With the topic of healthcare reform receiving much continued spirited debate, it’s time we turn to another area needing a new approach (and hopefully stimulating interesting debate in terms of approaches). We need to rethink how we manage the “health” of IT. It may in fact require some drastic “medicine” but in the long run the goal is to make IT service delivery not only more efficient, but effective.
Now, how did I get to this point? While some of my earlier posts have discussed issues with current IT operations tools and/or culture with respect to the support of emerging technology environments, it was my research over the past nine months trying to better understand how the major public cloud vendors deliver their products which ultimately convinced me of the need for a radically new approach for enterprise IT delivery. Adding to the chorus suggesting a change is needed is some of our own data here at Gartner showing that the IT process evolution is not maturing as rapidly as perhaps we would have thought (clients should refer to “The Current State of IT Infrastructure and Operations Maturity: Immature!”). At the end of the day, I believe that it is no longer tenable to simply layer an increasingly complex operations management tool, organization and process infrastructure on top of an already complex software and hardware foundation and to expect satisfying results. Management vendors that continue to think in this vein will I think face an increasingly critical challenge from IT technology suppliers that are not trapped in this conventional wisdom.
During this time, I’ve also managed to read the writings of some of those that have also been advocating for a new way of providing IT services. While I won’t say that I’m always in agreement, they often provide some unique perspectives so a hat tip needs to go out to (among others):
- The Agile Executive
- Outside-in Service Management
- John Allspaw’s blog
- James Hamilton’s blog
- Roger Sessions’ ObjectWatch
- And even the IT Skeptic who may look positively optimistic by the time we are finished with this discussion
IT “reform” today is being couched with terms such as devops, agile operations, agile infrastructure, Lean IT as well as others that perhaps I’m not aware of. Their meanings are in many cases are still being defined, but semantics aside, at the heart of these initiatives are suggestions for taking a new look at how the operations (and even development) side of the IT equation needs to be re-constructed. The principles embodied in the agile manifesto originally conceived to improve software development seem to permeate many of the thought processes in this area although there is some disagreement of its applicability in an IT operations context. I like the agile construct though because it is focused first and foremost on people (i.e., individuals and interactions over processes and tools) who at the end of the day are the most valuable components within the IT service delivery system.
We have spent the better part of the past decade focusing on process effectiveness, when perhaps in hindsight, we should have spent more time focusing on listening to our employees – systems administrators, system engineers, console operators, application support teams, i.e., the people often on the front line in the IT operations war room. The industry is abuzz with the lack of enterprise IT innovation, but we may have only ourselves to blame because we have seemingly “dumbed down” many of our key personnel by making them fit into one of the many ITIL-like process “boxes” rather than letting them collectively develop a better solution – as many of the major cloud vendors do using approaches such as Amazon’s “two pizza” teams, etc. We have often given voice to the be rid of the “fireman” mentality even though it is likely that individual that probably can find a better way to do whatever it is to be done. The “hacker” mantra is alive and well in the agile development world but within IT operations we shy away from this because it is potentially too disruptive (think change management). But that’s where an effective infrastructure design comes in to play providing a synergistic base to an agile organization. I’m not saying to do away with operations processes in a wholesale fashion, but rather be more selective in which ones will provide the highest value and focus on optimizing these (significantly fewer) disciplines. I’ll be blogging more on this concept (which I am referring to as XOps internally) over the next few months as well as developing Gartner-oriented research for our clients. Look for the first presentation on this topic at our upcoming Infrastructure Operations and Management Conference in Orlando in June.
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