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Big Data and how to win the relay race with IT4IT

MironMizrahi

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Full throttle in neutral

Many countries struggle with economic growth. Many people struggle with personal growth. Data growth, however, does not seem to be a problem. I don’t know how analysts estimate existing or predict future data volumes, but the forecast is not pretty. Data volumes are set to soar for the foreseeable future. But there is a silver lining here as Big Data solutions now allow businesses to gain unprecedented insight from the mountains of data available to them. Businesses can now mine data not just from their own interaction systems (e.g. their website), but also from social media and even from previously unimaginable sources. With sophisticated analytics they can drive business decisions – sometimes in real time. A recent analyst paper I read described how a telecom company combined customer records, geospatial analysis, and train scheduling data to identify which of their customer would be more likely to buy profitable international data plans. But this is where it all grinds to a halt. While the business can now make decisions quickly, IT is unable to keep pace and help the business turn all this insight into innovation. It’s like going full-throttle in your car while it is still in neutral gear.

 

IT and the 4x100m relay

If you ever watched the 4x100m relay race in the Olympics, you would know that it is a carefully choreographed activity. The slightest misstep, the smallest timing error usually means the difference between winning and losing. The team spends countless hours perfecting and optimizing their running and handoffs to give themselves the best shot at winning. This is, in my view, a great parallel to the world of IT. Just like the four runners in a relay team work together to get the baton from the starting to the finish line, IT is a value chain: a set of processes, which through a series of handoffs, gets an idea from inception to business value. However, unlike a relay race, IT is not carefully choreographed, nor is it optimized. Most IT organizations take weeks and months – sometimes years – to get an idea to fruition. Why is DevOps not producing the agility it promises? Because most IT organizations optimized the “Dev” part but not the “Ops” part. And like a relay race, having one Usain Bolt and three subpar runners is not a recipe for success. Relay racing, like IT, is a team sport. So how can IT optimize itself to become a champion relay team?

 

IT4IT

The biggest hurdle lies with the fact that, to many CIOs, IT is a black box, and it is next to impossible to optimize a black box. Now, I am not suggesting CIOs don’t know what IT does, only that they don’t have a cohesive, holistic model of how it works. You can’t optimize someone’s running based only on the knowledge that running means rapidly putting one foot in front of the other. You need to understand biomechanics. Similarly, CIOs need a white box IT. CIOs need a way to define how ideas become real in the world of IT, in other words, they need to define the IT reference architecture. In a relay race you know exactly how the baton is going to travel to the finish line, so once you pick the runner all that is left is to map out who does what and how they will hand the baton over. The same is needed in an IT context. The good news is that we don’t need to reinvent the wheel. IT has been around for decades so we don’t need to define what it needs to do, only how it needs to do it. Like any such process you start with the high level and work your way to the details. At HP Software Professional Service, we’ve done just that. We worked with our products unit and a select group of customers to define what we call IT4IT. It defines four value streams through which IT turns ideas into reality:

  1. Strategy to Portfolio - Drive IT portfolio to business innovation
  2. Requirement to Deploy - Build what the business wants, when it wants it
  3. Request to Fulfil - Catalog, fulfill, and manage services and track usage
  4. Detect to Correct - Anticipate and resolve service issues

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We then took the next step and defined what capabilities are contained within each stream and how they all interact with each other. For example, this is what “Strategy to Portfolio” looks like.

 

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So now, IT has a blueprint of how it goes from idea to business value. The four runners have been picked so IT can now start to map out how it will optimize itself and help drive business agility.

 

My next blog will describe what this optimization process looks like.

 

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MironMizrahi

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