SharePoint as an ITIL Implementation Tool > Why should I care about ITIL? > Business Environment

Why should I care about ITIL?

[CxOs especially CIOs should care in the wake of rising I.T. costs, the strategic importance of I.T. as an enabler, and the growing chasm between business needs and I.T. provided capabilities]

Business Environment

Information Technology has evolved from the automation of financial transactions, once called EDP, into a strategic component of most businesses and in many cases part of the products and services the company delivers.

The computer industry has matured over the decades from EDP to MIS to now I.T. During that evolution the communities that the technology has supported has widened and deepen, to the point where almost every function and role within an enterprise has been touched by it.

Computer Technology initially automated repetitive accounting tasks, increasing the productivity of the accounting department. In the next generation of adoption (MIS), managers were able to create and monitor finance plans; the computer was still being used to “crunch” vast quantities of numbers. During this and previous generation computer resources where typically big centralized mainframes.

The next generation of Information Technology adoption came with the advent of microchips and the microprocessor making workstations and personal computers possible. Select members of the company staffs now had two sets of resources; mainframes and personal workstations. While the tools were initially primitive a larger pool of professional and amateur focused upon creating a richer and more flexible suite of function. Ushering in the personal productivity initiatives that still dominate the market today.

From here variations on the theme of connecting computers together created the next generation (network). Computers were either connected peer to peer or in a client server model. These enabled people to copy content around the network to share with others.

These advancements in usage however came with some liabilities; more effort was needed to maintain multiple computers, software and the network connections.

While the product development process for information technology industry has evolved over the past several years attempting to catch up with demand, the operations area has not kept pace.

Most I.T. operations are little more advanced than where they started. Instead of using JCL or Exec, Operations now using scripting languages. The model for delivery is after Q.A. install, run, optimize and stabilize. There is a natural tension between development and operations due to the differing roles, responsibilities and measurements.

As such many of the applications that were create years ago are still in operation, patched together when they should have been sun-set or displaced by others. A lesson hard goods manufacturing has learned: Not too many manual laths and milling machines around anymore. After its effective life these tools are salvaged and replaced. I.T. has not adopted a real lifecycle model yet, expect where purchased software is concern. The end result of this is a legacy wake of support that keeps growing.

As more solutions involve a configuration of multiple components end users are experiencing increasing amounts of operational brown and blackouts. These service interruptions however are not noted effectively in the statistics presented to the user community as compared to what they experience. This discrepancy is due to the difference in how services are measured. For the end user service is an end to end process, while most I.T. organization report on individual components.

A simple example: The Server CPU was up 99.9% of the time, the Storage Area Network (SAN) was on-line 97%, the Network 96%, the application 95%, the DBMS 98%. The logical assumption is the user experience 95% service availability. What the user actually experienced was 86.6%. This is due to the fact that availability is the results of all the components operating. Thus any break in the availability chain results in a loss of service. The formula for calculating this:

Service Availability = Σ Server × SAN × Network × DBMS × Application

Thus the management of technology vs. the mechanics of technology is becoming a critical set of skills. The business skills needed to understand and manage risk, finances, communications and customer relationships have become critical success factors for technologists.  It’s no longer enough for a Programmer or DBA or System Administrator to just have technology competency.

  As technology becomes easier to operation from an end-user perspective, stakeholders slip into a complacency regarding the effort needed to develop, operate and manage the complexities behind the apparently simple application.  Thus the magic user button proves it’s easy for anyone to build the system; since operating it is so simple, building it must be also.   

An overused example but still relevant; how many people really understand the technology needed to operate a car, not even a current model car with all its electronics.  Yet, people dismiss the amount of complexity that is inherent in the automotive transportation system from vehicle to fuel distribution to roads and traffic control systems.

Each of the components of system are also complex systems also and coordinating the interfaces, interaction and operations of these becomes an ever increasing task which has not received the same attention to automate or innovate as line of business applications, though information technology is now a line of business application unto itself.   

Delivery of I.T.’s value is evolving in advanced organizations from a product development to a service performance model.

Prior to the introduction of I.T. as a service this past decade, I.T. organizations were modeling themselves after product factories focusing on such metrics as: speed to market, product features, product robustness, and cost.  When it came to the operational and support side minor efforts have been made.  However, as with physical products, the glory and rewards have traditionally been on the creative and design side of the equation along with the funding.  It’s not too often that support or operations gets much accolades, it’s usually on the side of being asked to squeeze out one more cycle from an underpowered system.

Thus those in the know kept a fair distance from being on support or operations.  If you were a new employee chances are your first assignment was in operations or helpdesk with the rationalization that it would give you a will rounded view of how the organization worked.  As such it became the dumping ground or was thought of as the dumping ground for novice and underperforming employees.  This was a similar fate to mechanical engineers who were sent off to manufacturing rather than design roles.  

This scenario may change soon.  As in the engineering environment, the democratization of design (e.g., mass customization) has created a situation where the tools at hand can enable end users to create their own solutions.  This change in dynamics is occurring rather rapidly in the I.T. environment as well.  SharePoint is such a platform that is changing the game.

What that means is I.T. organizations will have to rethink value and how that value is delivered. 

About briankseitz
I live in PacNW in a small town and work for Microsoft as a Enterprise strategy and architecture SME. I enjoy solving big complex problems, cooking and eating, woodworking and reading. I typically read between 4-8 business and technology books a month.

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