Martin Atherton, originally published on The Register
Our research in the IT management domain has helped us establish a few basic truths. Most IT professionals agree that IT does an adequate job of supporting the business across a range of areas, but also that it could do a better job if was managed more effectively. ‘Historical’ shortcomings, such as the heavy focus on infrastructure monitoring have resulted in fragmented management capabilities as gaps were filled when new technologies emerged.
As a consequence, problems are on the horizon for many IT shops. Those fragmented management capabilities make it difficult for the IT department to demonstrate its value and support to the business. But what about the IT shops which went down the single vendor route? Sadly, we know that even those which followed relatively well organised investment patterns, such as deploying ‘suites’ or ‘solutions’ for IT management actually found the level of ‘desired internal integration’ they ended up with was still not sufficient to drive out the inefficiencies and problems of fragmentation.
The challenges associated with such an IT management environment are numerous. The costs, training, licensing and support required to maintain a disparate portfolio of IT management tools and systems are a burden. The bottom line is that, to date, by default or design, we know that many IT shops haven’t been able to achieve a truly effective overview of their IT assets despite having invested heavily in management tools.
Another dimension we have been tracking for the last few years is the number of organisations which consider what they do and manage in terms of ‘services’. Hand in hand with the services view is the ability to measure things as such, and the requirement on IT management to achieve this is quite significant.
Sights need to be raised up from monitoring at a component level to reconciling the performance of a multitude of them (aka a service) in context against a desired business goal. The percentage of organisations approaching the management of their IT in this manner is tracking upwards and, although not a universal trait, it essentially serves to mark out the next decade’s worth of development and evolution around IT management technologies and capabilities for the mainstream technology buying community.
Looking ahead, what do IT shops see as their ultimate IT management goal? When we asked this question of IT leaders, the responses that came back were reasonably pragmatic and in tune with the current fragmented state of IT management, although a single winner didn’t emerge. We assumed there would be more support for the idea of a natural and measurable path to follow, such as a ‘standards enabled framework’, given the relatively heterogeneous landscape that already exists in most organisations.
While the idea was given the thumbs up by many, so were the concepts behind ‘manager of managers’ and ‘ERP for IT management’. The latter is a way of describing an idea driven primarily by IT vendors seeking to consolidate aspects of IT management such as IT inventory and audit, service desk, change management, configuration and IT asset management. It sounds sensible, and was called out by the least well-organised, while the ‘manager of managers’ just about shaded it for the most organised IT shops.
Regardless of the model you might end up pursuing, a common factor in this domain is that times are hard for IT departments when it comes to justifying more investment in management kit. Ironically, this comes at a time when management capabilities are becoming central to helping IT keep up with demands from the business. A solution may be to designate the IT management domain as a consolidation zone – like you have no doubt been doing across the server estate. This may pave the way towards that elusive dashboard – and anyway, why should management software sprawl be treated any differently to other types of IT sprawl?
Ultimately, despite the apparent ease with which IT management can be made out to be the bad guy, we also know that a strong correlation exists between an organisation’s focus on IT management capabilities and the ability of IT to support and enable the business to achieve its operational and strategic goals. In other words, better management of IT is a source of value to the business.