Why IT Management is at a Tipping Point

As this is my first column for CIO Update, I’d like to introduce myself, and then explain the notion that the IT management industry is at a tipping point. The kind of change that is so pervasive and complex that it’s especially hard to see or define.

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I have been with EMA for nine years, having worked at Cabletron and IBM before that. My work in high technology goes back more than twenty-six years. For much of that time I had the privilege of working closely with marketing organizations in understanding product requirements and talking with customers.

More recently I have been involved with next-generation asset management, which unites asset management with service management, configuration management, change management, and capacity management (much in sympathy with ITIL’s v2 concepts surrounding Financial Management for IT Services).

Okay, so why do I say IT management is at a tipping point? In working with IT adopters at various levels, including CIOs, I am delighted to see there is a growing interest in process and IT organizational assessment. At the same time, I’m watching how the market is evolving and how product designs are changing; sometimes with more self-awareness in terms of product architects than others.

Briefly put, IT organizations are seeking to manage effectively across tribal silos (network, systems, applications management, applications development, etc.) far more aggressively than in the past. These tribal silos are based on skill sets, which means they’re based on personal histories, professional affiliations, and even reading choices in professional publications.

They have become the cornerstones of IT organizations. However, this skill-set model is far more suited to academia than it is to IT organizations that require a more holistic approach (witness ITIL) to the delivery of services. While these skill sets must remain, reinforcing them with rigid organizational boundaries and siloed processes must change.

In response to this, the IT management industry is going through an upheaval. Mergers and acquisitions have been active at an unprecedented level of frenzy. And it’s not just about getting bigger, it’s fundamentally about re-architecting new designs.

True, not all vendors understand this yet, but those that don’t will begin to perish as this industry separates into new markets, which are not defined by domains

The new design will support the need for better data integration across brands, and more collaborative management environments, so that network, systems, and applications management teams can share and access common “trusted” data sources and apply extensible analytic capabilities.

The adoption of CMDB (configuration management database) systems, is probably the single biggest signal that the tipping point is upon us. The reason is CMDB systems—a foundational capability defined by ITIL—are driving not only new ways of integrating management investments, they are also becoming catalysts for a new political and cultural reality across IT in which siloed tools and siloed owners must collaborate along the lines of trusted sources.

It is CMDB systems that are making the difference between siloed tools designed to arm network specialists each with its own data gathering, relationships and topology, data store, analytics, visualization etc. and shared resources that address cross-silo interdependencies.

Driving Trends

Why is this happening? ITIL, which is being widely adopted today, specifies more effective cross-silo collaboration, so that’s one driver. More complex and dynamic network, systems and applications infrastructures with far greater frequencies of change are other drivers.

The need for IT to minimize risk to itself and the business and to show accountability in everything from regulatory compliance, to IT governance, to financial standards that are becoming increasingly stringent and business-driven are more drivers.

Service-oriented architectures (SOA) and a more multi-dimensional relationship between IT and business are each yet additional drivers.

Indeed, IT is no longer just about high levels of service availability. IT’s role is shifting towards enabling the actual creation of new business models.

I would argue that, as misty as all these symptoms may seem, they are all interrelated. We are living in a new world in which architecture, culture, process and politics are all becoming visible interdependencies.

While this has always been the case, we’re finally beginning to see these interdependencies much more clearly now. And the implications of this transformation are so dramatic they will make the transition from mainframes to distributed computing seem trivial.

Dennis Drogseth is a vice president and leads Enterprise Management Associates’ New Hampshire office. A driving force in establishing EMA’s New England presence, Drogseth is also the Network Services practice leader.