Integrating Disparate IT
At 8:00 a.m. sharp on Mondays, a Fortune 100 CIO gets a colorful one-page dashboard — a collage of 100 color boxes of green, yellow, and red — outlining the status of various projects and the health of various IT metrics. The CIO seems able to manage a billion-dollar IT budget through these 100 boxes until a sudden deterioration in key IT health metrics and projects occurs. As projects turn from green to yellow to red, all hell breaks loose in determining root causes, questioning past reporting of the dashboard, and deciding on corrective actions. After this cycle repeats a few times, each one of those "$10 million boxes" (yes, each box on average represents a $10 million annual spend) on the dashboard becomes meaningless and unreliable very quickly.
Such a CIO experience is not fiction but a fact that desperate IT organizations are facing every day as a result of their disparate and unintegrated processes and systems. A lack of visibility and control over IT resources for IT management is further compounded by the economic downturn experienced by the IT industry since early 2000. The budgetary constraints are having a profound and permanent impact on IT's accountability to the enterprise. Corporate IT, mired in a plethora of point solutions for trouble tickets, assets, projects, labor, monitoring, and so on is under extreme pressure to consolidate resources, reassert control, and deliver reliable service levels and acceptable ROI. Therefore, there is very little room for ad hoc internal IT processes, underutilized IT resources and unintegrated IT systems.
IT under pressure
Besides the permanent impact of a deteriorated macroeconomic climate, two other pressures are being exerted on IT:
- The increasingly "federated" IT organization structure under which IT functions are executed by various corporate divisions as well as external service providers while planning and procurement are centralized in a corporate IT function
- Industry and technology trends of standardization, such as IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL), J2EE, and Web Services integration, that are making it possible to replace silos of IT systems with an integrated framework that supports IT business processes
The distribution of IT function in a federated IT organization structure demands more standardization and streamlining of IT business processes. Additionally, it requires more visibility by the centralized planning and procurement function into various IT systems and databases for accurate decision support. IT function has proliferated and permeated into every other business function. It is simply not possible for IT to continue to operate within its own silo without exhibiting an integrating influence. A service management framework that places existing IT methods and activities into a structured and strategic context is required. This framework improves tactical decision making and has an aligning influence on IT tasks vis-À-vis the rest of the organization.
Since various point systems used by IT for service management as well as decision support evolved independently, IT is confronted with an unintegrated and proprietary nightmare, further compounded by vendor lock-ins. There was no feasible way of integrating such diversity until some of the recent developments of standardized processes (ITIL), standardized platforms (J2EE), and standardized messaging (Web services) came about.
Solving the IT integration challenge
Delivery of an integrated framework for IT management is emerging as a new software category opportunity. However, the process reengineering or massive new investment does not characterize the new category, unlike with enterprise resource planning (ERP).
IT should leverage enterprise application integration (EAI) technologies to integrate disparate systems for IT-specific business transactions, such as service request and asset management. Some of the emerging standards for Web Services and Java Connector Architecture (JCA) in J2EE 1.3 are important developments that form the basis of such business transaction integration. Besides integrating systems for transaction support, integration should also enable development of information and knowledge repositories, such as data marts, for decision support and visibility on the performance of various IT systems and processes.
IT business processes should seek maturation by leveraging standards, such as ITIL. However, refinement of process definitions is not enough. Its adoption by IT performers and integration of such performers with the process is critical. In order to enable such integration, IT should supplement its traditional focus on automation scripts with workflow enablement of processes based on best practices like ITIL.
Besides managing its business processes, IT needs to move from an object-oriented to a service-oriented system architecture. While the primary focus of object-oriented architecture is data and methods for discrete activities within a business domain, such a fine-grained data and method approach is, to a certain extent, responsible for a fractured reality of IT systems. Instead, the service-oriented architecture enables systems to be assembled from loosely coupled and coarse-grained components. Service-oriented architecture stresses interoperability of components, dynamic discovery, and binding of such components. Systems based on service-oriented architecture are more scalable and highly configurable, and they require no vendor lock-in.
Although a dashboard view of IT reality is prudent for a CIO, those $10 million boxes on the dashboard require a linked audit trail for cause discovery, root cause analysis, and rapid corrective actions. Without those, the word "information" in information technology business function is misleading.
Parmeet Chaddha is Senior Vice President of Corio, Inc. and is ranked among the top 50 IT Executives by InfoWorld. For more information on Corio, Inc. and its enterprise applications services, visit www.corio.com.
Copyright 2002 Hurwitz Group Inc. This article is excerpted from TrendWatch, a weekly publication of Hurwitz Group Inc. - an analyst, research, and consulting firm. To register for a free email subscription, click here.
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