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What is single pane of glass?

Single pane of glass (SPOG) refers to a dashboard or platform that provides centralized, enterprise-wide visibility into various sources of information and data to create a comprehensive, single source of truth in an organization. 

A single pane of glass solution helps organizations by aggregating many different data points into an intelligible dashboard. Providing the ability to turn raw data—such as operational and performance metrics like application response times or CPU usage, security, and network health reports and more—into actionable insights. A single pane of glass solution democratizes information and affords a wider array of teams the ability to directly access the information they need and use it to make more informed business decisions.

For example, a unified dashboard that brings together all business metrics in one location can help organizations better understand aspects of the business, like sales patterns, budget spend, security issues or other operations issues. It can also help IT teams monitor their entire IT environment, including employee devices, servers, networking equipment and other components of IT infrastructure.  

It is an important management tool that helps operations and IT teams track the overall health and performance of their information technology, providing a big picture view of their current operations based on their specific needs.

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Single pane of glass use cases

Organizations need simple ways to view complex data in real time to make informed decisions, especially in environments with increasing operational complexity. A single pane of glass solution provides an opportunity to automate the collection, aggregation, and distribution of information so organizations can make quick decisions with confidence.

This all-in-one view helps various business units and functions within an organization drive stronger performance and achieve better outcomes. It provides a central hub where IT teams can monitor and maintain internet of things (IoT) devices, and it supplies a centralized source of truth valuable in keeping partners, suppliers and customers informed regarding important information.

IT operations management: Modern organizations increasingly use SaaS solutions, IoT devices and complex code bases, which increases the possibility of an issue occurring that can have broader effects on the organization’s infrastructure.Therefore, SPOG is an important tool to ensure uptime. A single pane of glass view of IT services helps ensure that organizations identify incidents or problems early on, so they can address them before they create more significant problems for end users.

Performance availability and user experience: A single pane of glass tool can be used to aggregate application performance and utilization metrics like uptime, latency, churn rate and CPU usage that help an organization gauge how well their applications are serving end users. With this information, IT and DevOps teams can find ways to boost performance, make more efficient use of their IT resources, ensure SLAs are met, and ultimately improve end user satisfaction.

Business and marketing intelligence: Organizations collect significant data about their customers from many different locations and services, including newsletters, social media apps such as Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn, and website and webinar registrations. A single pane of glass enables sales reps to see pertinent information about existing customers and prospects, like the last time they’ve been contacted, and which pieces of business content published by the organization that they’ve accessed, all in one place.

Creating a single pane of glass view provides actionable insights on customers, enabling organizations to better understand customer needs, and where and how they like to receive information. Organizations can use this data to better serve existing customers and to close new deals with prospects.

Supply chain management: The supply chain is a complicated, interdependent ecosystem where various partners need to collaborate in real time, and each link in the chain needs to know where raw materials and finished goods are along the shipping route. A single pane of glass view helps maintain efficiency throughout a supply chain, so goods make it to their final destinations and end users on time.

Network management: Organizations increasingly rely on a mix of data centers, networking equipment, devices and other technologies to keep their IT operations running smoothly, avoid connectivity issues and serve end users. Given the increasingly distributed nature of IT environments, it’s important to have a comprehensive view of network information in order to properly assess and optimize network performance and health and resource utilization.

Cybersecurity: A single pane of glass view for cybersecurity can help organizations identify threats such as breaches, outdated software or certificates or suspicious changes in traffic, and share data internally to discuss remediation plans. SPOG helps avoid costly disruptions to an organization’s services, negative reputational issues from data breaches and costly fines stemming from compliance failures.

Key single pane of glass features

While different single pane of glass use cases require different components—and ideally you want a dashboard that can be customized to your organization’s specific needs—SPOG consoles generally share the following key features:

  1. Graphical user interface (GUI)
  2. Reporting tools
  3. Monitoring and management console
  4. Alerts and notifications
  5. Automated workflows
  6. Integrated with third-party applications

Graphical user interface (GUI): A GUI provides users with a view of several applications or data sets, creating a unified display of information in easy-to-understand charts or graphs. Employees can use the GUI to make sense of the compiled data and understand when KPIs are met. Most GUIs enable users to customize their individual dashboards to provide the most meaningful data for their jobs.

Reporting tools: Organizations can also take the data that is contained within the dashboard to publish reports that can be distributed across the organization or sent to individuals who request specific information.

Monitoring and management console: IT professionals can take deeper dives into the data, share information with colleagues (for example, send messages to triage and escalate) and keep track of developments by using monitoring and management consoles.

Alerts and notifications: A good SPOG solution will enable automatic notifications and alerts alongside the production of relevant data and reports.

Automated workflows: Templated and customized workflows help IT professionals and other employees maximize their use of a single pane of glass tool. Using automated workflows can ensure that data is collected, analyzed, and presented to the user without the user needing to do any unnecessary manual work. Automated workflows can also alert relevant teams if the data indicates that performance is either below or above established thresholds. This is helpful in determining whether intervention is needed and helps security professionals understand if there is an issue they need to address.

Integration with third-party applications: Modern organizations rely on tech stacks that include native and third-party applications that provide different information on their operations. Many SPOG tools can seamlessly pull in credentials from third-party tools via APIs so the organization can view all information in one place.

Single plane of glass benefits

Using a single pane of glass dashboard provides organizations with several valuable benefits:

Increased team efficiency: Employees who do not have a single pane of glass will instead must switch between different applications and administrative panels to view the information they need. This takes more time and creates a greater possibility for errors. They can also more quickly make decisions because they have all the relevant information in front of them.

More informed DevOps teams: DevOps teams need a view of the entire IT system to know whether it’s working efficiently or not, identify incidents or problems they need to address and improve applications and processes. A single pane of glass can also broaden responsibility for incident and problem detection to end users, who can use the dashboard to identify and report problems.

Safer customer data: It is difficult to prevent and address security issues that are related to an organization’s customer data unless IT professionals and security teams have a complete view of the IT environment. A single pane of glass makes it easier to analyze data across the organization. Identifying potential gaps in security, exploits and other vulnerabilities, and understand how security incidents can impact the overall system.

Better end-user experience: Organizations that use a single pane of glass are more likely to deliver a better user experience because a SPOG tool enables them to address issues and identify solutions more quickly, minimizing disruption of services to their customers and partners. 

Single plane of glass challenges

Integrating information from across your organization into a single pane of glass is a significant endeavor with unique complications. Through foresight and thoughtful planning, you can overcome such challenges and set your organization on a path for success.

Setup complications: Creating a single pane of glass view requires integrations with third-party tools and APIs, as well as pulling data from multiple internal tools. Taking the time to carefully set up your system to work seamlessly within your IT environment is worth the effort and will help reduce future issues.

Identifying the most relevant data: A big benefit of single pane of glass—the compilation and digestion of significant amounts of data—can also be a challenge if not managed properly. IT teams provisioning SPOG tools need to work closely with end users to make sure they won’t be overwhelmed by the number of notifications and volume of data available on screen. One way to solve this is to offer customized views for different teams so that the most important data for their jobs is most prominent.

Comprehensive training: Employees require training to effectively use single pane of glass views and to be able to act on the information they receive. Embracing a single pane of glass solution can also require an organizational culture transformation since enabling everyone to access the same information might be a different approach than most employees have experienced in the past.

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1 "Cyber Risk Is Growing. Here’s How Companies Can Keep Up," (link resides outside ibm.com) Harvard Business Review, 13 April, 2023