The state we’re in

Polly Thompson
Dec 13, 2018 · 3 min read

Helping colleagues (who aren’t interested in tech) understand the health of an IT estate.

A few people (well, a couple) have asked me how I put together this chart summarising the state of our IT estate, so I thought I’d write something I could point to.

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Heavily fictionalised version of a treemap showing system status across an organisation

Why?

What’s the user need?

(A user need, is a way of expressing a requirement (for a service or product) that centres the needs of the potential user. It usually takes the form “As a [type of person/user], I need to [what does the person need to do?] so that [why does the person need to do that?]”)

So in this case: As a senior manager, I need to understand the overall status of our applications and infrastructure so that I can make informed decisions about priorities for action.

The solution should:

  • Group systems by business area to give context on each element
  • Show relative business impact of each system.
  • Show status/ fitness-for-purpose of each system.
  • Be viewable at a glance

How?

This uses a row for each block on the chart. Each row includes:

  • System
  • Business Area
  • Impact
  • Status

System: Choosing the right level of granularity was important here. Using wording that was meaningful to the people reading it.

Business Area: This is the parent category. All values (except the ‘all systems’ header) have a parent system. These values must all appear in the system column too.

Impact: This determines the size of each block. Set to reflect the relative importance of each system. This wasn’t especially scientific:

1 = We could struggle on without it for a while

5 = Pretty important, used by lots of people or a critical function

10 = Totally vital, we’d fall apart without it.

Status/Fitness for purpose: Again this was pretty subjective, with the score representing a combination of how well the system meets user and business needs with its current level of risk.

1 = Fit for purpose, everything is fine and is likely to remain so for a while

3 = It’s working but it’s not great and/or it won’t stay working for long

5 = It’s terrible or broken or generally on fire (or will be in the very near future)

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The chart allows you to assign 3 colours: Min, midpoint and max values. I wanted to have a RAYG type scale so I chose (surprise!) red, yellow and green.

You can make a copy of the sheet here.

Did it work?

Valleys To Coast Design & Tech Blog

Welcome to the Valleys To Coast Design and Technology Blog.

Polly Thompson

Written by

@pollyrt feminist, powerlifter, parent, tech person @valleystocoast (formerly @citizensadvice), exiled londoner, adopted cardiffian, curious generalist.

Valleys To Coast Design & Tech Blog

Welcome to the Valleys To Coast Design and Technology Blog. We are making our work open to make things better.

Polly Thompson

Written by

@pollyrt feminist, powerlifter, parent, tech person @valleystocoast (formerly @citizensadvice), exiled londoner, adopted cardiffian, curious generalist.

Valleys To Coast Design & Tech Blog

Welcome to the Valleys To Coast Design and Technology Blog. We are making our work open to make things better.

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