When I was younger, I ate alphabet soup. I stirred the broth and watched the letters as they swirled around. Many times, simple words rose to the top. As I learned to read, I would exclaim the new found word. Little did I know that as I matured, letters would continue to swirl and new found words and acronyms would continue to form. The IT broth has been stirred. While not necessarily new, PMO, CobiT and ITIL seem to be rising to the top of the bowl in the IT industry.
Fig. 1: Three Avenues To Better IT Infrastructure Services
We have three, and more, efforts trying to solve the IT dilemma – providing quality services in an ever changing environment while aligning with business requirements and drivers. We need to understand these three – PMO, ITIL and CobiT, and how they integrate to provide the best IT Infrastructure services. The questions we need to answer are
- how will each effort support our need of aligning business requirements and IT infrastructure;
- why do we need three efforts instead of consolidating them into one;
- how do they integrate, compliment and overlap; and
- how do we use them to our benefit?
This article introduces a series of articles describing the various components and how they integrate forming a comprehensive governance of IT within your organization. Each component is not mutually exclusive of the others; in fact, they are greatly complementary. The overlap provides us the opportunities to better understand IT relationship to and support of the business requirements for your organization. IT is no longer a cost center draining the organization of precious resources, but becomes a strategic weapon supporting the business in its efforts to out maneuver the competition and branch into new markets. Although we have often heard that statement, the use of CobiT and ITIL provides the mean to make it true.
By necessity, we will only introduce the various topics at a very high level, saving the details for the later articles in the series. We have purposely simplified these complex areas in order to introduce them, but we will add the details later. So, if you are an expert in these areas already, bare with us as we bring the rest of the readership up-to-speed. We discuss three elephants of understanding, so we need to only chew what we are able. If you are a neophyte, welcome and fasten your seatbelts – turbulence ahead.
Let’s start our journey by understanding briefly the five components within the system as shown in Figure 2: Business requirements and drivers, IT/IS Systems, Services and Infrastructure, Project Management Office (PMO), Information Technologies Infrastructure Library (ITIL) and Control OBjectives for Information and related Technologies (CobiT).
Fig. 2: PMO, CobiT, ITIL Integration
Business Requirements and Drivers
The business requirements and drivers determine the direction of the organization. The IT infrastructure is expected to support that direction. In many cases, the business requirements are not adequately documented or communicated to the IT personnel to gain such support. Additionally, the requirements speak a different language than the IT department.
The CIO and IT Management translate between the business needs and the IT infrastructure reality. Without a standard approach to such translation, it may not be as accurate as needed. The results: a mismatch between the infrastructure and the needs, festering frustrations and creating divisions. Unfortunately, this incomplete or inconsistent translation is not seen until well into the process of implementation or even during actual use. The cost of fixing such a dilemma becomes exorbitant. Industry studies show that over 66% of IT-based projects fail!
By using a standard approach with appropriate metrics and life-cycle planning, we begin to mate the business requirements and IT infrastructure realities. Within the standard approach, we add auditing ability to give us the checks-n-balances needed to assure we obtain the proper return on investments.
IT/IS Systems, Infrastructures – Realities
The IT infrastructure and systems support the ongoing business. It meets the needs for the users’ day-to-day operations and any new development work. The infrastructure includes desktop and server machines, networks, storage, and software used to meet business demands. Software includes the general purpose programs such as word processors, spreadsheet and presentation software, email, etc. It also includes specialty software such as CAD/CAM, publishing, accounting, CRM, ERP, etc.
The infrastructure becomes a reality based upon the business requirements understanding and established through some type of project procedure. The goal is to evolve the infrastructure as the business requirements change and mold to market conditions. One problem that exists is the rapidity of requirements changing versus the speed of evolution of the IT infrastructure. Add to that disparity the non-standard method of translating business requirements into infrastructure reality and the lack of auditable metrics, we begin to see the quandary we possess.
PMO – Project Management Office
The Project Management Office is a virtual organization within your organization that is populated with people who manage projects. Projects translate business requirements into IT infrastructure realities to be used for the business evolution. The PMO dispatches a project manager to manage a project which implements the desired solution. In a perfect world, the end result would match the business requirements. Using best practices and standard procedures, the project manager guides the project to the desired results with full acceptance from the users and receives standing ovations and a hero’s welcome. Right?!
The Project Management industry has done an admirable job in defining the process from requirements to reality, but by their very definition, their responsibility ends at project completion. A project is a temporary endeavor to produce a unique product or service (PMBOK). The definition defines a beginning and end to a project. Once the project is complete, there is no ongoing feedback loop to evaluate the results of the project. The project manager’s responsibility is complete.
Ongoing monitoring of the project’s results must occur in light of the business requirements that drove the project in the first place. Are the results still in line with the business requirements? Did the requirements change? Did the market factors that defined the requirements change? If so, should we change the infrastructure? What is the process? How do we determine the financial impact? These and many more questions start flooding one’s mind.
ITIL – Information Technologies Infrastructure Library
Enter ITIL – Information Technologies Infrastructure Library. ITIL is a collection of best practices that help move business requirements through the project stage, into the reality or implementation stage and provides the life-cycle feedback necessary to keep the infrastructure aligned with those requirements. Driven from the technical community to better understand requirements from its primary customers – the business user and management, ITIL standardizes the language so business requirements translate into technical terms properly, or at least, consistently.
ITIL is not a “how’s to” guide to better IT Service Management. It is a framework of practices to measure, validate, and report against the business needs and requirements. It shows how the IT infrastructure works together to meet the business needs. In other words, it lets the business dictate the implementation of IT services and infrastructure rather than letting the latest IT advance push the business to its adoption. More importantly, it uses a common vocabulary to promote synergy between the business drivers and IT implementations. It becomes a collection of documents outlining the process from requirements to implementation and back to requirements.
Two versions dominate the ITIL landscape today: version 2 and version 3. Version 3 has been ratified and is being introduced to organizations now. Version 3 is an evolution of version 2.
Version 2 focused on process development. It defines the necessary best practices to create IT realities from business requirements. Using common vocabulary, business users could articulate their needs at the beginning of the implementation process and then measure the outcomes once the IT infrastructure was deployed. Version 2 looked at specific discrete areas and disciplines, so it was seen as “silo focused.” Version 3 takes those best practices, now that they are defined in Version 2, and applies them in a holistic view of the organization. It provides a feedback loop using the common vocabulary and best practices into the requirements process giving us a tangible, business life-cycle from requirements identification and definition to implementation to acceptance and back into the requirements phase again. It provides the step-wise refinement necessary in IT evolution for constant business support.
In Figure 2 above, we can see that ITIL underlies the first three components discussed: Business Requirements, PMO and IT Infrastructure and Services (the blue ellipse). As you can see from the life-cycle arrows, it starts before a project initiates, continues during the PMO’s involvement and lasts long after the project manager has gone home.
The PMO uses ITIL’s framework to ensure proper monitoring and adjustments necessary to align the project results with the business requirements. The life-cycle arrows show the feedback loop going back into the PMO resulting in infrastructure changes and so on. The PMO does not obviate the need for ITIL, nor does ITIL displace the PMO. The PMO provides the methodology for a systematic step formation for managing projects. ITIL provides the components projects must supply for future monitoring of the projects’ outcomes.
CobiT – Control OBjectives for Information and related Technologies
Control OBjectives for Information and related Technologies (CobiT) comes from the audit industry. From the fallout of Enron and other notable large organizations’ scandals, we see the rise of legislation and regulations requiring accountability in all facets of companies. Because of regulations such as Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX), every aspect of business comes under the microscope of the auditors. IT is no exception. CobiT is a framework of good practices that places audit points into IT services so that we can determine financial accountability. It goes beyond the financial aspect and compliments the tenets espoused in ITIL. So while ITIL documents the life-cycle of IT infrastructure and services, CobiT keeps our attention to the audit criteria and gives us the checkpoints needed to assure compliance. CobiT defines 34 audit points that span ITIL’s domain – before project initiation and lasts long after the project is over. It provides a life-cycle as ITIL does, but it focuses more on a direct correlation between business requirements and IT infrastructure realities financially. It underpins the PMO with audit points.
PMO, ITIL, CobiT – three acronyms formed by the swirling IT broth. Each focuses on different aspects of the IT business. Each hope to convert business requirements into IT infrastructure that support the business needs. Each provides a different perspective on the road from business requirements to IT infrastructure realities. But they are not mutually exclusive. In fact, we see each underpinning the others for a mutual benefit. The PMO uses ITIL and CobiT so the project results enter a life-cycle that is accountable and tractable. ITIL uses the PMO to establish the life-cycle necessary for feedback and monitoring of the infrastructure to the benefit of the organization. CobiT puts into place the audit points keeping our business on course and out of hot water. It uses ITIL to document the audit process and the PMO to implement the audit points. Each leverages the strength of the other.
This article is just a cursory introduction to the deeper aspects of each component. In subsequent articles, we will explore the roles of the PMO, ITIL and CobiT in the business requirements-to-IT infrastructure within an organization and specific integration of these important frameworks.
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