What is IT4IT?
The management of IT has become an essential part of modern business. Success and IT are intricately linked, to the extent that simply investing in the latest tech is never enough. Instead, IT must be treated as a business with a well-structured architecture. This is exactly where IT4IT comes in.
The IT4IT Reference Architecture standardcomprises an architecture and value chain-based operating model for managing the business of IT. This model serves digital enterprises by providing them with actionable insight on several elements of IT, including cloud-sourcing, software-defined data centers, and service brokering. It also touches on other popular frameworks and methodologies, such as Agile, DevOps, ITIL, and TOGAF.
IT4IT is based on the ‘Value Chain’ concept, with the ‘IT Value Chain’ consisting of several value streams and supporting activities. At the center of this lies the reference architecture itself, tying everything together in a service-centric management ecosystem.
Think of IT4IT as a description of all the information needed to run and optimize IT. It covers which aspects need to be automated in order to support end-to-end value streams and which standards and external service providers can be integrated. In a nutshell, IT4IT supplies a standard blueprint of all the IT solutions required for managing a modern IT organization.
So, how is IT4IT applied in practice? In essence, the architecture focuses on defining, sourcing, consuming, and managing IT services by taking a holistic look at the IT value chains that make them up.
While other frameworks and standards emphasise process, IT4IT is process-agnostic. Instead, it focuses on information (or information systems) alongside automation in order to manage services throughout their lifecycles. It also describes functional components (such as IT management software) that are required to produce and consume data.
Once all of this is integrated together, a ‘system of record fabric’ for IT management is created. This supplies users with full visibility and traceability for a service from conception to deployment and beyond.
IT4IT offers value to any company that wishes to optimize its efficiency in managing the business of IT. This especially applies to those with interests in business and IT transitions. It allows IT managers to achieve the same level of discipline, predictability, and efficiency as other aspects of an organization.
The IT value chain
In the past, the ‘value chain’ concept revolutionized manufacturing. The idea was to define key activities that must be performed in order to deliver a product. These activities could then be optimized in terms of efficiency and reliability.
IT4IT takes a similar approach. The ‘IT Value Chain’ is a series of activities undertaken via IT in order to add value to a business.
The IT4IT value streams
The IT4IT standard breaks down the IT Value Chain into four ‘Value Streams’. The value streams are centered on key aspects of the Service Model, the Integration Model, the essential data objects (Information Model), and functional components (Functional Model). Together, the four value streams play a vital role in helping IT staff holistically manage service lifecycles.
The four primary value streams are as follows:
- Strategy to Portfolio (S2P): This value stream looks at how to align IT with business strategies. It aims to create an IT framework that integrates different functional areas and IT portfolio activities, sharing data between them to provide users with a holistic view of IT. Having a clear understanding of the inter-relationships between various IT sub-domains makes it easier for users to optimize services and investments in IT portfolio management.
- Requirement to Deploy (R2D): This stream is built to help users enable predictable and cost-effective results when planning, sourcing, developing, and delivering high-quality services and applications. The process is designed to be reusable, but not to the extent that innovation is ironed out or that it cannot be applied to different teams, locales, suppliers, and methodologies. It also promotes speed, flexibility, and collaboration across IT domains, all for the sake of supporting both new and traditional methods for service sourcing and creation.
- Request to Fulfill (R2F):This stream offers a modern and consumption-driven data model designed to connect customers with the services and goods needed to drive innovation and productivity. This can drive service fulfillment, consumption, knowledge-sharing, self-service support, and collaboration between different communities, all for the sake of improving IT engagement for customers. By creating a streamlined consumption experience blueprint, users can help customers to engage and work with IT.
- Detect to Correct (D2C): This value stream is all about detecting issues and correcting them before they have an impact on users. It is engaged once a new service is put into production, or when a business requests another instance of a service. The stream describes and accommodates technical inter-relationships and interdependencies needed to repair operational issues. At the same time, it boosts the capabilities of IT by increasing agility and uptime while also lowering per-service costs. This makes it easier for IT to support business objectives. The stream offers a framework for various elements of IT operations, and provides a comprehensive overview of the business of IT operations.
Why Use the IT4IT Reference Architecture?
The IT4IT standard is ideal for organizations that realize a fundamentally different approach is needed for managing modern IT. The current fragmented approach to the ownership of processes, tools, data, and controls inhibits continuous improvement. Silos prevent IT from performing its new role as a transparent and value-adding business partner.
It is also worth keeping in mind that new IT organizations source and orchestrate IT services from many internal and external service providers, such as cloud vendors. Because of this, greater flexibility is needed, in addition to cohesion.
Complexity and isolation
Traditionally, the implementation of IT management solutions required a large amount of configuration and customization before tools could actually be used. IT tool vendors have long been offering proprietary solutions for specific functions within the IT Value Chain, but without any real standards for integration.
Although IT management tool vendors and IT organizations use best practices and standards, such as ITIL, the actual implementation varies considerably between organizations. Interoperability between tools remains cumbersome.
There are still a lot of detailing and design choices to be made before IT can be operationalized and supported by automated tools. IT organizations are often forced to build these themselves in isolation and typically at a huge cost. This approach often results in a complex mesh of products and solutions requiring countless point-to-point integrations to accommodate variations in processes. This is simply unsustainable, and a problem that the IT industry as a whole needs to work on fixing.
What the IT industry needs to fix
Modern IT organizations are relying more on the automation of IT activities supporting end-to-end processes. Unfortunately, there is no single tool or best practice that covers all the IT management capabilities needed to run an IT organization as a business. Because of this, we need to be careful and selective when choosing IT management tools and best practices.
A robust reference architecture empowers IT employees with the tools to automate end-to-end workflows, provide information to support decision making, and fully define the business of IT.
The IT4IT value streams can significantly improve the performance of IT, and even help users transition to other operating models designed to support new multi-vendor IT ecosystems. In contrast, traditional IT management tends to use an unplanned and ad hoc approach to implementing IT management tools and processes.
The four pillars of IT4IT
The goal of the IT4IT standard is to guide the improvement of the entire IT management capability of an IT organization using a value chain-based approach. Most CIOs and IT managers have realized that losing sight of the big picture due to daily details is blocking them from improving the IT function. Instead of improving specific processes, tools, or information needs, the focus should be on improving the system as a whole.
- The Service Model, defining how services should be managed in the portfolio
- The Information Model, defining what information we need to operate IT
- The Functional Model, defining the IT management systems we need to automate and support IT activities
- The Integration Model, defining how processes, data, and systems need to be connected to deliver value to the business. These pillars, when captured and modeled correctly, remain constant regardless of changes to process, technology, and capabilities.
What will IT4IT do for you?
- Provide the capabilities for managing the business of IT, enabling IT execution across the entire IT Value Chain in a safer, faster, and more cost-effective manner
- Reduce expenditure on IT management tooling by using tools that are IT4IT compliant and easier to integrate
- Increase resilience and efficiency in operations by better information provisioning and a higher degree of automation
- Increase agility in development by providing quicker and better feedback
- Increase throughput from development to operations by providing an end-to-end framework
- Reduce risk and therefore increase predictability by providing more comprehensive information about assets and activities across the whole value chain
- Reduce costs, management attention, and staff disruption associated with reorganization by using an inherently stable IT operating model
- Optimize investments in new IT services for the business by better insight into the capabilities of the current information systems
- Provide to ability to continuously improve IT services by providing improved information and insight in IT performance
- Provide improved interoperability, collaboration, and orchestration across the new multi- sourced ecosystem by having standards to enable seamless integration
- Provide a complete holistic IT4IT solution for managing the business of IT by leveraging existing standards and best practices
Relationship With ITIL and Other Practices and Standards
There are many different best practices, frameworks, and standards that cover IT management, such as ITIL and COBIT 5. While these options emphasise process, the IT4IT standard is process-agnostic, focusing instead on how the IT function can be automated and supported by the right information (or data).
The IT4IT Reference Architecture also takes a big-picture approach to IT service management. It suggests that they should be managed throughout the entire lifecycle by looking holistically at the IT Value Chain.
Positioning ITIL and the other standards against IT4IT
ITIL and COBIT are the most commonly used process-oriented best practice frameworks for IT Service Management. Both describe a broad range of processes and activities that can be performed by the IT function throughout the service lifecycle. However, ITIL does not cover all processes and activities within the IT function, such as Enterprise Architecture, Project Management, IT Governance, Risk management, and Service Development.
Domain-specific practices such as the TOGAF (Enterprise Architecture), PMBOK and PRINCE2 (Project Management), and CMMI and SCRUM (Service Development), can be used to complete a process model. In addition, there are numerous other standards and practices which support specific controls, such as those related to security management (ISO/IEC 27000 series) or risk management.
These different practices and standards are typically defined at a high level, specifying the requirements and activities to be performed within the IT organization.
However, before they can be used in day-to-day practice, significant effort needs to go into design and detailing. Sadly, this can often result in users having to reinvent the wheel. The IT organization is challenged to create an overarching IT management model and bring it all together in an integrated management system.
Typical challenges with the existing standards
- Typically, multiple standards and practices need to be combined to provide a management model that covers the entire service lifecycle.
- It is common for standards to each use their own terminology and data models, which can make them difficult to integrate. This, in turn, can limit transparency and delay decision-making.
- Many standards focus on individual processes and activities without defining the consistent end-to-end workflows that deliver value to the business.
- It can be difficult to create an overarching model which translates different best practices, frameworks, and standards into solutions that can be used to support day-to-day activities.
- Many standards are not prescriptive enough to guide how activities should be performed in order to enable automation and interoperability between IT management tools and service providers.
How IT4IT fills the gap
In order to transition an IT organization into one which is both an IT service broker and integrator, an IT reference model is required. This can provide a framework for how to run IT within this new environment.
IT4IT offers an integrated IT management solution, providing an optimized work environment for IT employees as well as the business to interact with the IT organization.
IT4IT also includes all the IT management tools, information, and interfaces required to support IT management activities. It enables fully-automated workflows across the many different technologies, teams, and service providers.
How IT4IT should be used in combination with ITIL and other practices
IT4IT’s value streams provide an integrated and holistic view of the top layer of IT. This is process and technology-agnostic, instead providing a model of how the IT function should be working from an end-to-end perspective. The value streams can also be used as a governance model, helping users assign ownership for IT management capabilities to support, evaluate, and continuously improve IT management practices.
In addition to this, users must also choose best practices that further refine the requirements for specific areas, such as project management, service development, and IT service management. The IT4IT Reference Architecture can provide the glue to incorporate these best practices into an IT operating model. This can then be used to implement the entire IT function supported by automated tools and interfaces in a standard information model.
For example, with IT4IT, ITIL can be used to define additional specifications for IT activities to be performed. COBIT can also be added to extend ITIL with specific controls and practices that can be audited and assessed from an IT governance perspective.
ITIL and the IT4IT standard
ITIL and IT4IT are complementary. The IT4IT standard provides a big-picture approach for integrating the different practices needed to manage IT, such as ITIL, SCRUM, and PMBOK. In addition, the IT4IT standard offers an architecture that can be used to define a target-state IT operating model. In other words, it comes with a prescriptive definition of how IT needs to work.
The IT4IT Reference Architecture does not require users to start anything from scratch. IT4IT components can be added incrementally to existing practices to integrate, orchestrate, enhance, and enable the current way of working.
Summarizing the relationship
- The IT4IT standard provides an overall end-to-end model of how the IT function should be managed using an IT Value Chain approach.
- The IT4IT standard helps to combine existing practices (such as ITIL) as well as emerging practices (such as SAFe) into a new IT operating model.
- The IT4IT standard provides new IT management practices such as DevOps, Agile, Lean software development, and Continuous Delivery.
- The IT4IT standard details how IT activities can be automated and supported by IT management tools. It defines a standard information model along with its functional components and interfaces.