Welcome to 2023!
As we transition from 2022 — which in many ways was exciting for undesirable reasons such as the lingering pandemic, conflict in Ukraine, and uncertain economic conditions — I am eager to look ahead to anticipate themes that will affect IT or, more specifically, IT Operations.
As vendors, customers, and practitioners, we’ve worked in IT through many eras of disruption.
- Cloud, hybrid cloud, multi-cloud, SaaS, PaaS, IaaS
- Work from everywhere
- Digital everything
- Java, .NET, containers, microservices, Kubernetes, open source, off-shoring and re-shoring, multi-shoring
Hoping to reorient myself for 2023, I thought about Elon Musk and his acquisition of Twitter – a perfect place to start.
What does this event and Elon’s post-acquisition management of Twitter reveal about where we’re heading…in IT?
Within weeks of Elon Musk acquiring Twitter, Twitter’s workforce (which I presume is largely R&D and IT), shrank from 7500 to fewer than 3000. The pace of these changes caused quite a stir, as some of the staff had to be recalled to support Twitter’s large infrastructure footprint.
While disruption to the workforce is clear, disruption to Twitter’s services and roadmap is less clear. Without passing judgment on the downsizing, (either Musk was right, the prior management team was right, or they were both partly wrong), somehow there is or was a clear disconnect between the staff’s contributions and the work needed to deliver and sustain Twitter services.
It will be interesting to see how Musk organizes the remaining IT teams at Twitter. With the many pressures Twitter faces, getting the organization structured so that user experience is central to budgeting decisions, team formation, work priorities, will be critical to avoid waste, create an engaged workforce, and ensure Twitter’s future.
2023 Theme #1: Enterprises, under enormous pressure, will push harder to map IT to business goals and results, and to customers’ experience.
This won’t be done in quarterly or weekly meetings. Enterprises are finding ways to do this on the fly with near real-time data. This mapping goes beyond budget and staffing measures. It extends to services and the elements in IT managed by IT Operations such as routers, databases, applications and microservices.
- Do we understand the work and investments in IT Operations and how these tie to the value we deliver today to customers? And our roadmap for delivering value in the future?
- How can we apply (or capture) numbers to monitor the relationship between IT Operations, business results, and customer experience?
- Where is the data and how can we derive actionable value from it?
Most IT Operations teams operate in silos, managing IT infrastructure according to discrete IT domain groups organized by IT asset type, location, and/or business unit. For example, database administrators (DBAs) manage databases, data engineers/platform teams manage big data systems, network engineers manage network gear, development/SRE teams manage applications, while infrastructure teams manage Compute - VMware, public cloud, containers, etc.
It’s likely the silos — within IT and with business stakeholders — will not go away although they are frequently redefined. The likely and best case is for effective bridging across silos.
Given such a model, how do we bridge between silos, between business and IT, for example? And, can we put customer experience at the center?
Here are two familiar approaches to address this challenge:
- ITIL Service Modeling. This involves the notion of a business service that encompasses multiple IT services. Appealing to many large enterprises, this approach involves a mix of CMDBs and multiple monitoring/observability tools that help enterprises bridge the gap between the state and health of IT assets by tracking the attainment of business service objectives.
- The Google SRE Way. Championed by Google, this is a relatively new mindset and combination of practices that strives to achieve the same customer satisfaction goal as ITIL. This approach appeals to many enterprises dealing with cloud or container-native applications, and lives within the observability solution. That is, it doesn’t reside in an external database like CMDB.
Both approaches are promising and have demonstrated success. Both have challenges. For example, the knowledge and work to establish ITIL service models and maintain the CMDB is daunting, especially for containerized applications and when services are created, evolve, and are retired perpetually. For the Google SRE way, the challenges may be more cultural than technical as SREs work to establish themselves and SRE practices without counter-productive disruption.
So where am I going with this? Enter my world of AIOps.
During the pandemic, we saw business stakeholders increasingly turn to IT to help respond to disruptions such as supply chain issues, changing customer expectations, and even business model pressures. Interestingly, in many enterprises, the collaboration between business and IT flourished with each party understanding the other’s strengths, concerns, and goals better than before. This article discusses IT and business partnership in the COVID-19 era.
While much of the collaboration was compelled by pandemic pressures, digital services were the opportunity around which to collaborate. Enterprises are finding that digital services can serve as a change agent. They can be an organizing principle. We see many customers working to organize around services, forming teams of digital product manager or digital product owners who speak business, are matrixed to IT, and are focused on customer experience.
IT Operations data is the conduit for delivering digital services. With powerful instrumentation, IT Operations can monitor essentially everything in IT: every IT element that helps deliver the digital service generates data. This data can help organize around customer experience and function as the medium for connecting IT Operations, business goals and results, and customers.
Noisy IT Operations data, when defibrillated with digital service understanding, becomes a signal that business and IT stakeholders can use to communicate with each other and monitor the health and performance of IT assets. The data can likewise be viewed through the lens of the customer experience that the service delivers.
For 2023, IT teams might want to ask:
- Which digital services rely on the servers, routers, applications or databases I support?
- What is the impact on a business KPI, digital service performance, or user experience if certain components are taken offline for maintenance?
- Should I invest time to improve the performance of a degraded component if it has little bearing on user experience?
In my next blogs, I’ll cover two additional themes I see for 2023:
- Business Services as the Organizing Principle (Powered by IT Operations Data )
- AI/ML Automation: The North Star for IT Operations