The next BriefingsDirect expert panel discussion examines the value and direction of The Open Group IT4IT initiative, a new reference architecture for managing IT as a business.
IT4IT was a hot topic at The Open Group San Francisco 2016 conference in January, and the enterprise architect and IT leader attendees examined it from a variety of different angles. This panel, conducted live at the event, elevates the IT4IT discussion to the level of enabling digital business value.
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And so to learn more about how IT4IT aids businesses, we are joined by Chris Davis, Professor of Information Systems at the University of South Florida and also Chairman of The Open Group IT4IT Forum; Lars Rossen, a Distinguished Technologist at Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) and a chief architect for the IT4IT program; Ryan Schmierer, Business and Enterprise Architect for IT at Microsoft, and David Wright, Chief Strategy Officer at ServiceNow. The discussion is moderated by me, Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions.
Here are some excerpts:
Gardner: I hear IT4IT described as a standard, a framework, a methodology, and a business-enabler. Chris, is it all of those, is it more, is this a whole greater than the sum of the parts? Help us understand the IT4IT potential.
Davis: It could be seen as all of those. I have been academically in this space for 20 to 25 years, and the thing that is different, the thing that adds potential to this is the value-chain orientation.
As well as being a really potent technical standard, we’ve abstracted this to levels that can be immediately appreciated in the C Suite. People like Kathleen come along, they see it and get it, and that provides some traction. That is a very positive thing, and will enable us to pick up speed as people like Toine invite real penetration down to the CMDB level and so on.
We have this multilayer view. Lars and I articulated it as levels of abstraction, but I think the integration of Mike Porter’s stuff really adds some perspective to this technical standard that maybe isn’t present or hasn’t been present in other frameworks and tools.
Gardner: And as we explain this up the value chain into the organization, do you expect that IT4IT is something you would take to a board setting environment and have them understand this concept of a value stream and consolidating around that?
Davis: Yeah, I do. Some of the observations that were made yesterday about the persistence of models like value chain, value stream, and so on, still make enormous sense to people at the CIO level. That enables the conversation to begin and also provides the ability to see whereabouts, how much of the standard, which particular value streams, where in the organization (the various parts and perspectives) fit.
As well as being very potent and very prescriptive, we have that conceptual agility that the standard provides. I find it exciting and quite refreshing.
Gardner: Lars, one thing that’s also interesting to me about IT4IT is that this was an organic development within IT organizations, for and by them. Tell us how, at HPE, you developed this, and why it was a good fit for The Open Group as a standardization process?
Rossen: A couple of things made us kick this off, together with Shell initially and then a lot of members came over the years. For us in HPE, it was around consumption of our toolsets. That’s where I came from.
I was sitting on the portfolio group and I said, well, we’re all drawing all of these diagrams around how it could fit together and we have these endless discussions with customers about whether this was right or this was wrong. I was completely disagreeing with all our friendly partners, as well as not so friendly competitors, about what was the right diagram.
Putting this into the open — and we chose Open Group for that particular reason; they have shown in the past that they can create these kinds of things — allowed us to have that common framework for defining the To-Be architecture for our customers. That simply made it much easier for us to sell our product suite. So it made a lot of business value for us.
And it also made it much easier for our consultancy service. We didn’t have to argue about the To-Be architecture; it was a given. Then, we can talk about how to actually implement it, which is much more interesting.
Gardner: And while we are speaking about HPE and your experience there, do you have any tangible metrics of success as to how this improved? You went through a large business separation of IT departments; that must have been a difficult process. Was there anything that the IT4IT approach brought to that particular activity that you can point to as a business driver or business benefit?
Rossen: I can. A very large organization is compartmentalized in many different ways, and you could say, well, how do all of these units interchange and work with each other, because it goes both ways; it’s not only the split, but it’s also all the acquisitions we’ve been doing over the years.
And then we have the framework that we can use and plot things in to, and we have a standardized toolset we can use and reuse over and over again.
Before we had IT4IT, we counted how many integrations we had between our various IT management products, and it ran to about 500. With IT4IT, we can drill down and see that there are only about 50 that are really interesting. Then, we can double down on those. We can now measure how much these are the ones that are being consumed moving forward, both internally within our service practice and as well as with our customer base.
Gardner: Ryan, at Microsoft, I’m wondering about Bimodal IT and Shadow IT. Because you perhaps have a more concentrated view on IT and you can control your organization, you don’t have that problem – or maybe you do. Is there is any degree of Bimodal IT at Microsoft or Shadow IT within your IT organization, have you addressed that, and has IT4IT been a use in that direction?
Consistency and repeatability
Schmierer: First, starting with the idea of Bimodal IT, we go back to some of the research and the thoughts coming from Gartner over the last couple of years about different parts of IT needing to work at different paces. Some need to be more agile and work faster; others need to be the foundational stalwarts of the organization, providing that consistency and that repeatability that we need.
At Microsoft, we tend to look at it a little bit differently. When you think about agile versus waterfall, it’s not a matter of one versus the other. Should we do one or the other? There’s a place for both of these. They are tools within our toolbox. Within IT, there are places where we want to move in a more agile way — where we want to move faster. There are also certain activities where waterfall is still an excellent methodology to drive the consistency and predictability that we need.
A good example of that comes with large releases. We may develop changes or features in a very agile way, but as we move towards making large changes to the business that impact large business functions, we need to roll those changes out in a very controlled, scripted way. So, we take a little bit different look at Bimodal than some companies do.
Your other question was on Shadow IT. One of the things that we have challenged a lot over the last year or so is this concept the role of the IT organization relative to the rest of the enterprise. As we think about that, we’re not thinking about IT as a service provider to the enterprise, but as a supporting function to the enterprise.
What does that mean? It means Shadow IT doesn’t exist. It just happens to be someone else within the organization providing that function. And so it becomes less of a question of controlling and preventing Shadow IT and more of embracing that outside-in approach and being able to assimilate those changes and coordinate them in a more structured way to manage things like risk and security.
Gardner: Well, we have heard that there’s a bridging of siloes benefit to IT4IT in either Bimodal or Shadow IT. Can you relay a way in which IT4IT helped you bridge silos and consolidate culturally and otherwise your IT efforts?
Schmierer: Absolutely. Very similar to some of the experiences that Lars explained at HPE, at Microsoft we’ve had a number of different product groups focusing on different products and solutions and service suites over the last few years.
As we’ve moved to more of a One Microsoft approach, we’re looking at, how to bring the organization and the enterprise together in a cohesive way?
IT plays a role in enabling that as a supportive function to the company and the IT4IT standard has been a great tool for us to have a common talking point, a common framework, to bridge those discussions about not only what we do internally within IT, but how the things that we do internally relate to the products and services that we sell out into the marketplace as well. Having that common framework, that common taxonomy, is not just about talking with customers; it’s about talking internally and getting the entire enterprise aligned.
Business service management
Gardner: Dave, as organizations are working at different paces toward being digital businesses, they might look to their IT organizations for leadership. We might, as a business, want to behave more like our IT organizations.
At ServiceNow I have heard you describe IT service management (ITSM) as one step toward business service management (BSM), rather than just ITSM. How do you see the evolution from ITSM to business service management and a digital business benefit? And how do you foresee IT4IT aiding and accelerating that?
Wright: The interesting thing about IT4IT is the fact that it conceptualizes the whole four stages that people go through on the journey. I suppose you could say the gift that ITIL gave IT was to give it an operational framework to work with.
Most other parts of the business haven’t got an operational framework. If you want to request something off most parts of the business, you will send them an email. If you want something off legal, you want something off marketing, send them an email. They haven’t got a system where they can request something.
If we take some of the processes described in IT4IT and publish that in a business-service catalog, you effectively allow everyone to have a single system of engagement. They might have their own back-end systems, they might have their own human capital management system, their own enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, but how do you engage and link all those companies together?
The other thing that IT has learned over a number of different implementations is how important the experience becomes, because if you can generate an experience where people want to use it, that’s what’s going to drive adoption of it as a function.
Let’s take this room as a whole. If we all sat together and built Uber, it would be crap. It would be really good for the taxi drivers, but it would be terrible for the people who actually wanted to request the service, and that’s because we tend to build everything from the inside out.
The fact we have now got a way to elevate that position and look at it from above, and understand all those components, and be able to track all those components from start to finish, and give people visibility in where you are in that process, that’s not just a benefit to IT; that’s a benefit to anyone who provides a service.
Gardner: As we also explore ways that we can evangelize and advocate for this in our organizations, it’s helpful to have places where it works first, the crawl-walk-run approach. Chris, can you help us understand areas where applying IT4IT early and often as a beachhead works?
Need and competence
Davis: Where you have the need and the competence. Back to my earlier point about how the standard can be envisioned, and the point that David just made, what we offer in IT4IT is something that’s not only prescriptive and ready to hand, but it’s also ready to mind, so people get it very quickly.
The quick wins are the important ones, not necessarily the low-hanging fruit, but the parts of the business where opportunities like the ones that David just suggested — if we were to try to do something like Uber — that would be too much.
If somewhere in an organization like Microsoft — where Kathleen is in-charge — there is a group that can gain rapid traction, that would be most effective. Then the telling of the early success stories; the work by Toine that shows how from the early stages in the development of the architecture, it was useful at Rabobank, that adds momentum.
Gardner: Lars, same question, where did you see this as getting traction best? Maybe it’s new efforts, greenfield application development, mobile-first type development, or maybe it’s some other area. Where might you point to as a great starting point to build this into an organization?
Rossen: It’s pretty simple actually. We’ve done more than 50, maybe a 100 engagements now using the IT4IT model with our customer base. Very often, it’s the central IT. It comes out of saying, “We’re too inconsistent.” It’s the automation story that comes first, and then typically you end up in a discussion around Detect to Correct. It’s a familiar area and people understand the various components that are involved in that.
But back to what you mentioned before is the layer approach that allows us to go in with a single slide. We can put it up in large format on the wall, and you can start to put Post-It notes on it. You don’t need to understand architecture. That implies that we can have decision makers coming in, and we break down a lot of siloes in the operations area, just with Detect to Correct. That’s where 99 percent of our engagements have been starting.
Then, the Request to Fulfill with the experience is where people want to go. That’s the Holy Grail, or one of the Holy Grails. There are actually two Holy Grails, and that’s just one of them. The other one is to be able to do Strategy to Portfolio, and no longer just say, “I have this application and I need to move it to the next version or whatever.” It’s understanding what are the services, not the applications, but the services I’m delivering to the business.
It isn’t until you have the value streams more in order that you can start building up that service backbone that is so crucial to IT4IT.
Gardner: Is there an element of educating the consumer of IT in an enterprise to anticipate services differently? Ryan, when you mentioned earlier the Request to Fulfill value stream, I can understand how that makes a great deal of sense from IT out to the organization. But do people have to make an adjustment in order to receive things as a value stream, to consume them, to think of asking things through the lens of your being a broker organization? What must we do to educate and help the consumer of IT understand that it might be a different ballgame?
Schmierer: We need to start with the goal of reducing friction within the organization. Consumers of IT are operating in a changing landscape. I talked earlier about the network effect and how the environment is constantly evolving, constantly changing. As it does, the needs and desires of the people consuming technology and information will continue to change.
Request to Fulfill helps provide the mechanics for a corporate IT organization to become that broker of services. But if we look at that from a consumption perspective (from the users of services) it’s all about enabling them to change their mind, change their needs, change their business processes faster, and removing the friction that exists within the process of provisioning today.
If something is a new technology that they want to bring into their organization, because they see a potential to it, how do we get that in there faster? The whole Request to Fulfill value stream is about accelerating the time to value for new technology coming into the organization and reducing the friction of the request process.
Gardner: Dave, anything to offer on that same side, the consumption side, rather than the delivery perspective?
Wright: We’re getting this breakdown now, where people are saying that it’s not about the CIs; it’s about the service that those CIs support, how you can take something that can have not a CI-centric CMDB, but a service-centric CMDB. How people can map those relationships. The whole consumption side of it is flipping now, as people’s expectations come in line.
The other thing I found specifically with the IT4IT concept is that people start to put together a kind of business logic very quickly around things. So they’ll look at the whole process. And I had someone said to me a few weeks ago, “If I understand the cost elements of each of those, I truly know what that service costs. Could I move and actually be able to manage my system based on what it’s costing the business not the fact it’s a server on problem or it’s a red light? It’s costing me x-amount of dollars a minute for this to be down and I’ve spent this much money actually building it and getting out.” But you have to have all those elements tied in, all the way from the portfolio element right the way through to the run element.
Gardner: So it really seems as if it also offers a value of rationalization, prioritization, but in business terms rather than IT terms. Is that correct?
Gardner: As I try to factor where this will work best, early, and often, not only would we look at specific parts of IT within organization, but we might look at specific companies as a culture, as a type of company but also vertical industries. I’ll go back to you, Dave, because ServiceNow has a fairly horizontal view of many different companies. Are there particular companies that you think it would be, as a culture or a type of company, better suited for adoption of IT4IT or in other vertical industries where this makes sense first?
Wright: The people I have seen who would be most disciplined about wanting to be able to look at things holistically right across the whole gamut have been the pharmaceutical companies. Pharmaceutical companies have come along and they’re obviously very regimented in the same way finances are. They’re the people who seem to be the early adopters of looking at this holistic process.
If I look at customers, the people who are adopting it first, at a low level, tend to be the financial institutions, but after that, the conversation tends to go through pharmaceuticals. I don’t think any one business has really nailed it, but this is a challenge of every company. Every company has an IT division, and they run IT, but their business isn’t to run IT; their business is inherently to provide financial services or develop drugs.
Looking at what processes people do to drive their core business, the people who are very regimented and disciplined tend to be the people who are saying there has to be a way we can gain more visibility into what we’re doing from an IT perspective.
Gardner: Ryan, thoughts on the similar question about where this is applicable either as a type of company or a vertical industry?
Schmierer: I’d look at who is most threatened by the changes going on in the world today. Where are cost pressures to drive efficiencies most prevalent because they’re going to have the most motivation to change quickly? I’d also look at companies that were early adopters of IT who, through their early adoption, have ended up with a lot of legacy debt that they’re trying to manage and they now need to rationalize that in order to get their total IT cost profile down.
In terms of specific verticals, there are pockets within each vertical or each industry that there are opportunities here. I’d look at it from a scale perspective. If you go back to the scale model that I shared this morning about the different sizes of organizations, a lot of small organizations don’t need this, and a lot of start-ups can build it into their DNA. Some of the companies that have more legacy (more mature enterprises) have more of a fundamental need for this type of structure and are going to be able to reap some benefits more quickly or with only a few pieces of it.
It’s a scale question and it’s a risk question. Who is under the most pressure to improve their cost performance?
Gardner: So if I do IT4IT correctly, how might I know a few months — six months, a quarter or two down the road – later that I can attribute improvement to that particular activity?
Rossen: There are a couple of different things that I believe can be done at an abstract level where actually within IT4IT trying to make more concrete key performance indicator (KPI) assessments of what would make sense in terms of measuring it. More abstractly, are you really embracing the multi-supplier options that reside in IT4IT. That’s one of the reasons we kicked it off. Shell has some good examples of what it costs to integrate a supplier. And that’s tremendous high cost typically, because you have to design how to exchange an incident every time over-and-over again, and then it becomes much more reusable.
That’s a place where you see that the cost of working with your partner should go down, and you can become a service broker. That’s a particular area where we would see benefits very quickly. But it’s also coming back to the original question or questions. That’s also where we see the typical companies that wants to pick it up are the companies that really are having that pain that it’s not a centralized IT any longer. It’s lines of business IT, it’s central, it’s suppliers and you yourself are supplying to others. If you have that problem then IT4IT is really good for you and you can quickly see benefits.
Gardner: Chris, thoughts on this notion of how do I attribute benefits in my IT organization at the business level to IT4IT?
Holy Grail for academics
Davis: This has been another Holy Grail for academics. We go all the way back to the 1970s constructive cost model and things like that. Lars hit the nail on the head. The other thing is what Cathleen said this morning. It will be less easily measured, more easily sensed, there will be changes in mindsets and so on. So it’s very difficult to articulate and measure, but we’re working on ways to make it much more tractable.
Wright: I’ve been implementing ITSM system since the mid-90s, but we still do one thing in the same way that’s truly weird and you are kind of hitting on this question. Can we define the outcomes?
Whenever anyone undertakes a project like this, they decide they’re going to completely redefine the way that IT manages itself as a business. You probably should design the outcomes in the metrics that you want before you put the system in. Almost everyone I can ever remember implements a system and goes “Cool, let’s write some reports.” And then you take the reports you can get and say, “We’d like a report that shows this,” and the consultant who put it in says, “Oh, you can’t get that.”
If only you step back and said, “Let’s think what we want and build a system that delivers that data,” is would provide a lot more value to the business.
Gardner: Well, I’ve had a chance to ask lots of questions. Let’s go now to our architects, the people in the trenches. Dave Lounsbury, CTO at The Open Group, help us out with some practical approaches to implementing IT4IT.
Lounsbury: First off, I want to mention that it’s really gratifying to see that new participants like Ryan and David come in and adopt this technology, and give us their insights. So thank you very much for participating, as well as our legacy folks. IT always has a legacy, right?
Each speaker mentioned the need for better data management as part of this process, and so this is a governance issue. And who in these evolving organizations should be responsible for data governance; is it the business, is it IT, is it a third entity that should be doing that? Any thoughts on that?
Schmierer: Let me take that one. We need to start by rethinking the idea of data governance. We’re trying to govern the data because we’re trying to create too much data. We’re spending far too much time adding overhead tasks to people who need to do their day jobs, people who are trying to execute on the value stream in order to generate data needed to make decision-making. When we don’t get the data that we’re looking for to drive decisions, we apply governance and we apply more overhead on top of it.
As we think about IT4IT and the fact that we have a value stream and a separate set of supporting functions, it gives us an opportunity to ask “How can we reduce the amount of data required to be generated within the value stream itself?”
The extra data points that someone collects as a part of a request or the status updates that are created as a part of a project or an agile release, how do we get to the point that we can derive that from the operational systems themselves and let people just do their jobs? If we’re not asking people to manually create data, there’s no need to create governance processes for it. That’s why IT4IT has a lot of value here. We’re going to get greater [quality] data by making people’s jobs easier.
Rossen: I’d like to answer that, very much in line to what you are saying. One of the purposes of the service backbone is that everything relates back to that. If you really follow it, everything would be available. You don’t need to do anything further in terms of data skews, any log message, any incident, or any report or set of data from the development. It can all be related back to the conceptual service and then you can have fun with creating the reports you want to do, but you don’t add any overhead to the individuals in the value chain.
Lounsbury: Can you elaborate on how best to address the people and mindset shifts you need to make as you transition to this kind of a model?
Schmierer: From a Microsoft perspective, it starts with valuing the individuals, the contributions they’ve made to the organization, and the opportunity for them to be a part of the future where the company is going. We need to make sure that we talk with individuals and reinforce that they are valuable and appreciated.
Change is always difficult. When you talk about changing skill sets, asking people to learn new skills, adopting new ways of working, it’s uncomfortable. We’re moving people out of their comfort zone and asking them to do something new. But I don’t think this one is difficult at all; it’s basic. Appreciate your people and tell them thank you.
Lounsbury: So given a complex service request demand by a business user, how will IT4IT assist me in designing a service with say, five different vendors?
Rossen: Well, the first thing is that within S2P, which is really where such a thing comes in, it’s a new service that needs to be introduced. We now have the framework for working on the conceptual service that we will make up whatever is requested. But everybody in the room here should probably appreciate the fact. We’re not throwing away all the good stuff that goes around TOGAF and architecture in general for the business. If it’s a very complex thing, you need to have an enterprise architecture worked out for that.
But it feeds into the pipeline of that, executing it. You can split it up into projects. You can still attract them as being part of the bigger things, but it does lead to that. A very important thing in IT4IT and in the industry in general is that you have to design small things that are making dependences to each other so one service depends on another service and so on. It’s not just an app on top of the infrastructure or platform infrastructure. It becomes much more complex with respect to that, but it’s the way the industry goes.
Lounsbury: What are the most important steps a small-to-medium sized enterprise (SME) could take to move to this service broker model that’s been advocated in IT4IT?
Wright: If it’s an SME, typically they’re going to be using multiple systems coupled together. There won’t be any real formality around it. But the first thing for them is to get a common place where they can go and request these services. So that catalog is going to be structured in a way that’s easy to use.
I have a funny story. We were looking at how we designed UI/UX for our customers to interact with software, and we hired a group of people who were 23 or 24 years old to build the UI. We were showing a lot of them a standard service-management type of process you go through, and he said it was very complex, and I said it was. He asked how people learn to use it? I said, “What typically happens is you roll the system out and then you send all your users on a training course.” He was horrified. He said, “You’re allowed to write a software that’s so bad, you have to train people how to use it?” I said, “Yes, I’ve made a good living for 25 years doing that.”
To be able to get a catalog, especially in a smaller business where you’ve perhaps got a younger workforce, more rapid turnover, or a potential to expand, it’s development system is where you don’t have to train people how to use them where it’s very intrusive.
I go onto this, I request something, and then suddenly something pops-up. I’ve got a task I need to do. It’s not like the going in sorting through records wondering what it all means and why have I got like 300 fields on the form and a couple of tabs to go through. It’s making work as simple as possible, that’s what’s going to drive the adoption of this.
But at a high level, what really drives the adoption is the visibility of the end result that you get from this, having that clarity of information. Imagine everyone in this room used to seeing incidents by category, so you can see a percentage of where you’re spending your time, you are on hardware issues, you are doing software upgrades. No other part of the business, especially in this consolidated business model, can see that.
If you go to human resources and ask for a breakdown of percentages, how much you spend on each different type of task, you’ll get some tribal knowledge ballpark figures. Same for legal, same for finance. Everyone who has been there for a while knows it, but there are no metrics. If you can provide those metrics at a top level, that just drives it further and further into the organization.
Lounsbury: One more, okay, so which one to choose? And of course people will be able to interact with these folks at the breaks and at our evening reception if I don’t get to your question. So how does IT4IT help in a situation where a company is trying to eliminate a data center and move to the public cloud? As a broker of services who owns the system integration and process services, how does that flow in the IT4IT model?
Rossen: I’ll take the first crack. Again it’s a classical scenario around saying where can you rationalize your portfolio? So do I outsource it, do I move the infrastructure to the cloud, do I still maintain the actual application, etc. You can’t make these decisions without having assistance of insight around what you’re actually running, how it’s being consumed, what business value does it bring, which goes back to strategy to portfolio, what conceptual services do you have, how are they currently implemented, how are they running, what is the quality, how many consumers are there on it?
If you have that data, it’s actually fairly easy to make these decisions, but typically most organizations, this exercises require 60 spread sheets, half a calendar year 60 people trying to figure that out and in the meantime it’s not really correct, right? And that’s again because you don’t have a service backbone, you don’t really have connected information, so implementing IT4IT will allow you to make these decisions much easier.
Schmierer: Let me add onto that a little bit. As we talked about, “If you want to move something in a cloud, how can I get IT4IT to help me?” We have to remember that this is an area where the industry is evolving. We haven’t got it all figured out yet. IT4IT is a great starting point for having the conversation with those folks helping you in system integration and your cloud service provider to step through the questions about how things need to change, what needs to be done differently. “What are the things that the consuming IT organization no longer needs to do because the cloud service provider is doing for them?”
For now, start by using IT4IT as a checklist, use it as a starting point for brokering the conversation to ask if we’ve thought about everything. Over time, this will get repeatable — it will become a common pattern, and we’ll just know and won’t need to have that conversation. But for now, IT4IT is a great reference model to help us have that conversation.
Gardner: Would it not make sense for you as a consumer of cloud services to wonder whether your cloud provider is using IT4IT and wouldn’t that give you a common denominator by which to pursue some of these benefits?
Rossen: That would certainly be in the future when we come to tool certification within The Open Group. A cloud provider would also need to be certified to saying, well, if you find my service, I can actually provide you with an incident interface according to the standards, so it’s easy for you to hand over and go back and forth if there are issues just to take one example, right?
Gardner: Any more to offer from anyone?
Schmierer: One thing I can offer is this: since the IT4IT standard launched in Edinburgh three months ago, I can’t tell you how many emails I receive from our account teams and from customers who are asking us this exact question.
Customers are asking the question about IT4IT, how it plays into the service provider landscape and how they can use it to drive the conversation. So the word is getting out, and the best thing you can do as a consumer of this stuff, as you go work with different service providers is to ask the questions, and ask their opinion and their thoughts on it.
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