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5 high-value use cases driving IT4IT adoption

Linda Rosencrance Freelance writer/editor

After some initial delays, the Open Group’s IT4IT Reference Architecture is finally starting to gain traction in the enterprise.

"Interest is up; people are approaching us asking for training. That didn't happen a year ago," said Dan Warfield, a member of the Open Group and senior enterprise architect at CC and C Solutions, which provides consulting and training services on the standard.

The Open Group describes IT4IT as "a standard reference architecture for managing the business of IT. It uses a value-chain approach to create a model of the functions that IT performs to help organizations identify the activities that contribute to business competitiveness."

"Unlike ITIL, which focuses on infrastructure development, IT4IT is about figuring out how things fit together at a higher level," Warfield said.

Although IT4IT was introduced in October 2015, it took a while to catch on, in part because the Open Group delayed the IT4IT vendor compliance approach it wanted to introduce, slowing vendor adoption. Additionally, there seemed to be a lack of understanding and management buy-in among people interested in the standard.

"Like all standards, it was slow getting traction to begin with. We think IT4IT is now moving into the mainstream."
Dan Warfield

That's because there are more business cases for IT4IT that deliver hard-dollar value to the business, he said. And as these have become better known, more organizations have become interested in how to apply the knowledge in IT4IT to real-world problems.

Here are five high-value use cases that are driving enterprise adoption of IT4IT. 

1. Rationalize your tools

Tool rationalization means analyzing the hundreds of little bits of software floating around an organization, figuring out what you can get rid of and what you should be getting next, Warfield explained.

Organizations can use IT4IT to understand where they have overlaps and gaps in tooling. It's a straightforward application portfolio management activity—mapping as-is tools to a model of desired business outcomes, according to Warfield. Mapping every tool to the functional requirements and to an information model helps organizations uncover opportunities for cost savings and increased efficiency.

"Before IT4IT, you would not have found such a model covering the enterprise IT tools domain," Warfield said. The IT4IT Reference Architecture is the right tool for this job, he argued. "One early adopter of IT4IT as a tool rationalization guide reported savings of about 20% across the IT tools landscape."

Tool rationalization is one of IT4IT’s intended functions, said Charles Betz, a Forrester Research analyst who played a major role in developing the IT4IT standard.

"It gives you a taxonomy to think about your landscape of internal IT tools. Say you acquire a company and you know that there is redundancy. So you start to take an inventory of the tools, but how do you sort the inventory?"
Charles Betz

IT4IT provides that sorting, allowing the acquiring company to determine if there's an overlap in the tools that the two companies are using. "You might want to consolidate them or make a decision to sunset one in favor of the other," Betz said. "But you can’t even begin to have that conversation unless you've got a taxonomy of the systems."

[ See also: Why IT frameworks aren't working—and how to fix them ]

2. As a reference architecture for understanding and treating enterprise IT as a business domain

As lead IT4IT architect at a large retailer, Warfield quickly learned that many IT leaders have a poor understanding of how others consume the information their teams create. His team created the information that other groups needed, but didn't always communicate the information consistently. "IT4IT clearly describes which information should be exposed and maintained in each IT management process," he said.

Some simple examples of why this matters include:

  • Service desk/configuration management database teams lack information about owners, users, or support teams for an application.
  • Requirements data is not synced to the demand management system, agile backlog system, or test case data.
  • Financial expectations for, and the business purpose of, an application are never communicated to designers, developers, or operations.
  • Development teams don't update design documentation, or keep it after the development project is complete.

Each business domain has standard reference models, which describe how to structure a business domain in a standard, consistent way, Warfield said. IT could could use that as the template or pattern for describing its own reference model. 

"Reference architecture is 60% to 70% of the solution that is common to everybody. Then you add your bit, which is a lot less work than starting with a blank sheet of paper. That's the value of it," Warfield said.

Nationwide Mutual Insurance has been using IT4IT from an architecture perspective.

"Our architects in the IT4IT space and IT management space have been using it to help inform the architecture structure and choices that we make inside of Nationwide," said Michael Fulton, associate vice president of technology innovation. "We've been looking at it in that context for probably 18 to 24 months now." 

Chris Jennewine, senior director of global IT at Oracle, said IT4IT is helping to drive organizational efficiencies within the database vendor, which is using the IT4IT reference architecture in its shift from traditional IT to DevOps.

Jennewine said he's used IT4IT to perform a "complete transformation" of IT's work methodologies. "We've had about a 70% increase in efficiency and productivity after realigning our processes to IT4IT. We've gone from that old waterfall approach that could take six to 12 months to just a continually evolving deployment cycle."

IT4IT also provided Oracle with insights into areas where it had process gaps or deficiencies, helping it to improve operations.

3. Discover how all of IT fits together and interacts with the rest of the company

In this case, IT4IT is used to provide a common language for the IT management team to support better conversations and help leaders understand how investments or changes in one area ripple through the organization.

This is very important in large corporations where even the senior leaders may lack the broad-based experience to understand how their teams contribute to the overall flow of work, CC and C's Warfield said.

"In my largest IT4IT project, we created a version of IT4IT customized for communication in the company's context, often critical for effectiveness," he said. His team added extra functional components and renamed many of them in language that was more familiar to the organization. The team also used diagrams to help leaders from different areas understand their teams' roles in the bigger picture. "This provided them with insights that were sometimes surprising," Warfield said.

This was important because the manager of any given team might lack the experience to understand the full flow of information through the IT value delivery landscape, he said. "By using this type of diagram, we were able to educate them, discuss holistic management issues, and shift operational focus in ways that improved real outcomes across the group."

[ Dan Warfield: Why the new IT4IT Reference Architecture is a game changer ]

4. Understand process maturity in your IT organization

Organizations need to look at each of their processes and ask, "Is this something everyone does? If so, how do we do it, and how well documented and managed is it?"

It's common to compare how the organization is doing compared to industry best-practice models, Warfield said. For governance, there’s the COBIT assessment, which looks at how well controls are implemented in IT processes. For service management teams, there are ITIL audits that look at the effectiveness and maturity of people and processes.

In the same way, an IT4IT assessment can be used as a best-practice baseline for understanding how the organization is functioning operationally.

"By zeroing in on the existence and maturity of functional components, key data, and key data flows, we can highlight areas for improvement or provide a template and metrics for planning and measuring improvement."
—Dan Warfield

5. Help manage a complex cloud service broker infrastructure

Many cloud service suppliers manage different pieces of infrastructure for the enterprise, and you would normally have a point-to-point contract with them, Warfield said. "IT4IT can describe how to manage that as it becomes more complex."

Although the reference architecture can be used for complex cloud service infrastructure, and Micro Focus has done that with some of its customers, typically it's not where you start, said Micro Focus Distinguished Technologist Lars Rossen.

This is a common problem in many organizations because of digital transformation. Many lines of businesses use different tool chains directly in the cloud to deliver their services. But they soon realize that they need a method to deliver complex service brokering because there are many different cloud providers that are involved, and they're relevant for different reasons.

IT4IT can be the concentration point that helps you to put all of these things in place, Rossen said. "So is it there you start? Maybe not. But it certainly helps you if you have that problem."

[ Dan Warfield: The business case for IT4IT: Why you need it. How to build it. ]

Next steps for IT4IT

Although IT4IT got off to a slow start, it is beginning to take hold in the enterprise. Companies are looking for an IT management model that will help them operate more efficiently and remain competitive. The IT4IT Reference Architecture provides organizations with the knowledge they need to operate in today's digital age, adherents say, helping them to better adapt to ever-changing market and economic demands.

To get started with IT4IT, companies should go to the Open Group website and read up on the standard. There's a raft of technical information, user testimonials, training guides, events, publications, and other resources for newbies. 

"If you’re trying to do anything on any of these things, you should look at IT4IT and see if it will help you. Take a look at it—it's free."
—Dan Warfield

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