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Monthly Archives: May 2016

It’s All in the Context: Practical Advice for Using IT Benchmarking

Ton van TubergenBy Ton van Tubergen

IT BenchmarkingIn my role as an Operations Transformation Architect, I have been involved in many large and small IT Transformations, addressing people, process, technology, governance and organizational aspects and their dependencies.

As a responsible IT leader, managing uncertainty and risks will be an important part of steering the organization through a transformation. So, they are often asked:

  1. How are we doing compared to others? (Slow/fast)
  2. Are we doing the right things? (Did we bet on the right horse?)
  3. Which step first? (We know we have a lot to do, but where do we start?)
  4. What are lessons learnt from others? (Give us best practices so we do not make the same mistakes.)

One source to get answers and grow confidence is benchmark reports, allowing you to do a quick comparison with your own organisation. Reading benchmark reports is not always an easy job, and often disappointing.

Getting the most out of benchmarking

There are many advantages to benchmarking:

  1. It can trigger and energize the improvement (transformation) of the organization and its services
  2. It provides new insights
  3. It provides early warnings about where an organisation is performing and where it is lacking behind
  4. It can motivate all stakeholders before and after a transformation (when good new scores are available)

But before you start reading benchmark reports, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What does our organisation want to achieve? Do we have the same (business) objectives and priorities as our peers in the benchmark?  Do we want to be the same as our peers/competitors?
  2. Are we level hunting, or are we focusing on our own business success?
  3. Are the measurements comparable and are the scores relevant for what we want to achieve? What is the quality of the data?
  4. Is there an explanation for different scores?
  5. Are best practices described in such a way that we can re-use them?

The State of IT Transformation Report

Having this framework in mind, let us now have a look into “The State of IT Transformation” recently published by VMware and EMC, a benchmark and analysis about the State of IT Transformation, and talk about how your organization can effectively use this data to further your owns goals.

Sample 1: Cloud Infrastructure – Hybrid Cloud Architecture

Hybrid Cloud ArchitectureThe report states that “most companies are not where they want to be in having a well-engineered hybrid cloud architecture,” and the infographic shows us 2 groups: Overall (N=660, so pretty relevant for you!) and Top 20% performers.

So, you are probably not alone, but how can you accelerate, and relatedly, what slowed you down? There could be a variety of answers (lack of capacity, expertise, sponsorship, acceptance, complexity too high), but even more interesting, what re-usable accelerators did the top performers use?

Sample 2 – Virtualization (%)

VirtualizationThis info graphic shows level of Virtualization in different categories. Progress is compared to 2 years ago (see info graphic in full report).

What you can learn here is that many peers follow a shared pattern: first compute (most virtualized), then storage and application, network and desktop (less virtualized). That’s interesting information, but to identify if they apply to you ask yourself:

  • What is our business-case for virtualization?
  • Based on that business-case, is it wise to virtualize everything (including legacy) to 100%?

Sample 3 – Operating Model

StrategyHere we find big gaps between what peers want and what they currently have.

In our experience, many organizations are struggling with this.  It can sometimes be difficult to answer the questions, “What should my end-state look like and how do I get there?”

What is important to remember is that you should not think about transformation as going from one static state to another, but develop your organization in an agile never ending change, responding to changes in business needs and technology opportunities during the journey.

Practical advice for leveraging benchmarks

The first step is to trace and understand the best practices in the benchmark, and why they worked well in these organizations. But that does not mean that all best practices are transportable. That’s like a heart-surgeon saying, “Every excellent beating heart can be transplanted to any patient”.

Even if best practices are available and credible (no coincidence), they still need an expert judgment to decide what and how to re-use them effectively.

What’s in it for you? A lot, keeping in mind the advantages I discussed before, but you need to invest in understanding the background of the research and how it could apply to you.  It can be extremely valuable to talk to those who participated or the experts in a similar workshop.

It’s important to get outside help with this process.  Someone impartial with expertise in this area can advise you on what is working, what could be done better, what is coming up next and how they’ve seen other organisations overcome similar challenges to yours.  To leverage our experience, contact your local VMware representative to engage with VMware Advisory and Operations Transformation services (OTS).


Ton van Tubergen is a VMware Operations Transformation Architect and is based in the Netherlands.