Monday morning rolled around and Mike just arrived at the Hijinx Corporate Headquarters. He made his regular stop at Pete’s Coffee shop on the way to the office for his morning caffeine fix and is ready to take on the day. It’s sunny and dry and looks like the tenth consecutive week of beautiful sunshine in New England is well on its way. He pulls into an empty parking space and shuts off the car before reaching for his fresh brewed coffee. As he walks towards the building and his office, he thinks about how different this beautiful Monday morning is as compared to the typical dreary Monday mornings just five years ago after a typical weekend filled with deployments and infrastructure updates. Five years ago, he would be dreading this walk because of the anticipated workload and volume of irate phone calls related to incidents awaiting him at the Service Desk. He pauses, takes another sip of his coffee and chuckles to himself, “Oh how things have changed in just five years”.
Approximately six years before this sunshine filled relaxing Monday morning walk, Hijinx CEO Rebecca Bens demanded that CIO Stuart Stillwater find a solution that would improve the quality of the Service Desk, reduce the time spent investigating outages and improve corporate response to new consumer demands. Maria was tired of listening to her business leaders complain about how they waited hours upon hours to be updated on incidents impacting their customers and constantly be told that any new consumer functionality would take months if not years to deploy. After months of research by his IT teams, Stuart decided to move forward with Ajax PASM Extraordinaire, the Predictive & Adaptive Service Management software suite, and instill a manufacturing plant mentality in his IT organization.
What was special about the Ajax PASM Extraordinaire system and ultimately drove the final decision was the Business Intelligence and Analytics engine embedded within it that mined the data in Ajax PASM Extraordinaire and if activated, could proactively notify the Service Desk of pending issues, consumers of degradation in performance and subject matter experts of patterns developing in the environment that historically resulted in incidents and outages. What Mike loved most about it was that a Service Information System (SIS), the successor to ITIL’s CMS and CMDB, was fully integrated into the Ajax PASM Extraordinaire software suite in a way that had not been seen before. It was seamless and indistinguishable from the day-to-day Service Management functionality. Although indistinguishable, it was the primary contributor to reducing investigation time by 75% and allowed Service Desk personnel like Mike to proactively inform targeted communities of impending outages or degradations without having to blast the whole enterprise with needless warnings. Mike and his peers were now armed with a sophisticated early warning radar system and a sniper rifle versus the pair of broken binoculars and bazooka before Ajax PASM Extraordinaire.
This new technology didn’t come about overnight and the successes were not solely due to the technology improvements. Many things happened during the five years that enabled this new environment of predictive and adaptive service management to occur. One element that contributed to the transformation was the adoption of a manufacturing process mindset within IT that Stuart demanded. Fortunately for Hijinx Corp, Stuart was a believer in the Theory of Constraints and he applied its principles when reorganizing IT into a manufacturing style organization. He also changed the employee reward and financial structure so that the departments could no longer, without consequence, throw their work over the virtual wall and blame the other for an outage. He knew that if Hijinx Corp was to grow market share as the business partners wanted and potentially avoid being outsourced, the IT organization needed to enable a more mobile workforce and facilitate easier and faster consumer access to the Hijinx Corp products & services and drive down inefficiencies in the development, deployment and operation of IT services.
Stuart realized that in order to do all these things, he would also have to figure out how to more efficiently leverage cloud providers to handle processing spikes that the new online and mobile shopping capabilities would inevitably require. On his way home one evening he broke out into cold sweats and pulled to the side of the road to gain his composure and thought. “Can I transform the culture of an entire IT organization while at the same time implement and deploy Ajax PASM Extraordinaire. I have not heard of another company that has successfully attempted to do both in parallel but my only alternative is to start looking for a new job and I’m not ready to do that just yet.”
Mobile computing was becoming the norm, but could the predictive and adaptive capabilities of Ajax PASM Extraordinaire detect telecommunication provider traffic issues and help automatically switch the devices from 3G/4G/EDGE/GPRS to local Wifi in environments where available so as to maintain the agreed upon application response time SLAs? Could the detection of traffic patterns and performance degradation due to a recently deployed update generate a notification to subject matter experts telling them to back-out the recent deployment? Stuart was not sure of the potential for either capability but knew that if he was to deliver on the goals set out by Maria, he had to make capabilities of this magnitude a reality.
The story above is a fictitious one but the concepts; executive demands and IT challenges are very real. Delivering the improvements to mobile computing platforms as described requires far more insight into business operations and the services being delivered that are available to most of us today. This is in part because the current technology solutions, which are based on a monolithic CMDB or its improved successor, the CMS, still do not account for the dynamic nature of business in 2012.
We need an underlying structure such as a SIS, a concept being promoted by Glenn O’Donnell (Senior Analyst at Forrester Research), me and various other industry professionals. As the successor to the CMS, building upon the principles of CMDB and CMS, it takes the next step towards a complete architecture rather than just a technology. The idea is that the solution is not a technology on its own. It is a combination of technology, architecture, process and mindset/philosophy that collectively provides the necessary insight into IT Operations. B business leaders can then proactively manage their business operations with a real partner in IT. This new IT partner will enable business growth and opportunity and no longer be looked at as simply a necessary evil.
What the Theory of Constraints approach provides the organization is a level of efficiency and productivity that is typically only seen in the most sophisticated manufacturing plants around the world. Understanding the concepts, and applying them appropriately at the right level of granularity, will most assuredly reduce outages, break/fix issues and wasted time waiting for others to complete tasks. But more important, what it would do is enable IT to more quickly react to the business needs as they arise. No longer would thirty-minute tasks take 3 weeks to complete just because it was in the queues of four different department’s waiting to be worked on. Understanding the bottlenecks of the workflow would be identified and eliminated allowing the flow of productive work to accelerate immensely and rework decreased.
Ajax PASM Extraordinaire and the SIS structure described above do not exist today in a neat software suite that you can simply go out and buy from a vendor off their product list. The parts that make it up are however readily available as is plenty of books and education on the Theory of Constraints. Look to solutions addressing “Big Data” as they deal with many of these elements already but do so from a data and information management perspective rather than a Service Management perspective. Determine how you can bring the various parts together into a solution that meets your needs. Educate yourself on the concepts and management philosophy of the constraint theory. Marry the two and develop a vision for your organizations future that will enable you to walk to your office one bright sunny Monday morning and chuckle to yourself…“Oh how things have changed in just five years”. Or…you can do nothing and walk to your office every dreary Monday morning dreading the workload and irate calls that await you. It’s YOUR efforts today that will define the future that awaits you.
 Theory of Constraints – A management philosophy developed by Eliyahu M. Goldratt usually applied to running and improving an organization.