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Approval Policies: It’s All About the People

By David Crane

dcrane-cropTalking with customers, I hear a consistent message that is being asked of IT from the business; that is the ability to deliver IT services more rapidly and efficiently while reducing costs.

Combined with the demand for greater flexibility in delivering infrastructure and application services, my customers are implementing cloud environments, and they’re looking to take advantage of the automation capabilities of those platforms.

Automation, in its simplest guise, offers consumers an “app-store” style experience, where they can browse to a self-service portal for requesting cloud services and select virtual machine templates or blueprints that have been created for them.  As part of the provisioning process, consumers can also make changes to the virtual machine properties such as network, storage, compute, and memory within the ranges for which the blueprint they are using is configured.

Part of the provisioning process can be the approval of that request from that user’s line manager, or a budget holder for that service or line of business.  The traditional way of automating this step is to allow the approver (again via the self-service portal) the ability to authorize the request.

Consider, however, the typical activities that take place during this step, as shown below:

 

Approval Policy-Crane

 

Activity time that is conducted by a toolset is typically a very small percentage of the overall task time, and those customers who try to optimize this time typically get a poor ROI on their efforts.

Instead it is reducing the activity time that is carried out by people—and subsequently reducing the wait time for these activities to be carried out—where the benefits of automation are to be realized.

Many IT organizations attempt to do this through the implementation of approval policies, which are based on a set of rules around tangible parameters such as service cost, sizing, numbers, and so forth.

The focus then becomes configuring automation toolsets (e.g., VMware vRealize Automation), using these rulesets with the expectation that it should be a simple case of rolling out the approval policy to replace the “people approvers” and all will be well in the world.

However, as my customers are discovering, without careful consideration and consultation of the people element of the process, the carte blanche introduction of approval policies frequently meets resistance and pushback from those people approvers whose wait time is causing the benefits of automation to not be realized in the first place.

Reassurances of “trust in technology” or “trust in policy” usually falls on deaf ears, with counter arguments from the people approvers of needing to oversee and meet compliance, governance, and security requirements especially in those sectors (e.g., financial), where fierce regulation exists.

A compromise is then subsequently drawn up, with SLAs or OLAs determining response times from people approvers when requests come in, or approval policies existing for small-value or perceived low-risk requests, which offer minimal benefit.

While such agreements may suit the people approvers and placate the personal and political problems, they are a blunt instrument and still constrain the agile technology platforms that have been put in place, to the detriment of the business, and to the benefit of competitors that have addressed the problem in a different way.

My customers who have been successful in introducing significant approval policies have understood that one of the core reasons for this pushback is that people fear having their responsibilities cut back and the removal of their charter over the approval of the service requests of their line staff and business unit.

Stay tuned for my next blog, coming soon…I will go into more detail, including suggestions on how to successfully allow those approvers to retain their charter, while still introducing significant approval policies, but also achieving further business benefit through the publication of the cost savings, via approval policy-centric dashboards.

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

4 Steps to Better Market Your Cloud Services

By Alberto Martinez

Alberto Martinez-cropSuccessful cloud providers invest in marketing their services: promoting them, showing the value to customers, implementing strong pricing campaigns—and they understand how to rapidly adapt to changing market demands. But what prevents your internal IT organization from defining an effective marketing strategy to be more competitive and foster your cloud investments? And more importantly, how should you approach this effort to ensure success?

When moving to a cloud environment, most of the IT organizations that I work with focus on defining processes such as provisioning, support, or capacity, but forget about how to market the services they will be delivering and communicate their value to their customers. The same IT organizations end up with a private cloud infrastructure without clear target customers or, even worse, their cloud services are not used by the lines of business, resulting in a poor return on investment (ROI).

To realize the full ROI that enterprises are looking for from their cloud investments, the IT organization needs to drive the uptake of those services and persuade the lines of business away from using external service providers (shadow IT) or alternative legacy internal service provision options.

In order to mitigate those situations and increase their integration with the business, I advise my clients to define a consistent approach—as outlined below—to market their (internal or external) cloud services.

Defining Your Cloud Services Marketing Strategy
The approach to defining a cloud service marketing strategy must be innovative and not follow the traditional approaches. You need to apply a special focus on your customers in order to build a stronger relationship between your IT organization and the lines of business. That innovative approach has to contain similar characteristics as those of your cloud environment —simple and agile while powerful and impactful.

Below are four steps your IT organization can follow when defining a cloud services marketing strategy:

4 steps

  1. Define a service marketing strategy. As an essential initial activity, the key elements of the marketing strategy have to be defined with your CIO and leverage the expertise of your CMO and his/her marketing organization (experience, models, tools, and so forth). Those elements include market research, branding, pricing, differentiation, and competition.
  2. Create a communications plan. As my colleague Alex Salicrup wrote recently in this blog, communication is the key pillar to a successful IT provider. Define an effective communications plan for your cloud that will communicate its unique value to your customers and why they have to believe that differentiation is real (“reason to believe”). Your plan must define at a minimum what information will be communicated, how it will be communicated, as well as when it will be distributed and to which audience. Always keep in mind to exclude any technical information from the marketing materials.
  3. Develop marketing campaigns. One mechanism to create new favorable consumer perceptions of your cloud services is the marketing campaign. When developing tailored campaigns, you must identify what you are expecting from the campaign, what your customers can expect, what the impact will be on the audience, and how you will measure success. Measuring the success of your marketing campaigns is key to knowing the impact they had on your targeted audience.
  4. Measure. Benchmark your cloud environment against your competition, and set achievable actions to improve the value to business (always provide the best to your customers!).

Bridging the Gap Between the Cloud and Marketing Organizations

Establishing an IT services marketing capability is not just about defining the above steps—it’s also about your people in your organization and how they will execute upon those activities. To be successful, you need a strong integration between your IT organization and the marketing organization at two levels:

  1. Executive level: While defining the marketing strategy for your cloud environment, both your CIO and CMO have to work in tandem to ensure consistency with the business strategy. This will lead to the cloud services vision or value proposition, its unique value including differentiating factors, and the four steps previously described.
  2. Departmental lead/individual contributor level: Once you have defined your strategy, your IT organization—through cloud tenant operations—will have to work together with at a minimum two teams: 1) the marketing communications team to execute your cloud services communications plan, and 2) with the field marketing team to develop the marketing campaigns and success measurements.

Bridging the gap between the IT and marketing organizations will encourage an open environment of collaboration. I recommend to assign champions to integrate both areas, whose responsibility will be to support the promotion of the cloud services whilst leveraging the IT organization´s functions and expertise.

In summary, an effective cloud services marketing strategy promotes the value of your services and drives the adoption of those services within the lines of business. Start your effort early and with a consistent approach, so you can compete effectively against other cloud providers and achieve the ROI the business is looking for from its cloud investments.

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Alberto Martinez is an operations architect with the VMware Operations Transformation global practice and is based in Spain.

Marketing and Communications of a Successful IT Provider

By Alex Salicrup

SALICRUP-crop2Communication is the single-most important pillar of being a service-driven IT organization. While technical aptitude and service are both vital, being able to communicate effectively about value internally and to consumers is the key to IT becoming a true business partner.

IT has always struggled because its culture is one of fragmented thought leadership; not to mention the fact that those in the IT profession are often reactive, detail-oriented, and risk averse. Overcoming these obstacles requires careful management of IT’s internal brand.

Traditional IT is control-driven and customized. Go to a third-party cloud service provider and knock on the door, and they aren’t going to hand you a customized solution. The majority of them have a solution that they have predicted you will need. They have created a small number of services that will satisfy most of their consumers.

Now is the time to take a cue from those vendors and shift to a service-oriented model of IT by truly understanding user needs and perceptions first, then designing services around them. Manage IT like it’s your own business. Be competitive, proactive, and innovative. Manage customer perceptions. Remember that risks are opportunities.

Change is Difficult
Untitled
It’s difficult to change negative perceptions, but marketing campaigns do that every day; they are designed to put a new, positive perception in your head. It’s time to start your own IT marketing campaign to manage how your company views IT and help foster change.

Here are the five components you’ll need to think about as you start your IT brand campaign.

  1. Brand:
    Admit where you are now and where you want your brand to go. Your name, symbol, and color palate, are all part of the perception. So are all of the ways you communicate, including emails and templates.
  2. Catalyst of change:
    What are the reasons why your stakeholders would want change? The biggest place where this is a problem is within IT.
  3. Vision:
    In order to create a good catalyst, you need a vision that you can communicate. “We have to change because…” Many people are nervous about cloud, for example, but there is an opportunity for it to be that positive catalyst for change, that differentiator that tackles business issues, not just IT issues. Your vision needs to be something that is trackable. It can’t be something too absolute, like being the best cloud provider in the world. You will also need to determine who will communicate the vision and to whom.
  4. Targeted services:
    Know your niche. There are all sorts of cloud services available. So find out what the needs of your consumers are and your value proposition to them. A lot of times in IT, we buy the architecture first, and then tell people their needs. Now that consumers have options, that strategy is not competitive.
  5. Effective communication:
    A cohesive message to communicate with different audiences to help position service values.

Let’s look a little more closely at the three types of individuals that you will be communicating with in your entire organization. Of course, the first step is to get your own people on board with the dog food you are going to sell.

  • The complacent are happy with the status quo, they are the most resistant to change, and unwilling to look at the benefits of change. If you tell them they are going to do something new, they say “no way.” They pose the biggest threat to consumer adoption at your organization.
  • The blind followers, on the other hand, can get behind any vision but aren’t able to articulate it. They are tactical so the high-level vision is likely too broad for them.
  • Lastly, you may have a small group of competent followers who may be emerging leaders or IT loyalists (or both). They understand the business units, and are highly interested in the team and organizational results. They can help you manage the other two groups.

Go out and create evangelists. Executives and directors cannot carry the whole load. The individual contributors–those who will be using the services—can be your most influential advocates.

Pave the Way Forward
Now that we’ve looked at the individual types of stakeholders and the five components of your brand campaign, let’s take a look at how to get your message across.

Acknowledge IT’s current state

  • Tell stakeholders your transformation plans from start to finish.
  • Admit challenges to make IT more credible.

The plan should communicate:

  • Product or service
  • Target consumers
  • Your competition and how IT compares
  • IT services value over competition

Three main stages:

  1. Identify critical success factors: What must be right in order to meet forecast and grow?
  2. Value proposition: which aspects of your products make the IT consumer focus on the services rather than the prices?
  3. Prepare a service uptake forecast: Lay the best path that IT can reach.

These IT marketing concepts may seem simple or common sense, but they are also reasonable and achievable. When you prove value through effective communications and marketing, the business starts looking at you like a true partner.

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Alex Salicrup is a transformation strategist with VMware Accelerate Advisory Services and is based in California.

A Click Away—The IT Vending Machine Experience

IT users increasingly expect a more consumer-type of enterprise technology experience. A user friendly, cloud-based experience will increase productivity, efficiency, and customer satisfaction.

This infographic reveals why the consumerization of IT is a key development that organizations can leverage to ensure that IT is successful.

 

140207-VMware-OnDemand-IT-Services-final-LORes

The People and Process Behind the Service Portal

By David Crane

dcrane-cropAs more IT organizations move away from the traditional, siloed model of IT and toward becoming a service provider, new questions arise. Running a smooth, cost-effective, efficient service portal can ease a number of the issues that IT faces, but only if done correctly.

The portal serves as the interface that helps consumers navigate through available service options and select them as needed. Behind the scenes, IT is serving as a contractor, comparing service requirements to different capabilities that may be internal, on premise, or from other providers. The user doesn’t care, so long as they are getting what they need.

So you have a portal, and you have a cloud. Now what?

Consistently Capture Service Requirements
With the right foundation, managing the service portal can be a smooth process,. The first step is to understand the unique requirements that your users have, and deliver the resources that are going to meet their needs. The best way to understand that is to step outside the traditional organizational silos and engage directly with the lines of business.

Once you understand the various service needs, create service charts, such as the example below:

Service chartThese will serve to identify all the different components required in each service. Most of these components will be common across different services, and can then be built out separately. Take a “cookie cutter” approach to these components, so that when mixed and matched they will create the services needed. Part of correctly understanding these components will involve a deeper understanding of the service definition process. What tasks will need to happen across all operational levels? Who will be responsible for those tasks?

Right People, Right Services
Oftentimes, IT organizations feel anxiety about the level of automation that stands behind a portal. It’s challenging to think of users that have previously been carefully walked through specialized processes suddenly having the ability to requisition services through an automated process. Creating clearly defined roles and restricting access to the catalog based on those roles can alleviate these fears.

Once you have the roles defined, deploy provisioning groups to different IT resources consumers. Allow these provisioning groups to handle the issue of deployment capabilities and instead focus on using policies to govern how those deployments will take place. Use the defined roles for the portal to determine which users can perform which actions within their environment. The policies will dictate which components will be required in each context.

When Is a Service Ready to Go in the Catalog?
Some IT organizations, once their portal is set up, try to lump the service portfolio process in with the service catalog management responsibilities. This can lead to frustration and inefficiency down the line, and can undermine the cost savings and automation value that the cloud provides. Instead, use your senior technical resources to create the service definitions and components. This will be the best use of their skills, and is also the work that they are going to find challenging and interesting.

Once that is done, more junior resources can combine and deploy those components into the catalog. It becomes a simple process of handing the service configuration document to the person responsible for deployment.

Integrated Transition to Catalog
The transition process — getting services out of the catalog and into the portfolio — can be difficult and technical. Avoid a lot of the messiness by getting operational input early in the process so that all the requirements are understood up front. Here, again, is where it’s important to keep your senior resources working on high level issues: getting components aligned to the corporate enterprise structure, security, and any other issues that require IT’s attention. If the components are aligned to the business needs, the services that are composed of those components will also align by default.

Once the business and IT agree that there is a need for a service, the service owner and service architect should ensure that the required components exist. For any component, security, access policies and provisioning processes should already be determined — no need for testing, change process or QA. From there the service architect can take the components out to create the service configuration. Keep this streamlined and simple.

New Roles
Making all this work smoothly requires some new roles within the organization. A customer relationship manager (CRM) will act as the interface between the tech teams and the consumer. The CRM captures the requirements, keeps the consumer happy, and keeps IT aligned and communicating with the business. Unlike a managed service provider, the CRM should operate within the cloud tenants team to ensure and understanding of internal IT. The service owner, discussed above, is responsible for taking the requirements gathered and doing something with them, including negotiating contracts with the cloud providers.

The service portfolio manager will know the portfolio inside and out, and create a standardized environment. The service architects will combine components and author a configuration document whenever a new service is required. The service QA will test the created services. The service admin will be responsible for taking the configuration requirements and deploying into the catalog.

The service portal should serve as a powerful tool that connects consumers, both internal and external, with the services they need. By building strong component foundations, creating well-defined roles, and assigning resources where they will be most effective, IT organizations can ensure that their portal process runs smoothly and efficiently.


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

How IT Can Transform “Trust Debt” into True Business Alignment

By Kevin Lees

Kevin_cropIn my previous post, 5 Ways Cloud Automation Drives Greater Cost and Operational Transparency, I wrote about how automation can help alleviate tension between IT and and the lines of business. Let’s continue to explore that theme as we look into ways to bring in tighter alignment between business objectives and IT capabilities.

“Instead of cost centers that provide capabilities, IT organizations must become internal service providers supplying business-enabling solutions that drive innovation and deliver value…true business partners rather than increasingly irrelevant, cost-centric technology suppliers.” This quote comes from the white paper How IT Organizations Can Achieve Relevance in the Age of Cloud[1], which provides insight into the ways IT needs to change to become a true partner with the entire business to help meet overall objectives.

So to get to that place of true partnership and business agility, all IT has to do is become an internal service provider and deliver business-enabling solutions, and then the business will regard IT as a true partner, right? If only it were that simple.

While there’s nothing wrong with the goal of adding business value and increasing responsiveness to business requirements, there is another problem that has been largely overlooked: The “trust debt” that has built up between IT and its business customers.

As a result of the way it has operated in the past, IT must overcome trust debt to gain true business alignment. Business alignment must be achieved before the optimal “business-enabling solutions” can be designed, developed, and deployed to meet business users’ needs.

As is the case with financial debts, IT must make payments on this accumulated trust debt, with interest. The interest comes in where IT must go above and beyond end user expectations to prove its willingness and ability to ensure that technology helps, rather than hinders, the business. The payments themselves can take many forms, including: implementing new technology that delivers new capabilities, demonstrating a service-oriented mindset, or even taking the extra step of becoming truly transparent.

Overcoming Trust Debt: Starting Point and First Steps
Making any change starts with a bit of exploration and personal reflection. Ultimately technology and IT’s role as a whole is about meeting the needs of the business at the speed business requires. This, of course, demands greater agility — enabled by the ability to offer cloud computing capabilities on top of a software-defined data center.

To overcome trust debt, IT must first get out of its comfort zone, which is firmly rooted in enabling technology. IT leaders may first need to ask: What is IT “enabling” with technology?

Start with the Stack
Let’s face it: Agility demands a dynamic technology stack. To be dynamic at the level that business requires today can only be achieved in software; hardware is too static and difficult to change. A software-defined data center uses a fully virtualized stack that can quickly and dynamically change to meet the needs of the business.

Automation, coupled with the key cloud capability of self-service, on-demand provisioning provides agility. More than anything else, automated self-service, on-demand provisioning alone can be the compelling reason businesses are drawn to cloud. Imagine what would happen if business constituents could select the service offering to deploy, along with the level of service they desire, and some very short time later the virtual server would be available with that service (a marketing demo, for example). That’s a huge win and a step closer to eradicating trust debt.

This level of service alone could become IT’s calling card. The marketing demo example mentioned above is not hypothetical—I saw this recently at a large financial institution. A marketing team needed to stand up a demo that customers could access externally so they could beat the competition to market. Traditional IT said that demo could be available in about six weeks. But the marketing person driving the initiative had heard about this thing called a cloud that had been set up in a separate IT initiative. She contacted the responsible IT team who gave her access. Within 24 hours she had her demo up with customers actively using it.

This one occurrence launched the company’s cloud initiative. Word spread like wildfire throughout the organization and demand ramped so quickly that IT had to gate it to bring on more infrastructure. (If only they’d had a hybrid cloud!)

Simply put, agility sold the cloud. And what better way to regain trust and create new opportunities to drive business alignment?

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Kevin Lees is Global Principal Architect, Operations Transformation Practice. Follow @VMwareCloudOps on Twitter for future updates, and join the conversation by using the #CloudOps and #SDDC hashtags on Twitter.


 [1] CIO white paper: “How IT Organizations Can Achieve Relevance in the Age of Cloud,” 2013

Top 5 Ways IT Can Stay Relevant in the Cloud Era

By Jason Stevenson

You have heard it said that “rock and roll is dead.” The same could soon be said about your IT department.

External pressures are driving an extinction of the IT department. Today’s business users are becoming more and more savvy, growing up with all kinds of technology in both the home and the office. Desk-side computing is dying off quickly, being left behind by technologies—like tablets, smart phones, and even wearable technology like eyeglasses and wristwatches—that make your employees more mobile and agile. This type of technology doesn’t typically need desk-side support, and when users are frustrated enough to need “human” help, they look for services such as Kindle’s Mayday for instant assistance that’s specific to the device/service that they are experiencing issues with.

The movement toward mobility and agility naturally drives organizations toward more cloud-based services, and software as a service (SaaS) rather than customized applications. This means that as time goes on, storage infrastructure, compute infrastructure, network infrastructure, and the data center will become less and less relevant.

Today’s business managers need to move at the speed of technology, and often consider the IT department a hindrance more than anything else. So how do you reverse that trend?

1. Become a “service provider” or be left in the dust.

Shifting your focus from technology to service management, you act as broker of the cloud services available within the marketplace. In order to “run IT like a business,” the IT department needs to have a clear picture of the services it provides and how these services create value for its customers.

Through full transformation of your organizational structure, core processes, and management tools, you are able to facilitate, combine, and enhance cloud services to add business value.

2. People are paramount. Your IT org chart should match your service-oriented approach.

Where today your organization is likely heavily vested in operational resources, a more mature organization will be needed. Your IT department will no longer deliver technology but will become a truly service-oriented organization and must be resourced appropriately.

You may find your organization chart actually reflecting a service lifecycle with service strategy at the top of the pyramid and service design, transition, operation, and improvement on the bottom of the pyramid. Consider how your services will flow naturally through the bottom of your organization chart, moving left-to-right/cradle-to-grave.

3. Perfect your processes. Even the greatest technology means nothing if there isn’t a solid plan in place to deliver it.

If you are still thinking technology is the solution, it’s time to get your head out of the clouds; or better said, into the clouds. An IT service provider that will last the test of time will have robust processes in place for:

  • Relationship and Demand Management
  • Portfolio and Finance Management
  • Supplier Management
  • Change, Configuration, Release, and Validation Management
  • Portal Management
  • Reporting Management

Without these processes in place your customers will never truly understand or appreciate the value of the technology you are providing.

4. Technology changes CONSTANTLY. Accept that and adopt it as part of your strategy moving forward.

Rather than blather on about technology, talking about what’s hot and what’s not, accept the simple fact that technology changes every day in real and profound ways. You must avoid resistance to change and embrace innovation when it makes good sense from a cost and risk perspective.

At this moment, technology is clearly trending toward attributes like mobility, community, utility, and self-service. Your customers (the business) are better informed than ever of these trends and are expecting their business to move at the speed of technology. Be an enabler of these new trends, not a roadblock.

5. Your customers (the business) will either love you or leave you. Focus on their experience with IT above all else.

You must provide service to not only meet user requirements, but also user expectations. Users want to feel empowered and immediately gratified. Become the preferred method to engage services. Provide a positive user experience that users want to engage with, and not just because they have to. Become a trusted advisor, aware of both the business and IT trends. Be impressive when it comes to managing suppliers/vendors, and be excellent project managers.

You must deliver services in such a way that your users are left not merely satisfied, but actually exhilarated by the service they received. Otherwise, you are not adding value and cannot compete.

Your focus must truly shift from technology to services. And, you must begin this journey now, before becoming obsolete like so much of the technology you have retired from your environments. Be willing to look outside your organization for solutions, and realize the paradigm shift from technology design to service delivery.

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Jason Stevenson is a transformation consultant with VMware Accelerate Advisory Services. He is based in Michigan and one of only seven certified ITIL Masters in the U.S.