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What an agile IT Operations Bridge and IKEA have in common: Standardization


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I often think of IT in terms of furniture. Odd? Not really. Here’s why…

If you have ever been to an IKEA store on the weekend, you will have noticed that it is usually pretty busy. I am sure most designer furniture stores would kill for half the customers IKEA gets. Why is that? Well, IKEA is cheap and functional. Sure, some of it may not be as aesthetically pleasing, and it can take hours to assemble using pretty lousy instruction sheets, but if all you are concerned about is functionality, it works.

So how does IKEA remain so cheap and functional? Simple—it uses a limited, finite set of standard configurations. You don’t get to choose the color or the number of shelves or the shape of the handles. Yet this doesn’t seem to bother the people who shop there. Moreover, when you buy an item, you take it home then and there, and by late afternoon it is installed (if all goes well). On the other hand, the custom-made leather sofa might look really nice, but could take 3 weeks to deliver.

The world of IT seems to be the exact opposite: Everyone thinks they are special and everyone wants a custom job. The problem with that is that you can’t have it both ways—you can’t ask for a tailored solution and expect IT to be cheap and nimble at the same time. The only way IT can be cheap and nimble is with automation, and the only way you can automate is if you have a limited, finite set of standard configurations.


Standardization is the second step toward an agile IT Operations Bridge

I have previously written about the Agile Operations Bridge and our 3-step approach, starting with Organize. Organizing is really just a stepping stone to standardizing.

In the “Standardize” step we build on the work done previously and focus on 3 main activities:

  1. Define the authoritative sources (i.e. monitoring tools) for the information we identify as required
  2. Determine how data from these sources will be collected, aggregated, and integrated
  3. Establish standards for information presentation, monitoring, owners and consumers. This can be a set of monitoring templates or a set of reports that are provided by default

This will immediately provide clear decision-making criteria that will allow you to consolidate tools. Monitoring tool proliferation is arguably the #1 bane of the monitoring team. Too many tools means too much money spent on licenses and maintaining a wide set of skills and a large number of bespoke integrations. Reducing complexity will yield immediate benefits.

This will not be easy, since—for some reason—IT pros become quite attached to their toolset. But you need to turn the conversation from being about technology to being about functionality. Remember IKEA? The discussion should center on what data and capabilities are required to do the job. It is quite possible that the DBAs need to know every possible parameter of a database in order to troubleshoot an issue, but this should not mean this data is generally needed. 


The benefits of standardization

The main benefits are cost and agility. With a well-defined set of standards, you only need to collect requirements on an exception basis, giving you a head start on implementation. You are also giving yourself a bargaining chip—sure, you could have the custom leather sofa option, but that will cost more and take longer. When stakeholders hear this, they’ll think twice about asking for the custom job. If every job is custom, you can’t take this position.

But it gets even better. When you have monitoring standards, you can automate much of your monitoring implementation. I will be describing this in the next post, which will be the last in this series. This is where all the pre-work pays off.


Watch this video for more about the HPE Agile Operations Bridge service.


Miron Mizrahi is WW Solution Marketing Lead of Cloud, Converged Security, and IT Operations at Hewlett Packard Enterprise Software Services. Follow him on Twitter at @MironMizrahiHPE.


Related Links:

HPE Business Service Management services

HPE Agile Operations Bridge

Why your IT Operations Bridge holds the keys to increasing velocity

Organization is the first step toward an agile IT Operations Bridge


About the Author


Jared Hanson

I enjoyed this article.  I believe that having options are great to choose from, but having the options standardization will make it easier for the consumer and the business.  Not only for products but as the services as well.


Great Article!! Agree with all the benefits that can be archived through standardization. However it is one of the hardest challenge in large IT operation environments as various support teams and stakeholders have different level of requirements.


Great article

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