Enterprise 2.0 Innovate 2012 Notes: Preventing IT Sprawl

I am pleased to attend Enterprise 2.0 Innovate on the West Coast for the first time. It is occurring November 12 – 15 in the Santa Clara Convention Center. Here my notes from this year’s Enterprise 2.0 2012 conference in Boston. Here are my notes from the session: Preventing IT Sprawl, led by Bernard Golden, Vice President, Enterprise Solutions, enStratus. Here is the session description.

“IT can no longer provide all your technology needs like in the past- nor should they- the new enterprise IT is built from components, some on-premise and some Cloud, glued together by IT. What are the strengths and weaknesses of this approach? How do you navigate successfully the challenge of glueing disparate systems together so you end up in best of breed heaven not best of breed hell. How do you prevent more IT sprawl?”

Bernard said that the cloud sprawl can be an opportunity or a challenge. He talked about the disconnect between users and IT. These tow groups have different images of IT. IT sees itself as dedicated and hard working. Business users see IT as the department of “NO.”  There are too many permissions and too much red tape. Systems are hard to use. They do not scale very well. It takes to long to change things. I get too many bills for stuff I do not understand.

So how does cloud computing play into this disconnect? There are a lot of misunderstandings of cloud computing.  However, it does have a lot of benefits. First, the cloud can provide on-demand self-service that solves the manual process, just like buying a book from Amazon. There is broad network access that gets rid of chunky interfaces. There is resource pooling that solves the scalability problem. There is rapid elasticity that solves the change problem. There is measured service that solves opaque costs. You only pay for what you use.  With all these changes, the IT revolution has arrived.  IT democracy has arrived.

IT now must be a service provider. If it does not move this way IT can be bypassed. With all these advantages what can prevent sprawl? This is a challenge for those who provide services. However, is this a straw man for those who do not like IT democratization?  The problem is that if you put in difficult rules to prevent sprawl people will just walk around the rules to get services elsewhere.

So the question for IT is how to enable the freedom while maintaining some control?  There are five things that can be done: enable agility, provide tools, be a best practices resource, implement company-wide cloud governance, and provide transparent economics.  He then discussed each of these five in more detail.

First, enable agility.  You have to provide self-service. People will not put up with any heavy-handed approval process.  They will go elsewhere. You also need to integrate key application requirements. You need to capture policy within automations (legal, procurement, HR, etc.) so users do not have to deal with them. Only exceptions should trigger manual processes.

Second, provide tools. There needs to be a services catalog. It should reflect tested environments and guide develop behavior. There also needs to be configuration management with pre-configured recipes and commonly used software stacks. There also needs to be cloud management with access controls, scaling, and elasticity. This management needs to apply to any cloud environment.

Third, be a best practice resource. Provide guidance to establish value. You can also get alignment with the directions you want with these practices. Avoid having business users going in the wrong direction out of frustration. Provide education to users. Offer online resources, as well as internal expertise. Attach resources to project teams. Build an internal knowledgebase and make it accessible. All of these things promote consistency.

Fourth, implement company-wide governance. Communicate the rules and then make sure they are enforced. Implement rules within automated tools. Have policy within workflow to avoid having to say “no.” Make sure everyone uses the same tools. Reduce exception handling by defining processes and time boxing them. Know who to blame and recognize alternatives to speed responses.

Fifth, offer transparent economics. Move to charge-backs. It provides signals to guide behavior and aligns cost to value.  Develop true activity based costing (ABC) on a granular basis. You will be benchmarked against direct cloud use. People will look at what Amazon charges for the same service. Be sure to understand your true cost of service or you will get hosed. Provide objective feedback. Give deployment options and their cots. Support user choices and be prepared to support additional costs.

This is all useful advice.

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