Intellectually, achieving IT and business alignment seems easy enough: We ask our counterparts in the organization for their requirements, put the systems in place, and then concentrate on running things with five nine’s availability and ever-decreasing costs.
However, as we all know, it isn’t that easy. Putting systems in place is difficult, expensive, and can take years. Further complicating our task is the nature of the business itself. Our client base consists of people from many departments with many points of view and differing needs. Even if we have a pipeline to the correct voices, legitimate requirements can rapidly change as the market environment changes, resulting in a disconnect between what’s delivered vs. the current needs.
However, setting the appropriate requirements and implementing them quickly enough is only half the battle. Once we build our systems, running them is an even bigger challenge, as they consist of hundreds of components and technologies stitched together across networks and systems that span the globe. Failure or problems in any of these even seemingly minor components can bring the entire process crashing to the ground.
If we consider these aspects, we must worry not only about “doing the right thing,” but also “doing it right” to achieve alignment with the business. While certainly a challenge, there are actually many methods and technologies coming into mainstream adoption that can bring some relief to our IT teams. On the operational side, business service management is a simple idea based on the concept that the management of the infrastructure should be done with a clear understanding of how that infrastructure supports and impacts the critical processes that run your business. For example, if a dB2 database involved in a critical logistics application fails, will your service desk be aware that the business is now unable to ship products? Will they prioritize the resolution of this failure vs. other potentially minor situations in an appropriate fashion? With the right system in place, the operations teams can see those cause and effect relationships and prioritize the work based on the most critical business needs. Systems such as this are truly powerful and an amazing advance in operational IT and business alignment.
Advancing the operational side of IT is important, but what about capturing the true needs of the business and putting the proper systems in place? While operational alignment is crucial to the ultimate linkage of IT to the business, it really doesn’t solve the issue of building the “right stuff.”
The failure of long, drawn out waterfall development methodologies in the face of dynamic and changing business needs has driven the industry to look for flexibility and agility in the development process. Those who can respond to changing needs and conditions the most effectively will win because they can adjust to the world around them. For example, SOA architectures, new tools and languages, agile methodologies, and many other things promise rapid deployment of new solutions.
With the focus of aligning IT with the business, the management infrastructure has become more integrated and automated to achieve operational alignment. Simultaneously, we continue to push the envelope on new application technologies and subsystems to achieve functional alignment. As you likely have experienced, these forces push against each other and compound the challenges of both.
For example, in the mainframe world, IBM is releasing XML support in DB2 9. This provides a powerful new capability for flexible development. To leverage these benefits, it’s imperative that the supporting dB2 tools and utilities companies rely on for operations quickly incorporate support for these new advances. While companies will want to adopt and exploit this, will their management infrastructures be ready?
Integrating core management products to support business service management methods creates a very powerful solution for ensuring all parties administer the IT infrastructure within the context of business priority. Focusing equally on enabling functional alignment by delivering rapid support for new technologies ensures these new techniques can be deployed in a safe and robust production environment.
By focusing on both operational and functional alignment, we ensure that IT organizations not only do the right thing, but do the right thing right—a powerful outcome that we feel will ensure the mainframe remains a vibrant and flexible component of a highly agile IT infrastructure. Z