A few years ago, many IT departments had reached a level of IT maturity whereby they had strong, established processes underpinning delivery of IT to the business. However these best practices were based around IT that, on the whole, resided within the comfort of the four walls of the organisation.
The growth of cloud and SaaS is changing that by taking IT departments out of their comfort zone by moving key parts of the IT service delivery chain outside of the business. This means the tried and tested processes are more difficult to implement because the IT department is no longer in complete control. Like the Curious Case of Benjamin Button, developments such as cloud computing are reversing the maturity of IT departments.
How have cloud and SaaS developments changed IT?
Over many years, the combined brainpower of IT directors, IT managers and their teams had created processes for effectively running IT. Best practice frameworks such as the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) have also helped with maturity by improving quality in the delivery of IT services.
However with the introduction of cloud computing promising massively reduced costs, improved efficiency and various other attractive factors, these long-standing practices are become harder to implement. Nonetheless, this hasn’t stopped businesses looking seriously and in some cases adopting the various ‘as-a-service’ IT models. The flexibility and scalability benefits, coupled with pay-as-you-go pricing that enables huge reductions in CAPEX, can’t be ignored.
Yet despite all the potential benefits, the ultimate success of cloud services hinges on the ability to manage them. Although end users might benefit from the improved variety of services they can access via the cloud, they aren’t really thinking about how the business has reduced its CAPEX. They simply want to enjoy the same level of service they always have, no matter what is happening behind the scenes.
When a business moves IT services to the cloud, they open key components of the application delivery chain up to outside influences. Consequently the ability to ensure a good end-user experience of these services depends not just on the IT department. It also depends on the likes of cloud providers, content delivery networks and various other service providers.
For example if a business’ email goes down, it would previously have been a case of finding the problem internally and fixing it. Now that issue could be with any of the various service providers that are working to deliver that application to the end user. Hence, IT management maturity in essence is reversed when services go up in the cloud.
Regaining control of IT
With so many different providers playing a part in the IT delivery chain, businesses need to adapt and develop new processes to help them manage their modern IT environment. This is not a case of ‘starting over’. As I say, many of the management processes already in place are still useful. The important thing now is being able to successfully extend them across a much wider environment.
One issue business will have likely come across since adopting cloud is the blame game. For example if you’re an IT manager for a major online retailer and your website goes down at Christmas, whose fault is it? Is it your web developers, the cloud hosting provider or perhaps in turn their network provider who needs to take action? It’s hard to know who should take responsibility if the business cannot see what the problem actually is.
A vital part of re-gaining control of IT is to ensure the business has the right level of visibility into its application delivery chain. No matter how many external providers are involved in providing an application to the end user, the IT department must be able to see each stage, monitor performance against agreed service levels, identify any potential problems and then have in place procedures and contingency for dealing with this problem.
The ease with which IT departments deal with, and ultimately mitigate against, such issues is what defines IT maturity. Conversely, jumping head first into the cloud without ensuring long-standing best practice processes can still be applied will result in a massive business risk. Instead of being the rising star within business, IT will become the problem child.