Are IT Organizational Structures a Barrier to Business Service Management Success?

Let’s face it, here in North America most IT organizations are structured around functional silos of expertise. It’s not uncommon to see the Network Group, Windows Server Group, Unix Server Group, Mainframe Group, Application Group, Operations Group (NOC/OCC/ECC, etc), Tech Support/Help Desk, etc. These functional silos support everything and anything the IT organization delivers for the business. Organizing this way seems to be the norm here in the United States as it allows for certain economies of scale to be achieved in the functional silo areas. I’ve seen weekly/monthly reports highlighting measures such as “server admins per 100 servers” or “network engineers per 100 interfaces” as the key contribution from within the functional silo. The “we can do more with less” battle cry was born of the days of controlling costs and headcount. This process of organizing to achieve economies of scale is generally fairly broad at the lower levels of the IT infrastructure and tapers as you progress up the stack. There are fewer experts in the application areas, fewer database, web and application server administrators, etc. About the only time you see someone who claims ownership for a key business or IT service may be found in a “Product Manager” type role serving as a bridge (roadblock) between IT and the business.

Let’s look at this from the operations perspective. The typical Network Operations Center (NOC), Operations Center, Enterprise Command Center (ECC) or Help Desk are the “ones” who get “stuck” with some level of responsibility for how the business, clients, customers, etc. use the sum of all the parts developed and delivered by those functional IT silos. They get the calls that the service is unavailable, that transactions are failing, that the business is being impacted by poorly performing IT services, applications, etc. They resemble the responsible party, but generally aren’t given the responsibility, access, authority or tools to be anything more than ticket and triage experts who know how to follow the run book to escalate the tickets before the timer for the SLA is violated. Fair enough, this capability is needed.

But who really owns the service? Who owns the business experience? Who owns and is responsible for poorly performing services that impact business goals and objectives? Who doesn’t get their bonus paid out in full? Who gets a poor performance review? Who will stand up and take responsibility for the end-to-end service instead of pointing a finger towards another functional silo? Who will work with the business directly, in partnership, to manage the service as a whole, top to bottom, across all technologies, integration points, applications, and functional IT silos?

You’re all very well aware of how these organizations work. There is constant focus and incentives on silo specific tasks, projects and activities over end-to-end service delivery goals and objectives. Finger pointing, territorial mud slinging, gnashing of teeth, etc. are the water cooler conversations after the traditional “all hands on deck troubleshooting crisis conference bridge” session is complete. Do the goals and objectives of Business Service Management (BSM) have a chance becoming reality in these environments? I don’t think so. If these groups can’t check their emotions and egos at the door and realize that they exist for the business to meet business goals and objectives, Business Service Management will never mature to a high level in the Business Service Management maturity model. Yes, Business Service Management projects often start within these organizations. Yes, Business Service Management projects may be viewed as successful in these environments. But moving up the maturity model to a point where quantifiable value and direct business improvement can be measured will be a significant challenge in these organizations.

I don’t think this end-to-end service owner is the VP or Director of IT, MIS, or other common IT management roles or functions. They certainly play a role, but I have a feeling they’re just too distracted with the other pressures of running IT organizations today. I don’t think this is the Operations Center or Help Desk. These folks are often in the trenches, fighting fires, and dreaming of getting in front of problems rather than reacting to them. They do a great job managing the lifecycle of outages and incidents in the IT environment, escalating, communicating and manning the phones and this is a needed function as well. I’m not sure if this needs to be a new organization that breaks down those functional silos into functional service silos. It may make sense in smaller organizations to consider this, but you do need to have some economies of scale to manage larger environments. I see the early stages of Service Managers here in the USA but these tend to be too closely aligned with ITIL and IT process improvement efforts. They don’t appear to have enough responsibility to do anything other than define SLA/OLA/UPC’s related to service delivery and support.

Does a service management/ownership matrix overlay organization make sense? A matrix overlay that has named senior level ownership responsibility for each service where this senior level owner may be from the IT side or the business side of the organization. One that joins together named functional SME’s across the service delivery, service support silos AND from the business side to form a cross-functional, cross-organizational team that can step up to the plate in terms of service delivery and support ownership. One that has complete ownership of the service, associated transactions, processes, activities and flows that deliver IT and business services. Their goals and objectives would be aligned to service delivery and support that is in complete alignment with business goals and objectives.

Expanding the tenants of Business Service Management and IT – Business Alignment across an organizational structure similar to this would be a huge step forward in realizing the true and measurable value of Business Service Management. Aligning technology components with the business services and applications they deliver and support is an initial step, but aligning people, process, goals and objectives with the same is HUGE. I’d be very interested to hear your thoughts and comments on these ideas. What works, what doesn’t work, are organizations thinking like this? Am I way off base thinking like this???

Additional food for thought:

  • New roles of the service aligned organization: Business Service Management (BSM) Analyst, Business Service Management (BSM) Architect, Business Service Architect, Service Modeling Architect, Transaction Management Engineer, Process Management Engineer
  • Traditional IT organization management evolves into the emerging Enterprise Architecture function
  • Shared IT Services, Virtualization, Grid and Utility Computing could be a key component to underpin this service aligned organization
  • How to sell / deploy BSM into the “traditional” IT organization
  • How to sell / deploy BSM into an emerging and evolving IT organization

6 Comments

  1. […] Doug McClure: Are IT Organizational Structures a Barrier to Business Service Management Success? “Let’s face it, here in North America most IT organizations are structured around functional silos of expertise. It’s not uncommon to see the Network Group, Windows Server Group, Unix Server Group, Mainframe Group, Application Group, Operations Group (NOC/OCC/ECC, etc), Tech Support/Help Desk, etc. These functional silos support everything and anything the IT organization delivers for the business. Organizing this way seems to be the norm here in the United States as it allows for certain economies of scale to be achieved in the functional silo areas.” […]

  2. […] Doug McClure has an insightful post where he describes the landscape most of us face when trying to implement a BSM solution. “Let’s face it, here in North America most IT organizations are structured around functional silos of expertise. It’s not uncommon to see the Network Group, Windows Server Group, Unix Server Group, Mainframe Group, Application Group, Operations Group (NOC/OCC/ECC, etc), Tech Support/Help Desk, etc. “ […]

  3. doug November 8, 2006 at 8:39 pm

    Thanks for the comments and additional food for thought Berkay in your blog posting.

    I agree that sposorship is a key ingriedient to BSM, ITSM/ITIL projects, etc. I wonder just how much business buy in and sposorships really happens or if the business just goes into \”yet another IT project, initiaive, capital money request\” mode and really doesn\’t get involved, ask the right questions, commit the right resources, etc.

    Hope to hear more feedback and ideas!

    Doug

  4. […] Providing “best infrastructure/service” is expensive and difficult. It requires significant resources and organizational maturity that is elusive. Very few organizations manage to overcome the organizational challenges that impede service oriented management (ITSM, BSM, etc) and change the way they work. (read Doug McClure’s post that I mentioned in my previous post). […]

  5. Troy DuMoulin November 16, 2006 at 11:53 pm

    Since the advent of Henry Ford’s Model T and the creation of complex assembly lines, organizational designs have focused on breaking apart complex processes into individual tasks – the result of which manifests itself as silo or stove pipe based organizational charts where the right hand has little knowledge of what the left hand is doing.

    As technically focused IT shops transition into service organizations, it is essential to re-join what has been artificially separated. What is occurring when an organization defines a IT Services and Process, is that two new virtual horizontal organizational structures are being established on top of the traditional domain-based silos.

    Both processes and IT services require this horizontal ownership and management. Otherwise we manage IT component in mytyical isolation.

    Troy
    http://blogs.pinkelephant.com/troy

  6. […] CMDB, an open source solution for enterprises. He shares the problem of IT organizations being structured around functional silos of expertise and too focused on technology, hence there is a gap between IT organizations and the […]

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