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Tag Archives: IT Service Provider

Commodity IT – It’s a good thing for everyone!

les2By Les Viszlai

Traditionally, IT commodity services and products have the highest percentage of being outsourced in our industry. There is a belief among a majority of people in our industry that IT commoditization is a very bad thing.

In its simplest form, a company’s success is measured by its capability to produce a product or service efficiently and to meet the market demand for that product or service.  Running IT as a business implies that we need to also do the same for our internal customers by providing products and services cost effectively with repeat-ability and predictability at an agreed cost.  IT organizations are viewed as a business enabler and trusted advisor by getting out of the business of building and running commodity IT products and services and focusing on providing the business with resources that provide new product capabilities and business differentiators in their market.

We need to understand what a commodity is in order to change how IT is run and provide that business focus.

commodity starts as any thing that has a perceived value by a consumer. A more common understanding of a commodity is a product that is generic in nature and has the same basic value as all similar items. (a simplified example is a Server)

For example, virtualized hardware, in the IT data center context, is a device or device component that is relatively inexpensive, widely available and more or less interchangeable with other hardware of its type.

By definition, a commodity product lacks a unique selling point. In an IT context, the term usually differentiates typical IT products from specialized or high-performance products. A commodity, when looked at this way, is a low-end but functional product without distinctive features.  Generally, as hardware moves along the technology cycle, that hardware becomes a commodity as the technologically matures in that marketplace. That implies that most hardware products, like network switches, that have been around for a long time are now available in commodity versions, although they aren’t generally marketed as such.  In the past, physical networking infrastructure was viewed as specialized until the maturity of virtualization of this layer of technology became available and more widely spread.

Example IT Transformation Journey - Commodity Services

Example IT Transformation Journey

Lets look at a more traditional commodity example, the local gas station.  The gas at your pump is the same as the gas at any of the other pumps. It’s also the same as the gas at the station across the street or across town.  There may be a very slight change in price, but the products essentially sell for the same basic price and are the same regardless where they are purchased.  Can your consumers of IT products and services get this same consistency? Are we trying to refine our own gas before providing it to our consumers?

When we compare this scenario to a traditional IT organization we need to ask ourselves, what commodity areas are we focusing on reinventing and providing. From the IT standpoint, can we virtualize our hardware environment and reap some of the benefits like “FASTER TIME TO MARKET”, “COST EFFECTIVENESS” and “IMPROVED QUALITY”.  Are we already doing this and can we drive further up the technology curve build and/or broker services and products such as IaaS, PaaS or SaaS to drive faster business value?

Our common fear is that “Commodity IT” implies low quality and cost or that our roles will be outsourced.  In comparison, a commodity product or service is not sold cheaper that it takes to produce or run it.  Like wise a commodity IT product or service should have affordability, repeat-ability and predictability in delivery and as brokers not builders,  IT organizations can provide this service to the business.

In summary, studies have shown that IT organizations focus a lot of effort and resources on building and running products and services at the back end of the transformation curve.  This is the area with the least amount of business value but consumes a majority of IT time & resources.  IT organizations need to shift focus to the front of the technology cycle and help the business create and engineer new products and services that drive revenue.

IT best practices exist to help IT organizations move to the front of the technology cycle by reorganizing people, process and technology to use the building blocks of various commodity products and services to provide affordable, repeatable and predictable services. This allows IT organizations to focus on the front of the curve.  Now that’s a lot more valuable and fun.

Commodity IT – It’s a great thing for everyone!

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Les Viszlai is a principal strategist with VMware Advisory Services based in Atlanta, GA.

From CIO to CEO: 5 Steps to Organize an IT as a Service Provider

Jason StevensonBy Jason Stevenson

In my last CIO to CEO blog, we discussed How to Run an IT as a Service (ITaaS) Provider by providing services to meet customer needs using a commodity as an example. In this blog, we will discuss how to organize governance and personnel within an ITaaS Provider.

IT as a Service ProviderTo provide business/mission-value and remain relevant, many IT organizations are positioning themselves as a Hybrid Cloud Broker; providing both public and private cloud services to their customers and users. To be successful, these organizations must adopt ITaaS; a model in which IT is a commodity, providing services on demand to meet business needs through a scalable and measurable pool of resources using integrated and automated processes. This is accomplished through a blend of:

  • Cloud computing standards
  • Service management best practices
  • Leading cloud and virtualization technologies

The following provides five steps to reorganizing IT to become and ITaaS Provider.

Step #1: Service Owners and Managers

Misconception #1:
Service owners and managers are lower-level resources that: a) do not have financial responsibility, b) are not fully accountable for their service, and c) report into functional/project directors.

Organize an IT as a Service ProviderAs part of service portfolio and catalog management, IT assigns owners for each service.

  • Service Owners (SO) are accountable for service strategy including fiscal responsibility and understanding customer demand for their services. Service Owners solid-line report to the CIO.
  • Service Managers (SM) may also need to be identified for each organizational sub-unit such as lines of business, cost centers, geographies, etc. If used, service managers are accountable for service operation and potentially service transition. Service Managers dotted-line report to service owners.
    • In larger organizations, service owners and managers may use a one or more Business Relationship Managers (BRM) as a conduit to customers paying for the service. BRMs solid-line report to the CIO but are embedded with their customers. The CIO may also have an IT Financial Manager (ITFM) to coordinate ITaaS provider budget allocations to service owners and consolidated service chargeback to customers.

Step #2: Service Life Cycle

Misconception #2:
Service strategy, service design, service transition, service operation, and continual service improvement are just names of service management books.

Organize an IT as a Service ProviderThough many organizations claim to be service oriented, their organizational structures remain functionally and/or project oriented. The following diagram illustrates an organizational pyramid providing service orientation through a service-life-cycle-based organization.

  • Directors are assigned for each service life cycle step including service design, service transition, service operation, and continual service improvement. The CIO also acts as the service strategy director and also performs demand management. Directors solid-line report to the CIO but dotted-line report to the service owners/managers. These directors’ budgets are an aggregate allocated by the service owner.

Step #3: Process Owners and Managers

Misconception #3
Process managers can be an afterthought and “peppered” throughout the organization.

Organize an IT as a Service ProviderTo be successful, an ITaaS Provider must have mature processes under the control of process managers and owners.

  • Process Managers maintain unit procedure documentation. Monitor process reporting. Reviews process records for compliance. Provide ongoing process and system training to unit. Contribute to continual process improvement. Ensure compliance with policies, processes, and procedures. Facilitate regular process meetings and communication channels. Coordinate interface with other service management processes. Take corrective action if needed.

For organizations with intensely “siloed” or “stovepiped” cultures, process owners many need to be introduced. This is not preferred but a common reality.

  • Process Owners champion policies, process, roles and responsibilities. Provides ongoing process and system orientation. Facilitates quarterly reviews. Facilitates annual audits. Enables continuous improvement.

The Service Portfolio Manager (SPM) also fulfills the role leading a service/project management office. The office may including control, technical writing, quality assurance, etc.

Step #4. Technical-Facing Service and Configuration Item Owners and Managers

Misconception #4:
Technical resources for service design and operation do not need to work together in abstracted technical-facing services.

Organize an IT as a Service ProviderThe business-facing services discussed above are supported by functions each with its own owner.

  • Infrastructure Function Owner (IFO)
  • Application Function Owner (AFO)
  • Data Function Owners (DFO)
  • Service Desk Function Owners often fulfilled by the Incident Manager (IM)
  • Operation Center Function Owners often fulfilled by the Event Manager (EM)

These functions may be further decomposed into technical-facing services. Common technical-facing services for ITaaS include network, compute, and storage and each must have an owner.

  • Network Service Owner (NSO)
  • Compute Service Owner (CSO)
  • Storage Service Owner (SSO)

To be a successful ITaaS Provider, technical services are not “siloed” or “stovepiped” and therefore do not require managers in addition to owners as they are shared services. However, the components supporting technical-facing services often have:

  • Configuration Item Owners fiscally responsible for the component
  • Configuration Item Managers operationally responsible for the component.

Life Cycle Gravitation

Configuration Item Managers are often referred to as DevOps in an ITaaS environment; especially for configuration items supporting the application function. Depending on an organization’s culture, DevOps may dotted-line or solid-line report to the Service Design Director or the Service Operation Director. As the organization matures, resources naturally gravitate from operations to earlier phases within the life cycle.

Step #5. Users and Assignment Groups

Misconception #5:
ITaaS is just jargon. IT departments are about IT personnel delivery IT.

Organize an IT as a Service ProviderIn a mature organization, classification of events, incidents, requests, etc. are aligned to the business-facing and technical-facing services within the catalog rather than legacy Category/Type/Item classifications. In this respect, the Technical-Facing Service Owners and Configuration Item Managers discussed above may also be referred to as Assignment Group Managers. The remaining technical employees within the ITaaS provider report to these Assignment Group Managers.

Every individual employee of an ITaaS Provider must move from technology to process, to service, to customer, to mission, and then ultimately to a value focus. Because these individual employees are the first, second, and third line of support for the users receiving the service it is critical for these IT employees’ tools and training to encourage user value focus.

Though impractical from a presentation standpoint, the entire ITaaS Provider must conceptualize their role as an inverted organization chart with the users at the top of the organization, then IT employees supporting the users, and then IT management supporting IT employees.

Organize an IT as a Service Provider

Move from CIO to CEO by leveraging a Strategist from VMware to address the people, process, and technology elements necessary to transform your organization to an ITaaS Provider.

_________________________________________

Jason Stevenson is a Transformation Consultant based in Michigan.

From CIO to CEO: How to run an IT as a Service Provider

Jason StevensonBy Jason Stevenson

A service involves two parties: 1) a customer and 2) a service provider.

A service fulfills a customer’s need. Though there may be many components to a service, those technology, process, and people components are combined to form a single service. The customer should not need to understand all the subcomponents of the service to benefit from the service. Nor should any service-specific knowledge be required for the customer to solicit the service. In other words, the service should be expressed in cohesive layman’s terms.

Water Service Example

  • Customer Needs:  Water services fulfill multiple needs: life/thirst, personal/environmental sanitation, etc. If you put in a well, you have your own water and there’s no need for water service. However, if you do not have a well, you will need to engage the county water service provider.
  • Service Provider:  To engage water services, you expect simple contract language and simple commodity pricing. The customer should not need to be a plumber or hydro-engineer to engage the service.
  • Customer Expectations:  Once engaged, the customer doesn’t care how the water gets to them, what must be maintained, or who maintains it. After procuring the water service, they never want to talk to the water service provider again unless their needs change. If water service is interrupted, it’s the service provider’s problem. Customers don’t care what service provider people, tools, or expenses are needed to fix the problem, they just expect it to be rapidly resolved by any means.

How does this example relate to IT services?

First, let’s lay out the key players:

  • CEO, CFO, and stakeholders = Mom and Dad paying for the water service
  • IT Users = the family drinking the water and bathing in it
  • IT department = water service provider
  • IT services = water
  • Data, applications, networks, servers, storage = water treatment plants, water towers, mainlines, pipes, trucks, wrenches
  • IT staff = plumbers and hydro-engineers

Every time a customer experiences interruptions and contacts a water service center, the support call is not considered a “service” but is ancillary to the water service they are already payed for. The customer would rather not engage the service center at all. This is the same with an IT service desk.

Though a water plant monitors water flow and quality, it is not a service. The customer assumes the water is available with adequate water pressure when they purchase the service. This is the same with an IT operations center.

Though hydro-engineers and plumbers may be needed, for example in a large mall complex, they’re assistance would not be a service, rather a project to support the delivery of water services to the tenants and patrons of the mall. This is the same with IT engineers, developers, and project teams.

We assume the water is safe, maintained, and appropriate precautions are taken to ensure ongoing water quality and availability. This is the same with IT security, IT service management, and disaster recovery.

How do CIOs apply this to running as an IT as a Service Provider?

Think of what a water provider service catalog website looks like. It’s pretty simple… Water. Everything needed to supply the water is moot. You may be thinking “Sure this is true of a water commodity but IT is not a commodity.” No it is not… not yet.

So let’s take it up a notch and talk about utilities like telephone and energy services. Their service catalog websites contain utility services. Telephone companies for example list things like local and long-distance, Internet, call waiting, caller ID, conferencing, etc. on their service catalog website. They may also segregate their services by enterprise, small business, and individual customers.

Cable companies are even more similar to IT in some respects. They list things like VoIP communications, Internet, television/entertainment packages, etc. You can draw a parallel between each station offered by a cable company to each application offered by IT.

Regardless of commodities or utilities, service providers of water, power, telephone, cable, etc. have very simple service catalogs considering their extremely complex infrastructure and organizations. This is because the service provider has matured their services to focus on the customer/users and highly refined their services to meet specific customer/user needs, to remain relevant, competitive, and accessible.

To become a true service-provider, IT must take a similar approach to interaction with customers and users. To be successful, CIOs become CEOs by defining a usable service catalog with:

  • A clear business-focus addressing specific needs
  • Inclusive pricing and options
  • Seamless delivery
  • Transparent fulfillment

Jason Stevenson is a Transformation Consultant based in Michigan.

We’re going to the Cloud. Do I Still Need ITSM?

Greg LinkBy Greg Link

As of this writing, Boeing Aircraft Company is demonstrating its 787 Dreamliner at the Paris Air show. After a normal takeoff roll, the aircraft jumps off the runway into what appears to be a near vertical climb to the clouds! That is impressive. Recently a different form of cloud; cloud computing – has appeared on the horizon and appears to be here to stay. Forrester expects cloud computing will increase from approximately $41 billion this year, and rise to more than $240 billion in 2020. A 600% increase in 5-years is impressive indeed. Traditional IT shops have embraced IT Service Management (ITSM) frameworks, such as the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL®), to help them respond to dynamic business requirements. But is this framework still needed as more and more companies turn to the cloud?

What is the purpose of ITSM?

ITSM and ITIL are often used interchangeably. They are synonymous because ITIL has become the de facto or gold standard for the design, delivery and operation of quality IT services that meet the needs of customers and users. Its approach focuses on 3 major areas:

  • Using a process approach to
  • Deliver IT services rather than IT systems or applications, while
  • Stressing continual service improvement.

With the success of ITSM initiatives all across the globe there is little reason to abandon these critical practices simply due to a shift in the way storage and computing are being performed. The cloud is merely providing companies with powerful utility to meet business requirements and demand.

5 reasons why ITSM is still needed in the cloud

Your transformation to the cloud can take several paths. You can go the route of the Private Cloud where you have total control over the infrastructure and applications that will be used to do business. Another option is the Public Cloud where you contract with a provider that will host storage and computing resources. The final option is the Hybrid Cloud – combination of the two – that allows companies to meet seasonal or growing demand. Any path chosen will still require the basics covered in ITIL.

1) Service Strategy

Service strategy helps in understanding the market and customer needs to create a vision of the services needed to meet business objectives. In this phase we look at things like Financial Management. The cloud is best served when costs and fees are known and predictable. This segment also looks at Demand Management. This discipline proactively manages the dynamics of how the service will be governed from a resource perspective. Both of these are critical to success in the cloud.

5) Service Design

Service Design is the practice of taking a holistic approach to end-to-end service design while considering such things as people, process, technology and vendor relationships. Processes within this phase that are critical with the cloud are:

  • Service Level Management – setting and keeping service targets
  • Supplier Management – this is essential if you are considering going into the Public Cloud as the vendor you choose will be responsible for the delivery of your services.
  • Service Continuity Management – what is the backup plan and if needed, the recovery plan to resume business services should there be a disruption?
  • Capacity and Availability Management – will resources be available and in quantities needed to meet the business requirements in a cost effective manner?

3) Service Transition

Service Transition assists in getting a service into production with processes such as:

  • Transition Planning and Support – planning and coordination of resources in ensure your IT service is market ready.
  • Evaluation – does the service perform and do what it is supposed to do (warranty and utility)?
  • Knowledge Management – make sure that people have the information they need, in whatever capacity, to support the service.
  • Change Management – Private cloud users will follow existing process, however a well coordinated change management process will be needed for Public and Hybrid cloud users. Your vendor’s changes may affect your application in unwanted ways. Additionally, if the cloud is to be used for provisioning servers and environments, the Change Management should be optimized for agility and repeatability.

4) Service Operation

Service Operation manages how a company balances areas in consistency and responsiveness. Processes important when considering deployment to a cloud environment are:

  • Incident Management – where do cloud users turn to when things don’t go as they should and how is that managed?
  • Access Management – the method by which only authorized users are allowed access to use the application and other resources used in the delivery of services.

5) Continual Service Improvement 

  • Now that you’ve deployed to the cloud, how are customers reacting to your service? Is the service meeting their needs? Is it fast enough clear enough, secure enough…?

IT Service Management principles will help guide you into a successful cloud experience with ease and confidence.  Luckily, you’re not alone.  VMware professional services are not only experts in cloud innovation, we have ITIL Experts on staff who can help you ensure ITSM best practices are applied throughout your operating model.


Greg Link is a Transformation Consultant based in Las Vegas, NV

Solving the Shadow IT Problem: 4 Questions to Ask Yourself Now

Harris_SeanBy Sean Harris

Most IT organizations I speak to today admit they are concerned about the ever-increasing growth in the consumption of shadow IT services within the business; the ones that are not concerned I suspect are in denial. A common question is, “How do I compete with these services?” The answer I prefer is: “Build your own!”

What Would It Mean for My IT Organization to Truly Replace Shadow IT?

Totally displacing Shadow IT requires building an organization, infrastructure and services portfolio that fulfills the needs of the business as well as—or better than—external organizations can, at a similar or lower cost. In short, build your own in-house private cloud and IT-as-a-Service (ITaaS) organization to run alongside your traditional IT organization and infrastructure.

Surely your own in-house IT organization should be able to provide services that are a better fit for your own business than an external vendor.

IT service providers often provide a one-size-fits-all service for a variety of businesses in different verticals: commercial, non-commercial and consumer. And in many cases, your business has to make compromises on security and governance that may not be in its best interests. By definition, in-house solutions will comply with security and governance regulations. Additionally, the business will have visibility into the solution, so the benefits are clear.

How Do I Build My Own Services to Compete With Shadow IT?

Answering the technical part of this question is easy. There are plenty of vendors out there offering their own technical solutions to help you build a private cloud. The challenge is creating the organizational structure, developing in-house skills, and implementing the processes required to run a true ITaaS organization. Most traditional IT organizations lack key skills and organizational components to do this, and IT organizations are not typically structured for this. For example:

  • To capture current and future common service requirements and convert these into service definitions, product management-type skills and organizational infrastructure are needed.
  • To promote the adoption of these services by the business, product marketing and sales-type functions are required.

These are not typically present in traditional IT organizations. Building this alongside an existing IT organization has three main benefits:

  • It is less disruptive to the traditional organization.
  • It removes the pain of trying to drive long-term incremental change.
  • It will deliver measurable results to the business quicker.

What If External IT Services Really Are Better?

It may be discovered after analyzing the true needs of the business that an external provider really can deliver a service that is a better fit for the business needs – and maybe even at a lower cost than the internal IT organization can offer. In this case, a “service broker” function within the IT organization can integrate this service into the ITaaS suite offered by IT to the business far more seamlessly than a traditional IT organization can. The decision should be based on business facts rather than assumptions or feelings.

How Do We Get Started?

As part of VMware’s Advisory Services and Operation Transformation Services team, I work with customers every day to map out the “Why, What and How” of building your own ITaaS organization to compete with Shadow IT services:

  • Why
    • Measurable business benefits of change
    • Business case for change
  • What
    • Technology change
    • Organizational change
    • People, skills and process change
  • How
    • Building a strategy and roadmap for the future
    • Implementing the organization, skills, people and process
    • Measuring success

In the end, customers will always choose the services that best meet their needs and cause them the least amount of pain, be it financial or operational. Working to become your business’ preferred service provider will likely take time and resources, but in the long run, it can mean the difference between a role as a strategic partner to the business or the eventual extinction of the IT department as an antiquated cost center.


Sean Harris is a Business Solutions Strategist in EMEA based out of the United Kingdom.

What is the Difference Between Being Project-Oriented vs. Service-Oriented?

Reg LoBy Reg Lo

Today, IT is project-oriented. IT uses “projects” as the construct for managing work. These projects frequently begin their lifecycle as an endeavor chartered to implement new applications or complete major enhancement or upgrades to an existing application. Application projects trigger work in the infrastructure/engineering teams, e.g., provision new environments include compute, storage, network and security, with each project having its own discrete set of infrastructure provisioning activities.

Project-Oriented vs. Service Oriented

Project-Oriented vs. Service Oriented

This project-oriented approach results in many challenges:

  • There is a tendency to custom-build each environment for that specific application. The lack of standardization across the infrastructure for each application results in higher operational and support costs.
  • Project teams will over-provision infrastructure because they believe they have “one shot” at provisioning. Contrast this to a cloud computing mindset where capacity is elastic, i.e., you procure just enough capacity for your immediate needs and can easily add more capacity as the application grows.
  • The provisioned infrastructure is tied to the project or application. Virtualization allows IT to free-up unused capacity and utilize it for other purposes, reducing the overall IT cost for the organization. However, the project or application team may feel like they “own” their infrastructure since it was funded by their project or for their application, so they are reluctant to “give up” the unused capacity. They do not have faith in the elasticity of the cloud, i.e., they do not believe that when they need more capacity, they can instantly get it; so they hoard capacity.
  • A project orientation makes an organization susceptible to understating the operations cost in the project business case.
  • It makes it difficult to compare internal costs with public or hybrid cloud alternatives – the latter being service-oriented costs.

When IT adopts a service-oriented mindset, they define, design and implement the service outside the construct of a specific application project. The service has its own lifecycle, separate to the application project lifecycles. Projects consume the standardized pre-packaged service. While the service might have options, IT moves away from each application environment since the solutions are custom-built. IT needs to define their Service Lifecycle, just like they have defined their Project Lifecycle. You can use VMware’s Service Lifecycle, illustrated below, as a starting point.

The Service Life-cycle

The Service-Oriented Mindset

This service-oriented mindset not only needs to be adopted by the infrastructure/operations team, but also by the application teams. In a service-oriented world, application teams no longer “own” the specific infrastructure for their application, e.g., this specific set of virtual machines with a given number of CPUs, RAM, storage, etc. Instead, they consume a service at a given service level, i.e., at a given level of availability, with a given level of performance, etc. With this mindset, IT can provide elastic capacity, (add capacity and repurpose unused capacity) without causing friction with the application teams.

The transformation from a project-orientation to a service-orientation is a critical part of becoming a cloud-enabled strategic service provider to the business.  When IT provides end-to-end services to the business, the way the business and IT engage is simplified, services are provisioned faster and the overall cost of IT is reduced.


Reg Lo is the Director of VMware Accelerate Advisory Services and is based in San Diego, CA.  You can connect with him on LinkedIn.

Managing Your Brand: Marketing for Today’s IT

Most IT departments lack expertise in how to market their capabilities and communicate value. Now, more than ever before, IT organizations have to contend with outside service providers that are typically more experienced in marketing their services and must accept that managing customer perception is essential to staying competitive. Marketing your IT services and capabilities is not just building out your IT implementation campaign; it’s changing the internal culture of your IT organization to think and act like a hungry service provider.

In this short video by Alex Salicrup—“Managing Your Brand: Marketing for Today’s IT”—you will learn about the key areas to consider as you build your marketing and communication strategy.

 

Alex Salicrup Video Marketing for Today's IT

 

 

Take Good Care of My Business (Using ITaaS BRM Best Practices)

By Jason Stevenson

Jason Stevenson“We be takin’ care of business–every day–every way!”1 At least that’s what we choose to believe in IT. Unfortunately, the reality is often far from it. The business would likely sing a much different tune — something closer to “It’s the work that we avoid. We’re all self-employed. We love to work at nothing all day.” 1 It sounds harsh, but more often than not, IT does avoid the real work of business, acting as an entity in and of itself, accountable to no one, focusing on putting out fires.

Now more than ever, the business has real choices in information technology. An internal IT department is no longer the only show in town and must provide measurable business value to compete with external solutions, particularly innovative solutions such as Software (SaaS), Infrastructure (IaaS), and Platform as a Service (PaaS).  IT must meet the business needs without clinging to old ways, regardless of whether that means developing solutions in-house, brokering services from appropriate providers or a combination.   Regardless of the solution, IT’s focus must be squarely on making business success easy, so positioning the IT organization as using an Information Technology as a Service (ITaaS) approach is paramount.  The foundation of this business-centric, service-based approach is business relationship management (BRM).

Who is the customer?

IT provides services to both customers and users. A customer is someone who pays for the service, while a user receives the service. In many instances, the customer and user are not the same. Service desk functions and processes like request fulfillment and incident management focus on the user. In contrast, business relationship management focuses on the customer. Often there are multiple customers in an organization including officers, executives, directors and their delegates.

What is business relationship management? 

The purpose of business relationship management is to establish and maintain a strategic connection between the service customer (business leadership) and the service provider (IT representative). Process activities include:

  • Communicating: Sharing ideas and information and coordinating communication channels between the customer (business) and service provider (IT).
  • Understanding: IT comprehending what is important to business; business realizing IT capabilities, value, and implications of changing technology.
  • Matching: Correlating business wants and needs to IT services within the portfolio to set clear expectations.
  • Navigating: Guiding business through IT organization and engagement of the project portfolio.
  • Prioritizing: Ranking IT services and projects and mediating competition for resources.
  • Tracking: Documenting customer opportunities, issues, compliments and complaints and translating desired business outcomes into service packages or solution roadmaps.
  • Escalating: Taking corrective action as needed.
  • Assessing: Continually soliciting customer satisfaction.

When and where do we engage the customer in business relationship management?

Often the means we use to facilitate business relationship management will change, depending on the participants and the length and quality of the relationship. Technically savvy customers may prefer to use a service web portal, while senior executives and officers may prefer the informality of golf or other social activities. A large organization may require a symposium to accommodate many (potentially geographically dispersed) customers. The approach and frequency should align with customers’ positions within the organization, their personalities, and what works culturally and historically within the organization. At a minimum, IT representatives should engage customers in a conference quarterly unless specified otherwise by the customer.

How do we provide business relationship management?

Transparency and trust directly relate to our human nature and are only accomplished through good old-fashioned communication. Both verbal and written communication create opportunities for IT to market how its commitment to an ITaaS approach to service provisioning benefits the business and how it drives business-focused IT decision-making. Stay tuned for an upcoming post with tips for building transparency and trust in your organization.

BRM: The Foundation

In summary, business relationship management is the foundation for ITaaS. Think of business relationship management first as a guide and translator then as a partner for the business. By balancing wants and needs with funding, we gain understanding of the business and translate that understanding into traceable business outcomes. Through integration with service and project portfolio management, IT representatives submit business outcomes in service packages to IT through an ITaaS services web portal after using multiple communication means with the customer. Now, the inner workings of IT are engaged to evaluate business value and risk and subsequently refine priority, which is then confirmed with the customer. Ongoing communication and reporting continually reinforce the relationship between the customer and IT, resulting in greater transparency and trust.

The following diagram illustrates the summary of these concepts.

BRM Governance Model

There you have it, critical success factors for ITaaS BRM. Give it a try! “Chances are you’ll go far if you get in with the right bunch of fellows.” 1


Jason Stevenson is a Transformation Consultant with VMware Accelerate Advisory Services.


© ITIL is a registered trademark of AXELOS Limited.
1 Quote from Bachman-Turner Overdrive’s Takin’ Care Of Business

Managing Your Brand: Communications and Marketing for Today’s IT

By Alex Salicrup

Let’s talk about the subject in which every IT department lacks expertise — and that is how to effectively market your capabilities and communicate value. And readers may think I am exaggerating on my next statement: IT departments around the world are ubiquitous in that their consumers usually have a less than favorable opinion of them.

Of course, we know that this perception is not true in all cases. However, in my experience, IT does not do a good job at managing consumer perceptions. And in the IT service provider world, managing these perceptions is critical. Unlike yesteryear, IT service providers now have to compete with public cloud providers that manage their brand very well and educate prospects on how their capabilities map to consumer needs.

During my time at VMware, I’ve had the pleasure of working with industry-leading global entities. Many of their IT organizations claim that their consumers are not taking advantage of using external providers, only to find out that they actually are — and in a big way. Others have accepted the fact that competition exists, and that they must address it.

Many IT organizations have concluded that they must manage consumer perception of their capabilities and offerings. In other words, they are trying to figure out how to sell their brand and services internally. Most have no idea how to achieve that. That’s where I come in.

IT communications and marketing is not just building out an IT education campaign.  It’s making a significant change in how IT strategizes and changes its internal culture to think and act like a hungry service provider. IT begins looking at a service as though it were a puzzle, with consumer needs as pieces of the puzzle.

Let me share a few areas to consider as you begin to develop your communications and marketing strategy. I concentrate on eight areas when assembling a marketing and communications plan:

  1. Understand your audience
  2. Interpret consumer perceptions
  3. Define your brand
  4. Identify the catalyst for change
  5. Create your vision
  6. Who, how, and what to communicate
  7. Managing organizational change
  8. Brand perception metrics

Understanding Your Audience
In every organization there are three main levels of strategic and tactical execution, as shown below:Salicrup-Comms Mktg graphicExecution is different at each of the three levels. Individuals within each level listen to and address solutions based on their domain of responsibility, and they understand solutions only from the point of view of addressing the needs of their level. This in turn needs to be addressed with the appropriate message for each level.

Interpreting Customer Perceptions
Marketing campaigns are designed to create perceptions (we’re better than those other guys). Consumer perceptions are always our reality. Understanding consumer perceptions help us identify how to manage them, and, how to package a solution.

The problem with negative consumer perceptions about your IT organization or the service you provide is that those perceptions are hard to change. So how do you communicate to your consumers that your people and services are the best solution for their unique needs?

Defining Your Brand
Brand is synonymous to reputation but also aspiration. However, a positive brand, as with reputation, takes time to build and is easily tarnished. Service providers have a good awareness of their brand perception with their consumers. This allows the provider to shape a consistent message, improve credibility, and enhance its brand through advertising its goals and achievements.

Identifying the Catalyst for Change
Change is not easy. There are two groups within any business that have to experience change. The group most impacted is the IT group. They are transitioning from traditional IT delivery to a service provider model. Therefore the hardest task — the part takes the longest — will be converting the IT personnel. Identifying why change is necessary and “what’s in it for you” can motivate your staff to follow your vision.

Creating a  Strong Vision
The critical aspect of a successful service communication strategy is the clear articulation of the vision.

Your vision must:

  • Be strategically feasible
  • Be effective
  • Incorporate the current position of the enterprise and catalyst(s) of change
  • Be ambitious
  • Be evidently accomplishable

Managing Organizational Change
No one is really happy about change. Turning your organization from traditional IT or project-based consumption to a service-based consumption model will incur role and cultural changes. The former is easier than the latter, and it needs strong leadership to guide it there. Furthermore, IT is changing the way that the business deals with IT. This is why organizational change management is so important. It is not just a operating change, it’s a massive behavioral change that people need to be guided through. If this is done crudely it will impact the brand severely and cast doubt about IT’s capabilities.

Effective communications are key — it’s very important that IT staff understand the unified message. They should become active ambassadors of the IT brand and the services the team provides. Communication, in this sense, refers to the art of persuasion. Crafting a message that is persuasive is a learned skill and essential if a perception is to be changed successfully.

In order to be persuasive, the IT team really needs to learn how their consumers think, and, predict what consumer reaction will be to events and solutions. People who are good at persuasion develop a keen sense of what solutions work and how messages need to be successfully crafted. This is paramount for any emerging service provider. Communication is about knowing what influences decisions at the three levels illustrated in the figures above. Therefore, different messages need to be crafted to persuade the different levels.

However, one of the highest risks a service provider has is individuals within IT not believing in the solution, the need for it, or how it’s being delivered. These individuals that are skeptical pose a threat of creating doubt within the consumers of the solution and its merits or capabilities.

A critical and difficult aspect of change for the IT staff is the understanding, adaptation, and dissemination of the vision and how they choose to communicate it. It is essential that leaders understand the dynamics of their teams, customers, and stakeholders. Understanding how to communicate and use your team to promote your brand and vision is important to your success. (Stay tuned for a future post, where I will talk more about individual motives and capabilities and how they can be mapped to three distinctive groups…)

Measuring Success — Brand Perceptions Metrics
It is imperative that an IT organization gauges how its consumers feel about the services they’re consuming from the service provider. The IT team needs to put in place metrics that capture performance against the needs of the customer and set realistic targets on what is to be measured.

This does not have to be complex — a simple 5-question survey is a great way to start. If the response is mainly positive, the IT team can include that message to its consumers to reinforce the positive perceptions. If the response highlights challenges, it’s a great way for the IT team to focus energy on fixing them — a catalyst for change.

In conclusion, I have covered steps and actions in this post that are fairly simple — perhaps perceived as common sense. However, IT traditionally does not have these communication and marketing skillsets. And, the IT organization has not needed them before the advent of public cloud — but they are needed now.

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Alex Salicrup is a transformation strategist with VMware Accelerate Advisory Services and is based in California.

IT Transformation and its Impact on the IT Organization

How can the “old IT” be competitive in a marketplace crowded with external cloud providers? The promise of agility, cost savings, as well as self-service capabilities requires the new IT organization to truly transform to the role of service provider.

In this video, Accelerate transformation strategist Padmaja Vrudhula explains how IT’s new role as service provider elevates the business value the IT organization can bring to the business.