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Archive for the ‘ITSM’ Category

Keeping Up in an On-Demand World

Thursday, January 29th, 2015

It’s a fact that business user expectations of IT continue to grow in today’s tech-heavy consumer culture. In a world where we can get access to new capabilities and services quickly in our personal lives, it’s no wonder that business leaders are seeking the same continuous delivery of new capabilities in their work lives.

Here are four tips that will help you adjust your culture and tooling for this era of on-demand IT.

Tip 1: Take notice of the level of collaboration between your company’s business unit managers and the IT department

Ask yourself, is either side pleased with the situation at present? I’ve seen companies invest in roles within IT to foster improved collaboration with the business (e.g. what ITIL calls Service Managers or what Gartner and others call Business Relationship Managers). This is a useful investment for IT organizations to make because it gives a focal point to work with the business, someone who can sit in executive meetings to understand what needs they have and problems they are trying to solve. In a lot of companies the CIO still tries to act as the “relationship manager” for every business unit and sometimes also the head of development tries to do so – these approaches just don’t scale effectively.

Tip 2: Do something every quarter to improve communication and collaboration between non-IT managers and the IT department

Standing still in this area means that communication and collaboration is likely eroding. Both the business and IT sides of the house are moving so fast that it requires a proactive communication and collaboration to maintain alignment. I hear a lot of CIOs talk about the need for an “open line of communication” with other departments and that’s a good mindset, but it’s not enough. We have to move beyond appealing to better communications and the need to align with the business. The question you should be asking is “what are some concrete actions I can take now to improve communication and collaboration between non-IT managers and IT?” One idea is the creation of relationship manager roles as mentioned above. Investing in good quality IT relationship managers and aligning up front on project scope is critical.

But even with that in place, challenges for communication and collaboration will persist. For example, if you’re relying on the relationship manager to translate and explain the business needs to those in IT who need to know about what the business is trying to achieve, the priorities, etc. there can be some big communication gaps because not everyone who needs to know gets the information, or, the business needs are changing so rapidly and people in IT are working with outdated information about business requirements. What’s needed is an ongoing dialog between not just the business and IT relationship managers, but also with project managers, developers, and even those in operations that need to deploy and run the applications.

There’s a lot IT can learn here from enterprise collaboration projects in the business (with products like Jive) and apply that to how IT works with the business. Imagine if the people working on the project in IT could “follow” and collaborate on business requirements with the business like you follow someone on Twitter or have a friend on Facebook. Followers could get updated as things change and engage with the business if there are questions or concerns. Maybe the development manager draws a cut line for the release and the business knows about that in advance and can give feedback on features that need to be added or confirm which others can wait. Perhaps there’s a policy that governs an app but operations isn’t aware of it and is going to deploy it in such a way that they would violate the policy – instead the enterprise governance team can know about it and weigh in before the deployment happens.

Tip 3: Revisit the tools and approaches you use for IT collaboration work today. Be intentional about your go-forward tools strategy

The challenge I see here (a lot) is that IT is still using the same techniques they’ve always been using for collaboration – meetings, emails, conference calls, sharepoint sites, spreadsheets. There is no substitute for meetings and face-to-face interactions and even conference calls are important, however, the challenge is how do we capture and disseminate that information so those in the meeting can refer back to it but ensure others that weren’t in the meeting can still have access to it? What about someone new joining the organization, how can they get up to speed faster without having to go to lots and lots of meetings?

IT needs a new way to think about how we capture knowledge and make it available to people in the context of the work they’re doing so they don’t have to go hunting for it on sharepoint sites, send out lots of emails, search knowledge bases etc. In effect looking for the needle in the proverbial haystack.

What we need in IT, and which we have been lacking, are cross-team workspaces. An area you could bring together the right people with the right tools and information in a workspace that was defined around the context of the activity that needs to get done – whether that’s a development project, an infrastructure upgrade, an incident that needs to be resolved, etc. And then help facilitate the team making the necessary decisions and documenting the actions that will be taken – while also notifying everyone who needs to know.

Tip 4: Accept that complexity is increasing and that your people are key to managing it not just automations

IT environment complexity is a major issue for many companies because their systems have now been linked together so that the user community can move from one system to the next easily and so that data is quickly passed between systems. So now when change comes in it can affect how multiple systems work together. As IT practitioners, we’ve been working so hard to support the business all these years and we now have a collection of lots of legacy stuff and new technologies and it’s all been woven together in a way to help the business as fast as possible.

There’s a lot we’d change if we could go back and do things over, but that’s just not practical, and so for the most part we need to work with the environments we have. The challenge is how do you understand all these integrations, relationships and dependencies, all the tribal knowledge that’s been built up in the IT organization over the years?

There have been several approaches to address this like Configuration Management Databases (CMDBs) and discovery tools, and they help, but they raise their own issues. First, there’s only so much that discovery tools can discover off the wire. They do a decent job of telling you how things are configured and relationships between them but they still miss a lot because they have to be programmed to find “patterns” and there’s no way they can discover things like policies and how those govern your assets.

The other big challenge for discovery tools is that they don’t capture intent – i.e. why things are the way they are. That’s tribal knowledge that’s in your people’s heads. Someone at sometime knew why SAP was configured that way or why a certain port was opened on that server or switch. The problem is that tribal knowledge isn’t well documented, it gets lost as people forget it or leave.

The complexity problem is really a tribal knowledge problem. What we need is a living, breathing CMDB, think of it like a “social CMDB” that leverages discovery tools but then uses crowd-sourcing and peer review, like Wikipedia, to validate what’s been discovered and fill in gaps on an ongoing continuous basis. Until we have this, IT is going to be very resistant to the pace of change the business wants, because we’ll be concerned something might break that we weren’t expecting.

This is another area where you can apply the cross-team workspace concept. The idea of not only capturing the tribal knowledge and continually validating the CMDB but then pushing that information forward in the context of planning a change or resolving an incident. So if people are following the things in the IT environment that they care about, when it comes time to work on a change, the right people can be brought together in a shared workspace (instead of guessing who to involve like in traditional change process management) and arm them with the right information and tools to provide their risk assessment. That way, when the change board goes to review the planned change, they know who’s been involved and what information they had access to and can feel a lot more confident about their decision and approve the change a lot faster to keep the business moving forward.

In summary

The fundamental business-IT challenge in a lot of companies is that the business is simply frustrated with the pace at which IT moves. Fostering good relations with business counterparts and investing in relationship managers as mentioned above is a good start. But having the business engaged in a shared workspace for projects they care about, giving them more transparency into the project and decisions being made about cut lines for releases or the like, will give them a greater sense of ownership and appreciation for the work we do in IT and how it’s not just ‘there’s an app for that’ in an on-demand world.

Matt Selheimer
Chief Technical Evangelist and SVP Marketing

Originally published at The ITSM Review

It’s time to evolve to ITSM 2.0

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014

Tickets are useful as a status tracking mechanism, but when did our industry decide chasing tickets was the best way to manage IT support and operations work?

We think it’s time to evolve to an ITSM 2.0 approach that puts the focus on ensuring IT support and operations teams have the information they need to solve issues instead of chasing and filling out tickets after the “real work” is done somewhere else.

To understand more of what we mean by ITSM 2.0, check out these free resources:

If you want to get to ITSM 2.0, just click on contact us at the top of the page or call 877-741-8944 and one of our experts will be in touch soon.

You can also sign up to try it now.

Matthew Selheimer
Chief Technical Evangelist and SVP of Marketing
ITinvolve

 

Knowledge is Power:

Monday, June 16th, 2014

A breakthrough approach for Change, Config, and Release

Today, we were thrilled to find out the ITinvolve has been awarded the best-in-class designation for Change, Configuration, and Release Management by the independent ITSM Review.

This award acknowledges what our customers already know and reflects the vision, innovation, and effort that ITinvolve’s R&D organization has put into building a breakthrough solution for a rather stagnant market. The result of a months-long evaluation that included extended demonstrations and deep dive Q&A with an independent expert, we are simply glowing at what they had to say:

“ITinvolve has taken huge strides in the ITSM arena with Service Manager by embracing the adage “knowledge is power”.  We feel that the developments that ITinvolve Service Manager has made with the fundamentals of knowledge and collaboration, ensuring that all relevant information is available to the right people at the right time (and in a straightforward way), enables risk assessment capabilities that far outweigh those of other ITSM solutions. This provides increased value to its Change, Configuration and Release capabilities.”

“The way that these capabilities support and mold Change, Configuration and Release creates a product that gives control, intelligence and awareness back to the IT organisation.”

“ITinvolve Service Manager is a progressive and ambitious product. Uniquely combining knowledge capture, analysis, and social collaboration, Service Manager proactively delivers timely and relevant information whenever needed.”  

“…regardless of the size of your organisation, we strongly believe that you can’t go wrong with considering ITinvolve Service Manager as your ITSM tool for Change, Configuration and Release.”

Learn more about ITinvolve Service Manager and sign up for a free trial.

Matthew Selheimer
SVP, Marketing

 

IT Advice from Bill Nye “The Science Guy”

Tuesday, November 19th, 2013

Bill-Nye

I recently came across this quote and thought it very apropos to the situation in today’s complex IT organizations. Whether you are talking about server, storage, and network admins; developers; QA teams; security managers; and the many other experts in a typical IT organization, the fact is everyone in IT has specialized knowledge and a unique perspective on what they are responsible for.

It’s all too easy to get caught up in these individual perspectives and miss out on the big picture. But worse than that, because there are so many items associated with delivering a given application or service, and many of these items like a policy or unique setting an individual expert is not aware of, the best intended actions can often produce unexpectedly bad outcomes. Our own experiences and a quick Google search reveals that it is still all too common that outages are caused by “human error” and not an equipment failure or code issue.

George Spafford at Gartner has state the problem this way, “It is becoming impossible for any person or group [within IT] to completely understand how everything integrates together.” Because we don’t know what we don’t know, we can be lulled into a false sense of security as the bad outcomes all too clearly illustrate.

In response, a lot of IT organizations have tried to attack the problem with email, meetings and formalized change processes. This has helped many companies identify and minimize risks to a certain degree, but they have exchanged this benefit for a much slower change rate and over-involving too many personnel in change management.

A recently published metric from industry consulting firm Pink Elephant found that the average time from creation of a change request to its execution was 31 days! Whether the change is in response to a business need or is applying a patch or upgrade to make infrastructure better performing and resilient, I think we can all agree that a month is far too long. And a month is just the average! I am sure that complex changes with many change items greatly exceed a month in many IT organizations today. We need to do better as an industry – and that goes not just for practitioners but vendors and consultants too.

Here’s the second part of the problem with many current approaches. Because IT operations teams are rightly concerned about the instability that change represents, they pull far too many people into change planning meetings and change advisory board (CAB) meetings who don’t really need to be there or who could have just as easily provided their input offline. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard a change process owner complain about how they send emails out to change approvers and then have to hunt them down in person to get them to login to the change system and respond. And for their part, those approvers often complain that they get so many emails from the change system they can’t distinguish which are important and just end up ignoring them all.

So this brings me back to Bill Nye and his astute observation that we can learn something from everyone we meet. Let’s accept the fact that each of us doesn’t know everything we need to know to effectively manage today’s complex IT environments, despite the fact that we may indeed be experts in a particular area. It is only by capturing our collective knowledge and making it available to everyone that we can have a complete understanding of dependencies and risks. By using a modern approach like ITinvolve that allows IT knowledge workers to follow what they are responsible for or have an interest in, we can leverage the knowledge of others AND identify exactly who the right experts are and proactively engage them in a virtual collaboration to assess risk.

The result is that risks can be assessed more accurately but also more quickly, and without pulling people unnecessarily off of whatever else they are working on too. This assessment can then be provided proactively to the CAB and CAB members can approve or reject offline from meetings at a time of their convenience. If all CAB members approve, the change doesn’t even need to get discussed in the formal CAB meeting and can move straight to execution. This then enables IT to focus CAB meetings on the really important and high-risk changes that everyone hasn’t approved.

To get there, the first step is simply to recognize and appreciate that you can learn a lot from others by sharing what you know and having everyone do the same. We often here statements from our customers like “I’ve learned more about our environment using ITinvolve in the last three weeks than in the last five years I’ve worked here.” This is the reality, no matter how much of an expert we are, our knowledge of today’s complex IT landscape is limited. It’s only by working together and sharing what we know that we can deliver on our mission of helping IT become more agile while minimizing risk.

Matt Selheimer
VP of Marketing

A Growing Sense of Urgency in IT

Thursday, October 24th, 2013

Recently, I attended Gartner Symposium / ITxpo, which is the largest gathering of CIOs and IT leaders annually in the US (this year’s attendance was over 12,000). I also attended the annual Fusion event, jointly hosted by the itSMF and HDI, which attracts around 1,500 IT service support and delivery professionals and managers.

At Symposium, there was a strong and palpable sense of urgency that IT must adapt quickly to help their businesses exploit the “digital industrial economy.” This was a key focus not only in the keynote sessions, but also reflected in the individual track sessions – especially those with CIO interviews and end customer panels. It was also a topic that attendees were eager to discuss during conversations in the expo hall.

This energy is coming from the increasing pressure CIOs, VPs of App Dev, VPs of Infrastructure & Operations, and Enterprise Architects are feeling from their business colleagues. But it’s also coming from within as CIOs and VPs in IT are increasingly frustrated by their own organizations inability to adapt.  Everywhere you heard statements such as “How do we act more like a start up in IT?”  Each of these IT leaders asking this question understand they have to transform how IT works today or not only themselves, but their businesses, could quickly become irrelevant in a rapidly changing economy.

For example, I talked to one CIO of a multi-billion dollar manufacturer who said, “My Application Development team uses one tool to manage requirements, my Project Managers use another tool for project scheduling, and my IT Operations personnel used a myriad of other tools to coordinate changes and day-to-day operations. No one is sharing information effectively with one another, and I can’t even draw a clear line of sight between our business priorities and the work that is going on in IT.”

Another Enterprise Architecture leader from a major financial services company said, “Every team has their own source of knowledge they use to do their job, and the same or similar knowledge is replicated all over the place. All of this means coordinating projects and collaborating across teams is confusing, time-consuming, and causes delays in responding to shifting business requirements.” I even spoke with a VP of Application Development and VP of Infrastructure & Operations from the same company who said they were best friends since childhood, spent time together socially, and even they couldn’t get their respective teams to collaborate effectively.

I walked away from Symposium feeling like there is a strong sense among the US IT leadership community that ineffective knowledge sharing and collaboration is truly holding them back, and that not only IT Operations, but Application Development, and Enterprise Architecture teams must confront this issue head on in order to help their businesses succeed in the rapidly changing digital economy.

Fast forward to this week and the Fusion conference, which also featured a strong focus in the keynotes on the need to move faster, collaborate, and put more emphasis on the people in IT. Yes, there was also a strong emphasis on processes (this is after all the biggest ITIL-related conference of the year), but there was also a strong sense of the need to adapt to a model with “just enough” process and a greater emphasis on agility and flexibility.

What’s more, in conversations I had in the expo hall, there was a strong recognition of the need to improve collaboration and knowledge sharing in IT service support and operations. There was also a strong recognition that SharePoint isn’t the answer, but many of the attendees I spoke with also expressed a level of frustration that they had tried to convince their senior management of the need, but were shot down. In fact, the person responsible for transitioning new services into production at one of the largest insurers in the US told me that she was just going to wait until something big failed to convince management to spend resources to fix the issue. Incredible to hear, but, unfortunately, true.

Others I spoke with were more positive that they could change things, particularly those who had recently taken over service support and delivery after running another key function in IT such as data center operations or infrastructure engineering. In short, those who have been in service support and delivery for a while were resigned to an inability to affect change, while those newly in those roles were still optimistic.

Reflecting on these two experiences, it is clear to me that there is a common understanding of the need from CIOs down to practitioners that they must improve how IT collaborates, how IT shares knowledge, and, ultimately, how IT gets work done across teams. IT leaders, as evidenced by the conversations I had at Symposium, are actively looking for ideas and recommendations, but the practitioners exemplified by those at Fusion are frustrated that their past efforts have fallen on deaf ears and have in many ways accepted that they will have to “do the best with what I’ve got.”

In many cases, I believe those senior IT leaders may have been right in shooting down recommendations from practitioners that were often either what seemed like process for process sake or the opposite of everyone for themselves in a “wild west” scenario.  But we can’t let these communication problems get in the way of addressing this sense of urgency that everyone alike is feeling. IT leaders must actively work with practitioners to develop recommendations that will foster improved collaboration and knowledge-sharing across functions, and they must also work together to build the business case and justify the effort by tying it back to how this will help the business adapt and compete in a rapidly changing economy.

The alternative is nothing less than the continued marginalization of centralized IT and the flowing of IT dollars to the business, or worse the business literally going out of business because IT can’t move faster. Let me know what you think.

Matt Selheimer
VP, Marketing

Are you operationally compliant?

Thursday, October 3rd, 2013

How ready are we for our next audit? Will the auditors find any surprises and how much effort will be required to remediate them? Do we have a good handle on which policies govern which resources so we can make decisions with this information at hand?

If you are like most IT leaders, these questions are always in the back of your mind and frequently in the front of your mind as well. Businesses are more dependent on IT than ever before, and in every industry and company there are a range of laws, regulations, standards, security procedures, and other internal policies that govern data about customers, company financials, employees, and more.

Growing IT complexity, including use of cloud-based services and 3rd party service providers, combined with a long-standing pattern of scattered and tribal knowledge about IT environments, and the policies which govern them, is making it more and more difficult for IT organizations to ensure effective policy compliance.

It used to be the case that IT could demonstrate compliance by audit, issue identification, and remediation. But those days are gone in a world where IT directly touches the customer and compliance issues directly impact customers, revenue, and reputation.

Manufacturers have discovered that quality and compliance done externally to operational processes, rather than inline, have failed to achieve the desired results. In fact, the rework to remediate compliance issues in manufacturing slowed time to market and increased cost. IT must adopt a similar approach as well. IT needs ongoing policy compliance that is delivered inline as part of daily operations activities rather than measured after the fact.

We believe that harnessing your systems and people knowledge, and combining it with visual analysis and collaboration, is the key to understanding which policies govern your IT resources and enabling operational policy compliance.

According to Gartner, “Few IT organizations have effective education techniques that reinforce the purpose of policies, and help employees become self-sufficient when using policies on a day-to-day basis.” (“IT Policies Checklist and Content Best Practices,” J. Mahoney, A. Rowsell-Jones, H. Colella, 19 June 2013)

With ITinvolve , you can empower your IT teams to ensure operational policy compliance inline with their daily tasks, so IT can move faster while also proactively meeting the compliance expectations of the business. Only ITinvolve brings together knowledge, analysis, and collaboration in one solution to:

  • Easily and clearly understand and visualize the dependencies between policies, IT infrastructure, and applications
  • Identify and proactively engage the right stakeholders to assess risk
  • Integrate security events and other compliance-related data sources to provide unprecedented transparency and visibility

Watch a short video  so you can see first hand how ITinvolve will help you:

  • Avoid compliance issues from IT changes
  • Ensure issue resolution takes policy impacts into account
  • Produce an ongoing, automated audit trail as part of daily operations

Don’t wait for your next audit to find out where you aren’t compliant and how many resources need to be pulled off of critical projects to remediate the issues. Get ahead of the game and ensure you are always compliant and never fear an audit again.

Matt Selheimer
VP, Marketing

Oops, I Brought Down the Bank (and how it could have been avoided)

Wednesday, August 28th, 2013

Prior to working for ITinvolve, I spent many years managing IT Infrastructure & Operations teams. One such team was a group of engineers responsible for mid-range servers at a large bank in the New York area. We were a big NetWare and Notes shop at the time, and many of our business applications were Notes apps that read against flat files or btrieve databases hosted on drives mapped to NetWare file servers. We didn’t really understand the business criticality of many of these apps until a bright Wednesday morning in November.

What started with a simple need to make a few changes to the master login script for the bank turned into a full-blown catastrophe (and one that we could of avoided if we had been using a solution like ITinvolve). Here’s what happened.

Since changes to our login script didn’t occur often, we did a little extra due diligence to make sure we had a backup of the script, and decided to do it very early in the morning so that there would be time to fix it if we (I) screwed up the change. We thought we had done a good job of planning for the change and my director and VP agreed.

That Wednesday morning I took the 6:10AM train into work, powered up my laptop, grabbed a cup of coffee and fired up the proper utilities to make the changes, which I had written down in an email (sound familiar?). My plan was to just copy and paste between the email and the Netware admin – a 2 minute job max. As I was copying and pasting the information back and forth, though, a few folks walked in and we started chatting about Thanksgiving plans, while I continued to work on the script changes.

After they left, I hit the save button, which of course brought up the  “Are you sure?” prompt. As I moved the mouse to the “yes” button and began to raise my finger to click it, I just happened to notice that behind the window was a completely blank login script. All of a sudden everything went into slow motion as the index finger on my right hand clicked the mouse button. Even though I had noticed in that split second, it was too late. I had just erased the login script for all of the bank employees.

At that point, I thought, “Well, thankfully, we did a backup.” However, the backup person wasn’t due to arrive until 8:00AM. So I checked with another ops guy, asking him about restoring from the backup and he said, “Sure – what file do you need?”  I said, “It’s not a file; it’s an NDS object.”  “A what? I don’t know what that is or how to restore it,” he said.

At that point, I started to panic and thought, “Okay, maybe I can piece it back from memory.”  However, the script was around 15 pages long and contained lots of detailed conditions like – If Member of Group A then MAP N:=, etc. I quickly realized there was no way I could rebuild it from memory. Grasping for any solution, I thought, “Someone must have a printout of it somewhere. Who wrote this thing in the first place? He or she might know. Was there change history I could leverage?”

It turns out that no fewer than thirty people had a hand in writing and contributing to the script over the years. Of the thirty, maybe ten still worked for the bank and most had been transferred to different departments by now and wouldn’t likely remember what they had written years ago. I managed to find a couple of old hard copies of the login script, but the newest one was three years old and I was advised not to use it because it had more than likely changed a lot since then.

So I got on the phones and started a few escalations. First, I escalated the backup to restore the NDS object. The ops team was already working on this because of my earlier conversation with them, but the progress bar said it wouldn’t complete for four hours. It was just a little 50KB piece of data, but because of some other dependencies, it wouldn’t be restored until 11:00am. Next, I had to call my boss and let him know what was happening. He asked me if I knew what the potential impacts might be and I said, “Well, people won’t be able to get email, people won’t be able to access files on mapped drives and they won’t be able to print anything.” He asked me to call his boss, our VP of Infrastructure to let him know what was going on.

This was the hardest call I ever had to make in my career. When he answered, I said who I was and walked him through my epic mistake. I told him what we were doing to recover and what the ETA of the completed recovery would be. He was silent. He asked me what I thought the business impact of this was. I went on about mapped drives and printers and he stopped me mid sentence. He said that he knew the technology impacts, what he wanted me to tell him was the business impact. He then began to run through a long list of services that the bank provided that would not be able to function without the proper infrastructure mappings in place: the ATM network, branches not being able to open, checks not being printed, and the fact that many of our thousands of employees would not be able to do their jobs.

Based on his quick assessments, it was clear that I had pretty much just shut down a $12,000,000,000 bank. I really wished I could go back in time and undo what I had done.

Unfortunately, these types of simple mistakes happen in IT all the time. Maybe you haven’t brought down a major bank before, but I bet you can relate to at least a few stories where simple mistakes and unintended consequences from changes resulted in a BIG negative impact on your business.

If I had access to better documentation and a running history of changes made to the script I most likely could have recreated the script from scratch in an hour or less. If I had actually known the business value of this login script and the dependency on it for business critical functions, I wouldn’t have touched it without a much more rigorous impact analysis, I would have collaborated with my peers (and even business stakeholders) to identify ways to reduce the risk, and then executed a test for the change first, and I most certainly wouldn’t have chatted with my colleagues during the change.

With a collaborative IT management solution like ITinvolve all of this would have been possible so I could have had a much better chance of avoiding this mistake, and if it still occurred, we could have recovered much quicker and avoided a catastrophic four hour business outage.

If you’ve had a recent business impact caused by an IT change in your organization, give us a call so we can discuss how ITinvolve can help you avoid such issues in the future.

Joe Rogers
Director, Technical Services

More Infrastructure Changes with Less Risk

Thursday, August 22nd, 2013

Ask any Infrastructure & Operations leader if they’d like to handle more infrastructure changes with less risk to their business and you will get a resounding, “Yes!” However, this has been an elusive, and often frustrating goal for many. In fact, most IT organizations have so locked down their change process in order to avoid risks that the pace of change is little more than a crawl. Yet, 80% of business outages are still caused by IT changes. (A CIO of a major airline actually told me recently that it’s more like 98% of business outages are caused by IT changes for his company – ouch.)

Just last week, the New York Times experienced a high profile website and mobile application outage for three hours. At first there was speculation of a cyber attack (they had reported a denial of service attack some months earlier). But, how frustrating it must have been for their spokesperson and management to say the cause was actually — IT maintenance:

“The outage occurred within seconds of a scheduled maintenance update, which we believe was the cause,” Times spokeswoman Eileen Murphy said.

As every I&O leader knows all too well, even when changes are well-intentioned, things break. Our IT environments are becoming more and more complex and the lines and relationships between this component and that one aren’t as simple as “the knee bone connects to the leg bone.” Often, there are multiple-degree relationships between components that are hidden from understanding and critical knowledge that isn’t documented anywhere but only resides in the heads of experts who may be on vacation, been promoted, left, or let go long ago.

Without a new approach, Infrastructure & Operations organizations will continue to struggle with the pace of infrastructure changes and will generate frequent, unacceptable service interruptions leaving everyone on the business side with a bitter taste in their mouths.

That’s where ITinvolve comes in, because we have taken a fundamentally different approach that combines knowledge, analysis, visualization, and collaboration in one solution designed for IT — to accelerate changes while reducing risks. Check out this quick video to see it in action.

With ITinvolve, you will:

  • Quickly understand and visualize the impact of IT infrastructure changes
  • Engage all relevant stakeholders to assess the risk of those changes
  • Ensure exactly the right information is delivered to those who need it when they need it

The net result?

  • Faster change execution
  • Minimization of business risk
  • Increased change throughput
  • Reduction in unplanned work from IT changes
  • Improved IT performance, reliability, and security (by adopting patches and upgrades more quickly)
  • Improved change success rate

Just experiencing one of these benefits should be worthy of a conversation with one of our IT collaboration specialists. Contact us to get the discussion going. Certainly, it’s better than the status quo.

Matt Selheimer
VP, Marketing

Get the right info to the right people to make more accurate and faster decisions

Tuesday, August 6th, 2013

Every day, IT teams are under pressure to make quick yet accurate decisions. However, because IT organizations don’t typically have their collective knowledge easily accessible and usable in one place, these decisions are often made based on incomplete and often out of date information.

If not having the right information available at the right time for the right people to make good decisions is a challenge you struggle with, you are not alone.

In earlier posts in this blog series, I’ve talked about how you can use ITinvolve’s unique crowd sourcing and data federation capabilities to capture both systems-based and tribal knowledge to create a trusted, big picture view of your knowledge across each of your technology elements, policies, applications, and more.

Next you need to be able to visualize how all the elements of your environment, your policies, and your applications come together to deliver services to your business. ITinvolve provides this capability through what we call Perspectives.

Think of a perspective as a point of view on the objects and relationships necessary to deliver a service offering. Recalling our earlier analogy of the house with the ‘Million Dollar’ view, perhaps you and your spouse as well as your children all consider the view as a key attribute when shopping for a home. But maybe you are a car aficionado and want to have a three-car garage so your perspective is that this is an important aspect of the home buying decision. Perhaps your spouse likes to garden and so having a large enough green space is important to their perspective. And maybe your children want to be close to a playground or on a cul-de-sac where they can play freely without traffic so that’s part of their perspective on what house is important to them.

In IT, we have the same situation. Let’s take the example of a business application that supports Marketing. The application administrator’s perspective will include things like the application itself, the application server, and the underlying database. Because the application contains prospect and customer data, a Security administrator would care about the company’s customer privacy policy and how that governs the application as well as other applications. And a DBA’s perspective might include the Marketing application’s database, the underlying server, as well as other databases running on the same server that support other applications.

Each of these is a valuable perspective when making a decision, such as an infrastructure change that will impact the Marketing application. And each of these stakeholders should be brought together to collaborate and provide their risk assessment of the change. This is exactly what ITinvolve does and how we leverage your organization’s collective knowledge to provide impact analysis and proactively engage stakeholders so you can get the right info to the right people to make more accurate and faster decisions.

Check out this 3-minute video to see how it works. If you’re interested to learn more about how you can get the right info to the right people at the right time, sign up for a free trial.

Matt Selheimer
VP, Marketing

How Do You Capture Tribal Knowledge?

Thursday, July 25th, 2013

In the previous installment in this blog series, I wrote about how peer review and social collaboration can help you increase trust in your IT information. And in the blog prior to that, I wrote about how ITinvolve can help you create a “million dollar” view of all your systems-based IT knowledge.

In our experience, this will get you about 70% of the way there in documenting your key IT knowledge. However, there is still another 30% of your collective IT knowledge out there. In fact, it probably walks out the door every day (and hopefully comes back the next day.) Of course I am talking about the knowledge and experience that only your IT staff possesses and that’s trapped in their heads and not documented anywhere.

This “tribal” knowledge is often difficult or simply impossible to discover using automated discovery tools and your staff is often so busy that they just don’t have the time to document it. Worse yet, even if they did have the time, you probably don’t have systems that could easily accommodate it and the ability to make it available for use by other staff members. Whether we are talking about start up and shut down parameters for a specific server, performance-tuning settings that diverge from standard build specs, relationships between infrastructure components that aren’t discoverable, etc. this tribal knowledge is often the most critical to ensuring stable operations and mitigating risks when making changes.

Consider the example of the performance tuning settings mentioned above. Let’s say an engineer was working on an emergency change to address performance issues for an application running on a particular server. He or she may have modified several or even dozens of settings such as disabling logging or increase the threads for a process to improve the performance. Now let’s say one or more of these changes is a divergence from the standard build. More than likely your engineer made these changes hastily because of the performance issues, and so it may not have been handled through your change management process but rather treated simply as incident resolution.

Now, let’s say this engineer leaves, gets a job in a new team, or simply forgets them. No one will know about these key setting changes and why they were done. They won’t be taken into consideration when planning changes for that server, and they might even get overwritten by a new engineer because an audit identifies they are out of compliance with the standard and put you right back in the performance dog house again!

ITinvolve makes it easy for your IT teams to quickly and easily capture this hidden tribal knowledge, helping you create a truly comprehensive view of your collective systems-based and human knowledge. What’s more, by following objects other users can be notified when new information and knowledge is added, and can collaborate with one another if there are questions or if they have something new to contribute such as a key setting that they may have added and not documented. Watch this short video to see and learn more about how it’s done.

In our next blog entry in this series, I will share how you can create a personalized view of the objects in ITinvolve that are more relevant to your role, a patent-pending concept we call Perspectives.

Matt Selheimer
VP, Marketing