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

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.