Discover PerformanceHP Software's community for IT leaders // January 2014
Ops/business alignment: The next frontier
Processes are efficient. Ops and apps are working better together. Now it’s time for ops to focus on its relationship with the business before the LOBs cut ops out of the picture.
A critical phase of IT transformation is optimization between ops and apps. But IT departments that have put in the time to fine-tune the nuts and bolts of the delivery processes are now shifting their gaze to lines of business. After all, the business is where ops gets its mandate, and in a user-driven era, IT is under more pressure than ever to align everything to business value. When that alignment isn’t there, the business can look to outsourcing with third-party cloud providers.
We spoke with Louise Ng, worldwide CTO for Cloud Hybrid Delivery with HP Software Professional Services, about the challenges that ops teams face in 2014 and beyond—and how ops can continue to pivot from the old style of IT to the new.
Q: We’ve been talking about the transformation to a service-oriented IT department for a while. How is that conversation changing today?
Louise Ng: In the past, enterprise transformations were focused on one side of IT: either apps or ops. The focus was on their processes. But over the last couple of years, it’s shifting. There’s an expectation that those processes are already optimized, and more of our conversations are now about speed to market and meeting LOB demands. They’re not thinking about their efficiency and IT change management or developing applications, they’re thinking about “How do I deliver the service faster?” and “How do I make it consumable so a customer can get it on demand?”
Q: What’s changing those conversations?
LN: I think there’s great pressure coming to IT from the business to speed things up. IT, in turn, is pushing third-party services organizations to react faster, too. So that leads me to believe that IT is trying to retain their relationship with the business, and the way to do that is to turn the crank faster and hurry it up to meet the expected service levels that help the business meet its goals. I really don’t think that IT is initiating it as much as the business is pushing for it. And if IT doesn’t continue to support the organization effectively and quickly, then they will be replaced by a service provider that will.
Q: We often hear experts telling IT that they have a choice in how to respond to these demands. Is that an empowering statement about their many options for service delivery? Or is it a warning that they have to figure this out, or become irrelevant?
LN: I’m starting to believe it’s the latter, based on what we’re seeing in large enterprises. Analysts have been saying that the business is going to make its own decisions regarding service delivery, and we’re starting to see that. So the IT enterprise has a choice to get onboard or get left behind.
Now, IT can make the choice that it’s more effective to buy cloud services and become a broker instead of a builder of cloud services. But they still have a job in governing and managing service delivery. So IT needs to embrace the idea of working with their customers in the LOBs to develop true service definitions. They have to understand the service lifecycle and lose the notion that they just have a bunch of IT domains to support a bunch of applications.
That means that they know how to define services for their consumers, their business customers. Then, after they build it themselves or buy it, they have to manage it to the service owner’s expectations. That’s something that we just haven’t seen in the last 10 or 20 years. Service catalogues have been very immature, and now they’ve not only got to be sexy, and visible, and graphic, and interactive, and all those things that we see today with the mobile applications on our phones, but they also need to be secure, measurable, and manageable.
Q: We’ve often talked about the need for IT to speak the language of the business in this new world. What’s the biggest challenge there?
LN: There’s some stress right now because IT doesn’t know all the right questions to ask. Ops and apps, traditionally, haven’t had these conversations with the LOB owner. So business relationship management and business analysts are becoming more important. We saw this in the late ’80s and the early ’90s—a waterfall approach to service lifecycle, where you’d have a business relationship manager designing what they want and coming up with a huge list of requirements. Then the Agile method came into play, and that became the responsibility of the application lifecycle developer. Now we’re seeing it shift back: the service owner is someone in the LOB. They may not have the language to talk to the technology team, so we’re seeing a gap in interpreting business mission and goals to IT service delivery as we bring all the right players together to design that end-to-end service lifecycle expectation.
Q: What can ops leaders do now to alleviate some of that stress?
LN: I think operations really needs to embrace the idea of service lifecycle, and they need to rationalize their relationships with their LOB owners, but they need to do that through the application team. They need to get acquainted with their service/application owners and the expected service levels, and talk about those in business terms for the end-to-end service lifecycle. They need to look at all the components together that keep the service running in a healthy state. So it’s not individual infrastructure pieces like servers that need to be provisioned or a database that needs to be stood up, but it’s service packages that need to be built, and those packages need to be made available for consumption at any time, on demand. All of the ops domains need to work together on the same timeline, in an automated and orchestrated way.
Q: How does IT teach its people to speak that language?
LN: This is a shift, no doubt about it. IT will need to establish a focus on their consumers—the LOBs. This is an enterprise change, not just IT. The idea of a “service owner” is new in many enterprises, most of which think in terms of application owners instead of true service owners. There should be a communication and education plan around service lifecycle management, if that concept doesn’t already exist in the enterprise. This is more formally driven through a management of change function to support the adjustment in roles and responsibilities, and culture direction changing.
IT has always delivered service and supported the enterprise through its execution of standard operations and applications processes. In fact, each of the standard IT service management functional processes can be considered to be a service that has a service lifecycle. The reality of end-to-end service lifecycle management has varying degrees of maturity in most IT enterprises today.
For the “services-led” concepts to take hold in an organization, there needs to be both a bottom-up and top-down ownership of the shift. There needs to be an enterprise-wide acknowledgment that there is a move toward “everything as a service.”
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