Invited speaker and panelist at the 6th Data Centres Europe conference that was held at the 24th and 25th of June in Nice, France. A conference that paid special focus on enterprise customers of data centres and their evolving outsourcing needs as emerging private clouds, new technologies and market shift impact across the sector. This is the largest regional event with more than 500 executives from the data centre sector registered from all over Europe as well as the Middle East and North America.
Outline of the given presentation:
TIMES ARE CHANGING
In a lot of organizations the information processing is still based on a medieval concept, the Information Fortress, which is a closed and static world. But business is changing. The modern organizations are open and dynamic, where any time, anyplace, anywhere access to information is the motto. Our IT departments have therefore an issue. How to keep balance between on the one hand the increasing demanding performance objectives and on the other hand the control on IT risks.
IT infrastructure is basically a value stack. A supply chain of stack elements who act as service components (People, Process and IT that adds up to an IT service). Although IT infrastructure delivers no direct business value, much of the business value is created in business processes that depends upon a solid and stable IT infrastructure. Zooming in and looking closer to this value stack or supply chain we see not only the expected functional interdependency but also several hard, not wanted, dependencies between the stack elements from a technical, procedural and organizational perspective. We see a stovepipe, a siloed, chained, restraining infrastructure instead of a flexible, supporting infrastructure. Because of this negative dependencies it is very difficult to keep balance. Virtualization technology can help you to get rid of the wrong kind of interdependencies. So if you want to change infrastructure because of commercial, functional, technical or capacity reasons you can change because it is easy to move and/or to alter.
But if all of this is possible why wait, why hesitate? Lets start to integrate the possibilities of virtualization technology in your sourcing strategy and create the flexibility the business is asking for.
Do you get what you want? Do you deliver what you promised?
Operationalize your vision, living up the promise needs a certain kind of monitoring just to be sure that everything goes fine or that appropriate actions should be made.. This monitoring is part of your quality management. There are a lot of people out side the IT world that spend time and effort on this subject. So why don’t we borough some ideas instead of re-inventing the wheel again. A very known acronym is PDCA. PDCA (plan-do-check-act) is an iterative four-step problem-solving process typically used in business process improvement. It is also known as the Deming cycle. This is the improved version of what is also called the Wright cycle (guess-do-crash-fix).
- Plan: Establish the objectives and processes necessary to deliver results in accordance with the expected output. By making the expected output the focus, it differs from other techniques in that the completeness and accuracy of the specification is also part of the improvement.
- Do: Implement the new processes. Often on a small scale if possible.
- Check: Measure the new processes and compare the results against the expected results to ascertain any differences.
- Act: Analyze the differences to determine their cause.
The Check and Act steps are some times catch up by the notion of Monitoring. These are the steps to determine where to apply changes that will include improvement. The P-D-C-A steps can be repeated again and again in an self chosen time frame.
Need To Know
Maslow is noted for his conceptualization of the hierarchy of human needs. His hierarchy of needs is predetermined in order of importance. It is often depicted as a pyramid consisting of different levels: the lowest level is associated with physical needs, while the uppermost level is associated with self-actualization needs, particularly those related to identity and purpose. The higher needs in this hierarchy only come into focus when the lower needs in the pyramid are met.
We can use Maslow’s hierarchy as a analogy for monitoring in the IT world. You want and need assurance on the environment, availability and performance level. If these things are not in place you cant focus on business services and give assurance to communication and information. At the lowest levels we talk mostly about IT Operations, on the mid level about Information Management and on the highest level about Business Service Management. By using a layered model of monitoring needs you give focus to the different needs and also give a transparent and structured view how to organize monitoring.
Monitoring is knowing, but …
- Simple: no complex models because people don’t like complexity
- Visual: create a mental picture by visualizing because people don’t like the burden of tons of paper reports
- Memorable: catch the most important properties so no more large handbooks that don’t work
- Effective: maximize information throughput and delivery so now more interpretation discussions about figures
- Active: put you to think, leads to actions
But beware, you can’t summarize complex systems in just a few one liners. But by improving fact finding you win time. Time you can spend on thinking about the won information and how to give direction to wanted improvements. Deming advocated that all managers need to have what he called a System of Profound Knowledge, consisting of four parts:
- Appreciation of a system: understanding the overall processes involving suppliers, producers, and customers (or recipients) of goods and services;
- Knowledge of variation: the range and causes of variation in quality, and use of statistical sampling in measurements;
- Theory of knowledge: the concepts explaining knowledge and the limits of what can be known;
- Knowledge of psychology: concepts of human nature.
The different levels of assurance can be put in an framework, an assurance stack, where each layer is the fundament for the layer on top of it. The environmental, availability and performance assurance are typical issues for IT operations. Information and communication assurance are topics for Information management. Service assurance, business service monitoring (BSM) is part of Business management. This framework can give direction and structure to the general concept of monitoring.
Something new on the horizon?
The separation of powers, also known as Trias Politica, is a governance model for democratic states. Under this model, the state is divided into branches, each with separate and independent powers and areas of responsibility. The normal division of these states is into an executive, a legislature and a judiciary branch. Montesquieu [1689-1755] did specify that “the independence of the judiciary has to be real, and not apparent merely”. The judiciary is generally seen as the most important of powers, independent and unchecked.
Checks and Balances
To prevent one branch from becoming supreme, and to induce the branches to cooperate, governance systems that employ a separation of powers need a way to balance each of the branches. Typically this is accomplished through a system of “checks and balances”, the origin of which, like separation of powers itself, is specifically credited to Montesquieu. Checks and balances allows for a system based regulation that allows one branch to limit another.
If we look how IT is currently organized, where is the separation of powers? In a lot of cases executive and judiciary branches are mingled. There is mostly not a real clear stated legislation that gives direction to the executive branch and gives the judiciary branch the means to evaluate and to give a verdict. In certain sourcing models the separation of power get even worse. Executive, legislature and judiciary branches are intermingled and partly placed by other external organizations (outsourcing). For the judiciary branch there is some times, ad hoc, the use of auditing. With auditing a starting discussion about what is the legislation that should be referred to is not uncommon.
Back on track
So why do we treat IT differently? Shouldn’t we separate the vision and strategy from the operation/execution, shouldn’t we separate the operation/execution from the monitoring and evaluation? Lets make IT more transparent with a governance model that separates powers and states checks and balances.