Tag Archives: IT Ops

Transforming IT Services Starts With a Culture Shift

By: Kevin Lees

It’s happening. In place of their traditional, project- and technology-based approach, IT organizations really are making the shift to deliver IT as a service.

My last post examined what an IT service looks like in practice. But what if you’ve only gone as far as deciding that you need to transform IT? How do you act on that decision?

Your first priority, I’d argue, is to understand how functional silos create an anchor for your organization’s culture, and how that may be your biggest barrier to change. That’s what I’ll be looking at here. In part 2, I’ll suggest a solution for specific organizational changes that address the culture shift problem.

Changing Minds to Change Behavior

For context, here’s the IT model you’re leaving behind: a project request comes in with specific technology or capacity requirements. You procure the infrastructure and build a custom environment and then turn that over to the development team (which is often really a back and forth affair between Dev and Ops, where the final solution doesn’t really look like the initial request). When the new capability is moved into production, you take over the management and maintenance of that application and underlying infrastructure environment.

Here’s where you’re going: well before you get any requests, you build an environment that can be reused across many different development teams. You deliver that environment as a highly standardized service that’s a best fit for all the teams you serve. They request and deploy on demand with little or no IT Ops involvement in the deployment. Developers can customize their deployment to some degree, by selecting from a small set of highly standardized service options or configuration choices.

Leaving the one behind and moving to the other requires new software tools, as well as hardware that can handle the demands of a pooled resource environment. But the real transformation is a shift in mindset. And it’s one that can be hugely challenging for an IT group to both make initially and sustain over time.

I’ve seen this at many IT groups I work directly with. The fact that “It’s just not the way we’ve done things in the past” in itself becomes the obstacle to change.

Breaking Structural Bonds

Team A, for example, has always done their thing and then handed it off to team B who does their thing, who hands it off to the next team. Even with carefully crafted swim lane diagrams, phase gate checklists, and continuous process improvement – it can literally take months to deploy an environment for a development team.

Over time, large IT organizations build a series of silos that  develop deep expertise to facilitate that process: a network silo, a security silo, a storage silo, and so on.  They optimize the steps and sub-optimize the process.

But you’re now looking to move to a situation where everyone works in a much more integrated way: together and not sequentially. After all, with a cloud services-oriented operation, things happen so fast and in such an integrated way that trying to work within the context of these silos and linear processes does nothing but slow the process down, which defeats the whole purpose of making the change.

So for change to happen, the silos have to go.

Fear, Uncertainty . . .  a Plan

Propose ditching silos, though, and people immediately start fearing for their own job security. They won’t know what it will take to do well anymore – deepening expertise was a well worn path to recognition, certifications and a raise. Talk of breaking down this structure conjures in them that awful trinity: fear, uncertainty, doubt.

It’s an understandable reaction and it’s important to anticipate and plan for. But you now know 1) what you want and 2) what you’re up against. You’re ahead of the game.

It is time to own the problem!

In my next blog post, I’ll outline a concrete set of actions that will help you successfully change your organizational culture – reengingeering your Ops team to dynamically deliver services to end customers through a cloud infrastructure.

For future updates, be sure to follow @VMwareCloudOps on Twitter and use the #CloudOps and #SDDChashtags to join the conversation.

Additional Resources

View Kevin Lees webcast 5 Key Steps to Effective IT Ops in a Hybrid World for more information about specific changes that can help IT be more service-oriented.

Would All You Users Please Just Behave!

By: Ed Hoppitt

A significant slice of the problems that those of us running IT are dealing with today comes down to badly behaved users. In fact I spoke about the issue of badly behaved users in my presentation at VMworld last year.

What I mean by “badly behaved” is that users are becoming more and more impatient and demanding.  They are used to having their own way in the consumer world of technology. And now they’re bringing their impulsive, demanding and impatient behavior to the workplace.

I get it.  Time is money.  Users and business managers who fund IT are impatient because their customers are impatient.

But as IT professionals, we are now dealing with agility and responsiveness requirements as much or more than efficiently provisioning and managing the storage/compute/whatever infrastructure resource we think we are supposed to be focused on.

I’m not just talking about the issue of provisioning passwords for someone – that’s the easy bit. The real issue is created when you add the magic of ‘Self Service’ to the mix. How long does a user have to wait for an application on their iPad? About as long as it takes to download from the App Store. They expect a similar experience from corporate IT portal.

Do they forget the times when getting a new application at work meant installing from multiple tapes/disks/CD-ROM’s? You had to  fill  in a request form. Then someone posted you the media on which your application existed. Then you installed it (not of course forgetting the 3 or 4 failed installations that you’d try before you got it to work). I’m going off topic.

My point is that as part of deploying and managing IT, we need to realize that the expectations of users have changed significantly.  Unless you factor rising user expectations into your IT strategy, you will fail at the most important part – ensuring that people are having a good experience.

What can an IT Ops professional do to manage rising expectations?

  • For starters – when someone presses a button in a self-service interface, give him or her confirmation that what they expect to happen is happening. Don’t leave people wondering as to what’s going on.  The same is true when it comes to provisioning – the longer it takes, the more inclined people will be to over-order, over-anticipate and under utilize.
  • Also, give people the ability to take resources as easily as they can give them back. If someone stops using something, encourage them to return those resources, credit it back to their ‘credit card’ of IT services they can purchase…. Turn self-service into an incentive for good behavior.
  • Focus effort on communicating value back to your business and to your users – or people don’t see and realize what you are doing.   Tell people what these changes will mean and sell them the benefits. So often IT does what it does inside the IT microcosm without learning from Marketing colleagues about a little self-promotion.
  • And if you really want to impress users, ask them what they want. As technologist and engineers we sometimes forget this important step.

As an IT admin, you can also directly ask users what features they want to see from IT or what would be useful to them. Reinforcing the idea that IT is there to make their lives easier can help persuade users to follow correct IT practices.

It’s not hard to realize that users work for the people that pay IT’s bills, therefore….

Happy users = Happy IT

This is a modified post from Ed Hoppitt’s personal blog, Gathering Clouds.