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The transformation tipping point

Digital transformation is what most senior business and IT execs are driving toward today, whether they call it by that term or not. They are seeking to deliver digitally-enabled processes which bring better customer experiences, such as through omni-channel marketing or big data analytics that deliver rapid, contextual intelligence to product developers, marketers or to the end customers themselves.

By the end of 2017, two-thirds of CEOs at the 2000 largest public companies worldwide will have digital transformation at the centre of their corporate strategy, according to IDC. Consumer demand for convenience, faster service, apps and security are just a few of the trends driving executives to push for digital transformation. Transformative technologies such as cloud computing, mobile, wearables, IoT, social networking and real-time analytics are making all of this possible.

Large companies starting the journey know that they need to change IT operations to efficiently enable and support this transformation. Bimodal IT is a common strategy, allowing companies to juggle the old and new. The traditional Mode 1 groups must continue to manage the backbone infrastructure and legacy systems that run the business. Meanwhile, new teams focused on Mode 2 are adopting DevOps, Agile development and modern tools to deliver customer-facing innovations in an on-demand fashion.

Before a company can even begin entertaining the concept of building out a Mode 2 capability, it’s important to analyse strengths and weaknesses of the existing IT infrastructure and management framework. Many companies are mired in the complexities of Mode 1, managing too many manual troubleshooting processes and routine configuration tasks. This leads to a situation where the bulk of IT expenses are spent on repair and maintenance, not moving the business forward.

Here are a few of the “warning signs” that your IT organisation is stuck in Mode 1:

  • Reactivity: When critical problems occur, it can be almost impossible to pinpoint them quickly and fix an issue before customers notice. There’s no comprehensive, central place to view an organisation’s IT health across all the silos. This lack of visibility worsens IT’s relationship with the business, and further, does not allow for a proactive organisation which can look toward the future. IT cannot be a service provider or business partner, because there’s too much focus on patching and repairing systems.
  • Alert fatigue: Over the years, many large IT organisations have built up an arsenal of monitoring and management systems. Some of these are effective, others not so much, but the bottom line is there’s too much alert noise. It’s not feasible or even advisable to respond to every alert. The alternative is to respond to nothing, which leads to other problems. Most IT departments will fall somewhere in the middle, picking and choosing which alerts to investigate or not. This situation leads in part to another problem:
  • Shadow IT: When business units take over the job of IT, spinning up cloud apps and services in an ad hoc fashion, it introduces risks for security, higher costs and more complex management and support. If business managers can’t get the resources they need when they need them, who can blame them for going Rambo? IT organisations struggling with shadow IT don’t need to adopt a command-and-control structure, but instead, establish a framework whereby business people can make certain decisions independently while still complying with IT policies and cost structures. This of course, is impossible, if there are too many distractions hampering staff in Mode 1.
  • Sky-high IT operations costs: When IT lacks automation and standard processes for management, support and troubleshooting, staff spends too much time firefighting. Worse, the top (and most expensive) experts may be pulled in to deal with mundane issues that could have been handled by lower-level IT staff or prevented altogether.
  • Project delays: With so much time and money being spent on IT plumbing, there is not much bandwidth left for the strategic, business-aligned work. That makes CIOs, CTOs and VPs unhappy and at odds with each other. The CEO can’t figure out why competitors are getting ahead.
  • No DevOps or other modern development methods: As companies have moved to cloud, mobile and other distributed, flexible technologies, IT organisations must adapt their own working methods. Companies which are not investing in DevOps, Agile, public cloud services and tools, containers and APIs are falling behind every day.

Fixing the foundation

Ensuring that the IT infrastructure support and management mechanisms are running smoothly is the first step toward digital transformation. Once this has been established, it’s far easier and more cost effective to leverage those core storage, network and server capabilities to grow into Mode 2.

A useful way to think about your foundation is decades old: envision a large room full of monitors, telephones and whiteboards in NASA’s Mission Control. We may not need the enormous mainframes of the 1960s, nor the abundance of cigarette smoke, but the concept is similar in other ways. A next-generation network operations centre (NOC), sometimes also referred to as an enterprise command center, can manage on-premise to public cloud infrastructure and everything in between, through a highly skilled around-the-clock staff and a modern IT management solution such as Vistara in combination with ServiceNow. This transformation of an aging IT management environment can transform disconnected processes and islands of information into a see-all, know-all intelligent resource.

Goals for Mode 1 transformation:

  • Deliver a high degree automation for managing infrastructure and problem management/resolution
  • Strive for unified monitoring and event management along with self-healing capabilities
  • Develop processes to identify, filter and categorise incidents for the appropriate response.
  • Create a shared services model to deliver on scale and scope requirements for IT operations
  • Provision services from a central management console
  • Ensure tight tools integration across ITIL and ITSM categories
  • Eliminate tools that are repetitive or not effective, which saves time and money for everyone.
  • Report regularly on outcome-based metrics, including cost, MTTR, availability, performance and capacity
  • Decrease TCO of managed assets

What you get through these efforts is: less noise, more organised, standard processes for uncovering and fixing problems as well as handling regular maintenance, and a cost effective way to reduce critical issues. When the inevitable bad event does occur, IT can fix it far faster than ever – and often before users take notice. This continuous improvement of IT processes can ultimately lead to a more than 40 per cent reduction in costs and a 60 per cent reduction in errors.

Better yet, with the Mode 1 operation working at maximum efficiency, a company can get to Mode 2 faster and more effectively. Becoming a digital business is a multi-year journey but with proper planning and investment early on, the future is closer than you think.

Chris Joseph is VP Product Management & Marketing at NetEnrich

Image source: Shutterstock/Nomad_Soul