• United States

Here’s the goal

Aug 04, 20034 mins
Data Center

* A roadmap for IT management evolution

IT must evolve if it’s going to succeed. As simple and basic as this idea may be, it poses a logical question: Evolve into what?

Is the goal a low-cost, commodotized investment in technology, as some would have it, or is it a structure for more proactive, open-ended, controlled growth?  Based on last week’s column, you know my vote is with the latter idea.

Through research done specifically in conjunction with Computer Associates, and through broader research, Enterprise Management Associates has mapped out IT evolution, identifying four phases of the process:

* Reacting. At this level, most organizations are trying to survive day-to-day crises. Most management software used is element-centric, with some working at the domain level. Domains of expertise – in networks, systems, applications and databases – are fundamentally separate and isolated from each other. Focus is on basic help desk support, reacting to isolated customer problems, so that management is done responsively by incident rather than proactively by automation. Most management purchases are driven by crises rather than as planned investments.

* Managing operationally. At this stage, IT has awakened somewhat to its own potential, although still without a full vision of what it could be. Day-to-day operational issues are still paramount, but management investments are more likely to be domain-focused (networks, systems, apps) vs. element-focused (by brand of server or network device), and cross-organizational dialog has improved. At this stage the operations center (or NOC) is in the ascendancy, while the help desk remains important. Integration between these two organizations, however, remains less than ideal.

* Aligning with the business. In terms of total transformation, this is perhaps the single most important stage. Certainly it’s so within the consciousness of IT, because at this stage “tribal” affiliations between areas of domain expertise are superseded in order to enable more holistic management of the infrastructure. But this is not done just for its own sake (even if ROI is profound). It’s done to achieve a greater focus on service management and business alignment. At this stage a service organization – which can grow either out of the operations center, or the help desk, or a separate, third source – has a fundamental and consistent interface to the broader business. The help desk beings to shift away from managing incidents and towards gathering information for service planning. Management products are invested in strategically, rather than reactively. Analytics and visualization capabilities for capturing business impact and priorities are consciously defined and sought after.

* Automating for on-demand business control. At this stage, and let’s be clear – this is a stage that largely lies in the future – automation and business alignment have become so integrated with IT processes and organizations that the role of IT can shift fundamentally, once again. Day-to-day performance and availability issues are largely managed by automation, so that IT can focus on capturing business advantage and optimizing to shifting business conditions. Planning new services and optimizing quality of service on an individualized basis will be more a matter of focus than simply sustaining services or fixing breakages. The fact that, increasingly, IT data will inform not only on infrastructure but also on business, legal and security-related behaviors, will pose new challenges and opportunities. 

Hopefully most of you have put the first phase largely behind you, while the fourth phase is not yet a reality for anyone. We have spoken with many IT organizations to develop the structure for the model summarized here, but I do welcome your comments. Feel free to e-mail me at – to capture your own “evolutionary” or “not-so-evolutionary” experiences.