As someone whose strengths in technology have been in looking at high-level design and adoption issues in service management, I communicate regularly with cross-domain service management groups. One thing that stands out for me from this dialog is that business objectives such as cohesive strategies, phased adoptions, and cross-domain political reformation are intersecting with the idea of the “Internet” in the form of cloud computing, Web 2.0 application ecosystems, and mobility. What results is a complex set of patterns -- something like an abstract mosaic.
For the CIO, trying to get your mind around all the permutations is likely to be headache-inducing (if not quite life-threatening), unless you stand back far enough to separate “end values” from “enabling values.”
To clarify: End values may sound rather bland or clichéd. Examples include things like cost-effective service delivery, business alignment (or optimizing IT services to business impact, which is easier said than done), faster time to value for services, and more relevance and options in service choice. These are not new ideas.
On the other hand, enabling values sound flashy and get a lot of media attention -- cloud computing most of all, right now. But cloud is not the “endpoint of a journey” so much as a catalyst. Cloud, Web 2.0, and other Internet-related technologies are helping to transform the role of IT to that of a broker of services rather than a back-office purveyor of technology.
This makes having good metrics for understanding your core objectives all the more critical. Having good instrumentation to look at the impact of a riotous array of interdependencies across your Web 2.0 ecosystem (credit card processing, DNS lookup, etc.) makes your ability to manage your applications – as well as service provider and partner relationships -- far more effective.
Understanding how and why and to what effect your services are used (something that theoretically was always key) has now become essential. Knowing if your applications are relevant to end users as you move to cloud-hosted environments, for instance, is one of the most effective ways to gauge the success of a cloud migration.
Optimization is not just about cost; it’s about relevance and value as well.
The end value of technology always resides outside it -- in the human beings who consume it and in what they do with it. What actual human beings can achieve -- versus what’s done just within a machine -- ultimately defines the success of enabling values.
For instance, social networking can be a useful resource, an annoying distraction, or a perverse time sink. SaaS solutions can be convenient ways to sample future options, cost-effective ways of delivering pre-existing applications, or SLA-deprived answers that cause more disruption than value. And yes, not all applications lend themselves to virtualized environments (in the cloud or outside it) -- though many can make the leap.
So, is your Internet ecosystem (cloud, Web 2.0, fill in the blank) a treasure chest or a trap door opening up into an abyss of chaos?
In most cases that I’ve seen, it’s a bit of both -- and I’d even go so far as to say a little chaos can be good for a healthy IT organization with strong leadership and a clear sense of mission. But there is a hierarchy of enabling services within IT -- from infrastructure through applications and true business services. Placing Internet -- and for that matter, cloud options -- in that hierarchy is still more an art than a science.
But the simple and perhaps unprepossessing truth remains -- that no technology (Java, VoIP, Internet, Web 2.0) and no paradigm (client/server, peer-to-peer distributed, Web ecosystem, social networking, cloud) should be viewed as ends in themselves. They are all just tools to allow human beings to move forward more happily and more effectively in their lives and work.
— Dennis Drogseth is vice president in charge of New England at the consultancy Enterprise Management Associates.