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Transforming Operations and Perception of the IT Organization

By David Crane

dcrane-cropA recent engagement with a long-established telecommunications firm presented a huge challenge—the solution for which is a great example of how operations transformation can drive technical transformation. The firm’s customer base spans various global regions, each of which presented a different customer experience. The IT organization functioned in extremely siloed environments, having grown organically over 25 years to support an aging, fragmented infrastructure.

A frustrated but motivated CIO laid down the following requirements for the VMware consulting services team, to be met over an aggressive six-month timeline:

  • Reduce operational costs
  • Improve agility
  • Provide more service offerings
  • Help IT become a service broker and eliminate shadow IT
  • Build a flexible architecture to meet the needs of the business
  • Reduce total number of physical data centers
  • Gain more control and compliance of IT infrastructure environments

The internal IT team lacked the expertise and resources required to implement a software-defined data center (SDDC) solution. Their service request process was time-consuming, manual, and inconsistent. Add to that an average provisioning time for a full end-to-end server of eight weeks, and it’s no surprise that internal customers were seeking out external solution providers for their IT needs.

The VMware team set out to remedy all of this with the following solution:

  • Implement a production SDDC platform
  • Make self-service automated provisioning the first available service
  • Assess the customers’ operating processes
  • Introduce an optimized organizational structure
  • Integrate operations transformation and technical implementation
  • Take a phased approach to the project with clearly defined milestones to deliver immediate results
  • Ensure the VMware team team worked closely with internal groups

Transforming the Operating Model
Breaking down the siloed IT organization, and introducing horizontal, cross-departmental communications was the first step to allow the customer to become service-focused.

The team did have the business analyst concept, but the analysts sat outside the IT organization. They didn’t understand IT and weren’t incentivized to do so. As a result, rogue users were going out and doing things themselves, leading to compliance and governance issues.

We introduced the concept of infrastructure operations and tenant operations. These were cross-functional teams that talk to each other—a virtual center of excellence within the IT organization. As part of this organizational change, we brought in new roles, the two most important being the customer relationship manager and the service owner. We brought customer relationship management back into IT, so the person in the role started to understand IT and what they could deliver (and how) against customer requirements.

One of these requirements was the revelation that customers did not really have an interest in availability.  This was not because they didn’t care, but simply because IT over the years has become robust enough that availability is expected.  What their customers really cared about was the speed, and standardization, of the service provisioning lifecycle, as it was this that allowed them to quickly respond to market demands, and support the business objective to be the first to market with new products.

This led to a technical requirement as the IT organization’s customers requested to see this information in a dashboard format, so that proactive monitoring of the provisioning process could take place.

Transforming Infrastructure Operations
The service owners played a key role in saying VMware vRealize Operations only looks at infrastructure—this resulted in a demand to change things within VMware vRealize Automation.

However, the dashboards needed to be delivered through vRealize Operations. To meet the technical requirement, we focused on the self-service provisioning portal and allowed consumers to monitor the status of their ordered services via that portal. To do that, we needed a dashboard in VMware vRealize Operations to monitor the KPIs involved in service provisioning. In order to build the dashboard to monitor provisioning time, we had to create a custom solution using vRealize Automation. The technical solution was necessary to enable the operating framework architecture and organizational model to support it.

Dashboard Solution
We ended up with a provisioned resources dashboard as shown in figure 1 below that lists each virtual machine (VM) and the number of minutes it took to be provisioned. Less than 30 minutes shows green, less than two hours shows yellow, and over two hours is red. It also shows the average, minimum, and maximum times to provision.

Time to Provision

Figure 1:  Provisioned resources dashboard

The dashboard also enabled the customer to use data to feed back into the service life cycle process. For example, they started to understand service demand. Service owners—who were expected to forecast demand for services—could now do so with more accuracy. Now that the team was forecasting capacity demand more accurately, they were able to increase credibility by sharing this information with the infrastructure team. And ultimately they saved money by having a better handle on demand.

The dashboard also allowed IT to develop proactive operational processes.  On several occasions the service owners started to see a degradation in performance of the provisioning process, while the infrastructure monitoring dashboards were still showing a healthy ecosystem.

On further analysis, changes to the underlying infrastructure, whilst keeping in tolerance and SLA for the IT infrastructure teams, were having an accumulative impact further down the chain to the service provisioning process.

The provisioning dashboard and further integration with the customers’ service desk platform and event, incident, and problem management processes allowed the IT infrastructure teams to tune the change management process so that service provisioning would not be affected.

In the end, IT became service-oriented because of the dashboard. Because internal customers could use that tool to see the incredible accuracy with which the IT team was meeting its 30-minutes-or-less goal, it had a huge impact on the way the IT was perceived within business. IT’s credibility skyrocketed, and suddenly it became easier to drive things like the “cloud first” policy within the organization.

David Crane is an operations architect with the VMware Operations Transformation global practice and is based in the U.K.