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IT4IT™ Value Chain Forum
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How IT4IT helps turn IT into a transformational service for digital business innovation

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How IT4IT helps turn IT into a transformational service for digital business innovation

The next BriefingsDirect expert panel discussion examines the value and direction of The Open Group IT4IT initiative, a new reference architecture for managing IT to help business become digitally innovative.

IT4IT was a hot topic at The Open Group San Francisco 2016 conference in January. This panel, conducted live at the event, explores how the reference architecture grew out of a need at some of the world's biggest organizations to make their IT departments more responsive, more agile.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Get the mobile app. Read a full transcript or download a copy.

We’ll learn now how those IT departments within an enterprise and the vendors that support them have reshaped themselves, and how others can follow their lead. The expert panel consists of Michael Fulton, Principal Architect at CC&C Solutions; Philippe Geneste, a Partner at Accenture; Sue Desiderio, a Director at PriceWaterhouseCoopers; Dwight David, Enterprise Architect at Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE); and Rob Akershoek, Solution Architect IT4IT at Shell IT International. The discussion is moderated by me, Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions.

Here are some excerpts:

Gardner: How do we bridge the divide between a cloud provider, or a series of providers, and have IT take on a brokering role within the organization? How do we get to that hybrid vision role?

Geneste: We'll get there step-by-step. There's a practical step that’s implementable today. My suggestion would be that every customer or company that selects an outsourcer, that selects a cloud vendor, that selects a product, uses the IT4IT Reference Architecture in the request for proposal (RFP), putting a strong emphasis on the integration.

We see a lot of RFPs that are still silo-based -- which one is the best product for project and portfolio management, which one is the best service management tool -- but it’s not very frequent that we see the integration as being the topnotch value measured in the RFP. That would be one point.

The discussions with the vendors, again, cloud vendors or outsourcers or consulting firms should start from this, use it as an integration architecture, and tell us how you would do things based on these standardized concepts. That’s a practical step that can be used or employed today.

In a second step, when we go further into the vendor specification, there are vendors today, when you analyze the products and the cloud offerings that are closer to the concepts we have in the reference architecture. They're maybe not certified, maybe not the same terminology, but the concepts are there, or the way to the concepts is closer.

And then ultimately, step 3 and 3.5 will be product vendor certified, cloud service offering certified, hopefully full integration according to the reference architecture, and eventually, even plug-and-play. We're doing a little bit about plug-and-play, but at least integration.

Gardner: What sort of time frame would you put on those steps? Is this a two-year process, a four-year process, to soon to tell?

Achievable goals

Geneste: That’s a tough one. I suppose the vendor should be responding to this one. For the service providers, for the cloud service providers, it’s a little bit trickier, but for the consulting firm for the service providers it should be what it takes to get the workforce trained and to get the concepts spread inside the organization. So within six to 12 months, the critical mass should be there in these organizations. It's tough, but project by project, customer by customer it’s achievable.

Some vendors are on the way, and we've seen several vendors talk about IT4IT in this conference. I know that those have significant efforts on the way and are preparing for vendor certification. It will be probably a multiyear process to get the full suite of products certified, because there is quite a lot to change in the underlying software, but progressively, we should get there.

So, it's having first levels of certification within one to two years, possibly even sooner. I would be interested in knowing what the vendor responses will be.

Gardner: Sue, along the same lines, what do you see needed in order to make the IT department able to exercise the responsibility of delivering IT across multiple players and multiple boundaries?

Desiderio

Desiderio: Again, it’s starting with the awareness and the open communication about IT4IT and, on a specific instance, where that fits in. Depending on the services we're getting from vendors, or whether it's even internal services that we are getting, where do they fit into the whole IT4IT framework, what functions are we getting, what are the key components, and where are our interface points?

Have those conversations upfront in the contract conversations, so that everyone is aware of what we're trying to accomplish and that we're trying to seek that seamless integration between those suppliers and us.

Gardner: Rob, this would appear to be a buyer’s market in terms of their ability to exercise some influence. If they go seeking RFPs, if there are fewer cloud providers than there were general vendors in a traditional IT environment, they should be able to dictate this, don’t you think?

Akershoek: In the cloud world, the consumer would not dictate at all. That’s the traditional way that we dictate how an operator should provide us data. That’s the problem with the cloud. We want to consume a standard service. So we can't tell the cloud vendor, send me your cost data in this format. That won't work, because we don’t want the cloud vendor to make something proprietary for us.

That’s the first challenge. The cloud vendors are out there and we don’t want to dictate; we want to consume a standard service. So if they set up a catalog in their way, we have to adopt that. If they do the billing their way, we have to adopt it or select another cloud vendor. That’s the only option you have, select another vendor or adopt the management practices of the cloud vendor. Otherwise, we will continuously have to update it according to our policy. That’s a key challenge.

Akershoek

That’s why managing your cloud vendor is really about the entire value chain. You start with making your portfolio, thinking about what cloud services you put in your offerings, or your portfolio. So for past platforms, we use vendor A, and for infrastructure and service, vendor B. That’s where it starts. Which vendors do I engage with?

And then, going down to the Request to Fulfill, it’s more like what are the products that we're allowed to order and how do we provision those? Unfortunately, the cloud vendors don’t have IT4IT yet, meaning we have to do some work. Let’s say we want to provision the cloud environment. We make sure that all the cloud resources we provision are linked to that subscription, linked to that service, so at least we know the components that a cloud vendor is managing, where it belongs, and which service is consuming that.

Different expectations

Fulton: Rob has a key point here around the expectations being different around cloud vendors, and that’s why IT4IT is actually so powerful. A cloud vendor is not going to customize their interfaces for every single individual company, but we can hold cloud vendors accountable to an open industry standard like IT4IT, if we have detailed out the right levels of interoperability.

Fulton

To me, the way this thing comes together long term is through this open standard, and then through that RFP process, customer organizations holding their vendors accountable to delivering inside that open standard. In the world of cloud, that’s actually to the benefit of the cloud providers as well.

Akershoek: That’s a key point you make there, indeed.

David: And just to piggyback on what we're saying, it goes back to the value proposition. Why am I doing this? If we have something that’s an open standard, it enables velocity. You can identify costs much easier. It’s simpler and it goes back again to the value proposition and showing these cloud vendors that because of a standard, I'm able to consume more of your services, I'm able to consume your services easier, and here I'm guaranteed because it’s a standard to get my value. Again, it's back to the value proposition that the open standard offers.

Gardner: Sue, how about this issue of automation? Is it essential to be largely automated to realize the full benefits of IT4IT or is that more of a nice-to-have goal? What's the relationship between a high degree of automation in your IT organization for the support of these activities and the standard and Reference Architecture?

Automation is key

Desiderio: I'm a believer that automation is key, so we definitely have to get automation throughout the whole end-to-end value chain no matter what. That’s really part of the whole transformation going into this new model.

You see that throughout the whole value chain. We talked about it individually on the different value streams and how it comes back.

I also want to touch on what’s the right size company or firm to pick up IT4IT. I agree with where Philippe was coming from. Smaller shops can pick it up and start leveraging it more quickly, because they don't have that legacy IT that was done, where it's not built on composite services and things. Everything on a system is pinpointing direct servers and direct networks, instead of building it on services, like a hosting service and a monitoring response service.

For larger IT organizations, there's a lot more change, but it's critical for us to survive and be viable in the future for those IT shops, the larger ones in large organizations, to start adopting and moving forward.

 

It's not a big bang. We, in a larger IT shop, are going to be running in a mixed mode for a long time to come. It's looking at where to start seeing that business value as you look at new initiatives and things within your organization. How do you start moving into the new model with the new things? How do you start transitioning your legacy systems and whatnot into more of the new way of thinking and looking at that consumption model and what we're trying to do, which is focus on that business outcome.

So it's much harder for the larger IT shops, but the concepts apply to all sizes.

Gardner: Rob, the subject of the moment is size and automation.

Akershoek: I think the principle we just discussed, automation, is a good principle, but if you look at the legacy, as you mentioned, you're not going to automate your legacy, unless you have a good business case for that. You need to standardize your services on many different layers, and that's what you see in the cloud.

Cloud vendors are standardizing extremely, defining standard component services. You have to do the same and define your standard services and then automate all of those. The legacy ones you can't automate or probably don’t want to automate.

So it's more standardization, more standard configurations, and then you can automate and develop or Detect to Correct as well, if you have a very complex configuration and it changes all the time without any standards.

The size of the organization doesn’t matter. Both for large and smaller organizations you need to adopt standard cloud practices from the vendors and automate the delivery to make things repeatable.

Desire to grow

David: Small organizations don’t want to remain small all the time; they actually want to grow. Growth starts with a mindset, a thinking mindset. By applying the Reference Architecture, even though you don't apply every single point to my one-man or two-man shop, it then helps me, it positions me, and it gives me the frame of reference, the thinking to enable growth.

David

It grows organically. So, you don't end up with the legacy baggage that most of the large companies have. And small companies may get acquired, but at least they have good discipline or they may acquire others as they grow. The application of the IT4IT Reference Architecture is just not for large companies, it’s also for small companies, and I'm saying that as a small-business owner myself.

Akershoek: Can I add to that? If you're starting out deployed to the cloud, maybe the best way is to start with automation at first or at least design for automation. If you have a few thousand servers running in the cloud and you didn't start with that concept, then you already have legacy after a few years running in the cloud. So, you should start thinking about automation from the start, not with your legacy of course, but if you're now moving to the cloud design, build that immediately.

The entire Reference Architecture applies from day one for companies of any size; it's just a question of whether it's explicit or implicit.

Fulton: On this point, one of the directions we're heading is to figure out this very issue, what of the reference architecture applies at what size and evolution in a company’s growth.

As I mentioned, I think I made this comment earlier, the entire reference architecture applies from day one for companies of any size; it's just a question of whether it's explicit or implicit.

If it's implicit, it's in the head of the founder. You're still doing the elements, or you can be still doing the elements, of the reference architecture in your mind and your thought process, but there are pieces you need to make explicit even when you are, as Charlie likes to say, two people in a garage.

On the automation piece, the key thing that has been happening throughout our industry related to automation has been, at least in my perspective, when we've been automating within functional components. What the IT4IT Reference Architecture and its vision of value streams allow us to do is rethink automation along the lines of value streams, across functional components. That's where it starts to really add a considerable value, especially when we can start to put together interoperability between tooling on some of these things. That’s where we're going to see automation take us to that next level as IT organizations.

Gardner: As IT4IT matures and becomes adopted and serves both consumers and providers of services, it seems to me that there will be a similar track with digital business of how you run your business, which is going to be more a brokering activity at a business level, that a business is really a constituency of different providers across supply chains, increasingly across service providers.

Is there a dual track for IT4IT on the IT side and for business management of services through a portal, through dashboard, something that your business analyst and on up would be involved with? Should we let them happen separately? How can we make them more aligned and even highly integrated and synergistic?

Best practices

Geneste: We have such best practices in IT4IT that the businesses themselves can replicate that and use that for themselves. I suppose certain companies do that a little bit today; if you take the Ubers and the Airbnbs and have these disintermediation connecting with private individuals a lot of the time, but have some of these service-oriented concepts today effectively, even though they don’t use IT4IT.

Just as much as we see today, we have cases where businesses, for their help-desks or for their request management, turn to the likes of HPE for service-management software to help them with their business help-desk. We're likely to see that those best practices in terms of individualization and specification of individual conceptual service, service catalogue, or subscription mechanisms. You're right; the concepts could very easily apply to businesses. As to how that would turn out, I would need to do a little bit more thinking, but I think from a concept’s standpoint, it truly should be useful.

 

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Get the mobile app. Read a full transcript or download a copy. Sponsor: The Open Group.

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Dana Gardner