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2017

With many technologies, keeping current and supportable is becoming more and more difficult. If your organization hasn’t or can’t move to SaaS-based solutions, it’s up to your IT team to ensure that your organization is getting the best value from your software—and that the cost of supporting out-of-date software doesn’t impact your budget negatively.

Whilst you are focusing on your core business and rightly directing resources to projects at the forefront of your IT strategy, niche areas like enterprise management are often left to wither. Ultimately, they become a ball and chain as backlogs increase and technical debt mounts.

Compounding the problem is the fact that internal resources lose skill sets and the knowledge required to maintain and grow certain software solutions. This often results in capital projects in which a new vendor’s solutions are deployed to fix ailing environments. This creates a sine wave of value as you cycle from vendor to vendor—when what you really want is to steadily climb the maturity/value ladder.

That’s were CA’s Application Management Services’ (AMS) TechOps and Adoption Services come in. AMS helps organizations avoid this unfortunate situation and guides them with the experience, resources and best practices that allow you to ride the value curve, gain many benefits of a SaaS solution, and stay at the top.

From its inception, AMS was, for want of a better phrase, a ‘lights-on service’ for your environment; we call it TechOps. Near-shore teams take the day-to-day tasks away from your own over-committed resources; they maintain and monitor your system to ensure optimum performance and reduce risk. But AMS is much more than that. I’ve also observed an increase in cadence from customer delivery teams who, thanks to AMS, can get on with delivering services to the business, confident in the knowledge that everything they produce is well maintained, current and, above all, delivering what the business needs.

Companies like CA that offer application management services must, of course, make money, and that means that the solutions they manage must be in the best shape possible—otherwise, everyone loses. By virtue of effective management, your organization’s spot on the maturity curve is secure and stable—but this is only half the story. Without Adoption Services to supplement TechOps, your organization would stagnate at a point of stall; this is where the Adoption Services component of AMS kicks in.

The use of Adoption Services signals an organization’s intent to climb the maturity curve. CA collaborates with your team to map your strategy to a book of work with fixed outcomes that will deliver the business value you need from your software. This outcome-driven approach is adaptable to change, but the CA Services team focuses on achieving your goals by translating business requirements into operational and technical output. This process enables you to clear backlogs, clear up technical debt and move forward with new challenges. Many AMS customers have seen this approach, which meshes well with agile delivery, increase the tempo of project delivery.

I recently worked with several customers who reaped the benefit of AMS’ TechOps and Adoption Services. Having spent many years delivering software projects that never seem to move beyond phase one of maturity, I’m happy to say that working with customers who embrace the AMS philosophy has allowed me to use my knowledge and experience to deliver excellent value from their investment in CA software. In my book, AMS is a winner!

For many customers, the process of building meaningful services models in CA SOI can seem daunting. They encounter numerous challenges, such as issues with the underlying domain management layer and/or deploying multiple services with generic data sources, which leads to poor results—and even poorer adoption.

 

After witnessing this scenario a few times myself, some of my UK-based colleagues and I got together to find a way to make our customers’ journey along the service-driven enterprise management path easier—and more rewarding. We developed what we call the Spotlight approach, a series of four workshops that starts with a CA Services team gaining an understanding of the business significance of various services and ends with a fully configured CA Service Operations Insight (SOI) model.

 

For this approach to be effective (that is, enable customers to realize their vision of service-driven enterprise management), each series of workshops shines a spotlight on a single critical business service selected by the customer. You may conduct workshops for a few services in parallel, or you can do them sequentially.

 

The CA Services team leads four one-hour Spotlight workshops that together give a full picture of the service, from the business down to individual IT components. (As a point of information, Spotlight workshops are not designed to focus on technical debts such as component upgrades, unless they are essential to improving the service model. And any new monitoring requirements need to be acute to the service model we are building.) Here are more details about each workshop:

 

  • Workshop 1—Business: We establish the nature of the selected service, who uses the service, its purpose and why it’s critical to the business. Attendees include a CA Services architect, the customer’s service product and/or business owners and the customer’s service catalogue owner.
  • Workshop 2—Incident/Problem Management: We discuss the current health and technical makeup of the selected service. This leads to better understanding of how supporting applications fit together, what the critical access points are, and general characteristics and behavior. Attendees include a CA Services architect and the customer’s incident/problem manager and operations manager/lead.
  • Workshop 3—Operations: We examine how the service and its applications are managed day to day. By understanding current methods and challenges, we can determine the best way to represent the service in CA SOI. Attendees include a CA Services architect and the customer’s operations manager/lead and lead operations technician.
  • Workshop 4—Technical: A deep technical dive into the as-is state of monitoring. We use the knowledge gained here to develop technical recommendations and prerequisites required to on-board the selected service to CA SOI. We also use it to produce a project plan and estimate deployment deliverables. Attendees include a CA Services architect, CA senior consultant, and the customer’s systems engineer for monitoring tools.

 

Once the plan is complete, we draw up an estimate of effort and prerequisites. The next step is to execute the plan and promote the model into production.

 

In my experience, the Spotlight approach illuminates the customer’s path to success by maturing the customer’s monitoring capability and delivering real value quickly and effectively.

 

Inquiring minds want to know: What have you challenges/successes been in building meaningful services models in CA SOI? Please share your experience below.

Today's IT professional is much different from even five years ago. In addition to our IT savvy, we need business savvy. We have to be able to communicate with a wide variety of people. Even when we’re in an enterprise IT department, everyone is considered a customer. Today's IT professional must be just that: professional. We can no longer afford to be nerds.

There is also the matter of technology itself. If we expect vendors to stay on the cutting edge, we also need to adapt. We all want to be an expert at everything we put our minds to, but that’s not practical. It’s much more effective to be conversant in many subjects, fluent in a few, and expert in our current responsibility, knowing that it will continue to change. These days, organizations value people who know how to find what they need to do their job, do what needs to be done, and move on.

The way I see it, reinventing myself means embracing change and innovating my own techniques and tools so that I can deliver results that others find valuable. We need to differentiate ourselves, just as organizations do. The innovations we make can be technical, but they can also be related to business, relationships, communication, etc. These strategies should help.

Strategy #1

Identify your individual strengths and how they can contribute to organizational success, and build on those strengths. Try a mix of training courses, a mentoring relationship, or a new project outside of your comfort zone.

Strategy #2

You may wonder about your weaknesses—everyone does. I’ve heard that Tiger Woods wasn’t great in the sand trap, but instead of accepting his weakness, he worked it till he was good enough to get out of the trap. Identify your weaknesses, exploit them, and turn them into a strength—or at least to the point that they are not career enders.

Strategy #3

Cross train within your own team. There’s no need to go deep; ask your peers about issues that matter to them and learn enough so that you can talk intelligently with them about those issues and share the load. Learn about tools your team uses: the terms, the architecture, and how they work. The best ways to do this are to take an online course and read the “getting started” product docs. If you’re like me (and I suspect you are), it’ll be hard to avoid getting sucked into playing with whatever product you’re learning about. Avoid that temptation; just get “good enough” and then take on more. The positive side effects of this intra-team cross training are numerous: growth of mutual respect, better teamwork, improved relationships, and becoming more valuable to the business.

Strategy #4

Cross-train across practices. If you’re an infrastructure management expert, reach across the aisle and get training in, say, security or service management. As I mentioned in my last post, don’t get married to a tool. (I’m sure there are some spouses who think they’re married to a tool—no, not that kind…) What I mean is that there’s a difference between being an expert and being pigeon-holed. Think of it this way: Every system integrates with other systems, so learn how your area of specialty interacts with others. If you can converse in the concepts and terms of your peers across the aisle, you will gain respect and improve the quality of your own ideas.  Like learning another language, you don’t need to be fluent, but you should know the basics when you’re in a foreign place. In any case, dive right in: You will survive and prosper.

Strategy #5

Expand your horizons to understand how your company does business. Trace your job all the way up the chain of command, understand how the initiatives you’re working on (or want to work on) relate to portfolio management and architecture, and become aware of how they relate to the organization’s strategic goals, business model and mission.

Strategy #6

If you want to dive deeper and your company doesn’t offer appropriate courses, take or audit a few business or IT management courses. You don’t have to go whole hog and get a degree.  Many universities offer certificate programs. For example, in the mid-2000s I took a series of courses at UC San Diego toward a certificate in Systems Engineering that I found extremely helpful as a systems administrator and that laid the foundation for the skills I use as an IT architect. Another favorite course was Accounting for Non-Accountants (again, UCSD). I chose these courses specifically because they were glaring gaps in my knowledge (and, honestly, I had quite a bit of fear that they were beyond my capability to comprehend). But I faced my fears, took on something way outside of my normal job, and the payoff has been huge. Succeeding in these courses convinced me that I could continue my education in mid-career, which I did, completing my BSCIS in 2005 and MS in IT Management in 2015. Just because you may have failed at something in high school doesn’t mean you’re incapable of learning as an adult. On the contrary, your life experience may have set the foundation to learn a skill that could become your new specialty!

These strategies will help you do more than simply weather the storms of change or embrace change; they will help you become an agent of change! I hope that this will help you adapt and innovate in your roadmap to personal reinvention. Good luck!

If you want to chew the fat or comment about this post, comment below or email me at sean.onion@ca.com.