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Three steps to optimizing IT

MironMizrahi

In my previous blog, I discussed how Big Data is enabling the business to make decision quickly but IT is not agile enough to translate these decisions and ideas to business value. I then introduced the concept of IT4IT and how it can help IT optimize itself. In this blog I would like to cover how IT4IT can be used to optimize IT.

 

Automation is key! Yes, but …

There is a prevailing notion that optimization is all about automation. Drop some technology in, automate some stuff and all your worries will disappear. Automation is indeed crucial to IT optimization, but by itself it is a blunt instrument that quite often makes worse the exact problem it aims to fix.

I used DevOps as an example in my last blog so I’ll stick to it. Driven by the Agile movement and through automation approaches like Continuous Integration and Continuous Testing, application developers can now release code faster. However this does not necessarily translate to users having access to the new features faster, because IT Operations have not caught up. So not only are users not getting the benefit, development is accumulating a backlog of code which is essentially IT debt. It is like a supermarket that orders more goods than what it sells, creating an inventory problem.

 

A champion team or a team of champions?

Don Reinertsen, an eminent product development guru, said in his book The Principles of Product Development Flow that “there is more value created with overall alignment than local excellence”. I like to say that “local optimization leads to systemic waste”. Yes, you can cut code faster but what good is it unless you can deploy it faster? If you think of IT as a value chain that takes ideas and turns them into business value you begin to realize that there is no point in having more capacity than an upstream step can consume or creating more output than a downstream step can process. All steps in the value chain need to align to gain the maximum benefit from optimization.

I can’t think of a better example of the reality of this principle than this vintage video.

So how do you align all the moving pieces in IT? The IT4IT reference architecture provides an excellent vehicle for this alignment. It allows all the IT functions to understand the role they – and every other function - play in service and value delivery, how they interact and the associated handoffs. When you look at the whole value chain it is much easier to identify your misalignments and bottlenecks - your first targets for optimization.

IT4IT also serves another key purpose. It helps the organization align on goals. A developer’s goal is to cut code as fast as possible and an IT administrator’s goal is to minimize changes in the environment. They both do a great job; they are a team of champions. But if the goal is to increase business agility (which it is, or at least should be) they have failed in their mission, because they have conflicting goals. No championship trophy for them.

 

A mother’s work is never done

So let’s say that you fixed something and now you can execute a specific step faster. Guess what? A new bottleneck will reveal itself, and then another and so on. Optimization is about continuous improvement and you can never rest on your laurels. Data crunching used to be a bottleneck and computing fixed that. Now we create so much data with our computing power that it is a bottleneck again.

The theory of constrains is a useful paradigm to adopt. It works for manufacturing, logistics and even sales. So why not IT?

 

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Thing BIG, start small

It is great to have vision, but you need to start somewhere. Ask yourself 3 questions:

  1. What is my IT business goal?
  2. Where is my biggest pain?
  3. What IT4IT value chain should I attack first?

Once you have the answers to these questions, approach it gradually. Start by automating tasks. This can be provisioning servers or making configuration changes to the network. Then automate processes, like provisioning an entire environment or change request fulfillment. Then transform your service delivery. Where it makes sense, offer your users self-service so that you don’t need to be the bottleneck. Cloud offers great options for service delivery transformation, and I will address this topic in my next blog.

Want to read more? Check out “From futile to agile - How IT can become agile and avoid optimizing itself into oblivion”.

 

  • IT Strategy and Leadership
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MironMizrahi

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