A little background.

We are an in-house software development team, responsible mainly for producing new functionality & implementing enhancements.

We also provide support for our processes; there are a small number of high-priority processes that already have effective alerting in place when there are issues (mails / phone calls, etc.), and a much larger number of low-priority processes that we react to when asked.

A little while ago, we (along with other teams) installed a "monitor", a flatscreen on the wall, that can show dashboards.

The flatscreen is located directly next to my desk.

Initially, this showed a small number of critical measures. Lately, my boss has gone into monitoring overdrive, and added more and more information-dense dashboards, covering more and more of our low-priority processes.

Obviously, this is becoming increasingly distracting and time-consuming for me, as I feel semi-obligated (if not officially tasked) with looking at the screen and checking to see if any of the information shows a possible issue needing our attention.

He has never directly said to me that this is my formal responsibility, but in team meetings he tells "the team" (who turn and look at me) that we should "notice" and react accordingly. His attitude is that it should take no time to just glance at the screen and see if there are problems.

I have two concrete questions:

  1. How can I persuade my boss that monitoring is an actual task, that takes real time and concentration away from my main job; and it isn't just something that can be done cost-free in the background?

  2. Does anyone have any strategies on how best to manage this activity? Personally, I feel that we should maybe ditch the monitor completely, and define alerts for those things that we feel warrant the team's attention. Is there ever a role for monitoring, as opposed to alerting? This is sensitive, because my boss has built (and is proud of) the dashboards, and I don't want to seem critical of his work.

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    You've made a lot of assumptions here. You might want to just ask your boss what he expects from you before trying to jump into defensive mode about what you specifically weren't asked to do. – Bernhard Barker Mar 17 '18 at 10:52
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    Your second question seems interesting, but it's also off topic for this site, as it's more about productivity, technology and/or analytics, and would probably largely come down to what you specifically want to monitor and how you define when something is "wrong" or "maybe wrong". – Bernhard Barker Mar 17 '18 at 11:11
  • @Dukeling To put it another way, how can I manage my boss’s expectation here? There is a huge gap between “it is your job” and “it is not your job”. I’d be very happy if I could get my boss to agree to the latter (then I could shut the distraction out), the problem is that his expectations hover somewhere in the middle of the two, and he really doesn’t think of it as much of a “job” at all. – wex1 Mar 17 '18 at 11:27
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    Note: how quickly your boss expects action based on something happening on the dashboard is also very relevant (how regularly does someone take action based on what's seen on the dashboard?). Checking the dashboard once an hour (if you can keep it to that, which can be hard) probably wouldn't be as big of a distraction as checking it every 5 minutes. – Bernhard Barker Mar 17 '18 at 12:15
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    Your boss' "dashboard" looks to be a perfect example of both "the road to hell is paved with good intentions" and "an empty mind is a devil's workshop". – Masked Man Mar 17 '18 at 17:55

Maybe you should discuss with first with "the team" (who turn and look at you). Ask them how often they look at these screens. Maybe try to agree with them that if this work would be truly shared between the people in the team then it wouldn't be much work for each individual. And if they say they can't see the screens suggest that they should be moved to another place where more people can see them. Maybe you won't be able to share the work with them (initially) but you should be able to involve them in the problem.

The point it this is your team's problem and not your problem.

And maybe in the next meeting with the boss someone in your team will point out to the boss that you are basically the only person who does that in the moment and this distracts you from your other work.

Edit: Independent from above I just had the following idea: Maybe the monitoring system can be improved with audio signals. Silence if all is fine and maybe a beep if there is a small problem and noise if there is a big problem. Then nobody has to watch all the time. If the acoustic signals are good all of you will hear and recognize them.

  • It's the same amount of work if done by one or all. It just changes who loses the time, not the time loss. – Loren Pechtel Mar 18 '18 at 0:18
  • @LorenPechtel: It seems there are good reasons that people actually do monitor these screens. It seems it is not a waste of time in general. My answer is about making this problem a "team problem" and not just the problem of one individual. – Edgar Mar 18 '18 at 0:29

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