This is my second guest blog for Nimsoft on the topic of the demand/supply/execution model. Last week’s blog generated an amazing response on Twitter. The industry is clearly ripe for new thought on its basic conceptual structures.
As I’ve discussed here, here, and here, trends like DevOps and Lean IT are challenging the traditional mental models of technology management, and spurring interest in more unified approaches to IT demand and execution. This was why I undertook the EMA survey on Unified Demand Management earlier this year. But until I got this survey back, my thinking on the topic was mostly conjectural.
I’ll lead with a compelling finding on the following question:
Are you aware of situations where poor coordination across different types of IT demand has led to poor support of business needs?
Now, what exactly did this mean? The survey was based on my “three legs of demand” model, that IT work can usefully be seen as a continuum of projects, tickets, and often-nebulous “improvement” activities that are “too big for a ticket and too small for a project.” The question sought to determine if IT was making good decisions in assigning resources across these major types of demand.
I didn’t know what to expect from this question. If the “Yes” response had been low, I probably would have started to question whether this line of research was useful. But here it is:
What does this mean?
It means that IT fails to prioritize effectively.
And it means that IT’s failures in this regard have real business impacts.
And that IT professionals are significantly aware of this problem.
Additional questions in the survey reinforced that solving this problem is important to many IT professionals. It’s not just a “sometimes” issue. And while I’m not going to go into all the details, the demographics clearly show that this gets worse with scale – the “Yes” responses top out at a whopping 75% for companies with more than 2,500 employees, and over 90% for companies with IT budgets of greater than $50 million.
Some may respond skeptically. “We have a portfolio process, we triage incidents, we segregate our project and operational resources.” All well and good; those are tools you’ll continue to use. But here is my acid test use case:
Given a shared IT resource (e.g. a highly skilled database administrator), is that person given the support they need so that they are always working on the most critical business priority ACROSS projects, operations, and continuous improvement? Does their manager have FULL visibility at any given time into what they are juggling, so that they can provide the needed guidance and coaching?
Where does greater business value lie: fixing the root cause of that chronic Sev 2 incident with a workaround, or the project deliverable that’s not quite critical path … yet?
IT has never coped with this challenge all that well, due to the dysfunctions of plan/build/run and other factors. The newer, more agile models heighten the need for different models; DevOps is pulling people back and forth across the old traditional “wall” and IT management needs new tools to deal with this.
Other findings of note:
- Of organizations that require a PMO to handle projects over a certain budget amount, that amount is either static or increasing – evidence for an hypothesis that PMO control is decreasing. The “radar ceiling” (or “floor” if you prefer) is going up and more things can “fly under” it. Had a recent conversation with a CIO at a Society for Information Management meeting who confirmed that this indeed is a trend he’s seeing in his shop, and is concerned about.
- We also surveyed on the market interest in the concept of the ITIL CSI (Continual Service Improvement) register and found a surprising level of receptivity. As IT becomes more interested in Lean and continuous improvement, I think that such a system is essential, as continuous improvement is itself demand and needs to be prioritized along with project and directly sustaining work.
- The survey showed a statistically significant relationship between DevOps and Kanban. While only a minority of companies were doing either (28% & 21%), those doing one were highly likely to be doing the other as well.
- Other questions included what a unified IT demand management solution should handle, the prevalence and characteristics of project and service portfolio management, and some interesting findings on the semantics of “application” and “change.”
The free on-demand EMA webinar, which goes into more detail can be accessed here; contact EMA if you are interested in the full report. And many thanks again to CA and Nimsoft for sponsoring this research.
As Peter Senge notes in his landmark book The Fifth Discipline, “Why are mental models so powerful in affecting what we do? In part, because they affect what we see. Two people with different mental models can observe the same event and describe it differently, because they’ve looked at different details and made different interpretations.”
What do you think? Is it time for a new mental model of IT?
(Credit to @demingSoS for providing those quotes via Twitter last night at a perfect time.)
Charlie Betz is Research Director at Enterprise Management Associates. His responsibilities include IT portfolio management, IT financial management, asset management, ITSM suites, and integrated IT management.
He has 20 years of experience across all aspects of enterprise IT practice, including 6 years at Wells Fargo as Senior Enterprise Architect and VP for IT Portfolio and Systems Management. He has also held architect and application manager positions for Best Buy, Target, and Accenture. He is author of the recent 2nd edition of Architecture and Patterns for IT: Service Management, Resource Planning, and Governance (Making Shoes for the Cobbler’s Children). Follow Charlie online via Twitter and Linkedin.