“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” –Lao-tzu, The Way of Lao-tzu
As noted here recently, while technology and business practices are constantly evolving, the IT world is currently in the midst of a once-in-a-generation level change. Surging interest in topics like BYOD and cloud computing are components of the much larger consumerization of IT trend: for the first time ever, a generation of constantly connected, tech-savvy workers is driving change within organizations, rather than IT groups specifying devices and service processes.
Though potentially disruptive, this fundamental change also creates opportunities for IT groups to more tightly align their efforts with business goals and practices. Rather than being the department that gives BlackBerrys to employees who prefer iPhones, or that is seen as the land of slow and no, IT now has an opening to recognize where consumerization is going and take the lead by anticipating user and business needs.
What’s crucial, as reflected in the Lao-tzu quote above, is not to be overwhelmed by this large consumerization shift. Rather, take an incremental approach by addressing the most common or urgent issues first, then building on that success.
Writing in Forbes, NetApp CTO Jay Kidd echoes this notion of fundamental change, contending that “there’s a (broad) business transition happening, underpinned by…tech trends. Smart CIOs will seize the opportunities at hand.” Kidd outlines five technology predictions and how they will “transform the business of IT.” Three of these trends intersect with the enterprise request management (ERM) approach to delivering business services across organizations, and are key early steps on the longer consumerization journey.
1. Hybrid Clouds Become the Dominant IT Vision
According to Kidd, “There’s been much tension within IT on whether or not to make a commitment to move to the cloud. But, with the advent of hybrid cloud computing, CIOs are now feeling relief from this internal tension. Using the hybrid model, instead of having to make a full commitment to a public cloud, CIOs can create a tiered approach to cloud deployment, based on their application portfolio.”
In order to provide the cloud services users demand—without creating an anything-goes, “wild west” scenario where costs escalate and corporate data is put needlessly at risk—IT groups can create portfolios of cloud services at various levels of cost, performance, and features; and present these services along with their specifications as service catalog items. Users get a finite but reasonable range of choices; IT get purchasing efficiencies and sufficient control for compliance and security needs.
Kidd also writes that “Smart CIOs will act as brokers of cloud services, changing their approach to IT,” a characteristic of being at the highest level of service catalog maturity according to Forrester Research.
2. If You Work in IT, You’re a Service Provider
Building on the point above (and particularly as part of a business service catalog at the core of an ERM strategy), Kidd notes that “With multiple cloud deployment models, CIOs will look at their internal IT as one more service option…It’s the classic ‘build vs. buy’ question: Performance measurements will adjust as expectations of responsiveness to the business, cost competitiveness, and SLAs will be compared to external cloud options.” (Emphasis ours.)
All true—but vitally, a key benefit of the ERM approach is that SLAs can not only be published for comparison, but also dynamically measured to support continual improvement. As noted in the white paper The Technology Behind Enterprise Request Management:
“Service fulfillment times, particularly those involving IT groups, are often negotiated between service providers and service recipients. In an enterprise, SLAs cover all generic service-level-management issues common across the organization…In the ERM approach, SLAs are handled differently in two fundamental ways. First, rather than periodic negotiations between service providers and customers, SLAs are based on actual service delivery times automatically recorded by the workflow automation software or other systems. This provides a more accurate and realistic approach to developing SLAs. The second difference is that, rather than being static documents, SLAs in an ERM approach are a moving target subject to continuous improvement.”
Another vital benefit of ERM is that it extends request management across the organization, so Kidd’s point #2 above could be expanded to something more like “If you work in IT—or HR, or finance, or facilities, or any department that offers services, equipment or other resources to your organization’s employees—you’re a service provider.”
Not just smart CIOs, but smart leaders in any shared services group can use ERM to define, design, present, manage, measure, and continually improve the services they offer.
3. Data Mobility and Application Agility
Kidd’s focus here is on “provisioning storage and moving application data across different cloud models,” but these concepts apply more broadly in ERM.
With regard to data mobility (increasingly on employees’ own devices), an ERM approach can simplify the BYOD registration process by enabling employees to easily register their devices using a self-service portal, and even trigger remote installation of required software by integrating third-party tools.
Service management agility is also a key element of the ERM approach. Again, with apologies to Lao-tzu, it could be said that “the journey to enterprise request management begins with a single service item” (or at least just a few). ERM—like the “journey of a thousand miles” to enterprise IT transformation in response to consumerization—represents significant, enterprise-wide change. But it can start small, with a single service item in a single department, and be built upon from there.
That an ERM approach enables business function managers to build their own service items and corresponding workflow processes with minimal technical assistance, and that it leverages departmental and enterprise software platforms already in place, also makes the “journey” less arduous.
Kidd closes his Forbes article stating that the coming year “will see dramatic changes in technology, but each change will bring a new set of opportunities and challenges for IT. Smart CIOs will seize the opportunity to transform traditional IT departments into strategic business functions of the organization.”
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