Transform Your IT To DevOps and ITaaS

Philippe Abdoulaye

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The #DigitalTransformation Hype | @CloudExpo #BigData #IoT #M2M #API

Busting the myths and hypes that take businesses into the wall

Digital transformation is the buzzword of the moment, a closer look at how a number of executives, particularly CIOs address it shows that, it's either underestimated or misunderstood.

Something is sure, it can't be narrowed to the expensive technology changes IT vendors have been promoting; that's a simplistic vision which primarily follows financial considerations, it ignores the industry disruption impacts on businesses, particularly on the IT function.

Vendors' tool-focused approach is taking several businesses straight into the wall because digital transformation isn't a technology change matter, it's primarily about transforming your business model: your IT infrastructure, IT service delivery approach, and operating model.

An increasing number of thought leaders have been alerting the business community, Forbes Joe McKendrick in the "Elusive Mystique of the Digital Enterprise" warns, "Everybody is talking about digital, but there's really no consensus on what a digital organization should really look like. Nor is it clear what advantages are gained" and makes it clear, "moving to digital and reaping its benefits won't happen by technology alone. The organization needs to be re-oriented and re-invented." Howard King in the UK's very serious The Guardian in "What is Digital Transformation?" goes further, "Transformation is a whole scale change to the foundational components of a business: from its operating model to its infrastructure. What it sells, to whom and how it goes to market," and reminds, "a transformation program touches every function of a business; purchasing, finance, human resource through to operations and technology, sales and marketing."

The question to ask yourself is, what digital transformation the major IT brands including vendors and consulting firms are talking about?

In this article, I share my experience, lessons learned, approaches and tools used to advise CIOs on their digital transformation strategies and leading their digital transition programs.

Why dealing with the changes in your competitive environment brought about by your industry's disruption should be your main concern

The notion that digital technology by itself is fundamentally changing how business is done is one of these marketing hasty conclusions we've grown accustomed to. It's a myth which prevents you from making informed digital transformation decisions. Indeed, by stressing innovation technologies at the expense of your industry disruptions it forces you to prematurely invest in technology change while your priority should be to urgently figure out how to deal with the disruptions hitting your industry.

Ask yourself this, what's the interest in investing in expensive and scattered technology change initiatives if your favorite vendors and consultants aren't able to clearly address these concerns:

  • How to restructure your business value stream to make it lean and agile so that the right services are timely delivered to the right market segments?
  • How to integrate DevOps, ITaaS, Cloud, Internet of Things (IoT), Big Data, into a coherent and consistent business capability so that the right services are timely delivered to the right market segments?
  • What's the architecture of your future information system (IS) including your virtual data center (VDC) and application delivery infrastructure (ADI)?
  • What will be the CIO's role? How the relationships with your business lines and vendors will be managed?

Make no mistake about it, these are your business lines questions of the moment, unless you answer them, any technology change won't result in the expected benefits.If you're in the taxi or the banking industry, you won't overperform Uber, Apple Pay, PayPal, and Google Wallet just by changing your technology; you'll need additional competitive differentiators for instance premium post sales services and low costs and this demands a thorough transformation of your IT organization structure, processes, practices, and governance.

How the impact on the way business is done make the X as a Service (XaaS) paradigm the foundation of the new IT thinking

What you must be aware of is, the proliferation of startups and digital services (e.g., IoT apps) brought about by the digital economy is shifting your business line concerns from IT efficiency to organizational agility; cross-functional collaboration, market responsiveness, and timely revenue is what will concretely help them grow and prosper and in turn survive the digital disruptions that are raging out there.You'll never achieve them by only changing infrastructures.

That new IT thinking which combines IT efficiency and organizational agility into a competitive business asset requires not only a new way for delivering IT services but also different kind of services that guarantee effective cross-functional collaboration, rapid problem solving and decision-making, and timely delivery through the elimination of organizational and operational dysfunctions.

The XaaS paradigm is the foundation of that new IT approach, it's neither an infrastructure nor a tool as some vendors pretend; it's primarily an IT service delivery model which builds on the cloud benefits i.e., automation, self-service, and on-demand mechanisms to guarantee IT efficiency and organizational agility.

The inevitable transformation of your IT organization to the ITaaS delivery model

Helping business lines grow and prosper in the digital era isn't possible without transforming your IT organization. As I mentioned above, the business concern has shifted from IT efficiency to organizational agility, it's urgent to upgrade your IT organization's mission from the now outdated tools provider role to that of business strategy facilitator.

The following exhibit illustrates the high level structure of the digital IT organization including its three building blocks: the lean and agile IT operating model, the XaaS service catalog, and the virtual computing capability (VCC).

Turning  your IT operating model into a lean and agile value stream

Concretely speaking, the IT operating model represents the lean and agile work environment implemented to make flexible the workflows in your IT value stream. The bottom line is to ensure the timely delivery of the right services to the right market segments.

It's a combination of dedicated virtual or physical work environments and interactions involving the business and IT at all level of your organization's hierarchy, they're specifically designed to enable agility. As the exhibit illustrates, it's conceptually designed in the form of a value stream:

Staff interactions are the post import aspect of it, they build on the consumer-provider relationship paradigm, based on SLAs that define the required direct interactions, clarifies the roles and responsibilities as well as the mutual expectations, to break down the organizational silos and in turn accelerate problem solving and decision-making.

Take it for granted, the IT operating model is where agility and flexibility are implemented and nowhere else.

The XaaS service catalog
The XaaS services are the cloud services - Software as a Service (SaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) that'll be used throughout your organization to develop and roll out your digital services.

Their implementation is based on the IT service management (ITSM) 4Ps paradigm. It's the notion that to achieve their objective the services must properly address four determinants of value including:

  • People which refers to the consumer and provider of the cloud services in terms of skills, experience, qualifications, expectations, alike
  • Processes needed to properly design, develop, deliver and monitor the services
  • Product which refers to the technology needed to implement the processes and enable the expected benefits
  • Partners supplying the cloud services

Take it for granted, adopting the 4Ps approach increases mutual commitment, direct interactions, and accelerate problem solving and decision-making and in turn make the business responsive to market opportunities.

Implementing your virtual computing capability (VCC) as your virtual information system (IS)
In practical terms, is the cloud platform(s) - public, private, hybrid - intended to host your infrastructure and applications, it represents a fundamental change in IT, it's actually your digital enterprise's information system and makes your cloud platform(s) the key foundation of what we'll refer to as your virtual IS.

The virtual IS implements all the cloud computing's layers including:

  • The SaaS which makes your applications available to business users and customers over the internet
  • The PaaS stack which provides a comprehensive application development and deployment platform
  • The IaaS layer which acts more as a virtual data center (VDC) to provide low cost virtual infrastructure and enables rapid resources provisioning

Let's explore your virtual IS's components.

See your cloud's IaaS stack as your virtual data center (VDC)
The IaaS stack of your cloud platform represents the virtual data center of your IS:

The VDC provides a hosting environment for your organization's applications, the bottom line is to offer a virtual infrastructure that delivers secure, highly available, reliable and scalable compute capacities. As illustrated, the IaaS stack is conceptually structured around seven components including:

  • The VDC itself which hosts the overall infrastructure in a public, private and / or hybrid cloud setting
  • The organizations which represents subset of cloud resources - compute, network, and storage - specifically dedicated to your business lines and under their responsibility
  • The application container (AC) which hosts the virtual machines (VMs) hosting your applications and databases
  • The routing / firewalling mechanisms which route and filter inbound and outbound traffic
  • The load balancers (LBs) which ensure secured application accesses from the internet
  • The virtual network which represents your organization's dedicated virtual local area network (VLAN) and the associated routing and firewalling mechanisms
  • The virtual storage which represents your IT organization's dedicated storage resource pools in the cloud

See your PaaS stack as your application development and deployment infrastructure (ADI)
See your PaaS stack as your IT organization's application development infrastructure:

The ADI provides your development team with a platform that allows them to develop, test, and continuously deploy applications in line with business lines' responsiveness and timely revenue requirements. As illustrated, it's a set of software and infrastructure  that structure application development into three fundamental building blocks:

  • The development platform which builds on integrated development environments (IDE) to support three-tier applications and accelerate code writing, testing, build process, and version control to ensure developers productivity and contribute to responsiveness
  • The deployment platform which builds on automation and configuration management tools and the associated infrastructure as code development kit to support the generation of complete environments and ensure rapid provisioning of the required compute, network, and storage resources
  • The application management platform which builds on automation and configuration management tools to monitor the application container statuses and to appropriately update the infrastructure

The complex journey to aligning your IT organization to the digital age's requirements made easy

Transforming the IT organization to help the business succeed isn't as complex as it appears; the numerous issues to address make it look highly risky either because the organizational transformation issues to address are out vendors, consultants, and CIOs comfort zones or reliable digital transformation approaches are lacking.

The following picture illustrates the digital transformation journey which is part of our Digital Learning & Consulting (L&CTM) services. It structures the transformation effort in five steps:

Why not start your digital transformation journey now? If you're considering a digital move, I'd love to share my thoughts with you on a number of key issues including and not limited to:

  • The restructuring of your IT value stream to make it lean and agile
  • The integration of DevOps, ITaaS, Cloud, IoT, and Big Data into a coherent business capability
  • The digital IT organization: principles, processes, practices, and leadership
  • Implementing the architecture of your digital enterprise's information system (IS)
  • Elements of solid digital transformation strategies

If you want to go further with digital transformation and digital IT organization, I'm sure the Future of Your ITTM series will be helpful. It's a collection of three guides and associated workshops dedicated to the topic of IT organization transformation with a focus on ITaaS, Cloud, and DevOps. They provide concrete, pragmatic, and actionable approaches and tools:

ITaaS Now helps IT leaders align their IT organization with the digital economy's competitive requirements and leads their digital transformation projects in the Cloud, ITaaS, and DevOps areas.

More Stories By Philippe Abdoulaye

Philippe Abdoulaye is a highly experienced IT strategist with a 25-year background leading IT transformation projects in areas as varied as cloud computing, DevOps, Enterprise Architecture and ITIL. He is Founder, CEO, and VP of DevOps and IT as a Service (ITaaS) practices at ITaaS Now, LLC a Raleigh, NC based startup specializing in IT transformation.

He is the author of several books on cloud computing and ITaaS and a top ranked CIO advisor. He is the originator of the Complete ITaaS Delivery Model™, a framework guiding IT organization transformations to DevOps.

He has been leading projects and CIO advisory consulting works around Enterprise Architecture, Cloud, DevOps and IT as a Service (ITaaS) for global firms like Credit Suisse, American Express, Ralph Lauren Polo, Educational Testing Service (ETS), McKinsey Company, alike.

He has an established reputation for:
• Building executive consensus on the business benefits of your DevOps platform
• Auditing IT operating Model and application deployment infrastructures
• Aligning IT organizations with DevOps operating model and continuous delivery pipeline