Making IT Matter

I keep having the same conversations. At trade shows, on-site with technology customers and integrators, in workshops and at analyst briefings, the conversations would conclude that:

• Traditional use of Information Technology (IT) has fundamental flaws
• In the future, IT is moving towards a service based model.
• Business need to take increasing control of IT.
• The problem is more political then technological.
• Nobody really knows or understands how to move things forward.

This has made for some very interesting, informative and interactive conversations, which have often worked best with a beer in hand. I understand that the same conversations are happening elsewhere, and wherever I listen, I hear similar stories. However, it remains all talk.

Meanwhile, a couple of years ago the IT market crashed. Oops. It may be coming out of the downturn now, but there is every danger that the new IT industry that emerges is the same as the old, a market which has failed to learn from its own mistakes. If there is one good thing that should come out of the crash, it is the opportunity to spend time to understand not what went wrong, but how things could be done better the next time around.

Unfortunately, in the IT industry the precedents do not offer much hope for the future. Never in history have people and organisations failed so obviously and so often to learn from the lessons of the immediate past, preferring to push forward to the next potential solution rather than dwell on current failures. This approach remains the norm in many IT vendor organisations, whose business models are still rooted in the past. The concept of a silver bullet was first exposed as a fraud back in the seventies, and despite the increasingly cynical veneer that many like to portray, as an industry we are still hoping for a cure all. From the vendor perspective, such a salve is referred to as a “killer app” – something everyone wants to buy. In other words, success wil be judged by sales, and not by problems solved.

Hope – and help – is at hand, indeed many companies are already taking the initiative. There is a great deal of will at the highest levels in the largest vendor companies, and there are increasingly strong demands from end-user organisations. Will is one thing, but a way is quite another: there is a lack of understanding of how to get there, and there remain huge hurdles to be overcome. There are customers that get it; however, there are plenty of customers and plenty people inside the IT organisations that do not. This report is designed to address this issue and provide a blueprint that organisations can work to.

This blueprint boils down to the delivery of IT as a service to the business. This is not a technological goal, more a pragmatic one; it is also not an easy goal. However, as we shall see in this report, it is the goal: it is what IT is working towards, and it is what business is demanding. By focusing on this goal and working back from the answer, this report gives you the tools and approach to help you get there.

This report contains the following sections:

• IT is Dead. This introductory section describes how we have got things wrong to date. Particularly given the fact that we are trying to achieve whole order of magnitude changes, for example the agile business. This chapter is kept short – we don’t want to rub our own noses in it, do we?

• Long Live IT – as a Service. We can’t do without it, but what do we actually want? Let’s work this out then we can work back from the answer, which is a service-based IT architecture with all the trimmings.

• The Barriers to IT as a Service. If we’re all agreed on what we want, there must be reasons why we haven’t been able to get there in the past. This is where things get interesting – by understanding the constraints and pitfalls, we stand a chance of overcoming them.

• Preparing for IT as a Service. To overcome the barriers, there are some measures we must implement before we can start considering how to manage or deploy service-based IT. Not least – the business has to understand itself, and the IT department needs to fundamentally restructure.

• Managing IT as a Service. The IT manager is given a kingly role in this book, as the representative of the business and the customer of technology. This chapter explains why by considering the roles and responsibilities, the supporting tools and frameworks. It then asks the question – how well are you doing?

• Delivering IT as a Service. IT can be delivered as a service on a project by project basis. If everything else is in place, each project can move through relatively traditional steps while assuring that the basic service criteria are included in the mix.

• Selling IT as a Service. IT vendors need all the help they can get, not least to match up to the new breed of service-savvy customers. No-nonsense guidelines explain the service solution value chain and how vendors can make their own evolution towards commoditisation.

• Hope for the Future. This concludes by summarising the requirements of any service-based organisation and ranking them into maturity levels. There is no right answer, other than progress.

• Annex – Scorecards. These are provided to help the business, the IT department, the integrator and the IT vendor gauge where they are along the evolutionary path. The scorecards also serve to rank IT suppliers, so that IT customers can make more informed choices about who they should be depending on.

Note that this report is focused on making things work better today. It is not a collection of nice-to-have theories or unmappable best practices of one organisation. Throughout, this report incorporates a wide variety of case studies and examples, covering both where things have worked and where they have not, so we can draw conclusions from the successes and failures of the past.

It is worth mentioning what this does not cover. It does not delve into the potential new business models as advocated by the current best practice business thinking, such as the agile enterprise so loved by the Harvard Business Review. Rather, it presents an approach to delivering a concrete framework of technology that can work for any business, agile or otherwise. A castle build on sand cannot stand – this aims to resolve the issue of the sand, rather than focusing too strongly on the castle.

Note that this report refers to “technology” and IT to describe a combination of things, which some may disagree fall under the same roof. For example, Telecommunications and IT are all sides up the same mountain, solving the same problem, as illustrated with metropolitan Ethernet and VoIP.

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