By Jose Alamo
Implementing a software-defined data center (SDDC) is much more than implementing or installing a set of technology — an SDDC solution requires clear changes to the organization vision, policies, processes, operations, and organization readiness. Today’s CIO needs to spend a good amount of time understanding the business needs, the IT organization’s culture, and how to establish the vision and strategy that will guide the organization to make the adjustments required to meet the needs of the business.
The software-defined data center is an open architecture that impacts the way IT operates today. And as such, the IT organization needs to create a plan that will utilize the investments in people, process, and technology already made to deliver both legacy and new applications while meeting vital IT responsibilities. Below is a list of five common mistakes that I’ve come across working with organizations that are implementing SDDC solutions, and my recommendations on how avoid their adverse impacts:
1. Failure to develop the vision and strategy—including the technology, process, and people aspects
Many times organizations implement solutions without setting the right expectation and a clear direction for the program. The CIO must use all the resources available within the IT organization to create a vision and strategy, and in some cases it is necessary to bring in external resources that have experience in the subject. The vision and strategy must align with the business needs, and it should identify the different areas that must be analyzed to ensure a successful adoption of an SDDC solution.
In my experience working with clients, it is imperative that as part of the planning a full assessment is conducted, and it must include the areas of people, process, and technology. A SWOT analysis should also be completed to fully understand the organization’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Armed with this insight, the CIO and IT team will be able to express the direction that must be taken to be successful, including the changes required across people, process, and technology.
Failing to complete this step will add complexity and lack of clarity for those who will be responsible for implementing the solution.
2. Limited time spent reviewing and understanding the current policies
There are often many policies within the IT organization that can prevent moving forward with the implementation of SDDC solutions. In such cases, the organization needs to have an in-depth review of the current policies governing the business and IT day-to-day operations. The IT team also needs to ensure it devotes a significant amount of time with the company’s security and compliance team to understand their concerns and what measures need to be taken to make the necessary adjustments to support the implementation of the solutions. For example, the IT organization needs to look at its change policies; some older policies could prevent the deployment of process automation that is key to the SDDC solution. When these issues are identified from the beginning, IT can start the negotiation with the lines of business to either change its policies or create workarounds that will allow the solution to provide the expected value.
Performing these activities at the beginning of the project will allow IT leadership to make smart choices and avoid delays or workarounds when deploying future SDDC solutions.
3. Lack of maturity around the IT organization’s service management processes
The software-defined data center redefines IT infrastructure and enables the IT organization to combine technology and a new way of operating to become more service-oriented and more focused on business value. To support this transformation, mature service management processes need to be established.
After the assessment of current processes, the IT organization will be able to determine which process will require a higher level of maturity, which process will need to be adapted to the SDDC environment, and which processes are missing and will need to be established in order to support the new environment.
Special attention will be required for the following processes: financial management, demand management, service catalog management, service level management, capacity management, change management, configuration management, event management, request fulfillment, and continuous service improvement.
Ensure ownership is identify for each process, with KPIs and measurable metrics established—and keep the IT team involved as new processes are developed.
4. Managing the new solution as a retrofit within the current environment
Many IT organizations will embrace a new technology and/or solution only to attempt to retrofit it into their current operational model. This is typically a major mistake, especically if the organization is expecting better efficiency, more flexibility, lower cost to operate, transparency, and tighter compliance as potential benefits from an SDDC.
Organizations must assess their current requirements and determine if they will be required for the new solutions. Most processes, roles, audit controls, reports, and policies are in place to support the current/legacy environment, and each must be assessed to determine its purpose and value to the business, and to determine whether it is required for the new solution.
IT leadership should ask themselves: If the new solution is going to be retrofitted into the current operational model, then why do we need a new solution? What business problems are we going to resolve if we don’t change the way we operate?
My recommendation to my clients is to start lean, minimize the red tape, reduce complex processes, automate as much as possible, clearly identify new roles, implement basic reporting, and establish strict change policies. The IT organization needs to commit to minimize the number of changes to the new solution to ensure only changes that are truly required get implemented.
5. No assessment of the IT organization’s capabilities and no plan to fill the skill set gaps
The most important resource to the IT organization is its people. IT management can implement the greatest technologies, but their organizations will not be successful if their people are not trained and empowered to operate, maintain, and enhance the new solution.
The IT organization needs to first assess current skill sets. Then work with internal resources and/or vendors to determine how the organization needs to evolve in order to achieve its desired state. Once that gap has been identified, the IT management team can develop an enablement plan to begin to bridge the gap. Enablement plans typically include formal “train the trainer” models to cascade knowledge within the organization, as well as shadowing vendors for organizational insight and guidance along with knowledge transfer sessions to develop self-sufficiency. In some cases it may be necessary to bring in external resources to augment the IT team’s expertise.
In conclusion, implementing a software-defined data center solution will require a new approach to implementing processes, technologies, skill sets, and even IT organizational structures. I hope these practical tips on how to avoid common mistakes will help guide your successful SDDC solution implementations.
Jose Alamo is a senior transformation consultant with VMware Accelerate Advisory Services and is based in Florida. Follow Jose on Twitter @alamo_jose or connect on LinkedIn.