What is the importance of ITOps and DevOps?

1. What are IT&Dev operations?

“Operations” is actually shorthand for “OAM&P”- operations, administration, maintenance, and provisioning. Recently, rogue proponents of FLAs (five-letter-acronyms) have added a “T” to that unpronounceable moniker, for troubleshooting - so it’s now an almost-pronounceable “OAMPT” if you omit the “ands”.

Most operations teams handle, in reality, OAM&P(&T) - not just O.

OAM&P(&T) is a crucial and central function with an important charter, to keep the company’s core production systems operational, 24x7. Production systems are the ones your company counts on to stay in business. Without them, a company starts down the not-very-fun path of a slow (or fast) death spiral.

Operations teams which have departed from their employers en masses have on more than one occasion caused the entire company to fail. Five people departing at once can turn a 100+ person company into an empty shell. However, usually it’s the other way around - the company that is failing already will see its operations team departing, either one by one or as I’ve mentioned above, en masse - because they can see more clearly than others the futility of what they’re doing.

Ops are depended upon by the organization to keep its second most important assets functional. Without OAM&P(&T), a company cannot fulfill its contractual obligations. By definition, the systems, functions, capabilities that the OAM&P team take care of are those very core, crucial systems that keep the company afloat.

This is an immense responsibility - one that’s as equally important as “new sales”, one that’s equally important as marketing, one that’s equally important as executive management. If you’re stressed by that, however, you’re looking at it wrong. It should be challenging and fun - but not stressful. Work on that. I’m hopeful you used the word “stress” in the question details simply as an indicator of the important nature of the function.

2. The Importance of IT Operations in the Big Data Era

The role of IT has changed dramatically over the last couple of decades. What once was considered by most executives to be a necessary cost center for deploying and fixing computers and networks has evolved to become a strategic value center that protects the organization, drives down costs, and generates revenue. Looking into a future of big data, digital transformation, and increasing security threats, IT’s role becomes even more critical. In a world where everything is connected and communicating, IT pros are overwhelmed, searching through torrents of data for meaningful insights that can give the business any advantage over competitors and protect its infrastructure, data, and employees. It’s a painful, time-consuming, and often manual process that, by the time the data is ready for analysis, is frequently irrelevant.

A better approach to sifting through and exploring massive amounts of data isn’t just a nice-to-have, it’s an imperative in the 4th Industrial Revolution. Here are three key ways that IT will create value for the modern enterprise.

2.1. Security Operations

IT is responsible for identifying, preventing and, if necessary, responding to the entire range of today’s security threats. This includes identifying inappropriate attempts to connect to the network, monitoring email and social media streams for potential phishing attacks, identifying zombie servers and databases that could be backdoor entry points for attacks, and making sure vulnerabilities are patched as quickly as possible. Success in meeting these challenges depends on IT’s ability to support real time and near-real-time analysis of huge amounts of data.

Organizations also must close the “SecOps gap” between the activities of security and IT operations teams that can lead to unnecessary data loss, production downtime, and reputation damage. Christian A. Christiansen said, “In light of increasingly sophisticated threats, it is time to rethink the traditional, departmentalized, siloed approach to security. CIOs must hold both security and IT operations groups accountable for identifying and fixing issues quickly and integrate security and IT operations activities to further protect their organizations.”

To accomplish this, CIOs must be willing to reinvent their processes and invest in big data tools that enable real-time analysis and threat detection. Security and operations teams must become more agile and move to a proactive security position for both cloud and on-premises systems. This enables the teams to more readily embrace key business initiatives related to digital transformation, Internet of Things (IoT), continuous delivery, and shadow IT.

2.2. Business Enablement

Success in the digital economy depends on speed, agility, and a great experience for customers, partners, and employees. IT must enable rapid and creative DevOps by supporting new tools and infrastructure transformation. It also must support big data customer analytics and new strategies for partner enablement that involve data transfer, and it must do all this while maintaining a highly reliable and stable business platform and a help desk capacity that ensures business users can do their jobs. Only by carefully and comprehensively monitoring and automating across all IT operations can IT pull off this critical balancing act.

A customer recently told me that his goal in 2017 is to change the conversation he has with his business partners. Gone are the days of reporting on what happened in the past. He’s focused on the future. Specifically, he said, “I don’t want to tell people how fast I fixed a problem. I want to tell them what problems we prevented from impacting the business and what we are doing to tune the technology that supports our digital initiatives.”

Now that an extraordinarily high speed of operations is critical to business success, revenue generation will be linked directly to IT’s ability to automate business processes and analyze big data across a highly reliable infrastructure.

2.3. New Business Models

With the digital transformation well under way, IT operations is now responsible for enabling completely new business models, including IoT services and selling products on a subscription basis. From embedding sensors in farm equipment and truck fleets for more optimal routing to selling razor blades and airline travel as subscription services, IT must support the real-time analysis of the huge amounts of field data required to offer these services. This challenge is compounded by the equally huge amounts of customer data required to understand what services customers actually need and how they are consuming them. For example:

A global tire manufacturer is leveraging the power of big data and IoT to embed sensors in the tires they sell. The tire company then wants to provide this data as a managed service to vehicle manufacturers, component makers, and service centers, as well as to insurers and other stakeholders, creating a completely new business model based on data that opens and expands new markets.

A number of banks are now using mobile apps to transform the retail banking experience. They are eliminating branches and leveraging big data to personalize services and reduce fraud. IT is responsible for creating and maintaining the apps, ensuring the security of the system, and collecting and analyzing user data.

In the big-data-mobile-social-cloud world of mobile-first and the IoT, IT doesn’t have to settle for being an enabler of business models. It can invent or reinvent them.

To the extent that every company today must rely on its IT infrastructure to secure and support employee productivity, product creation and ideation, sales, partner programs, HR, finance, and more, a smart investment in IT’s big data and automation capabilities will deliver on the promise of digital transformation driving new frontiers of business.