This week’s IT Forum in Barcelona clearly produced a great deal of interest in the new System Center products. One other aspect of that show that strikes me is the number of conversations that referenced that the System Center tools and IT management in general are becoming vital components of organizational success. Given that the show was in Barcelona, it’s not surprising that ITIL came up a lot in conversation but I do think that there is a growing trend to treat the management of IT infrastructure as a strategic activity. This brings a great deal of responsibility to IT practitioners (some of it clearly not pleasant , as is outlined by our friends at Network World) but it hasn’t always led to an equal level of power or influence that would be appropriate for such vital work. So IT management is important but sometimes not important enough to be a strategic investment. How do we change this?
A good case study for how to change this situation is in the sector I just left: business intelligence (BI). Here, someone had the cunning plan to take reports, dashboards and scorecards, and marry them with financial applications to create “Performance Management”. (To get a more considered and much more interesting perspective on this check out the Performance Guys blog). This allowed BI projects to get much larger funding by linking them directly to corporate performance, and kicked off the waves of consolidation for vendors that eventually led to all the major independent BI players being strategic acquisitions for some very large competitors.
IT management does not necessarily have an equivalent to performance management – something that allows its advocates to translate its value to the business. (Note: I’m not saying there is no performance or metric based approach to IT management. Instead I’m saying there is no framework of understanding that bridges from IT to the rest of the business). Clearly SLAs are a big part of bridging that gap in understanding, but they have tended to be communicated as a stick with which to beat IT rather than a way to show what huge difference our activity makes to the business. So where is the Performance Management of IT service management?
One part of the puzzle that may lead to the delivery of the business-language Rosetta stone, will come from organizations implementing process based IT management – where technology is key but only one aspect. Marrying the clichéd “people, process, technology” remains a real and valid objective. Frameworks like MOF and ITIL can make a real difference in the language you can use to talk to the organization about how this technology keeps the business going. (The System Center team has recently worked with our friends who develop MOF recently put together this whitepaper to show how all of this fits together. Expect more on bringing the process and technology of IT service management together from us in the future.)
It may be that I just haven’t found what I’m looking for but my own opinion is that the full answer lies in the need to manage IT infrastructure as an asset rather than a liability. Managing it from end-to-end, making the best use of the resources avaiable, and getting the best value from from it at every turn. From optimizing users desktop experience to automating the datacenter. Plus if else fails you can point to cost savings that using these tools and approaches delivers to the organization. Money is always a strong argument…