How To Perform Root Cause Analysis? – A Step By Step Guide

Categorized as Technology
root cause analysis

In IT operations, addressing major systems outages and performance issues is paramount, with IT teams employing various methodologies like IT service management (ITSM) incident management and problem management to swiftly restore services and conduct root cause analysis (root cause analysis). Some organizations leverage site reliability engineers (SREs) to not only manage incidents and problems but also to proactively enhance system reliability and service level objectives.

However, amidst the focus on major incidents, sporadic and elusive issues present a distinct challenge. These issues, often likened to finding a needle in a haystack, can be infrequent, affecting a small subset of users, or occurring for short durations. Despite their rarity, their impact can be significant, particularly if they coincide with critical operations performed by key users.

Various scenarios illustrate the complexity of these elusive issues, such as resource-intensive user actions causing system bottlenecks, transactional locks leading to performance degradation under specific conditions, or hardware faults in Seattle dedicated servers causing disruption. Additionally, issues like database backup procedures affecting only certain user subsets or slower response times from third-party services can further complicate diagnosis and resolution.

Addressing these challenges requires a robust debugging and feedback loop, as noted by Liz Fong-Jones, a field Chief Technology Officer at Honeycomb. While straightforward issues may surface through pre-aggregated queries on dashboards, more complex issues, categorized as “unknown unknowns,” often elude detection until they manifest unexpectedly. This underscores the importance of continuous monitoring, proactive identification, and thorough analysis to mitigate the impact of elusive performance issues on business operations and end-user experience.

In this article, you will learn about the steps involved in performing root cause analysis.

How To Find Rare Performance Issues With Root Cause Analysis?

Identifying the root cause of sporadic performance issues has long been a challenge for developers and IT leaders alike. Whether in the early days of development or later as a Chief Information Officer (CIO), navigating through such issues often feels like searching for a needle in a haystack.

The complexity arises from various factors such as overwhelming data volumes, making it difficult to discern relevant information efficiently. Additionally, issues like missing data, data quality discrepancies, or fragmented datasets further compound the challenge. Geoff Hixon, Vice President of solutions engineering at Lakeside Software, highlights the difficulty, emphasizing how gaps in data can create blind spots, hindering accurate diagnosis of the true root cause behind application performance issues.

In response to these challenges, AIops platforms have emerged as valuable tools in the arsenal of IT professionals. These platforms offer solutions to mitigate the burden of sifting through vast amounts of data by leveraging artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms to identify patterns and anomalies.

By automating the analysis process, AIops platforms help in pinpointing the root cause of performance issues more efficiently, reducing both time and the potential for human error However, despite the advancements offered by such platforms, the complexity of performance troubleshooting persists, necessitating a holistic approach that addresses both data gaps and quality issues to uncover the elusive root causes of sporadic performance issues effectively.

Step-by-Step Mastery of Root Cause Analysis Techniques

There are four steps involved in root cause analysis.

Treat Observability As a Product

Observability is key to Root Cause Analysis. Standardizing observability data and treating it as a product ensures usability and consistency. This involves structuring logs, enriching them with context, and delivering them effectively. Automation, analytics tools, and continuous improvement are essential for large organizations with multiple applications and microservices.

Conduct Both Top-Down and Bottom-Up Analysis

Effective Root Cause Analysis requires both top-down and bottom-up approaches. While basic issues might be easy to identify, deeper analysis is needed for complex issues, such as identifying slow queries or performance degradation under load. Integration of observability and database monitoring tools is crucial for a holistic understanding of system performance.

Keep An Eye On Network Issues

Network issues are often blamed for performance problems, but they’re hard to prove. Cloud-native environments and containerization add layers of complexity. Monitoring networks, correlating them with application performance, and efficient network Root Cause Analysis are essential. Integrated packet monitoring across environments provides real-time insights into traffic and application performance.

Collaborate on Root Causes

Collaboration is vital for resolving incidents and performing Root Cause Analysis effectively. Breaking down silos between teams and improving communication can enhance Root Cause Analysis processes. Utilizing tools to generate questions that filter through data effectively aids in narrowing down root causes.


Root Cause Analysis involves managing observability effectively, planning for comprehensive analysis, considering network issues, and fostering collaboration among teams. By following these steps, organizations can streamline the Root Cause Analysis process, reduce downtime, and improve overall system reliability.

Additionally, embracing a culture of continuous improvement is paramount for successful Root Cause Analysis (root cause analysis). This involves encouraging open communication channels where team members feel empowered to report incidents and propose solutions without fear of blame.

By prioritizing learning from failures rather than assigning fault, organizations can foster an environment where root cause analysis becomes a proactive tool for enhancing system resilience. Regularly reviewing and updating root cause analysis processes based on lessons learned ensures that the organization stays agile in addressing emerging challenges and evolving technology landscapes.

Ultimately, embedding a mindset of continuous improvement not only strengthens the root cause analysis process but also contributes to a culture of innovation and adaptability within the organization. Did this article help you in performing the root cause analysis for your business? Share your feedback with us in the comments section below.

Leave a comment

Jenny lain

By Jenny lain

Jennylain is a seasoned author specializing in web hosting, dedicated servers, and cloud services. With a knack for simplifying complex tech concepts.