Agile, DevOps Feed the Need for (Business) Speed

Remember the story of the tortoise and the hare? “Slow and steady wins the race”? Econ 101 lectures about economies of scale? Business truisms like “Nobody ever got fired for buying…” (insert any large, established vendor name here)?

Such nuggets of business wisdom seem to no longer apply. Today, in the words of author Jason Jennings, “It’s not the big that eat the small, it’s the fast that eat the slow.” Competitive advantage comes from reworking business processes and service delivery models to improve speed not by 10% or even 100%, but by multiples. Consider:

  • How Agile, Scrum and DevOps meet need for business speedAccording to a recent Financial Times story by Lisa Pollack, “A Berlin company, founded in 2013, built an online service that allows new customers to open a bank account in under eight minutes…The company, Number26, has signed up more than 30,000 customers after launching what it deems ‘Europe’s most modern bank account’ in January.”

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Data Breaches and Enterprise Information Security: A Better Response

From major retailers to news services to government agencies, headlines about major data breaches are now alarmingly common.

Of course, hacking is nothing new. Initially the province of underground hobbyists, hacking burst into public consciousness with the release of the 1983 movie War Games. Though it’s now quaintly nostalgic, clips from the film were actually shown in the U.S. Congress at the time as “a ‘realistic representation’ of the dangers of hacking,” and inspired passage of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) within a year.

How to respond to data breachesToday, despite heightened awareness (and extensive investments in data protection technologies), the number and cost of data breaches continue to rise as foreign governments and cyber criminals seek to steal information for commercial and military advantage.

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New Definitions Added to the Ultimate ITSM Glossary

As noted here previously, there are numerous words, phrases, and acronyms which are either unique to the IT service management and ITIL world, or have a specific meaning within those contexts.

To help clarify these terms and concepts, Kinetic Data has compiled definitions for nearly 60 items in our ITIL – ITSM glossary.

ITSM-ITIL glossary - new terms addedBut the IT discipline is constantly evolving, with new practices, technology, concepts, models, trends and ideas being introduced. Reflecting these ongoing changes, four new entries were recently added to the glossary of ITSM terms.


Few terms in the realm of ITIL and IT service management are as controversial to define as DevOps; there seem to be nearly as many definitions as the number of people trying to define it. Continue reading “New Definitions Added to the Ultimate ITSM Glossary”

How to Fix Costly Data Center Outages Fast

When any portion of an enterprise network or data center fails, restoring operation as quickly as possible is the top priority. For complex problems, immediately setting up a virtual war room using online enterprise collaboration software is the most effective approach.

Data center downtime is horrendously expensive; while cost estimates vary widely by industry, some of the most comprehensive research concludes the “average cost of data center downtime across industries (is) approximately $7,900 per minute” while “the average reported incident length was 86 minutes, resulting in average cost per incident” of nearly $700,000.

Image credit: CIO Insight
Image credit: CIO Insight

Furthermore, outages are occurring more frequently. In addition to the increasing complexity and scope of operating systems and core management and control suites, as well as hybrid cloud network infrastructures, leading causes of outages include:

  • Weather or power-related issues
  • Accidents or human error
  • Cyber attacks

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Should We Stop Calling it IT? The Case for Business Technology

Now that cloud computing and the consumerization of technology enable non-technical business process owners to address many of their own data needs—and digital technology is finding its way into a vast range of products (i.e., the Internet of Things) —is the term “IT” still useful and accurate?  Or is the abbreviation for “information technology” now too limiting, even counterproductive, in describing this function?

Should IT be renamed Business Technology?That’s the intriguing question raised by Robert Plant in a Harvard Business Review post. Plant writes that IT as a term “is no longer appropriate in a business context” and continues:

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The Best Service Catalog Tools, Featuring Gartner Insight

Organizations implementing request management portals for an IT service catalog or broader enterprise request management (ERM) have numerous vendor options to consider. Which offering is best in any individual situation depends of course on the specific needs of that company or government agency.

The decision process generally starts with research, and such research often includes evaluating reviews conducted by leading industry analysts. How does Kinetic Request compare to competitive systems in such evaluations?

Gartner Service Catalog Critical Capabilities ReportIn the recent Gartner report, Critical Capabilities for IT Service Catalog Tools [Jeffrey M. Brooks, Chris Matchett, 17 March 2014], the answer is: quite well.

As recently announced, Kinetic Request received an assessment of “Good,” the highest possible assessment given for Product Viability in this report. It is one of seven products evaluated to receive this rating. The research evaluated nine critical capabilities and various weightings of importance.

The report defines a service catalog in this way:

“IT service catalog tools are intended to improve business users’ customer experiences and to increase IT operations efficiency. IT service catalogs simplify the service request process for customers and improve customer satisfaction by presenting a single face of IT to the customer for all types of IT interactions… IT service catalog tools provide a process workflow engine that automates, manages and tracks service fulfillment.”

That definition—improving the user experience and service efficiency through a single portal linked to an automated process workflow engine—aligns well with the ERM concept, though ERM extends the service catalog beyond IT into potentially all shared services functions within an organization.

Kinetic Request is a powerful and flexible enterprise-wide request management portal application. It’s been praised by customers for helping to reduce helpdesk calls and workload, cutting request fulfillment time, eliminating paperwork, and providing significant cost savings.

Gartner clients and other organizations interested in reading the full evaluation can order the full Gartner report here.

Gartner does not endorse any vendor, product or service depicted in its research publications, and does not advise technology users to select only those vendors with the highest ratings. Gartner research publications consist of the opinions of Gartner’s research organization and should not be construed as statements of fact. Gartner disclaims all warranties, expressed or implied, with respect to this research, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.

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Give Your Employees Shoes, So They Don’t Walk

Most of us are familiar with the parable of the shoemaker’s children. The analogy of the shoemaker’s children having no shoes because the cobbler is too busy crafting footwear for customers is frequently applied to individuals, consultants, organizations, and businesses whose external expertise is notably lacking in their internal affairs.

Don't leave employees shoelessA classic example of this is described in a recent report from Gartner, Design IT Self-Service for the Business Consumer: (Jarod Greene, 19 February 2014): “IT organizations should employ the same self-service techniques consumer service providers use to increase uptake and satisfaction levels.”

Often,  enterprises that offer convenient and user-friendly self-service capabilities for external customers fail to adopt such systems or approaches for delivering internal IT (or other functional) services to employees.

The report also states, “The majority of IT self-service deployments are not designed with the end user in mind. IT organizations should employ the same self-service techniques consumer service providers use to increase uptake and satisfaction levels.”

Employees want the same type of user experience from internal systems that they get from consumer apps, ecommerce sites, and social networks; yet IT doesn’t design employee-facing applications this way. IT and other departments (HR, finance, facilities, etc.) too often design systems to fit their own preferences rather than users’ wants.  Enterprises can address this gap by designing employee-facing self-service portals which are more like customer-facing applications.

The Gartner report further predicts that “by 2016, 20% of I&O (Infrastructure & Operations Management) organizations will incorporate consumer self-service practices into their IT self-service strategies, up from less than 5% today.”  That’s heady growth, but still surprisingly low adoption.

On a larger scale, these observations apply as well to enterprise request management (ERM), a business process improvement approach to service delivery that provides employees with a single, intuitive  “” portal for requesting anything they need to do their jobs, from any internal department or function. The process of implementing ERM starts with redesigning services and processes from the business user’s perspective.

To improve request management and service delivery processes across the enterprise, four additional points are worth noting:

  • Not just IT systems, but IT support models must also evolve to reflect consumer offerings. In addition to self-service, IT help desks should offer walk-up and schedule-based support to meet the needs of an increasing mobile and remote workforce.
  • The success of self-service offerings depends upon utilization. If portals are too difficult to use, or simply automate poor back-end processes (i.e., doing the wrong things, but faster), employees will go around the system to get things done. This not only renders the technology investment a waste, but can actually decrease productivity.
  • Scope creep can often risk the success of enterprise projects—but it needn’t be a concern due to the agile approach of the strategy. An ERM implementation can start small, with just one or a few processes, and expand as it proves its value. The implementation is also scalable as process managers in business functions outside of IT can design, test, refine, and deploy their own service items with minimal technical assistance.
  • Moving from phone-based support to online self-service can both increase user satisfaction and reduce costs. As the Gartner report notes, “Self-service is both cost-effective and scalable. The 2013 average IT service desk cost per agent-handled contact is $17.88. Comparatively speaking, the costs of building, maintaining and administering IT self- service portal to manage contacts are much lower than the costs of people to support the same contacts.”

Evolving IT support, and internal business service delivery more broadly, to a more consumer-focused model can both delight business users and reduce fulfillment costs for the enterprise. Failing to do so, conversely, negatively impacts productivity and frustrates employees. With ERM, the figurative cobbler can make shoes for his children that keep them from walking out the door.

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Does BYOD Really Save Money? It Can – Here’s How

While there’s no doubt the BYOD trend is growing rapidly, there is considerably more controversy regarding the question of whether or not it actually reduces overall costs to enterprises.

Companies like Cisco, VMware and Intel claim significant cost savings from BYOD, but Aberdeen Group cites hidden costs of BYOD that organizations need to consider.

Others would contend the answer doesn’t matter; as noted here previously, according to Gartner analyst David Willis, “Companies don’t really have a choice…Over 60 percent of employees globally say they have used a personal device at work, and Gartner predict that nearly 40% of companies will go completely BYOD by 2016.” Or as an article on FierceCIO put it “cost may be a moot point, in the sense that users are likely to pursue their own technology choices these days, whether officially sanctioned or not.”

Hidden Costs of BYOD
Photo Credit: mikecogh via Compfight cc

But inevitable or not, the costs of (and potential savings from) BYOD are important. If approached properly, the savings from BYOD can be substantial. According to a Cisco study reported on by ” a strong BYOD policy… could save $1,300 per year per mobile user. Users meanwhile, report that they are happier and more productive.”

CIO magazine disputes that, calling Cisco’s experience “an exception,” and outlines half a dozen ways BYOD actually leads to higher costs. “Mobile BYOD will cost you about 33 percent more than a company-owned mobile device approach…While CIOs might gloat at BYOD’s perceived cost savings…they’d be wrong to do so. Aberdeen Group found that a company with 1,000 mobile devices spends an extra $170,000 per year, on average, when they use a BYOD approach.”

But does it, necessarily? A closer look at Aberdeen’s findings indicates while “hidden costs” are potentially real, a well-planned, strategic approach can mitigate or eliminate many of these added expenses.

1. Wireless Access Charges

According to CIO, “a company seizing a volume-discount rate…spends an average of $60-per-month for a smartphone’s wireless voice and data services. Whereas the average BYOD reimbursement for a smartphone is $70-per-month.”

Forbes also questions the savings in this area, noting “non-management employees spend on average $75 a month and use 652 Megabytes (MG) of data per month while management levels spend and use considerably more.”

Solution: cap reimbursement at what the company would pay for a plan matched to any specific employee role. In most cases, the company will end up spending no more than it would have in pre-BYOD times, while employees will get better plans at a lower cost

Even in those situations where reimbursement for access has to be higher than the cost of a company-negotiated group plan, the device hardware savings will generally more than offset this.

2. Reimbursement Expense Processing Costs

Again per CIO, “You’ll have to tack on the hidden cost of reimbursing BYOD employees. Typically, an employee files a monthly expense report for their wireless bill. A single expense report costs about $18 to process…(and) BYOD employees often expense their entire wireless bill rather than itemize it. There’s absolutely no visibility into what’s personal and what’s corporate.”

Solution: minimize expense reimbursement processing costs by utilizing an enterprise request management (ERM) approach and automating the entire workflow process as much as possible. The savings here will apply not only to BYOD but to any category or type of expense reporting.

Also, make sure these costs aren’t unfairly and inaccurately assigned to BYOD; the CIO article concedes that “an employee who files an expense report with multiple expenses, including the wireless bill, will still only cost the company $18 to process. That is, mobile BYOD expense reporting will incur this hidden cost only if the expense report was filed solely because of the wireless bill.”

3. Security and Compliance Costs

The magazine contends “there’s a boatload of security and compliance costs associated with mobile BYOD. Typically, BYOD brings iOS iPhones and iPads into BlackBerry shops. This means CIOs will have to invest in a multi-platform mobile device management solution and other software, maybe even a VPN (virtual private network) layer. The cost of compliance—ensuring governance, risk management and compliance—is also more difficult when devices must be chased down individually.” Data Center Journal also raises confidentiality and compliance concerns related to BYOD.

Solution: first, automate the process of “locking out” devices from corporate networks until security requirements are met, using task automation software. It’s perfectly reasonable—indeed, essential—to require users to take certain company-prescribed security precautions before they are permitted to access corporate applications or data with their personal devices.

Second, while compliance risks must be taken seriously, don’t overestimate the effort of protecting multiple device types. As Fortinet security strategist Richard Henderson has pointed out, “For a long time IT departments argued that managing one type of device for all employees was much more efficient, but that is a myth and they can’t lean on that excuse anymore… Software has advanced so that it is now easy for IT to manage applications across different platforms, including Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android.”

And third, keep in mind that while allowing employees to use their personal devices in a work context adds some complexity, confidentiality and compliance concerns (and potential costs) aren’t strictly a BYOD issue. They are fundamentally a matter of:

  • processes and security levels (don’t share confidential information, internally, any more widely than necessary);
  • policies (how information may be disseminated, regardless of the device or medium used); and
  • training (never assume knowledge; explain to employees exactly what types of information are confidential, particularly in public companies and heavily regulated industries).

4. Added Help Desk Support Costs

The CIO article argues “With BYOD, IT departments are caught between the proverbial rock and hard place: IT doesn’t control the actions of the carrier or the devices, yet is still being held responsible to support BYOD employees, even if IT isn’t getting additional resources to do so.

“The flip side is to unload BYOD support onto employees. The thinking goes, they are on the hook to repair their own personal devices. Got a problem with your iPad? Head to the nearest Apple Genius Bar.”

Solution: use actionable self-service as much as possible, but also, rather then sending employees to the Genius Bar, operate more like one. Supplement traditional queue-based support for urgent issues with a schedule-based approach which can not only control costs but also better serve remote and mobile workers, regardless of BYOD policies.

5. Higher Application Development Costs

Per CIO, “mobile BYOD means more platforms to develop apps for and support…BYOD may eventually lead to internal, native iOS app development for both the iPhone and iPad…The cost of internal app development can rise dramatically with BYOD. Companies that ‘go native’ must invest in each platform in the BYOD portfolio.”

Solution: develop mobile-friendly, web-based systems of engagement that isolate the interface layer from underlying systems of record. This approach leverages existing financial and intellectual investments in core legacy enterprise applications while simplifying and mobilizing the user interface to those systems, enabling organizations to develop new functionality with the disruption of a “rip and replace” implementation.

6. Functional Coordination Costs

Finally, CIO states “BYOD not only requires multi-platform support but multi-department support, too. BYOD requires significant cross-departmental overhead to ensure that everyone involved in employee administration, from HR to IT to security, is on the same page…(for example) when a BYOD employee gives notice or is terminated, HR and IT must work quickly to de-provision the personal device off the corporate network…This process is much easier if the company owns the device. Another cross-departmental concern arising from BYOD is when a part-time employee or contractor wants to connect their device to the network.”

Solution: create workflow process automatically triggered by an event (such as an employee termination) and designed using an advanced automation engine to automatically initiate specific tasks across departments (such as issuing a final check from payroll, shutting down network and email access, and disabling a security badge).

So, the answer to the question “does BYOD save money?” is: yes—provided that enterprises recognize the potential for added costs, hidden or otherwise, and take steps to assure that the potential savings of BYOD more than offset any increased expenses.

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