Traditionally, IT organizations operated in a siloed environment. AppDev teams were tasked with meeting the needs of the business and Infrastructure teams provided the environment to support AppDev. These two organizations had little interaction and even less collaboration. Even worse, the infrastructure provisioning process was viewed as a roadblock to getting the business with what they needed when they needed it.
In today’s IT world two factors have turned this scenario upside down. The first is the trend toward virtualization and automation, which enable the infrastructure team to provide the supporting environments at the speed of business. The second is the desire of companies to adopt an ITaaS (IT as a Service) approach in which IT focuses on the outcomes the business needs and functions much like a business itself. Evolving to an ITaaS approach requires a great deal of collaboration between all levels of the IT organization, including effective and structured collaboration between AppDev and Infrastructure.
One of the most powerful results of an ITaaS approach is the provision of cost effective, nimble solutions at the speed of business. To achieve this it is important for all IT teams to clearly define and understand the services they provide, particularly the end-to-end services delivered to the business itself. Historically, defining end-to-end services has often fallen to the AppDev team who took an application-centric approach to the process. This led to a disconnect between AppDev and Infrastructure. Ideally, this process is a collaborative effort between the two teams to clearly define the services, taking all aspects into consideration, including not only the applications, but also the infrastructure, the service level agreements for elements such as availability and performance and the relative importance of each service to the business operations.
While the process of defining IT services provides the basics of ITaaS, it is only the first step in truly transforming an IT organization. In order to deliver IT as a service, IT must provide the business with metrics that illustrate the benefits provided, particularly the financial value through increased productivity at a lower cost. To meet that goal the AppDev and Infrastructure teams need to collaborate on many different levels to realize these efficiencies. Streamlining and effectively managing the allocation and deployment process is the first step to lowering the cost of IT.
Typically, AppDev teams of the past chose their solution to the business need with little thought to maximizing the efficiencies of the supporting infrastructure. Additionally, the Infrastructure team provided the environment with little understanding of the application architecture. Leveraging the efficiencies of a virtualized environment can certainly provide a more agile environment, but only through a collaborative effort can IT truly provide the most effective solution. AppDev and Infrastructure need to consider all aspects of delivering the solution. This includes availability, security, performance and scalability and reporting requirements. They must also understand and agree upon the application’s importance to the business. This will determine the disaster recovery strategy and define the support levels provided by both teams. Once all these factors are determined and defined, only then can the IT teams develop the most effective solution by aligning the application architecture with the most efficient infrastructure. This effort will help to lay the groundwork for standardizing the integrated AppDev and Infrastructure processes and delivering measurable metrics that illustrate the success of the transformation to ITaaS. Additionally, the standardization work can be leveraged to help implement Platform as a Service (PaaS), bringing even greater efficiencies to a virtualized environment.
Collaboration across the entire IT organization is not a new and trendy concept. Several models have emerged as best practice pathways to building and maintaining agile IT teams. DevOps, for example, addresses the need for IT to provide rapid deployment of systems by breaking down the traditional barriers between IT teams. The “Dev” in DevOps does not simply refer to the AppDev teams, but includes all IT resources such as network engineers, sys admins, security teams and DBA’s. They are all part of the development lifecycle and have a role in the development of the most effective solutions to meet the needs of the business. Through DevOps, IT organizations become a valued service provider and not a bottleneck to providing business solutions.
ITaaS requires organizations to rethink how they provide solutions to the business. Collaboration between AppDev and Infrastructure is central to successfully transforming to ITaaS. Traditional silos need to be broken down, blurring the lines between internal IT teams. This may require an internal reorganizational effort to facilitate a more collaborative environment, but even without changes to organizational structure, working together towards a common, outcome-focused objective, is the key. While managing this entire endeavor may seem a bit overwhelming, changes in the market, competition and technology are requiring most IT organizations to re-evaluate how they can keep up with the demands of today’s business environment.
Mark Sterner brings over 14 years of experience in IT Service Management. He has worked in both the process development and ITIL implementation areas for large IT organizations. Mark is currently a Transformation Consultant at VMware, Inc.