The road to digital bliss is paved with service thinking and DevOps

The irony of becoming a digital business is technology leaders need to be more than technology leaders.

DevOps -- the alignment of development cycles with ongoing operational demands -- is more than a better way to reorganize the IT department. It's an important step to take in moving the entire enterprise to a more digital footing.

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Photo: Joe McKendrick

That's one of the key takeaways from a recent post by Philippe Abdoulaye, business technology author and avid proponent of the IT-as-a-Service approach to technology opportunities, who recently spelled out the prominent role IT managers and professionals need to take in the digital wave that is cresting over everyone's heads. (I'm also flattered that he sprinkled some of my thoughts in there as well.)

Here are Philippe's key pieces of advice for IT managers going forward.

1. Stop letting IT vendors drive the CIO agenda. The industry -- especially IT vendors -- still view enterprise IT leaders as technology tools buyers and caretakers, Philippe observes. This, in turn, heavily influences how IT leaders approach their jobs. However, the business wants, and expects more. "What matters most is to increase customer value, not the extensive automation of application deployment suggested by techies," Philippe states. "By legitimizing the idea that technology is the only business growth driver, IT vendors have confined CIOs to the limited role of IT tools provider. To win legitimacy the CIO must trade his tools provider jacket for that of business strategy facilitator."

2. Look to virtual computing capability and the cloud: Most of the foundational capabilities IT offers to the business -- workload management, security, backup and availability -- now can be delivered via online services, whether it be from local data centers or from the cloud. The goal, Philippe points out, is to achieve "a continuous delivery platform to enable accelerated application delivery, operational management and executive control of the overall virtual computing capability." He adds that automation should not be an end in itself, but rather, "part of a virtuous circle that spans effective marketing, accelerated application deployment and, most importantly, organizational efficiency improvement" -- all with the customer in mind.

3. Institutionalize DevOps to remove the impediments to operational flexibility and make your IT agile: The problem with enterprise technology over the years is that it often hasn't been consistent with organizational goals, has lacked solid governance, and has not been open to collaboration, Philippe points out. Enterprises have attempted to fix misaligned priorities, organizational dysfunctions, and poor policy adoption by throwing even more technology at the problem. DevOps may help open up greater communication and engagement between key players in business technology projects. "Extended to business issues, its principles, processes and practices simplify the organization's collaboration network and accelerate prioritization and decision-making," he points out. To get there, he urges establishing an ITaaS task force -- with both business and IT people -- to oversee the development of an "extended DevOps structure that's not only focused on application development but spans the overall enterprise digital strategy activities." Part of this effort also should cover establishment of a change advisory board "serving as shared governance to identify priorities, create consensus on them and provide executive leadership to facilitate their delivery."

There's a digital wave that's sweeping the world, and there's incredible opportunities for IT managers and professionals to step up and help lead the way for their organizations.

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