AUTHOR: W. Eric Ledyard
“What would be really useful for us throughout this process is to understand how we have been doing in our current IT transformation efforts and provide us a baseline of measurement for tracking our improvement throughout our future IT transformation efforts.” ~Accelerate Customer 2011
This is a common request of many IT organizations as they are moving through their IT transformation projects with us in the Accelerate team. Another question we receive from customers and other groups within VMware and the industry is: How do you measure ITaaS and cloud?
We feel that it is possible to measure how ‘cloudy’ an organization is by gathering data on a specific set of Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) that reflect where that company is in their journey towards ITaaS. In order to perform this, the Accelerate team has put together a diagnostic offering that will measure a customer’s environment and provide a clear result of the customer’s current state measured against what we know as a fully-optimized ITaaS environment and also provides them with a measurement against where their desired state is in the future. We call this tool the ATA Scale, which stands for “Accelerate Transformation Assessment” Scale.
We have also put together a white paper that explains the scale in much more detail than this blog will and that is attached to this message here: Download VMW-WP-ACCELERATE-TRANS-ASSMNT-SCALE-USLET-103-WEB
What I would like to address in this blog is a quick list of questions that we have been getting from companies and other teams at VMware that will help you understand what the scale is, what it isn’t, who can benefit from it, and how to interpret the results. We are going to present and answer these in a somewhat FAQ style below.
Q: What is the ATA Scale and how does it fit into other offerings that the VMware Accelerate team offers?
A: We have, roughly, around 14 different offerings that the VMware Accelerate team offers organizations that are looking to pursue the journey of IT transformation. We break those into 3 major groupings: Diagnostic Offerings, Transformative Efforts, and Strategic Engagements. While this is not meant to explain our entire organization in detail, the ATA Scale falls into the portfolio under our diagnostic offerings. A diagnostic offering is one that is typically done at the beginning of the transformative process and provides a quick, high-level understanding of the environment which will provide visibility into where the organization is starting from. This is then used as a starting point for determining which of our other offerings would benefit the organization most in helping them achieve their future-state goals. The ATA scale is a scale used to quickly determine where an organization is starting from across 4 major areas of: Business Alignment, Process and Systems Management, Application Modernization, and Infrastructure. Because of our unique industry position, we have a very clear picture of what a fully-optimized ITaaS environment looks like and we can measure an organization’s progress towards achieving their goals towards this environment.
Q: Does the ATA Scale have benchmarking components within it that would compare how we are doing as an organization relative to other corporations in our industry?
A: No. We built the ATA Scale to have a very specific function. To provide an absolute scale for measuring ITaaS within an organization and to provide scoring relative to progress along the path of transformation. It is not meant to be a grade, or a comparable scoring methodology, but a measure of progress towards the organization’s target goals as well as their progress towards a fully-optimized environment. As an organization, we have a team that is dedicated to benchmarking services which are designed to measure your organization against other organizations in your industry. Craig Stanley leads this team and has multiple blogs thus far explaining what they do and how they can help. He builds relative scales used to measure organizations that are pursuing this goal.
Q: Does the ATA Scale provide financial impact analysis of what the benefits of IT transformation will be as the organization matures?
A: No. As we mentioned earlier, the ATA Scale is very myopic in its design. It is used as a diagnostic tool for measuring progress on the journey of ITaaS for an organization. Financial analysis (if done correctly) takes a much deeper level of assessment and knowledge than what is required to map progress for ITaaS and is something that we can provide through strategic offerings that the Accelerate team offers. Those will be outlined in future blog posts in more detail, but they are built to specifically measure what the financial implications will be if an organization is able to progress from where they are currently to where they want to go in the future. The ATA Scale is typically used in the beginning of this process to provide us a high-level picture of where we are starting from, but a more detailed assessment needs to be done by our strategic teams in order to provide detailed financial analyses on the benefits of undertaking the transformative efforts.
Q: Why does the ATA Scale provide 2 score results?
A: This came from feedback that we received during the playback of the results from the first couple of these that we performed while the scale was being developed. When we first designed the scale, we were measuring organizations only against a fully-optimized ITaaS environment. This was fine in theory, but the feedback that we received was that: “We do not see a ton of value in measuring ourselves against a fully-optimized ‘perfect’ environment, since we know the feasibility of us ever getting to ‘perfect’ is next to impossible.” As we digested that feedback, we realized that most organizations do not have the budgets or resources that would be required to achieve that ‘perfect’ environment and to make the scale more valuable to all organizations, we modified the scale to measure not only their progress towards ‘perfect’ but also their progress towards a feasible desired-state. This is why there are 2 results now in the ATA scale. Where are we when compared to ‘perfect’? Where are we in regards to where we know we can feasibly go as an organization? The analogy that I used to explain this is, imagine that I take it upon myself to improve my time running a mile. We all know that a perfect time for the mile is around the 4-minute mark. My current mile time (if being chased by a rabid dog) is probably somewhere in the 12-minute category. I could measure myself and my future improvement against a perfect mile, but it is not at all feasible that I could ever reach the 4-minute mile mark. So, in order to provide a more useful measure of my journey, we also measure my progress towards a more feasible level of attainment for me, personally, which would be somewhere in the 8-minute range. It makes quite a difference in the results from a mathematic perspective. If I am currently running the mile in 12 minutes, that is 33% of the way towards a perfect 4-minute mile but it is 67% of the way towards my 8-minute future-state goal.
Q: Why would any organization not reach for a fully-optimized IT environment?
A: Not all organizations have a need to reach ITaaS ‘perfect’ because it does not make sense to the organization financially or there are other factors such as governance and compliance which make it impossible in the current state of the industry to achieve perfection. Many times, I have heard specific people within organizations say: “Why wouldn’t we shoot for perfect?” and for the most part, I applaud the optimism and energy. However, there are many other organizations that say to me: “Why would we measure ourselves against ITaaS ‘perfect’ when we know we can never attain that level?” They also have a very valid point. The beautiful thing about the scale is: We can do both or either by asking the same set of questions. And we do. This way, depending on what makes sense to your organization’s needs, we can provide you a measurement that is applicable to you no matter what your goals are.
Q: What if we set our future-state goals too low?
A: This actually happens fairly often in my humble opinion. Most of the time, this is due to the fact that not everyone that gets interviewed has a complete view of what is possible in IT currently so the ideas that we know as ‘perfect’ are seen as completely unattainable. The challenge for anyone in today’s IT industry is keeping up with the exponential acceleration of technology enablers which an organization can take advantage of when transforming to a ITaaS environment. Many organizations are still struggling with concepts of virtualization, so discussing an environment where you can move a running ‘server’ from one datacenter to another across geographically disperse locations is quite a leap from where they are currently. Because of this technology gap, I feel (and this is at this point completely my own personal observation and in no way reflects that of VMware corporate’s) many companies believe that the strategic objectives of ITaaS perfect are very far away and are very complex, when in fact they aren’t as ‘sci-fi’ as they seem. The good news is, the VMware Accelerate team can help with this. We are involved in every ATA scale that is performed and we will be looking at the results and helping present areas where we feel an organization may be able to do better than they think they can and structuring a strategy for helping them attain the most efficient environment possible.
Well, that about wraps it up for now. I will continue to compile questions that we receive and shed light on future development efforts as they come available. In the meantime, if you have read this and think: “I sure would love to see how we are doing, how do I get this started in my environment?” Please reach out to our team and we can help. You can contact us via e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org .