ABC’s of Modern IT Operations Management Amidst the COVID-19 Era

Updated: Feb 5, 2021

(A practical IT leader’s guide towards value creation during and after the Global COVID-19 pandemic and see WTF looks like)


WTF (What The Future) looks like? Perhaps the most common question that most of us have amidst this global pandemic chaos and economic catastrophe we are currently in. COVID-19 is expected to single-handedly bring an economic turmoil impacting global trade by about 13% to 32% and a 30-40% reduction in foreign direct investment, indicating a reset of the global financial clock between 10-12 years ago, according to the WTO. As a result, many companies’ survival is threatened, resulting in massive lay-offs and looming bankruptcies. Organizations of all sizes that continue to wage war against this invisible enemy have sought refuge in their digital capabilities to keep their companies afloat in this turbulent time, putting a lot of pressure on the shoulders of their poor IT departments.

But, we all know that, Noah didn’t’ built his Ark when it was already raining and Blacky (the brother who built a cement house in the story of the 3 Little Pigs) made his due diligence, prepped-up, then invested a lot to be ready for the Big Bad Wolf. This gives rise to the fundamental question, are companies and IT organizations who did not prepare ahead of time doomed for eternity? Perhaps they maybe a little bit too late into the digital ballgame, but there’s no reason to despair -- it’s never too late to start. As they say, "the best way to plant a tree is 20 years ago, the second best time is -- NOW!"
[This series of blog articles will discuss, among other things not just how to survive, but how to thrive and create value to your organizations as an IT department in this difficult time using modern IT management mindset]

The IT Operations Management Paradigm Shift

According to ITIL (IT Infrastructure Library), “the objective of IT Operations Management is to monitor and control IT infrastructure and services. It executes day-to-day routine tasks related to the operation of infrastructure components and applications. It is responsible for managing the capacity, performance, and availability of all the components in an organization's IT ecosystem.” While this is a good definition, it is a little deprecated. IT operations' role had significantly evolved from simply being experts in technology to being experts in value creation, especially in this time of crisis. As such, we need to re-tool, re-invent, and re-purpose ourselves to stay relevant and be at the forefront of today’s service value system, to co-create value within the organizations we belong to amidst this trying time.

I will try to expound and allot a blog article on each concept as my time permits, but for now, here are the main thoughts around the ABC’s of Modern IT Operations Management:

Act fast and deliver fast. Fast IT is the new norm. Leverage strategic speed (i.e., clarity, unity, and agility) is key. Those IT departments who could enable their businesses and organizations to telework without impacting their ability to serve their customers are now heralded, heroes.

Business and not IT must be the end-goal of any technological and digitization efforts. Don’t implement technology for the sake of technology. Technology is a means toward a business end.

Customer-centric IT is the secret sauce to value creation -- with collaboration, co-design, co-enablement, and cultural considerations as main ingredients. Work and collaborate diligently with your users and customers. Listening and understanding their requirements will improve your hit rate in delivering quality IT services and co-creating value to your organization.

Design with your users and customers in mind. There is no secret that organizations must develop products and services that will provide a meaningful and long-lasting positive experience to keep customers loyal to their products or brands. In this challenging time, where the only thing missing is a zombie attack, most companies will have to rethink and reshape their strategies to survive. The world will never be the same again. So, everybody will have to redo their game plan; the faster — the better. You need your brands and products to be synonymous with the wordssafe, caring, and resilient.”

Evolve or be extinct, from Technocrats to Business Re-inventors.  What brought you here will not keep you here! Innovate or die!  Besides bringing reliable and cost-efficient IT services, modern IT organizations are expected to innovate in this turbulent time.

Focus your digitization efforts on contributing to the bottom line. Everything boils down to increasing throughput, reducing inventory, and lowering operating expenses. If your digitization efforts do not pass this litmus test, then consider rethinking your strategy.

Gemba’s GSA (Go, See, and Act) Management is Really About Walking the Talk Management. You’ll learn more about your users/customers/employees and their pain-points by going out there in the field and experience what they are experiencing. We can no longer hide behind our desks and develop things according to our limited imaginations then expect a breakthrough to happen. The bigger challenge now, however, is how can we effectively do this remotely?

Hire the best, train them to be better than you, promote them, then repeat. True leaders breed other leaders. People are still the best asset of any company. In IT, cheap resources oftentimes become more expensive in the end.

IoT devices are inundating the world and are becoming cognitively better day by day with more robust AI engines. But, as these 30 Billion devices become more pervasive in our lives, cybersecurity will be the main challenge that IT Operations will have to grapple with.

Just do IT! — the Greek goddess of victory suggests to the IT folks out there. IT folks are notorious for over-thinking, over-designing, and over-complicating things. Oftentimes, implementing a minimum viable product and evolving it through small iterations through time is far more superior than delivering something perfect after 2 years. Fail fast, succeed fast. Have a clear road-map and follow it through, and when there are road-blocks — do course-corrections and seek alternative routes.

Keep what you need, get rid of the rest – Law of Information Conservation.

Lean and agile are not just buzzwords; you need to live and breathe by them. Lean means you need to be nimble and quick, and agile means you need to be flexible and willing to change or do course corrections.

Measure what matters and manage them with the system. Simply measuring IT uptime is passé. You need to be able to correlate your IT uptime with business uptime. Measure what counts to the business, not just to IT.

OKR (Objective and Key Results) is a methodology developed by the legendary Andy Grove of Intel. It is a framework for defining and tracking objectives and their outcomes. If you don’t have one, develop yourself something right away. Again, make sure it’s lined up with your company’s goals and objectives.

Promote the safety, health, happiness, and well-being of your team. Without them, we are nothing.

Quick response to IT incidents and problems is still the raison d’etre of IT Operations Management. Good IT Operators are the ones who can bring systems back online fast when an outage occurs, but the best ones would build high availability and redundancy to prevent them.

RTI (Real-Time Infrastructure) is sharing IT infrastructure resources across different consumers or customers that can be dynamically optimized to achieve the best end-to-end service levels at the lowest price. Gone are the days of waiting for IT resources to be purchased, delivered, and deployed. Take advantage of cloud-based Infrastructure as a Service solution.

SDWAN (Software-Defined Wide Area Network) enables companies to build higher-performance and efficient networks using lower-cost and commercially available cable internet or 4G/5G technologies. This allows organizations to replace their more expensive-inefficient-hard to deploy traditional MPLS networks.

Transformation to digital requires breaking through the generational gap barrier. It requires time and a lot of influencing before your customers and employees alike become naturalized digital netizens.

Unified communication is converging voice, data, and video into the same network infrastructure. It will reduce cost and improve overall user experience by integrating other work tools and providing ubiquity.

Value creation must be your core focus. ITIL v4 emphasizes that the service value chain (the how’s) and service value streams (the detailed activities) must be clearly mapped to the value they provide in the form of services and products, a.k.a. service value stream.

Working remotely has become the de-facto standard nowadays, or at least for those who can. IT must be ready to support pervasive computing to enable employees to work anywhere, anytime, and by any means. Ubiquitous computing and teleworking have become necessities during this pandemic to allow back-office workers to continue providing key services to their organizations and ultimately to the communities they serve.

X by Y should mean “output X by date Y” instead of “X given Y,” which is an expression of conditional probabilities. Rather than a condition, it should be treated as a declaration of a target, for example, X (99.99% availability of the network by Y June). There is power in "declaration."

Zero-in on what really matters. Cut to the chase. Your organization needs you to make it more efficient, sell more, serve the customers better, spend less, and triumph over this pandemic. Everything that you do must connect to one of these goals to co-create value and perpetuate your relevance – now more than ever.

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