debt.

By creating threshold based alerts your system can be active in monitoring and reporting issues.  By sending the alert the system can be used to focus you and your team attention on factors that may be potential triggers of undesired events.

Trigger Actions

Business workflows are an important part of efficient business.  The alerting system can integrate into your workflow very effectively.  When alerts are generated by the thresholds they can trigger or stop other things to occur.  This can either be done by sending emails to specific groups/people or by notifying other workflow systems of the alert.

  • Scenario: In DevOps delivery model you may want to automatically halt the delivery in production of new application build once the Security risk exceed an acceptable threshold level
  • Solution: The production rollout is halted when the Security score exceed a control threshold and an alert is created to the build manager. Application team can be notified of code related issue detected that effect the security of the application. A repair workflow can be triggered that requires fixing the code based security violations before a new build and deploy process can be re-started. 

It is important that the alert and trigger system is very customizable and maintainable in order to be able to fit into the existing operations and workflows.

Customizable and maintainable

Alert systems should be easily customized and maintained.  You should be able to easily define new thresholds and allow people to modify the thresholds. 
For example you might want to increase the year over year target TQI to drive ongoing improvement of your application source code structural quality. This increase could be set manually or automatically based on same historical trends and the gap between your current and target/maximum value. This Intelligent Alert System should be easily extendable to include tracking of additional metrics and KPI's by defining new thresholds.

Passive monitoring

With an alert system in place, your development team can focus on delivering the functionalities the business is demanding instead of the system quality attributes.  By making it simple to create new alerts it allows your resources to worry about other tasks and have the system monitor for them.  It allows optimize your resource allocation to focus on higher priority tasks while keeping a close eye on software risks.
The system will alert them when there are risk factor that need their attention so they can work on higher priority items knowing that the monitoring responsibilities are handled.  This creates a much more efficient business structure where people can be more productive.
Also an Intelligent alert system never lose focus or is biased by external factors. It measure and report and consistently record event and decisions.

Alert!!! - Key takeaways

By utilizing intelligent alerting systems based on CAST metrics you can make your business more efficient.  It can be the solution that keeps an eye on your software risk for you and lets your resources do the other things that need to get done.  By watching out for issues the system can allow systems to work more efficiently and then flag people when actions are required.


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