The following article was written with significant contributions from Cameron Allen, Pierre Coyne and Beth Sarnie
Question of the day: why is IT agility so darn elusive?
Follow up question: after spending multiple millions in technology to improve service delivery, quality, and productivity, why do so many line of business executives perceive that IT is still not moving "fast enough?"
Silo'd information presents a big speedbump to agility. According to the 2012 IBM study of CEOs, high performing organizations are able to access data 108% more, draw insights from that data 110% more, and act on that data 86% more, than their underperforming peers.
Which brings us back to the specific problem: Information exists, but it is not shared. Information remains trapped in silo'd tools and departmental applications. It's not only not moving "fast enough," it's not moving at all.
If you agree with ITIL and related methodologies, agility is directly linked to your IT processes. So while we can improve process methodology and connections across roles and functions, and within specific technology siloes with tools, if the data and resources can not be freely shared across process-enabling tools, then its all for not.
Going one level deeper, what is the cause of this 'information black hole', where data enters tools, and is never seen again? Your reality is that you probably rely on a mix of multi-vendor tools. Those vendor tools rely on proprietary APIs for integration and trying to make tools with different APIs communicate requires the IT equivalent of a team of United Nations translators, where each is an expert in their applications main language (API). Once successful, the herculean effort can create a constant maintenance cost, and might not work well in the end - things will be lost in translation. That said, even single vendor tool suites are notoriously difficult to integrate.
So what can be done?
Stop for a moment and consider the best example that demonstrates simplicity of integration on a massive scale. It's the Internet. With the Internet, you can get information from millions of different web sites and all you need is a browser.
So for argument's sake, if tools are the equivalent of web sites, then all we need are links to connect two tools. We can take that one step further, borrowing principles from social networks like LinkedIn or IBM Connections, where we can search for one person, and see relationships to other people (making searching for data across tools much easier).
That in essence is OSLC (Open Services for Lifecycle Collaboration): A set of open, community agreed upon specifications for linking tools using web technology. (And before you ask, no. It's not a standard, because apparently standards alone have not done the job)
Data from any vendor tool is registered in a directory like a search engine, where other tools can find it, its relationship to other data, and access it via simple web link technology. Not similar to the Internet, but exactly like the Internet.
What that means is you can easily interconnect tools and processes. You can even replace tools with competitive tools - eliminating vendor lock in. It also means you can re-purpose one integration across a series of 'like' tools. "Write once, reuse-many" inherently applies here. All of this translates into simpler and faster access to information by people and tools, better analytics leading to better decisions, and better automation of workflow.
Now, IT will be seen as agile.
No longer elusive.
This is the first in a series of articles we will be posting about OSLC. Feel free to leave your comments below. Be sure to listen to the podcast we did for OSLC on the Tivoli User Group - TUC Podcast: OSLC Series - Learn how Tivoli’s enhanced architecture strategy will help you simplify integration across products – IBM and Other Vendors, and don't forget to follow us on Twitter @servicemgmt.
Also, stay tuned to the blog for more in our series of articles about OSLC.