Three Practical Strategies for CIOs in the Digital Enterprise

The tsunami of change washing over the landscape for CIOs can perhaps best be summed up by the phrase “digital enterprise”—a catchall term encompassing the fundamental redesign of business processes to adapt to big data, the Internet of Things, the consumerization of IT, cloud computing, and other developments.

CIO strategies for the digital enterpriseThe movement is nearly universal: in a recent Altimeter Group survey, 88 percent of “digital strategy executives interviewed said their organizations are undergoing formal digital transformation efforts this year.”

And there is no shortage of opinion about how this is reshaping and expanding the responsibilities of CIOs: a Google search for “CIO role digital enterprise” yields more than 920,000 results.

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Using ERM Concepts to Manage Hybrid Cloud Services

Business application developers working within large enterprises want to build applications in the cloud. But they would prefer to spend their time coding and testing, not managing cloud infrastructure.

IT infrastructure and operations (I&O) specialists can take control of cloud management, but need to first change their focus and then prove their value, implementing the right tools and processes to take the cloud management burden off developers.

Using ERM to Manage Hybrid Cloud Services
Image Credit: Base Conversion

Those are key findings presented in Cloud Management In A Hybrid Cloud World, a new white paper by Forrester Research principal analyst Dave Bartoletti. What’s interesting is how the author’s recommendations for provisioning cloud services to developers parallels the enterprise request management (ERM) model, and how the specific cloud services delivery model presented here can be applied more broadly to a cross-departmental ERM implementation.

For starters, the paper states that developers want autonomy, so it is up to IT I&O to facilitate cloud services delivery as seamlessly as possible:

“That means you can’t require developers to go through a cumbersome request process to deploy services, nor should you limit their ability to configure infrastructure, middleware, database, or server components as needed. In the cloud era, your new role is to establish guardrails to guide developers to the best cloud services…then take over ongoing operational support so they can get back to coding.”

That is the essence of a request portal, which sits at the front end of ERM. It makes the process of entering a request for any type of service as non-cumbersome as possible by asking only for information that is absolutely necessary; automatically pre-populating forms with as much information as can possibly be “known” about the requester; and offering as much flexibility as possible within the realm of defined service offerings (Forrester’s “guardrails”).

Elements of the Cloud Application Life Cycle, as defined in the paper, also parallel the components of ERM:

  • “Determine which apps are right for the cloud” and “which cloud is best for which app” (service item definition).
  • “Maintain standardized app templates” (request management portal).
  • “Automate deployment to the best cloud provider” (using an orchestration engine to automate approvals, scheduling, and fulfillment between disparate applications).
  • “Monitor and manage app performance” (status visibility).
  • “Track and optimize cloud costs and vendor SLAs” (SLA monitoring and charge-backs).
  • “Report back to the business to guide further cloud app design” (analytics, reporting, and continuous improvement).

The author’s specific recommendations for cloud services delivery also apply more broadly to ERM implementation beyond the realm of application development:

  • Hybrid cloud service delivery starts with service catalog management (often the precursor to broader ERM deployment). For example, pertaining to cloud services specifically: “It’s your responsibility to catalog and combine…services and ensure that they are available on demand from the most appropriate internal and external cloud providers.” Replace “cloud providers” in that sentence with “functional departments and vendors” and it can now apply to delivery of any type of service, from copier repair to ordering a new laptop computer to onboarding a new employee.
  • “Your service catalog connects user requirements with available cloud services…The catalog is the entry point for your cloud users and should not only make it easy for them to self-provision but guide them to the cloud services approved…Your goal here is to create a way for business users to easily get what they want from both internal and external cloud service providers.” Again, simply remove all instances of “cloud” from the preceding and you’ve got a perfect description of the front end of a business-wide ERM deployment.
  • “Look to the public cloud service catalogs such as the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Management Console for guidance—they have set the bar for simplicity and transparency.” Amazon.com is a great model for request management in general, from the way the system “remembers” your individual information to enable one-click ordering to the ease of tracking the status of any request from the point of ordering through to final delivery.
  • “Deployment automation shortens the application delivery life cycle…Remove any manual approval processes and replace them with policy-driven workflows that place constraints on special requests but auto-approve standard ones.” Again, an excellent model to extend to shared services more broadly. Within ERM, where approvals are required, the approvals are automatically requested and  logged (with follow-up reminders sent if necessary) within the task workflow automation software, relieving the requester of the burden of manually managing such efforts.
  • “In your clouds, application performance and user experience are paramount…Your cloud approach should start at the end user and work back to the infrastructure.” Similarly, in ERM, service delivery performance is foremost, and fulfillment processes should be designed to delight users.
  • “Once your hybrid cloud is hosting the development teams and production applications, ongoing service optimization is essential to maintain user satisfaction.” In the broader service delivery sense, ERM includes both quantitative (e.g., elapsed time to perform a task) and qualitative (context-specific user satisfaction) metrics to support continuous process improvement. The paper also specifies “hiding the details (of hybrid cloud service allocation) from cloud users.” Similarly, in ERM, users should have the ability to order and take delivery of any type of service without being exposed to the details of the functional groups, tasks, and resources involved behind the scenes.
  • “Add cloud management capabilities in increments, looking for quick wins…Locate the most painful part of your cloud app life cycle and attack that first, and then make sure to advertise your successes early and often.” This is the core precept of agile service request management, but is even more vital in ERM due to its larger scope. Because ERM reaches across the organization, it can seem intimidating at first. An approach that starts with generating “quick wins” by automating the most common, or costly, or onerous tasks first demonstrates the value of ERM and builds support. There’s no need to define every service item and map every task flow before embarking on ERM.

In summary, this Forrester Research Report on cloud management is interesting both for its specific blueprint for transitioning IT processes and tools to support hybrid cloud management and for its more general guidance on implementing ERM practices across the organization.

To learn more about ERM, download the white paper Enterprise Request Management: An Overview. To keep up to date and be part of the conversation, join the Enterprise Request Management Group on LinkedIn.