The key to future IT success is a switch to managing services, not systems

For most of the history of commercial IT, system design has focused on meeting the availability, response time and security requirements of individual workloads. But technology and expectations have changed, and so has monitoring technology. The result? It’s time to focus on delivery, not infrastructure.

Fortunately, much of today’s IT infrastructure has significant self-monitoring tools built in, and it is often possible to dynamically reallocate resources, whether physical or virtual, without interrupting service to users. On top of this, we have also seen considerable evolution in tools for monitoring the end user experience when accessing applications and other services.

Put together, all this enables IT to flex systems to ensure that users, be they internal, external or other computer systems, get the quality of service they need, most notably in terms of responsiveness. This is especially important as the expectations of users continue to evolve, and IT is expected to just work.

From resource optimisation to flexible financing

And of course this infrastructure flexibility can also be used to better optimise system resource usage, by ensuring IT resources are not wasted by over-provisioning or running systems when there is no load. As well as the potential to save on costs (power, cooling, etc.), there’s the opportunity here to work with new ways of financing flexible IT offered by many vendors.

But the switch from managing IT infrastructure to managing IT service delivery doesn’t just need some operational process modifications. Doing it properly also requires a major mindset change, and not just for IT – business people need to adjust their mindsets too.

Everyone will need to adjust

For example, while IT needs to think in a more business-centric fashion, which has been happening anyway, business people also need to better quantify the service levels required for things to work well. It is no longer practical, or cost-effective, to simply demand the best possible service level for everything, especially as IT now often has the potential to respond rapidly as actual business requirements change.

This is yet another reason for IT and business teams to work together more effectively and efficiently – to ensure IT services are designed, developed, delivered and modified in alignment with the business’s goals and objectives. Collaboration and understanding each other are essential, highlighting the need for IT professionals to communicate clearly in ways their users, now often referred to instead as ‘customers’, can understand and digest. This must become the normal way of working, not a one-off project.

You’re probably part-way there already

Many organisations will already have several of the elements needed to shift to the philosophy of delivering IT services, rather than managing IT infrastructure, but it is likely that some may need developing, especially if service catalogues, asset management and service quality monitoring tools are not yet widely utilised. But the bigger challenges are likely to be making the business cases for investments, adopting new operational practices, and understanding the mindset shifts and communications changes that will be required.

The potential benefits are huge: happier customers, better business outcomes and more reliable IT. There is also a good chance that IT will get yet another an image uplift, after the successes of implementing WFH and remote working, as people see how responsive it is.

And that’s a big opportunity: business stakeholders need ideas for how the business as a whole could better exploit IT, and this image boost should smooth the road for IT to become more innovative and effective in how it implements those ideas and also presents new ideas of its own to the business.

Tony is an IT operations guru. As an ex-IT manager with an insatiable thirst for knowledge, his extensive vendor briefing agenda makes him one of the most well informed analysts in the industry, particularly on the diversity of solutions and approaches available to tackle key operational requirements. If you are a vendor talking about a new offering, be very careful about describing it to Tony as ‘unique’, because if it isn’t, he’ll probably know.