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How to Avoid 5 Common Mistakes When Implementing an SDDC Solution

By Jose Alamo

Jose alamo-cropImplementing 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.

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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.

A New Kind of Hero

By Aernoud van de Graaf

AERNOUD VDG crop-filterIn every IT organization there is that special person. Let’s call him Phil. Phil is the kind of person who…
– knows everything
– can fix anything
– knows everybody
– and gets things done in hours that would take others days or weeks to accomplish.

Phil is a hero. If the system goes down, call him, and he will fix it — even if it takes him all night. You can call Phil any time of the day, and he will rise up to the challenge and make sure that the system is up and running in no time. And you love him for it.

One day before a project was to go live, the project leader found out that to implement the new application required a change to the firewall rule, which normally takes two weeks. He called Phil, and after a friendly cup of coffee with the network guys, the firewall change was made in just two days (instead of two weeks).

But during the installation of the application, the test database was accidentally connected to the application instead of the production database. Chaos ensued. The lines of business (LOBs) were furious because customers were getting the wrong orders and threatening to end their contracts. Phil fixed it within a day — and though a lot of money was lost due to wrong orders, not one customer ended its contract. It could have been much worse, had it not been for Phil.

Because of his history of “saved the day” work, Phil gets recognized in the organization — not just within IT, but also with the LOBs. Everyone knows and loves Phil, and he gets high scores on his reviews. After a particularly nasty problem took him an entire weekend to fix, Phil got an extra bonus and a nice weekend with his family in a 5-star hotel. He earned it.

As we said before. Phil is our hero.

And then there is John. John has a vision. He is convinced that things need to change. The current environment is far too complex and needs to be simplified and standardized. Also, most things are done manually, taking way too much time and causing a lot of problems — because people make mistakes.

John envisions a world where IT users have access to a portal that will automatically provision what they need, without any human intervention. Applications, workplaces, middleware, servers, storage, network, and security — all at the push of just a few buttons. The user simply classifies the business requirements, and the policies will ensure the application is provisioned to meet the requirements. John did his research and found that this way, implementation errors can be nearly eliminated and time-to-market greatly improved.

No longer would IT need loads of people monitoring and managing the operations and health of the infrastructure. No more firefighting 24X7. Most things would be handled by the tooling. If manual intervention were required, the tooling would give context and advise on where to look and what could be done. This may be the opportunity to put Phil to good use. Instead of spending time fixing things, Phil can start creating solutions that would add real value to the business.

Phil is the only one with the technical skills and the influence with the CIO to bring this vision to reality, so John sets up a meeting with him. John explains to Phil all the advantages that standardization, virtualization, and automation will bring to the organization. No more weekends spent fixing problems, no more last-minute interventions. Everything will run smoothly. The business will profit because the quality of service will go up, costs will go down, and IT can change at the speed of the business — speeding up innovation and time-to-market. John asks Phil to help design and build the solution and to support him in presenting it to the CIO.

But Phil is not as enthusiastic as John would have thought. In Phil’s opinion, no tools can replace the knowledge he has of the IT environment. And he is already far too busy with today’s work to spend time on John’s project. Automation maybe useful, but virtualization and automation will only make things worse for Phil. He would lose insight of where the applications are running and is afraid he could no longer fix things because of constant changes based on rules a tool determines are useful. Phil states that IT should stay the way it is, where he knows all the little nooks and crannies and how to fix them. He will not support John’s initiative and will advise the CIO to leave things status quo.

John is surprised. He does not understand why Phil would not want to improve the current situation.  Having IT run smoothly may not provide as many opportunities to save the day, but it will ensure that IT is really enabling the business.

It is time for a new kind of hero.

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Aernoud van de Graaff is a business solutions architect with VMware Accelerate Advisory Services and is based in the Netherlands. You can follow him on Twitter @aernoudvdgraaff 

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