IBM out to bridge gap between business and IT
By A. Asohan April 1, 2013
- Collaborative gap between IT and business sides; gap between rising importance of IT and funds available for it
- IBM Rational’s vision is to expand the DevOps movement to encompass the entire organization.
THERE are two gaps in organizations today when it comes to technology: The first is the gap between the IT and business sides of an organization; and the second is the gap between the increasing importance of technology in fueling business innovation and the funds available to invest in IT.
“In a survey on how important the delivery of IT systems is in meeting business objectives and innovation, there has been a huge uptake of people rating it as very high,” says Per Kroll (pic), chief solution architect and program director for Portfolio Strategy & Management at IBM Rational.
In the Gartner-Forbes “2011 US Board of Directors Survey: IT Expectations Rise Dramatically for 2012” report, when asked, “How would you rate the level of IT’s strategic business value contribution to your organization?” in 2010, 32% of respondents rated it as high to extremely high.
When asked to forecast this same question into 2012, the percentage of respondents rating high to extremely high rose to 66%.
At a time when corresponding forecasts for IT spending are set to rise less than 5% per year, it is interesting to note the escalation in expectations from board directors for IT, Kroll notes.
In the "Leveraging Software Delivery for Competitive Advantage 2012 Global Study" from the IBM Institute for Business Value, 48% of line of business (LOB) executives and 55% of IT executives said software was "crucial for achieving competitive advantage.”
However, only 11% of LOB executives and 29% of IT executives felt their organizations were leveraging their software capabilities effectively (click diagram to enlarge).
“A lot of business innovation today is being driven by technology,” says Kroll. The importance of IT is growing, yet when you look at the ability of IT to deliver, there is a substantial gap – both the IT and business side agree on this.”
“The gap is widening because technology is evolving so fast that it is hard to keep track of,” he says, adding that the situation is being exacerbated by the fact that significant proportion of an organization’s IT budget is spent on maintenance and operations – “or keeping the lights on.”
These are gaps the company hopes to bridge. IBM Rational’s vision is to expand the DevOps movement to encompass the entire organization.
“The broadest trend I see is that the business side is adopting many of the software industry’s best practices – Agile development, DevOps and so on,” Kroll says.
Extended lifecycle, continuous delivery
DevOps refers to efforts to bridge the gap between the development and operations sides of IT in an organization to speed up the delivery of IT services, amongst other benefits. The argument has been that the operations side has always emphasized keeping systems up and is risk-averse, which can affect innovation.
“Innovation can only happen in a high-bandwidth dialog,” says Kroll, who is also development manager for IBM Rational’s solutions for process, enterprise architecture and next-generation analytics. He has written two books published and is a frequent speaker at conferences, and a member of IBM’s Academy of Technology.
“There is a gap in terms of collaboration between the IT and business side of organizations, and communications between the two sides is not good enough to bridge this gap,” he says.
He notes than in traditional organizations, the business tells IT what it requires, and IT will tell the business side when it came deliver those capabilities. Information will be exchanged so IT better understands the business need, but that is just about that when it comes to communications.
“IBM is looking at best practices, specific processes and tools that can bridge this gap,” says Kroll.
This includes helping organizations put in place an effective infrastructure for driving innovation, where they can effectively assess relative priorities and also do what-if analyses taking into account many different business drivers.
“This is an infrastructure that helps the business and IT sides work together to determine what the organization needs, and translate this into a roadmap,” says Kroll (click slide to enlarge).
“You will never have enough funds to do all you need or want, so you need to have a values-based discussion to determine your priorities,” he says, adding that these values could include this year’s revenue, long-term revenue growth or what provides the strongest competitive differentiators.
A key product in IBM Rational’s portfolio for this is Focal Point, which provides product and portfolio management driven by market needs and business objectives. It helps organizations prioritize and select the right investments, balance change with business demands and align resources to deliver the right products at the right time, the company says.
It also integrates enterprise architecture and project execution into portfolio management, which helps ensure enterprise and project decisions are aligned with the organization’s financial and market needs.
Kroll says there are three things to keep in mind when trying to create that ‘high-bandwidth, values-based’ collaboration between the IT and business sides.
“First, if you give people 15 different things to rank according to priority, it would be impossible – but give them sets of two things to rank, and they can do this easily,” he says.
What IBM Rational has done is to create an algorithm that determines which two things they should rank and in what order, then collate all the results to determine their priorities.
“Second, you need to weigh your organization’s priorities alongside business and technology drivers,” says Kroll.
Third, building a business case for any technology use is almost always a guessing game, Kroll argues.
“People are putting in their business plans for technology a specificity that does not exist in reality,” he says.
For instance, plans which project that implementing a new technology or application will “drive up first quarter revenues by 37.3%,” he adds. “You can’t, because there is always an inherent uncertainty, and this has to be taken into account.”
IBM Rational has a slew of products it says can help organizations int his regard. For instance, its collaborative lifecycle management (CLM) product provides application lifecycle management that helps the development team collaborate on the design and development of the software with key stakeholders from an extended team across the organization.
In keeping with its ‘continuous delivery’ delivery mantra, IBM Rational also has IBM SmartCloud Continuous Delivery, which the company claims is an agile, scalable and flexible solution for end-to-end lifecycle management.
SmartCloud Continuous Delivery helps teams set up a joint DevOps project with the pipeline workflow and tasks, such as build, test, and deploy.
“One feature of software development today is that it has become very much a supply-chain problem,” says Kroll.
“Much as how today’s car makers have a host of suppliers providing components that they assemble into a finished product, today’s IT department has to work with packaged, in-house and open source applications to deliver IT services,” he adds.
The new IBM Rational Governance of Application Development Outsourcing helps organizations gain control of application development initiatives by improving visibility and transparency across the multi-vendor supply chain throughout the project lifecycle.
IBM’s application portfolio management (APM) provides insight into the key business functions that an application supports, including the health and viability of those functions, the company claims. This enables IT and business leaders to make more strategic decisions about application investments and sources.