Since the launch of the IT4IT™ Certification in May 2016, EA Learning has been an advocate of the IT4IT™ Reference Architecture and its potential implications for our community. Our inaugural course was conducted in Melbourne, and now that our group of newly certified attendees has left us we’ve taken a moment to stop and reflect on where the real impacts of this certification will land.
Our IT4IT™ Certification trainer Maurice York takes us through the insights and potential value he perceived for the current IT landscape.
Q: After delivering the inaugural IT4IT™ training course, what are your first impressions on version 2.0 of the standard and how it might help practitioners in this space?
My impression was that IT4IT™ V2.0 is a good first public release of the new standard and provides guidance in an area that is lacking in many organisations. The fundamental challenge that many IT Divisions are tackling today is the ‘as-a-service’ transition, and that’s a key issue IT4IT™ directly addresses in two ways.
Firstly, there is fresh insight into the capabilities needed by IT divisions and how these might be expressed in business terms. That’s the value stream concept.
Secondly, we require the ability to create appropriate information systems that manage this transition, and that is the sweet spot of the IT4IT™ Reference Architecture.
The reference architecture maps the information needed to the Value Stream concept which resonates with the business management and therefore facilitates work on IT that IT needs. We end up with a top-down view from the Value Stream to the information needed to support it.
Q: How can IT4IT™ co-exist with other existing standards? For example, is it compatible with ITIL, TOGAF®, COBIT, etc.?
That’s really several questions.
Firstly, the compatibility with TOGAF® is very high indeed. IT4IT™ may ask us to express our architectures slightly differently – with more emphasis on the service architecture – but the architecture process, particularly the strategic layer from TOGAF®, fits naturally and easily into the IT4IT™ model. In my opinion, Enterprise Architecture doesn’t fit easily within ITIL “as it is written”. It is not uncommon for teams to have adapted and unified the two approaches but not so much in ITIL “as it is written”.
Secondly I’ve worked on ITIL implementation projects and as a service manager, one of the things that we found difficult was a lack of implementation guidance in terms of the required systems to support the processes – and that’s a crucial area that has been addressed in IT4IT™.
In ITIL implementations you usually have to go to multiple specialist vendors and the difficulty then occurs when you have overlapping product suites to integrate for end-to-end service management from concept to implementation. Now we have a reference architecture to assist.
Third answer – I had a go at mapping IT4IT™, and ITIL, and the other standards together on a capability map, and I found them quite compatible.
Therefore, I regard IT4IT™ as a natural evolution of ITIL, to include both the EA dimension and very strong implementation guidance.
Q: So for an organisation that has invested heavily in ITIL and wants to carry on using ITIL, is there a place for them to get value from IT4IT™ as a complementary approach?
Yes – A key area for these organisations is in the data integrations between the multiple toolsets that they already have. If they’ve invested heavily in process excellence using ITIL they may well have multiple toolsets involved; integrating those toolsets is likely to cause a problem and the IT4IT™ Reference Architecture addresses that problem.
And of course IT4IT™ integrates Enterprise Architecture as well.
Q: Is the Operating Model for IT presented by IT4IT™ applicable to all sectors and scales of organisations?
From a conceptual point of view, yes. The model is a very natural way to look at any IT operation.
The weight of detail is such that it’s more targeted to larger organisations, in my personal opinion. The big value however will come with scale, particularly at a national or multi-national scale, where it’s not easy to integrate service providers across multiple domains, for example across all of Australia, or across a global footprint or across multiple vendors.
Integration between information about how IT is performing across multiple locations is a massive problem for many organisations, and you can see this clearly illustrated when you look at the Shell Case Study.
By the way, this also implies the applicability of IT4IT™ to vendor organisations.
Q: Are there any notable weaknesses or omissions within the current release of the Reference Architecture?
I think it’s a pity that we don’t have a standardised capability model to drop down under the Value Chain. Clearly the authors have thought about this and they’ve tackled it with the concept of Capability Disciplines at one of the layers of the Architecture.
Additionally, in the courseware for IT4IT™ it explicitly identifies a couple of areas which aren’t well covered in the standard, such as Capacity and Availability Management.
We really do need the data interchange formats that are implied in the standard and discussed previously.
Q: The Reference Architecture is described as prescriptive, could you give an example of a common issue and how IT4IT™ can solve that problem.
The prescriptive nature of the standard means that we should be able to define compliance – which leads to clear communication for both clients and vendors. The standard also explicitly identifies areas for vendor differentiation and innovation.
We should be able to say – “we do things this way following the prescriptive guidance and we have confidence you do likewise in your product so we can have a good conversation and a well-grounded commercial relationship”. It’s the nature of the prescriptive view. Without that prescription layer, the stuff we just talked about, about data integration between toolsets, would never work because we’re always going to have overlapping issues.
Q: In terms of a business benefit of IT4IT™, is cost-of-service visibility one of the key business-facing benefits that you would see?
If you can’t relate your cost base to the services you deliver, you have a problem. You might be quite efficient but you won’t be able to prove it and therefore have other problems (especially ‘shadow IT’) and competing benchmarks.
IT4IT™ explicitly covers chargeback or show back into the information model. So once the value chain and the pervasive ‘as a service’ paradigm is embedded knowing the cost of service should be a natural outcome.
Q: One of the key points I picked up on from watching the Shell Case Study video was the notion of having a standardised approach for different business units to procure, consume, and manage IT services. Is that one of the key business benefits you would be highlighting to a business stakeholder outside of IT?
What we’re giving you with IT4IT™ is a consistent model within which to manage your services. If you define your services in the same way across your organisation then you’ll be able to procure them against a level playing field, both from a vendor perspective and an internal perspective. The art form that we’ve got here is therefore getting our vendors to comply with the same type of standard as well, i.e. talk the same language. The other thing of interest that goes with that, and it comes out in the Shell Study in other ways, is that IT struggles to measure it’s services internally; it can struggle even more so to measure them externally and that’s part of the guidance and the value proposition given in IT4IT™.
Q: One final question, the Service Backbone seems to be a key element of the Reference Architecture and what IT4IT™ is built on; how would you define the Service Backbone and what that means in terms of a potential use for IT4IT™?
The Service Backbone complements the Value Chain. The core of a value chain is that there is something ‘travelling along it’ to which we are adding value – in this case services. The Service Backbone is the unifying concept of IT4IT™ describing everything delivered as services and what those services are composed of and how they go through a lifecycle.
Today we tend to look at services more from a consumption viewpoint. In IT4IT™ we integrate them into the enterprise architecture and delivery functions.
The service backbone is about integrating this conceptual, logical, and realised view of services across the whole enterprise, the common language.
Enterprise Architects runs an accredited 3-day IT4IT™ course, which includes taking the foundation exam at the end of day 3. If you are interested in learning more about the course or to see upcoming dates for your area, you can contact one of our Client Advisors here.