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 Services – the Business perspective

Cloud Services have rushed into the markets relatively rapidly. It’s only been a little more than 10 years ago when we first learnt about the cloud computing.

Cloud computing – where do we stand today?

Last year
(2016) the Cloud computing revenues jumped 25%, and the year 2016 was the first in which cloud computing started to dominate many IT market segments according to GeekWire’s article. In addition to that, Operator and vendor revenue for six segments of cloud computing reached $148 billion during that period, so it’s safe to say Cloud computing is totally mainstream today.

Operator and vendor revenue for six segments of cloud computing reached $148 billion

We all know the recent history of data centers emerging and customers buying monthly-basis fixed priced data computing volume, in volumes. Some customers even ended up building their own data centers instead of using the IT providers’ data centers.

skyscraper-90560_640

 Cloud computing vs. Data Centers

Today there’s an ongoing battle between the Cloud computing vs. Data Centers. I’ve seen many articles addressing the issue, for example Atlantech’s blog has a pretty good, albeit short, comparison between the Private Cloud and Data Center, written by Tom Collins (any relationships between him and the famous cocktail drink are unknown to me! 🙂 )

Cloud Services – the Business perspective

Having said that, I just can’t get over it, that in my opinion most of the above mentioned comparisons seem to lack something. Yes sir/ma’am, you’ve got a number of rows of text explaining the difference between the choices, and features are been unwrapped in tiniest details. But often these comparisons lack the true Business perspective of Cloud computing! Instead of listing the features and differences, one should try to see the world through the customers’, the business’ point of view. And that’s where I’m putting my 20 cents now.

these comparisons lack the true Business perspective of Cloud computing

The business is just so easy: buy low, sell high. Or, produce something (goods, services, whatever) people desperately want or need. The key question is: How can Cloud computing help make me more successful in my business operations?

Business wants answers to the right questions

What the business really needs is for example:

  • Cost efficiency: Business is willing to pay, but only for the time period the business requires, and only the required amount (+ perhaps a little bit more than that, just in case) of services, like computing power, storage, network connections etc.
  • Just in time: Business needs the services right on time! Not two months ahead and most certainly not two weeks, let alone months, too late.
  • Easy buying: transparent pricing, klick-to-buy (limited amount of ready-made choices or _very_ user-friendly configurator tool).
  • Scalability: during the night-time there is might be less usage than during the daytime, and when getting a number of new users to the system, it should be possible scale the platform up very easily.
  • Continual improvement and development: there should be tools available to support the r&d of the system, when necessary.

businessmen-2010021_640

These are only a few key factors that the business is looking after when thinking about Cloud computing. Of course there are other factors as well, like user accessibility, security issues, multi-site data replication and so on.

Oh yes, the recommendations!

Now, I never do this, I have never done that before – but I’m about to do it. Do what? Give recommendation! And guess what? I’m going to recommend the Cloud services of my employer, Fujitsu Ltd! This probably ruins my credibility, but as of today, 2nd of February 2017, I’m confident that Fujitsu’s Enterprise Cloud Service K5 is the best Cloud based solution available in the world! Simple as that.

Hyping up the K5 – seriously

No, I’m not getting paid for advertising my employer’s stuff. I just stand behind my opinion, that the Fujitsu K5 meets all the Business requirements I listed above: thoroughly transparent, hour-based pricing, getting the Cloud computing up’n’ running in a few minutes*, ready-made computing packages that are easy to configure, very good scalability options, supports OpenStack and offers an application execution environment service based on the open source Cloud Foundry.

* Means that if you want to run the K5 Cloud in parallel or as part of your own data center’s internal network, then of course it takes more time than a few minutes, but it’s also up to other actors than the K5 itself.

Imagine what you can do, if you are developing software on open source tools, use PostgreSQL, and would like to pay for only the amount of computing power and storage you really need, for only the time-period you need. In K5 you can find support for your sw development and DevOps, yet there’s support for OpenStack, VMWare and Bare Metal. So it’s fare to say you really got options.

Imagine what you can do

Of course it’s not always possible to do that, as quite many enterprises are using Oracle of Microsoft databases and end up paying for millions of €uros to these bloodsuckers I mean distinguished IT companies yearly. Sometimes it might make sense to start thinking of converting the databases towards more cost efficient db solutions.

It’s about a time to change. Why not?

Personally I have, from time to time, given a thought to why do so many enterprises really pay carriages of money to these distinguished IT companies. I’ve only figured out two reasons:

  • “We have always done that” -> that is of course the most rock solid explanation. Why change anything, ever?
  • “No one has ever got fired for recommending IBM” -> this was the key guideline to all the investment bankers during the ‘70s and ‘80s, and is still occasionally a good emergency fake.

To the end I’d say: take a chance! If not anything else, you might find yourself saving loads of money in terms of licence costs.

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

ITIL® describes the best practices, fancy processes, neat functions etc. But have you ever been wondering why do we actually run the IT Service Management? To our customers of course, you might say. And you’re right! But then again..

..who are the customers?

ITIL defines the following:

a Customer is someone who buys IT services

a Customer of an IT service provider is the person or group who defines and agrees the service level targets.

(Link)

 

But there’s more than that.

 

Let’s say you are a CIO of a worldwide multi-billion dollar company, which produces machinery, tools & equipment to the oil industry. Now, you want to get to know your customer better in order to be able to serve them better – and perhaps to gain some more revenue? Now, is your customer

  • the business department of your company?
  • a buyer or maybe a CEO of your customer company (i.e. oil pumping corporation) – or something in between the two?
  • someone at a customer’s customer company (i.e. crude oil refinery company)?
  • an average-Joe/Mary who fills the tank of his/her car and thus consumes the oil that’s drilled by using the equipment your company has produced, thanks to the ICT-systems your department is responsible of?

Think about this for just a second and then compare your opinion with the definitions of ITIL. What’s the outcome?

 

I was talking to my colleague the other day and she was addressing this dilemma. But why would this be important? ITIL was never meant to be the holy book for consumers but the Information Technology Infrastructure Library.

Manufacturing different kind of gadgets and devices, producing whatever services to various organizations, managing supply chains and all that stuff has become more and more transparent in this modern era of consumerization.

Take any Fortune Global 500 company and discuss with their IT department. My claim is that you won’t find any company on that list where the IT department would merely be serving the business operations without giving a thought to the end customer, or customer’s customer.

The IT department must provide value to the business and continually keep looking for the combination of A-1 and cost-effective solutions. Knowing and understanding the customer’s (and end customers’) domain is essential in that endeavor. Let’s turn the idea upside down: if you don’t know your industry, your customers, the common legal statuses etc., how are you going to be able to provide excellent ICT-services to the business?

My claim is that you won’t find any company on that list where the IT department would merely be serving the business operations without giving a thought to the end customer, or customer’s customer.

So even though the ITIL is not going to be competing with the most popular paperbacks in the iBookstore any time soon, I wouldn’t be too surprised if the ITIL would face the need to somehow take consumerization into account in a foreseeable future. Whether we like it or not, consumerization as a phenomenon is here, and it’s changing the rules for its part.

Now, if you still remember what you thought about who was the customer in the example, you see what I mean. ITIL has not much to do with the consumers. Yet.

ITIL® is a Registered Trade Mark of AXELOS Limited.