Why is this single pane of glass for IT teams so damn hard to build?

Sanjeev NC

If I were to receive a dollar for every mention of the term 'Single Pane of Glass,' my wealth would be considerable. However, this concept largely remains a buzzword confined to blog articles and conference presentations. On the rare occasion that an entity professes to have achieved a single pane of glass, it turns out to be an elaborate Google Sheet, filled with complex Macros and VLOOKUPs. Therefore, it begs the question: what is this single pane of glass, and why is it so elusive?

What is this single pane of glass?

The concept of a Single Pane of Glass aims to unify data across multiple platforms onto one display. It's an approach that seeks to compile various data streams into a single dashboard, potentially reducing the need to switch between different applications. This method is designed to offer a consolidated view, presenting all pertinent information in one place.

The intention behind a Single Pane of Glass is to streamline the interaction with multiple interfaces. By providing an overview of necessary data, it could simplify the task of managing SaaS tools, although it's not without its complexities and implementation challenges. The idea is to move away from a fragmented method of working with a multitude of apps towards a more integrated view that could, in theory, enhance efficiency in handling tasks.

Challenges in building out the single pane of glass

Data Silos

Each SaaS application is often a repository for its unique set of data. Extracting this information and ensuring it aligns with data from other sources can be complex, given the lack of standardization across platforms.

API Diversity

Every application comes its own APIs, each with a distinct set of protocols and data formats. Achieving seamless integration requires extensive customization and mapping between these varied APIs.

Authentication Issues

The process of securely retrieving data from numerous applications often entails contending with a tangled array of sign-in procedures and authorization checks, each fortified by its distinct security measures such as two-factor authentication, adding layers of complexity to daily operations.

Real-Time Data Synthesis

The need for real-time data aggregation compounds the challenge, as applications continuously update information. Without immediate synchronization, there's a risk of relying on stale data, leading to decisions based on outdated insights that could significantly impact operations and strategy.

UX Design

Designing a user interface that is intuitive and presents data from multiple apps in a coherent manner is another significant challenge. The dashboard must be navigable and customizable to cater to the varying needs of different roles within the IT team.


As organizations grow, so does the number of SaaS applications they utilize. The single pane of glass must be able to scale accordingly, integrating new data sources without a drop in performance or usability.

Cost & Resource Allocation

The investment in terms of both financial and human resources to develop and maintain a single pane of glass can be substantial. Balancing the cost against the potential benefits is an ongoing consideration for many IT teams.

What’s the problem with not having a Single Pane of Glass?

01. Increased Complexity

IT professionals must navigate through multiple systems to find information, increasing the complexity of tasks and the likelihood of overlooking critical data.

02. Reduced Productivity

Constantly switching between applications to access data can lead to a significant decrease in productivity due to the time spent on repetitive login procedures and context switching.

03. Data Overlap and Redundancy

Without a unified view, there is a higher risk of data duplication as different tools may hold overlapping information, making it harder to identify the source of truth.

04. Delayed Response

The lack of centralized information can slow down response times to critical issues or delays in decision-making processes, as data must be gathered and correlated manually.

05. Inconsistent

Generating reports that provide a holistic view of operations is challenging, leading to inconsistent and sometimes inaccurate analytics.

06. Risk of Human

Manual compilation of data from various sources increases the risk of errors, which can lead to faulty analytics and poor decision-making.

07. Security Gaps

Managing security across multiple platforms individually can result in gaps and inconsistencies in the security posture, potentially leading to vulnerabilities.

08. Cost Inefficiencies

Maintaining multiple systems and the infrastructure to support them can lead to higher operational costs, including licensing, subscriptions, and the need for specialized personnel.

What are some of the use cases for Single Pane of Glass?

Software Adoption Tracking

After deploying a new project management tool, TaskMaster Pro, IT needs to track its adoption across different teams. They could use a SPoG to identify which teams have successfully adopted the tool, who might need additional training, and if any departments haven’t logged in since the rollout. This ensures that the investment is utilized to its full potential and identifies areas where more user engagement is required.

License Optimization During Personnel Changes

A company needs to reassign Salesforce licenses after a recent restructuring. The SPoG can show which former employees had Salesforce access via their specific roles in the company, allowing for a quick audit and reassignment of these expensive licenses to current team members who need them, thereby optimizing costs and maintaining operational efficiency.

Access Review for External Partners

The company requires a review of all external consultants with access to the internal file sharing system, SecureShare. A SPoG could provide a list of all external users with access permissions, when and by whom these permissions were granted, and which files or folders they've accessed, ensuring that sensitive information remains protected and access is granted appropriately.

License Compliance for Development Tools

For compliance purposes, IT needs to verify that all developers have the appropriate licenses for a coding platform, CodePro Elite. SPoG would enable them to see which developers are assigned a license, ensure that all licenses are up to date, and confirm that no unauthorized users have access, simplifying compliance with software licensing agreements.

Security Training Compliance

Following the rollout of a mandatory security awareness program, IT must track completion rates across departments. With SPoG, they can quickly ascertain which employees have completed the training, send reminders to those who haven't, and prepare compliance reports for the management, ensuring that all employees are informed about security best practices.

Contractor Access during Project Phases

For a limited-time marketing campaign, IT needs to ensure that contractors have access only for the duration of their contracts. SPoG can help monitor the start and end dates of contractor access to marketing tools, like Adobe Creative Suite, and automatically revoke access when their contracts end, enhancing security and reducing manual oversight.

Audit Preparation for Financial Tools

Before an audit, IT is tasked with providing a log of all transactions made by the accounting team in the financial software, FinanceFlow. A SPoG would enable the collection of user activity logs, access levels, and change histories, streamlining the audit process and ensuring that all necessary information is easily accessible.


IT Use cases for Single Pane of Glass

So, what’s the takeaway?

A Single Pane of Glass stands as an invaluable tool for IT, offering a unified view that can transform chaos into order. It's the difference between navigating a maze and walking a straight, clear path. The importance of SPoG lies in its ability to simplify complexity, offering IT teams instant access to a wide array of data and controls, which, in turn, enhances decision-making, boosts productivity, and tightens security.

Yet, crafting such an all-encompassing dashboard is no small feat. The challenge lies in the intricate web of diverse SaaS applications, each with its unique data structures, interfaces, and APIs. Stitching these varied data sources into a coherent, real-time dashboard requires a deep understanding of these systems, substantial development effort, and ongoing maintenance to keep up with the ever-evolving software landscape.

Moreover, as businesses grow and their tools evolve, the SPoG must adapt accordingly, ensuring scalability and flexibility. Despite these challenges, the pursuit of an effective SPoG is a worthwhile endeavor. When executed well, it not only streamlines IT operations but also acts as a strategic asset that can pivot a company towards achieving heightened efficiency and a robust competitive edge.