Saturday, July 29, 2006

Implementing a CMDB is Like Blogging Alone: Why Products & Process won’t be enough to reconnect with the business

Starting your ITIL journey with a very complex, usually expensive, lengthy and often invasive technology-based initiative may only serve to increase the divide between IT silos and, more importantly, IT and the business. In a similar vein, too much focus on process may simply lead to more policy and procedure manuals that sit on a shelf.

The problem with Change, Configuration and CMDB implementations is they do not really enable a real-time connection between IT staff, and between IT and the business, which tends to perpetuate vicious cycles of tribal warfare.

“When people lack connection to others, they are unable to test the veracity of their own views, whether in the give or take of casual conversation or in more formal deliberation. Without such an opportunity, people are more likely to be swayed by their worse impulses….”
- Robert Putnam (2000) Bowling Alone: The collapse and revival of American community, New York: Simon and Schuster: 288-290

In the book Bowling Alone, by Robert Putnam, “Putnam warns that our stock of social capital - the very fabric of our connections with each other, has plummeted, impoverishing our lives and communities … we sign fewer petitions, belong to fewer organizations that meet, know our neighbors less, meet with friends less frequently, and even socialize with our families less often. We're even bowling alone.

The focus on Process (BPM, ITIL, CobiT, et al) and Products (read CMDB, SOA, et al) by IT leads me to believe we’re talking more than ever – but sometimes communicating even less than ever before.

I like the concept of blogging so much I’ve found myself actually Blogging Alone! (Personally, I’d rather bowl alone than blog alone, so please visit my blog!) The hype around the CMDB can have a similar effect on your ITIL implementation.

It’s the People

It’s the social networks that really make things happen in most companies, not those dusty old policies and procedures. It is the network of people-to-people commitments that are often what make things go (or not go).

So, when looking to embark on a ‘quality journey’, remember at the end of the day it’s the people --- and that intricate social network of commitments – that are often the ‘current state process’ and that people may fiercly protect this tribal knowledge.

Process, Products and Paradigm Shifts

In a recent webinar more people were familiar with the CMDB than with ITIL (see EMA’s webinar: CMDB Adoption in the Real World - Just How Real Is It?), which was interesting considering that the CMDB is very much an ITIL term. Just shows you what market opportunity will do to reality.

Getting your IT staff to achieve the paradigm shift to a services orientation is going to require people skills more than anything else, and your selection of tools --- particularly early in the journey --- can significanlty impact how people react to the implementation of IT service management.

Services, Stakeholders and Real-Time Analytics

Stakeholders & Services targeting is a fundamental best practice that is often ignored or skipped as customers try and “accelerate” implementation. This often means the implementation of ITIL considers the business from afar, rather than part of a cross-functional team.

While this may provide an easier path to get the ball rolling, at some point the business had better become part of the team. Process and commitment based stakeholder analysis leveraging both business and IT tracks can ensure that all stakeholders are included and services are understood from the customer’s perspective.

Starting with the end in mind assumes IT truly understands the business process, when sometimes that process is not that well understood even by the business! It also drives participatory decision techniques, which are successful more than 80% of the time.

In addition, Product-led ITIL implementations are likely to focus on the technology, particularly when the supplier is also driving process improvement activities. (The ITIL literature has spoken at great length on this subject.)

When considering process improvements and investments in automation, consider the following:

-Investments should target areas for highest return
-Should enhance ITSM process communication
-Should be consistent with business and IT objectives
-Should be driven by stakeholder input

Realizing the Paradigm Shift

I understand and agree that an ITIL journey needs to include eventual design and implementation of things like Change and Configuration Management, the CMDB, and other critical process and technology related efforts.

However, making these investments should be driven by participatory decision techniques and should enable every tribe to see the same information at the same time (a fundamental CMDB concept). The evolution to an ITIL-based CMDB is going to take time and significant effort, in most cases at least a year.

But achieving a paradigm shift involves people. Process and Product-centric implementation efforts can lead to edict-based decisions (Change freezes, etc.) which are the least successful of all decision techniques.

The case for service-oriented monitoring, particularly where real-time analytics can be incorporated into the solution, can provide every stakeholder with an end-to-end view of the IT business service infrastructure that is tailored to their perspective; without the time, cost and risk of implementing a CMDB. (See the White Paper, Choosing a monitoring system for your IT infrastructure?)

It also focuses on where most companies are spending the most money; isolation and diagnosis of complex, n-tier infrastrcuture problems.

These kinds of solutions can provide an intelligent, virtual operations bridge which is absolutely consistent with best practice. More importantly, it provides IT and business management with a solution that can help with the the hardest part of change --- people.

The ROI on People

Quickly providing a real-time source of truth, via a ‘top-to-bottom’ and ‘end-to-end’ IT business service infrastructure monitor with root-cause analytics, can help people get focused on the real problem and learn to trust each other. (When driven by the business, it can also provide political cover for IT tribes since it becomes a business-driven mandate.)

The argument of those concerned with social capital is that when harnessed it generates economic returns. More particularly, the benefits claimed include:

Better knowledge sharing, due to established trust relationships, common frames of reference, and shared goals.

Lower transaction costs, due to a high level of trust and a cooperative spirit (both within the organization and between the organization and its customers and partners).

Low turnover rates, reducing severance costs and hiring and training expenses, avoiding discontinuities associated with frequent personnel changes, and maintaining valuable organizational knowledge.

Greater coherence of action due to organizational stability and shared understanding. (Cohen and Prusak 2001: 10) (from Social Captial in Organizations)

Providing the ability to monitor monitor what is happening at every layer of every component of an end-to-end business service, and automatically identifing which layer of which component is the source of a problem establishes a basis of real-time truth. This is the key to establishing a real and lasting paradigm shift.

Your road to ITIL best practice does not have to be a savage journey. Consider an implementation approach based on stakeholders, services and intelligent service monitoring. By applying all the best practices -- Process, Products and People – you can achieve both ROI and a quality culture along the way.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

CMDB interoperability: Waiting for Nirvana

Have you heard the good news?

The 800-pound gorillas have formed an 'alliance' in order to provide interoperability between their respective CMDBs. Of course I thought OASIS~DCML has been working on that, but I admittedly couldn't tell you technical folks squat about OASIS~DCML or what the hell our 800 pound friends are up to...maybe somebody who can translate the geek-speak into a language we can all understand will help us...

as for me, I got some serious deja vu going on....but perhaps more importantly, if you're implementing --- or want to implement --- IT service management best practice based on ITIL how does this impact your Road Map? Should you shout halleluia and just trust your 800 pound gorilla of choice to provide interoperability someday as promised? (If you do, I have a bridge I'd like to sell you)...

no, there are other (safer) options available to you. You KNOW that you must start with an analysis of your current processes first, so don't even think about tools until you've completed this step. However, if you've analyzed your processes and believe that automation (via a CMDB tool) is in order consider this:

  1. 1) The CMDB, like any tool, must automate your processes based on 'Where You Are Today'
  2. 2) The CMDB, like any tool, must provide a clear business case
  3. 3) The CMDB, like any tool, should create value to the organization QUICKLY

Of course, even if you decide you want a CMDB you'll have to understand and define those nasty relationships between CIs (which really means at least some degree of SLM --- ok, ok so we buy an SLM tool right? NOT )...

and how about the fact that (according to IDC, et al) most of the savings attributed to IT service management seem to be focused on more effective and efficient problem isolation & diagnosis (see Building an ITIL Business Case?...Slow & Steady Wins the Race)

finally, ask yourself: How long will it really take to achieve a CMDB as ITIL defines it? (see some interesting discussion at the ITIL skeptic)

While it's hard to question the staying power of 800 pound gorillas, there are some tenacious little badgers in the forest that can really help focus your Journey on the Right Path without holding you hostage waiting for interoperability nervana. One of these is one you've heard about from me many times, as I'm a former customer and 'true believer'; a small firm called eG Innovations.

This company has spent less time hyping ITIL and CMDB and much more time keeping thier eye on the effective & efficient problem isolation ball...quite simply, the software leverages a patented data flow and dependency based correlation logic that enables them to monitor what is happening at every layer of every component of an end-to-end business service, and automatically identify which layer of which component is the source of a problem. No rules to write, no code, no kidding!

As important, they do this across 75 major applications and platforms out of the box. I mean, out-of-the-box -- up and running in less than a day.

They call this 'service monitoring'. I call it 'A Good Way to Achieving the Paradigm Shift Required for Higher Levels of ITIL Process Maturity While Establishing a Foundation for a True CMDB and Letting the Gorillas Know That a Vision Won't Put Fires Out'. OK, I admit it's not a very catchy marketing slogan, but you get the point don't you?

You can wait for the 800 pound gorillas' Vision to become reality, you can Trust them now (and hope for the best) or you can focus on other areas that bring value (immediately) and gradually build the foundation of knowledge you'll need anyway to populate those beasts.

So get on the Right Road, but keep those headlights on!