Hybrid IT provides the opportunity to transform the IT experience

The IT experience must be transformed, not just to maintain relevance for the IT organization, but because the business needs the complexity of hybrid IT reduced to be competitive in the digital economy

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Hybrid IT wasn’t planned. It has arisen to challenge the orthodoxy of standardization in the IT organization, as businesses have shifted to competing in the digital economy. IT organizations have been caught flat-footed as they see a need to protect the traditional technology that runs core business processes, yet they also realize that the shift to the cloud is going to continue unabated for the foreseeable future. Clouds can have silver linings, though, as challenges also present opportunities.

Three factors have driven the expansion of hybrid IT:

  1. Digital developers need to move quickly into and out of markets to meet the insatiable demands of business leaders. To support their frantic release cycles, they self-source services directly from cloud providers and use agile methods and devops practices to maintain and operate their products.
  2. Line-of-business managers are also pursuing cloud services with reckless abandon. SaaS providers, without the weight of legacy software to support, can innovate faster and offer competitive services. They also have the advantage of opex spend versus capex, although it remains to be seen if new tax laws in the US might shift that advantage.
  3. Even IT organizations are looking to replace or augment traditional IT services with cloud offerings. Not all cloud pressure is external to IT operations. Service desk and CRM software are ripe for replacement, while a platform like SAP HANA is an example of augmenting on-premises systems with cloud services.

With the focus solidly on delivering competitive advantage for the business, driving a faster pace of change, it’s easy to feel out of control. There remains a requirement to ensure that both transformational and traditional IT services are persistently available and secure for customers, who provide the revenue that fuels digital business initiatives; yet, the speed of change endangers the ability to meet that requirement.

How does danger get transformed into opportunity?

The shortest path is to orient automation efforts around the IT value chain. That sounds like trite business jargon because value chains have traditionally been the domain of MBAs, but fulfilling this vision can be transformational to the IT experience, both for consumers and providers of IT.

Devops practitioners, as well as business users, expect an intuitive consumption experience that is easy to engage. Self-service interfaces must facilitate both human and machine consumption, using service catalogs or API interfaces, for example. Self-service must abstract the complexity of hybrid IT service delivery from the consumer. You don’t need to know whether a service or infrastructure is provided from the cloud or a corporate data center. You request a service and it is brokered by IT to efficiently source, integrate and securely deliver the service to the consumer as fast as possible, through as much automation as is practical.

All of that is significantly easier said than done, but the silver lining is this: Automation focused on the IT value chain can reduce complexity, risk, and cost for the IT organization, making hybrid IT more manageable

What does IT value chain automation look like in a hybrid environment?

While every environment will have different priorities, the Open Group has created a standard—technology-, vendor-, and industry-agnostic—reference architecture called IT4IT to manage the business of IT. This architecture takes a business function approach and combines that with Lean manufacturing value-stream concepts for identifying use cases and driving identification of service endpoints to stay focused on what is essential: the business outcomes

In IT, we have spent years automating processes and still find ourselves behind the curve in addressing business needs. IT4IT originated out of needs identified by enterprise architects and IT managers to fulfill business requirements through four IT value streams: strategy to portfolio, requirement to deploy, request to fulfill, and detect to correct. It is more prescriptive than ITIL, while also accounting for today’s hybrid IT reality, including cloud services, devops, and agile development practices.

The IT4IT reference architecture provides prescriptive guidance on automation opportunities for the IT value chain in a hybrid IT environment. While not every IT activity requires automation, automation appropriately applied to engagements with consumers of IT services is essential to transform the IT organization from curators of legacy services into agile brokers of multi-speed, multi-cloud services.

Done correctly, the opportunities are ever-present, including:  

  • Enabling the abstracted consumption of IT services sourced from multiple providers—mainframe to mobile, corporate datacenter to cloud.
  • Accelerating application releases by providing services that developers need for CI/CD across cloud and corporate infrastructure.
  • Maintaining controls over cost and security across the diverse platforms that make up the hybrid environment.
  • Aggregating services in a catalog comprised of offerings from internal and external sources and automating their fulfillment to meet the agility needs of the business.

Hybrid IT drives management complexity as the speed differential between digital business and traditional IT services widens. The IT experience must be transformed, not just to maintain relevance for the IT organization, but because the business needs the complexity of hybrid IT reduced in order to be competitive in the digital economy. The opportunity to transform the IT experience lies in identifying automation opportunities using the IT4IT reference architecture.

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