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Visible Ops

Anyone who has worked in Information Technology knows that today, there is and always will be improvement opportunities available to our organizations.  This is especially in light of the pace of change that is taking place in all market spaces and the level of customer expectations that accompanies that change.

If you have worked in IT for a number of years, you may remember when change was not welcomed. Well the good old days weren’t always that good and tomorrow ain’t as bad as it seems (Billy Joel).  The challenge is in getting started.

If…….
·       the processes that are currently being engaged are not as efficient and effective as you would like
·       you are finding that your environment isn’t as stable and reliable as it should be
·       that when you make changes to your environment it generally results in an outage and prolonged and repeatable firefighting

then …….
I recommend that you read The Visible Ops Handbook by Gene Kim, Kevin Behr and George Spafford.  Visible Ops can provide a roadmap for IT to begin the journey to becoming a high performing IT organization that can deliver expected service levels and availability.  Ensure that changes can be made with confidence. Consistent integration between processes across the lifecycle and the ability to reduce unplanned work.

There are four phases to Visible Ops.  We will briefly review them here.

·       Phase 1: “Stabilize the patient” – We begin by reducing the number of outages by only allowing changes to be made within a defined maintenance window.  Of course this policy change must be communicated to all stake holders.  We also ensure that both Problem and Incident Management are aware of the schedule of changes during these maintenance windows and who the accountable parties for these changes are. (Resolution Processes)

·       Phase 2: “Catch & release” and “Find the fragile artifacts” – Often, infrastructure and applications exist that cannot be easily or repeatedly replicated quickly.  It will be necessary to document configuration items (CIs) including services, so that we can identify those areas with the lowest change success rates, highest MTTR and highest business downtime costs. Understanding which services are the most critical to the business is an absolute must.  This way fragility in the environment can be easily identified, and greater risk analysis can be focused on those areas.  The results should be a drastic drop in unplanned work. (Control Processes)

·       Phase 3: “Establish a repeatable build library” - What we are accomplishing with this step is creating repeatable builds for those assets that support critical services.  This makes it financially feasible to move from a philosophy of repair to rebuild in dealing with outages. (Release Processes)

Phase 4: “Enabling Continuous Improvement” - The first three phases have established a closed loop between the release, control and resolution process domains.  The fourth phase engages in the use of meaningful metrics to enable continuous improvement.  Remember “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.  If you can’t manage it, then you can’t improve it”.  

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