One thing we all really like to hear about is how we can do more with less. This is especially the case when we have valuable assets that are underutilized or potentially even idle. This is “low hanging fruit” for executives to repurpose and achieve efficiencies for the organization.
In this regard, there was a nifty little article in Federal Computer Week, 15 Jun 2009, called “Double-duty COOP” about how we can take continuity of operations (COOP) failover facilities and use them for much more than just backup and business recovery purposes in the case of emergencies.
“The time-tested approach is to support an active production facility with a back-up failover site dedicated to COOP and activated only during an emergency. Now organizations can vary that theme”—here are some examples:
Load balancing—“distribute everyday workloads between the two sites.”
Reduced downtime—“avoid scheduled outages” for maintenance, upgrades, patches and so forth.
Cost effective systems development—“one facility runs the main production environment while the other acts as the primary development and testing resource.”
Reduced risk data migration—when moving facilities, rather than physically transporting data and risk some sort of data loss, you can instead mirror the data to the COOP facility and upload the data from there once “the new site is 100 percent operational.”
It’s not that any of these ideas are so innovatively earth shattering, but rather it is their sheer simplicity and intuitiveness that I really like.
COOP is almost the perfect example of resources that can be dual purposed, since they are there “just in case.” While the COOP site must ready for the looming contingency, it can also be used prudently for assisting day-to-day operational needs.
As IT leaders, we must always look for improvements in the effectiveness and efficiency of what we do. There is no resting on our laurels. Whether we can do more with less, or more with more, either way we are going to advance the organization and keep driving it to the next level of optimization.
>How should a CIO allocate their time between strategy and operations?
Some CIOs are all operations; they are concerned solely with the utility computing aspects of IT like keeping the desktops humming and the phones ringing. Availability and reliability are two of their key performance measurement areas. These CIOs are focused on managing the day-to-day IT operations, and given some extra budget dollars, will sooner spend them on new operational capabilities to deploy in the field today.
Other CIOs are all strategy; they are focused on setting the vision for the organization, aligned closely to the business, and communicating the way ahead. Efficiency and effectiveness are two of their key performance measurement areas. These CIOs are often set apart from the rest of the IT division (i.e. the Office of the CIO focuses on the Strategy and the IT division does the ops) and given some extra budget dollars, will likely spend them on modernization and transformation, providing capabilities for the end-user of tomorrow.
Finally, the third category of CIOs, balances both strategy and operations. They view the operations as the fundamentals that need to be provided for the business here and now. But at the same time, they recognize that the IT must evolve over time and enable future capabilities for the end-user. These CIOs, given some extra budget dollars, have to have a split personality and allocate funding between the needs of today and tomorrow.
Government Technology, Public CIO Magazine has an article by Liza Lowery Massey on “Balancing Strategy with Tactics Isn’t Easy for CIOs.”
Ms. Massey advocates for the third category, where the CIO balances strategy and operations. She compares it to “have one foot in today and one in tomorrow…making today’s decisions while considering tomorrow’s impacts.”
How much time a CIO spends on strategy versus operations, Ms. Massey says is based on the maturity of the IT operations. If ops are unreliable or not available, then the CIO goes into survival mode—focused on getting these up and running and stable. However, when IT operations are more mature and stable, then the CIO has more ability to focus on the to-be architecture of the organization.
For the Total CIO, it is indeed a delicate balance between strategy and operations. Focus on strategy to the detriment of IT operations, to the extent that mission is jeopardized, and you are toast. Spend too much time, energy, and resources on IT operations, to the extent that you jeopardize the strategy and solutions needed to address emerging business and end-user requirements, and you will lose credibility and quickly be divorced by the business.
The answer is the Total CIO must walk a fine line. Mission cannot fail today, but survivability and success of the enterprise cannot be jeopardized either. The Total CIO must walk and chew gum at the same time!
Additionally, while this concept is not completely unique to CIOs, and can be applied to all CXOs, CIOs have an added pressure on the strategy side due to the rapid pace of emerging technology and its effects on everything business.
Both EA and ITIL are emerging disciplines that are growing in importance and impact.
Here are their basic definitions:
EA synthesizes business and technical information and develops information products and governance services to enable better decision making.
ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library) “provides a comprehensive, consistent set of best practices focused on the management of IT services processes. It promotes a quality approach to achieving business effectiveness and efficiency in the use of information systems. ITIL is focused on IT Service Management, which is “concerned with delivering and supporting IT services that are appropriate to the business requirements of the organization.” (ITIL IT Service Management Essentials, Pink Elephant)
To me, EA and ITIL are mutually supportive. Here’s how:
EA is a decision framework that provides for planning and governance. EA answers the question, what IT investment will we make?
- ITIL is a service framework that provides for execution of IT services. IT answers the question, how will we support and deliver on the IT investments?
In short, EA is the discipline that handles the decision processes up to the IT Investment and ITIL handles the service management once the decision to invest in IT is made.
What are the considerations for EA and ITIL:
EA considers such things as return on investment, risk mitigation, business alignment, and technical compliance. EA focuses on business process improvement and new introduction of new technologies.
- ITIL practices areas include such services as incident management, problem resolution, change management, release management, configuration management, capacity, availability, service continuity, service level management and more.
How are EA and ITIL similar in terms of requirements management and their goals?
Each seeks to understand the business requirements and satisfy their customers: EA for the requirements for proposed new IT investments and ITIL for the service required to support those.
Both disciplines are goal-oriented in terms of wanting to improve effectiveness and efficiency:
EA prescribes in planning, what are the right things we should we be doing (effectiveness) and in governance, how should we be doing them (efficiency) relative to IT investments.
- ITIL prescribes in service delivery, what are the right service deliverables (effectiveness) and in service support, how we should be providing service support (efficiency).
While EA and ITIL are complementary, ITIL picks up where EA leaves off—after the IT investment decision, but before the service execution.