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IT Ops or IT Slops? Definitions Matter: Part One

This blog was written by Kevin Behr, co-author of Visible Ops
You can visit Kevin's blog at:

“I wish we had dedicated project resources. I am so busy with operations that I just don’t have time for projects.”

“Why does every IT issue get escalated to my top network and security people?”

“I don’t care if you have enough time. I need this stuff done now.”

“It takes me more time to fill out a change request than to make the actual change.”

“We spend over 70% of our time doing operations which only leaves me 10-15% to work on projects after I read my email.”

Sound Familiar?

I love the provocative statement that Goldratt made (I paraphrase):

“Technology CAN (not does) provide value IF and only IF it diminishes a business constraint.”
Before you go off emailing me that technology has many other values please reflect deeply on this statement. Please reflect deeply on what business value IT provides.

I love the notion of continuity that the “diminishes” brings to the statement. In other words the constraint must be continually diminished as opposed to the word vanquished.

In order for the constraint to be continually diminished the technology must operate without ceasing or the constraint is re-introduced and the business is forced to deal with the issue once more, usually without any warning.

One could argue that not all applications in service deliver the best business value. But for the purposes of this discussion on IT operations let us assume that everything we are running in our datacenters provides the business with some critical constraint-busting capability.
By doing everything we can to ensure that those systems continue to operate free of interruption we are performing IT operations that support business operations.

The basic definition of Operations is “The act of harvesting value from resources”. More specific to IT I believe that IT operations represent our collective approach (strategy) and tactics (tasks, instructions, and programs) designed to prevent outages and interruptions to the IT services that existing business operations depend on.

Since the whole point of business operations at large is to produce profit (or achieve the mission for you non-profits) from its resources, when we perform IT operations successfully we are protecting business revenue generation. I like to call it “protecting revenue” for short

You may notice that firefighting, support or outages did not appear in my definition or mission of operations.

This is very important.

When we are troubleshooting, or firefighting an outage, operations have ceased and we are now in recovery mode (attempting to recover operations). Even if the issue is service impairment versus a full blown IT black-out we are attempting to recover from the situation and therefore are not in nominal operation. Both scenarios interrupt or affect business operations and can put revenue at risk in many ways.

So if you were really spending 70% of your time in operations...Do you think there would be so much chaos?

Next Post, Kevin will talk more about defining and measuring operations and the value it can provide.


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