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IT value chain: The roles of cloud and automation in business differentiation


Cloud and Automation.pngCloud and automation impact the delivery of three elements of the IT value chain. To refresh everyone's memory, the IT Value value Chain chain describes how IT assembles its activities and technology to provide its business differentiation. The first intersection point for cloud and automation in the IT Value value Chain chain is the “requirement to deploy” value stream. This stream is about delivering new strategic demand that meets business requirements, as well as creating and delivering against standardized release packages. Cloud and automation touch this by enabling these release packages to be automated, enforced, changed/patched and, where appropriate, procured internally or externally. The second intersection point is the “request to fulfill” value stream. This stream is concerned with fulfilling standardized operational demand from a catalog. Where existing infrastructure services need to be provisioned, cloud and automation are leveraged. Finally, cloud and automation intersect the “detect to correct” value stream when an event or incident takes place and one of the following is needed: 1) additional capacity; 2) configuration management or change; or 3) automated script deployment to fix a known problem. With the intersection points covered, let’s look at the goals associated with cloud and automation for each of these value streams, and the relevant measures for managing these goals.


What are cloud and automation goals for the value streams?

For “requirement to deploy” value stream, a big focus is reducing business risk and the time to value. Cloud and automation help the latter by providing self-service capability along with repeatable, reliable deployment of common components as well as bespoke applications thus reducing the TTV of services. Without question, a key element of this is making sure that projects/programs are built from standardized release packages. Significant business risk is minimized when development release packages are identical to production release packages. This maximizes the likelihood of a production implementation success—something that can be measured. This can increase the likelihood that a proposed solution also meets nonfunctional business requirements including availability, service level and response time.


Cloud and automation also have major roles in the “request to fulfill” value stream. This stream is about improving IT’s responsiveness to its customers. Within this value stream, the goal is to ensure that items within the IT catalog are handled appropriately with service level and business policy. To fulfill these requests appropriately, they must be handled in alignment with IT governance and compliance, and must be processed according to IT policies. At the same time, change requests need to be completed in a timely fashion with minimal errors—let me dare add, consistently. Cloud and automation play a big role in making this a reality. Within the fulfillment process, not only should configuration items acquired be added to the configuration management databases accurately, but also their configuration should comply with enterprise architecture and industry standards. This reduces future maintenance time and mean time to repair while maximizing the mean time between failures.


Once services and infrastructure have been deployed to production, within the “detect to correct” value stream we want to ensure operational activities run efficiently with the least amount of effort and time and effectively with the best possible business outcome. Improving both of these requires IT organizations to automate their ability to drive compliance against IT standards and policies. This is particularly important with configuration management. As a part of this, when an event is triggered or an incident is declared, an appropriate automated response must follow. This way, performance issues are resolved routinely. Automation plays a big role in making configuration management, diagnostics and remediation possible. Where change is invoked in fixing something, you want minimal errors to be created on top of the offending issue—automation is a game-changer here. Finally, the goal should be to run operations securely. This means operations run in accordance with security policy and standards—this requires automation against standards regardless of whose cloud is being used. By this, we mean that automation pushes infrastructure to a well defined and managed standard.


How to measure the quality of cloud and automation across the IT value chain

Cloud and automation enable the tracking of a number of key performance indicators (KPIs) and metrics that can be used to measure performance across all three value streams.


With “requirement to deploy” value stream, we want to see the percentage of projects that are on time and on budget increase over time. Standardization and automation reduce the amount of time to implement. And cloud reduces the cost of bringing up and testing a new application or piece of software. Together, these establish better predictability.

For “request to fulfill” value stream, we want to measure and manage predictability in managing requests against service-level agreements (SLAs) for consumers or business users. IT should be working to minimize the average time to respond to a request for operational demand. IT should be working to make changes, as a request type, error-free. With automation, we should be seeing an increase in the change success rate and a reduction in the percentage of changes resulting in outages.


Finally, for “detect to correct” value stream, you should measure configuration by the following two KPIs: 1) the number of deviations between the configuration repository and live configuration; and 2) the number of discrepancies relating to incomplete or missing configuration information. With automation and policies, these should be going down over time. And to view security proactively, you should look at the average time to run a policy check and the mean time to recover from non-compliance. These KPIs tell you if infrastructure is being driven to standards, which, in turn, prevents downtime and eliminates a source of security vulnerability.


Where do you go from here?

Start where you derive the most improvement in business performance. Often real improvement can simply involve taking the step to automation—there are multiple places to start here. Regardless of where you start, be sure to measure performance against concrete goals to drive real improvement.


Related links: IT value chain: The request to fulfill value stream

Value streams: A user-centric model for the enterprise CIO

The complete, unabridged secret to managing the IT Value Chain

Article: Finding your true value

Ebook: Value streams: A user-centric model for the enterprise CIO

Solution page: IT Performance Management

Twitter: @MylesSuer

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About the Author


Mr. Suer is a senior manager for IT Performance Management. Prior to this role, Mr. Suer headed IT Performance Management Analytics Product Management including IT Financial Management and Executive Scorecard.

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