December 5th, 2009
A recent article, State CIOs Offer Government Cloud Option, features the plans and efforts of two state CIOs from US State and Local Government Agencies. The article does focus briefly on the federal apps.gov project federal CIO Vivek Kundra is implementing with the efforts of salesforce.com and Google, however the focal point is on the cloud-based plans of the state governments.
Both J. Stephen Fletcher (CIO and executive director of Utah’s Department of Technology Services) and Michigan CIO Ken Theis see the cloud as an extension of their data center. Through the use of an IT Service Catalog they plan to allow users to request data center resources such as servers, applications, data storage, etc. This article goes into more depth to talk about how Michigan has a plan to offer low cost hosting services for start-up companies in Michigan. This effort is based on a statewide green initiative to lower the cost of energy. Both CIOs see the need for a public and private IT Service Catalog that would split the services offered depending on the role of the user requesting services.
How does ITIL fit into the State’s Cloud Program?
ITIL v3 specifically defines how to best utilize services and build an IT service catalog. In the Service Strategy and Service Design books of ITIL it specifically spells out that IT Services will need to go through a strong requirements gathering exercise before defining which services are available in the catalog. Service Strategy further goes into detail on how to utilize demand management and capacity planning to determine which services are the most utilized and where the quick wins in term of process improvement are for an organization in defining the IT Services.
For example, let’s say that Michigan provides hosting services to start-up companies within the state. They would need to survey how many companies would be interested in utilizing the state’s services. How much disk space each company would need. What the availability of the services are expected from the startup businesses as well as what support availability is expected. Michigan’s IT Services would be competing with hosting services from commercial providers. A start-up business could not afford to have poor availability from any provider… even if the service is delivered at no cost to the business.
Once all of the demand data is collected the IT teams will need to determine what resources are required to provide one unit of service to a business. This can be a challenging task if the organization is sharing servers, disk space, bandwidth, and support personnel across many clients. As the number of clients are participating in utilizing the services, the cost of those services decrease but the strain on those services increase. Alias, the IT Service Dilemma!
Overcoming IT Service Catalog Pitfalls without losing your wallet
Sometimes government IT organizations will dive head first into building a IT Service Catalog without the proper evaluation or they will obtain the services from a software vendor to provide consultation services when they build the catalog. This approach will end up costing the department more money and often reduce the return on investment for the agency.
Do It Yourself ITIL
The obvious problem with Do It Yourself ITIL is that the experience gained from previous implementations does not exist when you dig head first into an ITIL project. The books and ITIL training are great tools to helping your organization achieve a goal, however, one would not leave their automobile to a group of 10 student mechanics as they should their IT Strategy. Often the best approach is to marry the staff and an outside expert to your approach. The outside expert has seen how other organizations are deploying IT Service Catalogs and can mention new approaches that your organization would have never thought of in the past. The outside expert is not involved in office politics and not motivated by gaining influence over other departments and/or employing more staff for their effort than is needed to get the task complete. The outside expert can see flaws in IT organizational processes that an insider can not see.
The Software Vendor
So you bought application “ABC” to manage your IT Service Catalog and company “ABC” also offers ITIL Consulting. Why shouldn’t we have them complete the consulting task also for a discount? The reason is that essentially a software vendor is motivated in selling more software. Secondly, they would not be properly trained in the use of other software products from competing vendors and how they accomplish the same goals. Often an outside approach reveals how to better accomplish the same goal.
If one was designing a home entertainment center in their living room. They purchased a big screen TV from a trusted manufacturer and they are happy with their purchase. They then hire a consultant to visit their home and help them in the placement of that television as well as the consultation of what other products are needed to complete their awesome entertainment center.
The trusted manufacturer will of course place the television in the best manner for that product that works if the client also buys the speakers and other electronic equipment from the manufacturer. The consultant would not have the foresight as to how to integrate several different manufacturer products that might result in the best entertainment experience. For example, best-fit television from manufacturer A, best-fit speakers from manufacturer B, and dvd player from manufacturer C. The consultant’s arrangement would be based on everything being purchased from manufacturer A. Hence the need for an outside independent consultation.
Towns, Steve. State CIOs Offer Government Cloud Option. (2009, November 30). Government Technology, http://www.govtech.com/gt/articles/734128