Secrets of Modern IT Management

As technologies and methodologies have advanced, a lot of things have changed. So it’s natural that in the revolution of new processes and methodologies in the IT industry, also leadership and management models must be developed in order to be able to meet new challenges. I will briefly discuss about probably two best-known methodologies, ITSM/ITIL® and DevOps, and also correct some misunderstandings.

“Choose your side: ITSM/ITIL or DevOps?”

Headlines like that seem to become more and more common in today’s IT Industry, where organizations are struggling with ever-growing demands; Just On Time –deliveries, resourcing, predicting the future & markets, social media’s opinions, end-user requirements, and of course the need for profitable business.. And then a faceless consultant steps onboard and promises to solve all the problems with yet another “-ism”. While some time ago the “ism” was ITIL, nowadays it’s often DevOps with a touch of some other Agile –derivated method like Kanban or V-model.

Now, who do you believe? Does a highly structured methodology like ITSM/ITIL solve your problems or is it DevOps that releases your internal beast and assures your products and services are top-notch quality?

While some time ago the “ism” was ITIL, nowadays it’s often DevOps with a touch of some other Agile –derivated method like Kanban or V-model.

Correcting common ITIL and DevOps –related Misconceptions

In my latest blog text I wrote about common Misconceptions people have about Cloud Services, so I can continue writing about misconceptions, this time about the ITIL vs. DevOps –combat.. ..which really should not exist in the first place.

ITIL is set of guidelines, the best practices. It’s highly process-oriented approach on organizing the IT Services, including life cycle phases from Service Strategy to Continual Service Improvement. ITIL has somewhat gained reputation as a bureaucratic giant with enormous requirements for documentation while every function should have a lot of resources available for 24/7.

Partly the reputation is deserved, but largely it’s also about misunderstanding the paradigm: ITIL is about a set of guidelines. It’s like a toolbox where you choose the best and most suitable practices – not the whole nine yards. You don’t need to implement all the aspects of ITIL available in order to call your Services “being aligned” with ITIL.

On the other hand, whereas ITIL is missing the essential software development methodologies, DevOps comes in.

DevOps concentrates in software development and delivery process emphasizing on filling the silos between the development and operational phase.

DevOps emphasizes modern sw developmental actions such as continuous integration, testing, deployment and in a way blows new spirit to the old’n’ good sw development industry. DevOps introduces a new kind of culture where the need for collaboration and teamwork is highly appreciated. At the same time DevOps requires a bit different approach to leadership.

I’ve already written about the loopholes and demerits of DevOps here, so I won’t repeat myself.

So, what’s it gonna be: ITSM/ITIL or DevOps?

In case you didn’t quite get it, there is no idea in putting these two against each other, because for the most part they are solving different issues!

I suggest taking the best from the two approaches. ITIL is still today – by far – the best set of guidelines for running the IT operations, but I can recommend DevOps especially from the SW development point of view without forgetting DevOps’ main idea of covering the silos between the development and operations’ phases.

I suggest taking the best from the two approaches.

Attention! Lead your troops General!

How should DevOps –team’s management be organized? Some people say employees shouldn’t be controlled in any way but they should be given a 100% freedom to do their job, while others are on the opinion that the working hours shall be measured and more or less control is needed in order to get the results.

While there are a number of great posts written about managing a DevOps “teams”, for example here and here, there’s remarkably less articles addressing the challenge of leadership, leading the people in the holistic perspective.

 

The majority of executives today probably share the opinion, that when it comes to leading a specialist organization in the IT industry, a traditional  line-organizational management model is dead, because it doesn’t provide adequate set of tools to support leadership in modern IT environment. Those modern, self-guided teams are on the other hand eagerly saying they don’t need to be managed. Don’t listen to them, they don’t know what they are saying!

More than ever, in the era of Agile SW development there’s a pressing need for (good) leadership! A distinguished DevOps team can be working effectively without any outside guidance as long as someone is paying their salaries and bonuses. But bear in mind that a hundred sprints with huge amount of new features in the software don’t necessarily provide anything useful.

Those modern, self-guided teams are on the other hand eagerly saying they don’t need to be managed. Don’t listen to them, they don’t know what they are saying!

Leading and orchestrating the big picture of SW development is crucial for organization’s success. Can you cut it or is your organization going downfall?

1st level issues

To be able to even remotely manage your Orchestra, the following essential 1st level issues must be addressed:

  • What’s in the pipeline (or backlog if you wish)?
  • What’s currently under development?
  • Will the upcoming new features correspond the requirements agreed on with a customer (no matter internal or external customer)?
  • Do the outcomes of your SW development (both released and those still in the backlog or under development) match the organization’s strategic goals? (Assuming there ARE strategic goals defined, of course!)

Now that your things are basically going as planned, you can move on to the next level in management issues. Even though they are 2nd level issues, they are very important. Ignore the possible problems on level 2 and they will become 1st level problems in a way or another.

Ignore the possible problems on level 2 and they will become 1st level problems in a way or another.

2nd level issues

  • Outside the clear SW development issues you have of course other issues to be taken care of, i.e.
    • Resourcing
      • Are you certain people are in their appropriate positions? Need to make any changes?
    •  Sales
      • Are your sales personnel getting deals closed – short or longer term?
    • Hr
      • What’s the rotation speed of your personnel in your organization? Is there constantly coming new people in while those who have stayed longer are leaving? Should you do something about it and if not, why not?
      • Benefits and salaries: are you competitive against your fellow competitors?
    • Business
      • Is your business profitable or are you creating loss?
    • Customer satisfaction
      • Do your customers keep coming back to you or are they changing the supplier?
    • Legal issues
      • Are your legal & compliance issues in order?

The list goes on and on, but the message is clear: leave 2nd and lower levels unnoticed and they will eventually become 1st level problems.

Things listed above are only the tip of an iceberg, but I wanted to shake the buzzed thoughts that a modern SW Development running Agile methods only needs very little management if at all. That’s one of the risks in a well-welded DevOps team; it becomes too self-assertive and slowly ceases to consider the surrounding reality.

More than ever, there’s need for brilliant leadership and management! If someone is challenging my thesis about this, I’ll be glad to participate in the debate.

 

Pictures are from Pixabay.

ITIL® is a Registered Trade Mark of AXELOS Limited.

Cloud Management

This is a continuation (well, at least sort of..) to my previous blog text, Cloud Services – the Business perspective.

Like I wrote, Cloud Services have rushed into the markets relatively rapidly and they have been able to fulfill some key expectations, for example in terms of Cost Efficiency, Scalability etc.

But who actually manages Cloud Services? And if Cloud Services are called “Services”, what kind of services are there available and why should anybody care about them?

From IT Services to DIY approach

According to Wikipedia, “Cloud management is the management of cloud computing products and service”.

 

DIY Cloud ManagementFor more than two decades, IT Service Management has been the way where organizations have striven for. Simply because managing the IT Services has not usually been the core business for organizations. IT Service Management is mainstream nowadays and people seem to be quite confident with it. Someone takes care of your problems (Incident Management) and requests (Request Fulfillment) and you can concentrate on doing what you are being paid for.

if Cloud Services are called “Services”, what kind of services are there available

If so, why is it that I keep hearing from several companies offering Cloud Services: “There is this nice&neat User Interface where you can easily start new virtual servers and also ramp them down when you don’t need ’em anymore”.

Self-provisioning, Self-help, Self-this-and-that?

Now that we have finally reached the level where a user does no longer need to solve his/her IT-related problems on his/her own, for some reason Cloud companies are accelerating the pace with providing more and more tools for the user to start/stop virtual servers and handle storage capacity in Cloud environment!

“It’s easy, just like that.. just click this, define this and that and you’re good to go!”

  • Thanks, I’ll give it a try.. but what if
    • I need an L3 connection from my internal network to this cloud environment which lies in a public internet? I’m not even sure what is the correct source IP-address.
    • I’m not quite sure how much more capacity I need for this certain system?
    • There are 2000 users who should be able to access the system in the cloud environment? Who grants accesses for them and takes care of the overall Access Management?
    • I want a comprehensive, formal report in some other form than the one being available. How do I get it?

Doesn’t seem to be so “easy, just like that.. just click this, define this and that and you’re good to go!”

As long as you are using some software you are buying as an SAAS (Software-as-a-Service) model and you don’t need any integration to your other systems, using Cloud is a trivial thing as everything is usually ready-made for you. You only need to start using the Software (as-a-Service). But when it comes down to integrations, it’s totally different story.

Doesn’t seem to be so “easy, just like that.. just click this, define this and that and you’re good to go!”

User-Friendliness?

In my opinion, the problem with lack of User-Friendliness is built into the history of the IT industry: Too often we tend to take a sole technical viewpoint to new things. Yes, we do recognize the pros and benefits behind a new tech, but we often fail to take the end-user’s perspective into account.

The irony is, that for at least some 20-25 years, the IT Industry has been speaking highly for IT Services, and now we are suggesting that for some unknown reason users should start managing the cloud environment more or less themselves?

Too often we tend to take a sole technical viewpoint to new things.

Who needs Cloud Service Management? No, who doesn’t!?

Ok, say, you have a small IT-company with <10 personnel: in your case it might be a good idea to handle the Cloud Computing issues yourselves. For any other company my suggestion is simple: Use your IT Service Provider’s helping hand! Just like TechTargets puts it, A distinguished IT Services provider can use cloud service management and cloud monitoring tools to maximize performance, reduce costs and differentiate their cloud services.

Services

The Cloud Services Management includes a set of services that are already mostly known from traditional IT Service Management:

 

  • Cloud Service Level Agreement
  • Cloud Capacity Management
  • Change Management
  • Configuration Management
  • Incident Management
  • Access Management
  • Reporting (including billing)
  • etc.

 

Quality Service ProvisionIn other words: Cloud Service Management expands the existing ITSM repertoire. It’s not the 7th wonder of the World, but a significant part of the modern IT Services Package. In short: there’s usually no point in provoking customers try managing the Cloud environment themselves. It just doesn’t pay off the effort.

 

 

 

Common Misconceptions of Cloud Services

I was participating the annual Social & Healthcare ICT Conference here in Finland on May this year. There were a large number of phenomenal speeches from heavy-duty ICT Healthcare professionals. But I also happened to hear some basic-level Misconceptions of the Cloud -related issues when speaking with Healthcare professional on the corridors.. To this end I’d like to take the chance to address ’em and provide some corrections. So here we go:

  • Data Centres? We don’t need data centres at all any more because we are using Cloud Services!
  • – Ehm.. what do You think, where’s the actual computing done, and where’s the Storage? Somewhere over the rainbow, in the Stratosphere perhaps?
  • – Seriously speaking, computing, storage services, database operations etc. are still taking place in some physical place and that is a surprise for some people.
  • We are only using Virtual Servers, we don’t need to deal with hardware servers on any level any more.
  • Yeah, right.. At the end of the day also Virtual Servers are running on physical servers and not in an empty space..
  • I can take everything to the Cloud – there’s no need for an on-premise solution whatsoever.
  • Not so fast.. Some of the computing must still happen on-premise. For example Network latency might hinder you from using an autopiloted car and that’s why the AI service must be placed somewhere in the car and not in some Cloud Environment (Data Centre) some ~10000kms away from your car.

I know, it’s so easy to laugh at people’s misunderstandings and misconceptions. Even though I listed those three examples above with a little bit of sarcastic touch on them, I definitely absolutely don’t want to laugh at anyone. Given the way in which Cloud Services are advertised nowadays, it’s not so surprising. Maybe we Service Providers could be more clear in Cloud Services advertising and communications..

 

Pictures are from Pixabay.

ITIL® & Consumerization: B2C business model

B2B vs. B2C business model?

How does the B2C business model differ from B2B model and what’s the ITIL® and ITSM point of view?

I’ll focus on two new (post-2000 era) phenomenons which are often mentioned in connection with B2C business model (later on BM): On-Demand and Pay-as-you-dosomething

On-Demand

The idea behind On-Demand services is that you basically can have your needs fulfilled whatever they are, whenever you want it, regardless of where you are. Exactly the right amount and just in time. In practice there are naturally many obstacles on the way, but that’s the basic idea.

You can now have your food delivered, you can exchange small services with your neighbours, get your car parked and see loads of your favourite movies  as you wish.

I’d still call this phase an On-Demand v1.0. You have a variety of different services available, but you

  • a) still need to use them by yourself,
  • b) one after another. There is
  • c) no integration nor
  • d) a common platform where all those different services could
  • e) provide interoperability to the users among themselves.

So at the moment you can not have your house cleaned automatically every time while going to the movies etc. unless you order the services by yourself.

I’d still call this phase an On-Demand v1.0. 

On the other hand a lot of consumers might also resist that kind of automation at least in the beginning, because it would take away the control – or feeling of it – of those little things in their everyday lives.

Pay-as-you-dosomething

I have paid for a continuous travel insurance for a few years. I used to pay for it even though I only travelled abroad for around 3-5 times a year. I stopped paying for the continuous insurance when I realized that I was actually paying for it unnecessarily; you see, I always use my credit card when paying for flights or reserving hotel accommodation and the travel insurance is a built-in feature in my credit card.

But even if I hadn’t got my credit card, I wouldn’t like to pay for a travel insurance for 24/7/365 when only traveling around ~25-35 days a year. And that IS changing rapidly thanks to those pay-as-you.. services.

I wouldn’t like to pay for a travel insurance for 24/7/365 when only traveling around ~25-35 days a year.

So now you can i.e. have your car insured with a pay-as-you-go-car-insurance. Cool! You can also have your pay-as-you-go-mobile-phone and pay-as-you-go-cloud-computing.

The main idea behind the pay-as-you-dosomething is simply put: charges are based on usage.

Payment model

In many cases, paying for On-Demand or Pay-as-you-dosomething services seems very fair: no need to pay for a three years licence if you only are using the item for a couple of months.

In reality it can also backfire you: it’s very easy to buy a number of these services, since the one-time payment is usually quite low. The downside is, that you can easily end up paying for those bills i.e. every month. For instance I have made a one-time investment and bought an Adobe Photoshop Elements 11 software + licence around three years ago for my iMac, and I can use the software as long as I want to (or can, depending on the requirements of Mac OS X operating system). I’m not interested in paying for a monthly fee for the software I only use a few times per year, neither do I need all the new features there are in the newest version(s). It’s obvious, that some people do.

The downside is, that you can easily end up paying for those bills i.e. every month.

But that’s also an example, that in many cases, pay-as-you-dosometing and on-demand services are still not minute-usage-based services but rather monthly usage based services.

ITIL & ITSM perspective in B2C business model?

While in my earlier blog texts here and here I have listed a number of reasons why ITIL should pay much more attention to the consumerization as it does nowadays, I would say that the ITSM perspective is actually not so different in B2C BM compared to the B2B BM.

Some differences surely do exist: In B2C one might have much more (end) users and thus one shall implement enough ways for the end users to communicate with the service desk (self-service tools, chat, phone numbers etc.). Also some other things are done very differently: there are no meetings on regular basis  with the customers, where different metrics would be shown and/or a prearranged agenda would be gone through. Instead, the metrics and developmental issues would most likely be available in the internet. Then on the other hand, customer feedback is just as necessary in B2C BM as in B2B BM and one should maybe put even more effort in expounding it, since there are no filters in between the end users and the service provider, and the end users are not so limited amount of people but are more like whoever.

customer feedback is just as necessary in B2C BM as in B2B BM and one should maybe put even more effort in expounding it

But from the service providers’ point of view the ITIL life cycles are there no matter if the BM is B2B or B2C: Service Strategy, Service Design, Service Transition, Service Operation and CSI – they are there. Perhaps the biggest differences happen in the Service Operation life cycle. It’s totally another thing to serve customers with devices and applications running in a standardised environment than serving end users all around the world using pretty much every single possible equipment, operating system, version, configuration etc.

It’s totally another thing to serve customers with devices and applications running in a standardised environment than serving end users all around the world using pretty much every single possible equipment, operating system, version, configuration etc. 

All in all, in B2C BM all kinds of Continual Service Improvement and Managing Over Life Cycle -related processes and functions are run primarily by the service provider itself. In B2B BM, customer tends to have at least something to say about how the supplier manages the services even they’d have totally outsourced the services. But in the B2C BM end users are usually quite scattered group of people and they lack the forum to present their ideas and requirements. Of course people can always send feedback, but that’s not the same thing as meeting the customers’ IT and/or business representatives on regular basis. And if the end users are not happy, they can always express their feelings in a social media, as was discussed in the previous blogtext..

Consumerization is shown also in the sense, that the BYOD (here: Bring Your Own Devices) is getting more and more popular, and also some previously strictly standardised environments are getting more heterogenous. That brings some elements from B2C business model to the B2B as well.

ITIL® is a Registered Trade Mark of AXELOS Limited.

ITIL® & Consumerization: what next?

In my first blogtext I wrote about ITIL® and Consumerization in general, and a friend of mine asked me to be a bit more specific and tell how exactly ITIL could take consumerization into account in the future.

While my crystal ball is currently under repair, I’m afraid I can’t make exact definitions. But I’d like to discuss about the matter anyway.

Consumer power

Most of people would probably share the opinion, that nowadays consumers have more power than ever before. Just think about the reactions from consumers regarding issues like manufacturing products by using child labor or sweatshops etc. and the companies that have had to face the accusations for those issues, i.e. Wal-Mart .

You might ask, what on Earth does ITIL have to do with this stuff?

Good question. The answer is: pretty much nothing, yet.

But than might be changing; regarding business implications “The primary impact of consumerization is that it is forcing businesses, especially large enterprises, to rethink the way they procure and manage IT equipment and services.” For more information, Click here.

B2B: Yes! B2C: ??

In ITIL there are a lot of processes, from Event Management to Problem Management and Financial Management to Supplier Management. There is also Business Relationship Management. But all the processes are more or less ideal for B2B purposes, not B2C. B2C business model is currently close to non-existent in ITIL.

B2C business model is currently close to non-existent in ITIL.

In other words, End Customer Management or Consumer Management processes don’t exist. Just for an example: Let’s say somebody just blew a major shit storm in a social media with faulty accusations causing bad publicity on you and your organization? Of course you might call your lawyer and sue the party in charge. But the damage is already done! After a few years fighting in a court of law, it’s hard to find an average consumer who still recalls the case in detail. Instead, the overall feeling (“there must’ve been something wrong with this company”) is what rules in people’s mind.

 

So how about introducing Publicity Management in ITIL? (I don’t know if that’s even possible to do in a real world, but one might give it a try and perhaps manage to minimise the damage.) My point is, that at this very moment ITIL lacks the very basic processes to take the consumers and their influence (good or bad) into account. That’s odd, because companies using ITIL are facing the need for that: “large enterprises have become increasingly dependent upon consumerized services as search, mapping, and social media”. Link: Wikipedia

My point is, that at this very moment ITIL lacks the very basic processes to take the consumers and their influence (good or bad) into account.

Summary

So, to summarize and clarify: in my opinion, ITIL still has the best guidelines and practices, and it is the best framework on how to organize things on a factory level. But there are lot of signs that consumerization is indeed an emerging megatrend and thus to keep up with everchanging world around us, ITIL needs to start pay far more attention to the end users and consumers. The way to pay more attention might be introducing new processes (Consumer Management, Publicity Management, B2C Management etc).

If that doesn’t happen, at some point there will be a new <name-it-like-you-wish>ism that does it.

 

 

ITIL® is a Registered Trade Mark of AXELOS Limited.