Seven Tips to Help Keep IT Competitive

Dick Benton, a Principal Consultant for GlassHouse Technologies, has worked with numerous Fortune 1000 clients in a wide range of industries to develop and execute business aligned strategies for technology governance, cloud computing and disaster recovery.

Dick Benton GlasshouseDICK BENTON

When employees start swiping the company card to sign up for Amazon Web Services, IT has a problem on its hands. The widespread use of external cloud services within enterprises not only threatens the relevancy of IT departments, but presents countless regulatory, compliance and budgetary issues for CEOs, CIOs and CFOs. Plus, these activities can be directly in conflict with an enterprise’s larger business objectives. However, employees will continue to seek outside cloud offerings until IT departments develop a better sense of how their cloud services align with company goals and user expectations.

In essence, IT needs to become a true service provider to its internal users. Users like the efficiency, elasticity and customizability they get from public cloud offerings. Thus, IT must deliver those same benefits, and in a way that not only improves the quality of services rendered, but delivers higher productivity levels and, ultimately, more revenue. To do so takes not only the right hardware and software, but strategic implementations and management principles that will ensure IT services are being used, and being used effectively, to advance an enterprise’s strategic objectives.

To that end, here are seven key tips IT departments should take to heart if they want to begin building a better service strategy for their internal users:

  • Know what you’ve got. Ensure you can run an inventory on your available compute and storage assets. Internal cloud is about managing your supply and demand to meet user expectations. (See First Key column.)
  • Figure out what it costs. Develop a cost model so you can determine the cost per deployable unit of your compute and storage resources. You don’t have to have a charge-back, but you do need to be able to show costs and report on cost usage. (See Second Key column.)
  • Create your own menu of services. Identify what services you will offer in small, medium and large packages or in a standard, advanced and premium class. Just like an L.L. Bean catalog, this is an inventory of your services, including what sizes and styles are available for each offering. (See Third Key column.)
  • Advertise the Ts and Cs. Develop a service level agreement (SLA) containing a simple and easy to read list of the Terms and Conditions under which services are supplied. Roles and responsibilities for both parties are included here. These can be as simple as time-to-provision and guaranteed availability. (See Fourth Key column.)
  • Build the Order Process. Cloud is distinguished by automated self service. For example, how closely you can get to being able to offer your services on a web page, which will trigger scripts to automatically provision the selected resource. (See Fifth Key column.)
  • Prove what you delivered. If you are going to supply services in various categories and under various SLAs, you need to implement monitoring and metrics to demonstrate that you have met your commitments (both to users and your own management).
  • Capture User Satisfaction. Build surveys into your service ordering and service fulfillment procedures. Run a quarterly satisfaction survey on your users. Differentiate between most frequent users and least frequent users.

These are some preliminary guidelines to help IT optimize their cloud services and maintain control over the effectiveness of internal operations. However, volumes upon volumes could be written on this topic, especially as public cloud service providers extend the range and depth of their offerings, setting expectations higher.

The best thing IT managers can do in the meantime is be confident in the fact that nobody knows their users like they do. Or at least they should, and if they don’t, then they better start learning.

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