The Proof is in the Process: People, Process and Technology are Essential for Successful IT Operations.

The Proof is in the Process
People, Process, and Technology are essential for successful IT operations.

These days we are all talking about IT cloud enablement or IT-as-a-Service, and increasingly these conversations are now about optimizing IT processes to facilitate successful cloud deployment. Based on my own past experience as a technologist, I thought that the most important (and cool) thing to do in IT was deploy the latest and greatest technology. However, today, I am linking technology evolution to process integration because only by optimizing our IT processes will we enable cloud computing successfully. I recently read Peter Fingar’s book, Dot.Cloud: The 21st Century Business Platform, and I’m sold on his notions of how the cloud can be applied to day-to-day business operations.

Our goal has always been to increase Customer Delight through improved communication with our business users, and now this is accentuated by the need for process simplification for these new technology deployments and higher user expectations.

From our internal customer surveys, we had realized that our customers were easily frustrated and de-motivated with bureaucratic IT processes. We knew, to succeed on our journey to the cloud, we had to optimize our cornerstone IT processes. By rethinking and simplifying the processes and communicating their benefits – allowed our internal customers to realize and buy into this notion of IT cloud enablement. The efficiency and flexibility in our processes are critical to the success of new projects and operations.

We have traditionally used ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library) as a best practice approach for improving IT management and services. We can see how to reduce costs, improve service delivery and enhance business competitiveness by maturing IT processes as explained in the Network World article “A guiding hand for maturing IT processes”. As we move towards IT as a Service (ITaaS), we are extending ITIL concepts to go across a broad base of disaggregated services that IT can deliver. Regular assessments in the form of quality initiatives provide the IT organization with facts and information that it can use to make decision improvements.

Below is the high level process alignment which helped EMC IT plan and implement cloud-enabled technologies as part of ITIL+ best practices:

Planning

Planning is a crucial success factor for any IT initiative. The IPR (Initiative Pipeline Review) team reviews business requirements and sends it to the Solution Desk for a high level solution definition, thereby establishing the connection between business and technology. This process aligns the new business services offerings into an overall cloud service model. Many business processes are good candidates for this service model freeing up core computing resources. The SAT (Solutions Architecture Team) brings together all the technical architects to design the optimal method that fits our cloud service framework.

Service Delivery

The project and resource management processes then kick in to enable successful implementation. A Project Manager gets assigned from the PM Competency Center to drive the initiative through various phases and gates. They work with Resource Managers to obtain resources from Service Delivery and Global Infrastructure teams. The processes around assigning resources have been updated and automated to expedite delivery. The Agile and Scrum framework methodologies are used for rapid development and deployment. Global TCoE (Testing Center of Excellence) is leveraged for shared testing services and imposing quality.

We are in the design and analysis phase of our large ERP implementation called ‘PROPEL’. We are designing a complete cloud enabled solution, and at the same time simplifying our processes to speed up IT service delivery. This project will be a major proof point of “process changes needed in enabling cloud” for our organization.

Shared Services

Infrastructure, Software, Testing and Security (Storage, System, Network, Tools, Database, Middleware, Code and Testing) are provided as shared services. This ensures the optimal utilization of resources and also enables building a foundational shared infrastructure to support growing business demand enabling “IT as a Service” approach. The global service teams operate under integrated process model with one goal in mind, on a 7×24 basis. The Global Command Center and Helpdesk operations are handling the first and second level issues at a lower cost.

Execution

This is more of an operational process that runs the engine effectively. The Change and Deployment teams help manage the changes to the applications. Some of these processes are being revised in following areas to help run the IT as a Service.

1) Automate approval workflows for requesting self service components

2) Expedited change requests to meet dynamic changes

3) Workflow connecting Problem Management feedback to Solution Architecture Team

I would like to highlight “Release” Services in detail and this is an area which I am close to. This brings process discipline and proactive thinking utilizing shared resources at lower cost to business.

Release Management

Until Q1 2010, there has been no formal process for release activity in ongoing support of applications. Two key systems integration partners were engaged to help EMC IT identify, develop, and deliver best practices in ongoing application support. This resulted in the “Release Management Service,” which we deployed in July, 2010.

The goal of the Release Management Service is to:

  1. Improve overall solution delivery quality
  2. Promote visibility into the real-time status of application releases across IT
  3. Leverage resources more effectively
  4. Lower costs
  5. 5. Above all, serve the needs of the business

The Release Management Service will meet these stated goals via the delivery of a single, consistent release management process. The Release Management Service strives to:

  1. Advocate process standardization
  2. Promotea “Proactive” culture within the organization
  3. Increase Application Availability
  4. Improve Resource and Demand Planning
  5. Establish KPIs, metrics, process improvements and real time control of release cycle at application level
  6. Achieve continuous improvement through assessment and review of completed releases and periodic formal Process Reviews

Central to the Release Management Service is the “Release Management Policy” that was established. Fundamental to this policy is the establishment of process documentation and release schedules for the Service to leverage when working with IT Application Support teams.

Two key roles – the Release Manager and the Release Lead – and responsibilities have been established to help expedite the transition of the new process into the Application Support teams. These resources, along with the Business Technology Consultant form the core of the Release Team. Other important team members include the Development Lead, the Deployment Lead, the Test Lead, the Application Developers, the Testers (often, both the Test Lead and the Testers) and the Business Systems Analyst.

The Release Management Service leverages a “Seven-Phase” process that supports both Waterfall and Agile solution delivery methodologies. It also can be incorporated into release schedules that vary in length – monthly, bi-quarterly or quarterly.

Release Management Transparent Portal is enabling “IT as a Service” model by aligning IT Bucket Releases to EMC Product Releases. The cost attributes (Releases, Projects, Workload, Changes, Incidents, Configurations and Cost) are grouped by Business Application Services (Sales, Services, Marketing, Engineering, Manufacturing, IT, HR, Finance and Collaboration) and a single view is presented to business.

Highlights

Below is a list of highlights from EMC IT which have helped empower partnerships and support emerging technology deployments.

  1. Implementation of ITIL practices
  2. Established a governance mechanism for processes and tools that enable us to collaborate and is well-integrated with organizational decision making.
  3. Deployed a variety of management tools in each area which helps to manage the processes efficiently.
  4. Integrated a Quality and Testing Framework to help ensure quality of delivery and product.
  5. We are developing an integrated portal to enable “one view” for all processes and workload across IT.
  6. A RACI model has been setup in each area to bring ownership and accountability.
  7. Continuous Process Improvement through constant Customer Feedback.

More details to follow on process evolution …

3 thoughts on “The Proof is in the Process: People, Process and Technology are Essential for Successful IT Operations.

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