Zen & The Art Of Service-Oriented IT - InformationWeek

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Michael Biddick
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Zen & The Art Of Service-Oriented IT

For IT, public cloud providers pose stiff competition. You must compete on quality.

Everyone knows IT needs to evolve from sole service provider to service strategist. Get the mix right to deliver some of what the business needs internally, some using external cloud and non-cloud providers. It's a no-brainer, right?

Well, no. The latest InformationWeek Services-Oriented IT Survey of more than 400 business technology professionals found a gap between those who embrace the concept and those still dragging their feet. Maybe that's because efforts are out of balance. In my view, to do IT-as-a-service well, CIOs must keep process, technology, and cultural aspects in equilibrium.

In my work I see ITaaS having positive long-term effects on IT governance, cost transparency, and alignment with corporate strategy. Leaders have the visibility to make smart investments, as I'll discuss next week at Interop in a session on managing applications in a hybrid environment.

ITaaS is not plug-and-play, and you can't buy it from a consultant. It takes a long-term commitment, and unless the organization is open to change, it will fail. But here's why you need to get on board: The competition from public cloud services is stiff, with Amazon and Google in a race to slash prices and boost functionality.

How are you going to compete? On quality.

Let's look at the three elements of ITaaS.

The process
I have seen far too many dusty ITaaS planning documents sitting on bookshelves. Yes, there are a lot of elements involved with IT-as-a-service, but don't spend too much time trying to anticipate all possible eventualities. Bureaucracy is your enemy, and over-planning will kill the project's momentum. Aim for quick wins that have an immediate impact. I recommend change or incident management -- two areas that are usually in dire need of attention. Are you mainly reactive now? Focus on changing that. Whatever your early goals, work to keep energy and excitement levels up, and stay flexible.

Set realistic progress milestones. Don't bite off too much; it's far better to show incremental progress with deliverables in 90 days or less.

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What are some key performance indicators that will prove success? If you have baseline metrics to illustrate the time and effort certain services take to deliver, these are great starting points. If you don't have this data, get it. Visibility into the metrics that matter will build your case for continual improvement, because management can see the impact of changes as they occur.

Consider formal quality management standards. With the rapid changes in technology and security, no modern IT organization can function without them. It's also critical to have a process for collecting metrics and user feedback regularly, and reporting results to the business.

The more transparency, the better.

The technology
You may need to buy software to track changes, problems, and incidents. Spend the money, because without these tools, success will be limited.

Collect your technical and business service catalogues in a portfolio that spells out business use cases, cost information, and demand expectations. Customers use the business service catalogue to order and track the status of service requests. Just as with online shopping, they can select and bundle IT services and see how long it will take to receive them and what they cost, whether you charge back or not.

The technical service catalogue includes the infrastructure components that make up each service. With this information, IT has the ability to manage and report from the technical and customer perspectives.

Among respondents pursuing ITaaS, bureaucracy is by far the biggest problem.
Among respondents pursuing ITaaS, bureaucracy is by far the biggest problem.

While the customer-facing service catalogue could be a static intranet page, a genuinely interactive catalogue provides more satisfaction for users trying to get a handle on the provisioning and cost of their services. Look at it this way: Cloud providers offer very functional catalogues of services. If you want your internal offerings to be considered on an equal footing, look into products like those from Ostrato, Jamcracker, and Nephos that offer consolidated storefronts.

Service desk, application performance management, and configuration management database (CMDB) systems are also important, but everything should start with the catalogue.

Successful ITaaS initiatives automate as much as humanly possible. If a process can't be automated, at least automate enforcement and compliance to ensure that the right checks and balances exist. I recently saw a cumbersome provisioning process to get new lab hardware set up go from three days to four hours thanks to automation.

The culture
IT-as-a-service affects multiple groups, and without consensus, the initiative will fail. It can't be a backroom deal made at a high level and then dropped on affected parties. Resistance from one group or even a single individual can derail progress. Don't let it get that far.

Identify naysayers and address concerns -- to a point. I have seen organizations that try and build too much consensus and work to get buy-in from people who will never agree. Sometimes leaders need to make tough choices.

I've also seen companies spend a substantial sum to train their staff to be more "service-centric," but then get frustrated when people did not change right away. If you do decide to hire a training provider, choose carefully and work with the provider to customize the content and make it specific to your organization. This is more time-consuming for the provider, whose business is driven by cookie-cutter classes, but it's critical to cover some specific use cases and work through scenarios in your organization.

The customer-centric culture must permeate the entire IT group. I promise you that user satisfaction levels are a lot higher in IT organizations that are service-based. The IT staffs in these organizations have higher morale and a better blend of technical and soft skills. They feel like their lives are less chaotic, and they're able to be more responsive to user needs.

Sure, it sounds crunchy. But everyone's happier, and that's a fact.

Engage with Oracle president Mark Hurd, NFL CIO Michelle McKenna-Doyle, General Motors CIO Randy Mott, Box founder Aaron Levie, UPMC CIO Dan Drawbaugh, GE Power CIO Jim Fowler, and other leaders of the Digital Business movement at the InformationWeek Conference and Elite 100 Awards Ceremony, to be held in conjunction with Interop in Las Vegas, March 31 to April 1, 2014. See the full agenda here.

As CEO of Fusion PPT, Michael Biddick is responsible for overall quality and innovation. Over the past 15 years, Michael has worked with hundreds of government and international commercial organizations, leveraging his unique blend of deep technology experience coupled with ... View Full Bio

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User Rank: Apprentice
4/2/2014 | 4:12:07 PM
Practicalities of ITaaS
Good article on the practicalities of implementing ITaaS, and appreciate the Jamcracker mention wrt enablement tools.  The key challenge for IT in adopting ITaaS is that it requires a different IT business model to do it effectively.  While the advent of cloud is certainly a key enabler in implementing ITaaS (or what Gartner refers to as "Real-time IT"), it is not a panacea -- i.e. spinning up a private or hybrid cloud environment is NOT ITaaS.  ITaaS is more about automating the complete supply-to-demand chain of how internal and external services (IaaS, SaaS, XaaS, and virtualized workloads) are sourced, managed and delivered to their business end-users.  

As an example, many companies have embarked on setting up private IaaS clouds, generally as an extension of their existing virtualization environment, but the end-users are typically Dev/Ops types vs. actual business users.  End-users want solutions, not infrastructure services, and until IT can automate the end-to-end process regarding how application services are deployed, managed and delivered in a cohesive manner -- business users will continue to bypass IT when able and source services directly from external cloud/SaaS providers (thus continuing the build-up of 'Shadow IT').

Making the transition to cloud-enabled ITaaS requires a different IT business model where IT acts as both an application service provider (i.e. proprietary or mission-critical apps deployed on their own private or hybrid cloud) as well as an aggregator of external cloud/SaaS offerings (e.g. MSFT Office 365, SalesForce and other biz app services).  This is step one, after which cloud delivery and management tools such as what Jamcracker provides can serve as a means to automate the sourcing-management-governance-consumption-chargeback lifecycle processes.
User Rank: Author
3/28/2014 | 5:35:57 PM
Re: Your next IT job may be with a service provider
Doug you make a great added point to Michael's piece.  The interesting challenge organizations are going to face is how to transition their talent: Enterprise IT staffs will need to become experts in specifying, acquiring, and monitoring  IT services -- rather than in buying/developing/running IT. Enterprises will still need talent to bridge to IT services, but wil likely need fewer individuals with tradtional IT skill sets to build/maintain IT systems on premises. In essence they'll need to become more expert at consuming IT than pushing out IT.  The fact that Amazon beat out IBM for a $600 million CIA contract last year also says alot about how the IT landscape has already changed, and how IT jobs are likely to change as well.

D. Henschen
D. Henschen,
User Rank: Author
3/28/2014 | 4:13:51 PM
Your next IT job may be with a service provider
I like Michael's perspective on IT having to compete with the likes of AWS and viewing IT's new role as a service strategist. People moan about cloud providers and the elimination to IT jobs, but those positions are moving to the back rooms of all the new cloud infrastructure, platform and service providers. And these cloud providers have to do things more efficiently at high scale. This has been the long-term direction in every industry, so why should IT be any different? Think of it as IT meeting big-box-retailer scales of economy.
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