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IQ? EQ? OQ! What’s your IT Operations Quotient (OQ)?


IQ? EQ? OQ! What’s your IT Operations Quotient (OQ)?


Today many CIOs try to do more with less, adopting new technologies and addressing new business requirements, but with the same or only slightly increased budget. However, IT cost reductions should be approached with value in mind, rather than simply measuring savings, for when IT cost cuts destroy business value, like resulting in less customer service or operational inefficiencies, then the reductions become a false economy. 

IT has recognized for quite some time that they need to speak the language of business and likewise show value to business. For example, BSM sought to align business and IT. So with a significant amount of IT spending going to operations, when I&O organizations can clearly demonstrate business value, this can really impact budgets and improve how IT operations is perceived. So how can the value of operations and its impact on the top line be demonstrated?

IT Ops is Very Busy

IT ops folks now have to manage complex processes and keep a hectic pace of deploying builds, releases and patches. Agile software development heats up this environment further by making IT ops race to meet ongoing and changing demands of today's business services. The IT Ops team is very busy with their time being consumed by firefighting, sometimes spending hours on calls to sort out problems, adding up to hundreds of wasted hours in phone calls, alerts, and investigating incidents.

IT Ops: The Bomb Squad

IT ops is experiencing greater work demands, including more responsibilities and more time commitments, and having to wrestle with increasing system complexity in servers, applications, and operating systems. Adding further barrier issues IT ops management now has to manage servers that are being virtualized or moved to the cloud, making visibility into operations even more complicated.

Despite this, when IT operations is running smoothly, the organization hardly gets noticed, let alone appreciated. Yet when things go wrong, the complaints start, and everyone is focused on their problem. Kind of like how when the bomb defuser is only noticed when the bomb explodes.

Measuring IT Ops Metrics: SLA

Metrics, like those used in the Service Level Agreement (SLA), define the relationship between service providers and their clients including performance measurements and penalties for performance breaches. IT Operations Metrics aid the IT organization's monitoring of day-to-day service performance and identify performance problems and lapses, including such categories as: volume, responsiveness, and quality. 

Say you are driving in your car and you have a dashboard with all of these measurements. If the only thing you look at is speed, well that keeps you from getting tickets. But when you go on a long trip, you'll run out of gas, unless you look at other metrics. Really what you need is a whole set of these metrics to give you a complete picture of how the 'car' is running. 

While the SLA is an important set of metrics, it is essential to look at the efficiency of operations for how they reach the SLA, where both internal and external operations need to be very efficient.

Measuring Performance

Individual performance can be likened to a glass of water. The size of your glass determines your capacity or the upper limits of what you can achieve in a particular area. We measure this performance in different areas:

  • Emotional Quotient (EQ) metric of our emotional side: An emotional quotient assesses Emotional intelligence (EI) considering one's ability to perceive, control, and evaluate emotions.
  • Intelligence Quotient (IQ) metric of our intellectual side: An intelligence quotient or IQ is a score derived from a set of standardized tests developed to measure a person's cognitive abilities ("intelligence") in relation to their age group.
In the same sense, IT ops needs an IT Operations Quotient (OQ), a metric for evaluating operational ability to support existing business services and incoming business requirements.

Bring in the OQ Metric

Today's I&O executives tend to only see a few operational metrics like number of incidents or mean-time-to-resolution. IT ops is really only looked at under the lens when they are bad, with essentially no appreciation for when they are good. 

ITIL has a number of metrics related to performance and availability. However, to gauge performance we want to look also at a very critical element: Change. Change is one of the primary actions driving IT Operations. Just think, if there is no change, then there is only minimum need for Ops.

Yet change is also one of the biggest threats for IT ops for meeting their SLA, adding more issues to take care of.

The Business of IT Operations

Today IT Ops is more likely to be at the table in executive meetings, and not just down in the bowels of the datacenter, with spreadsheets of metrics showing the success of their efforts – and, essentially justifying their own existence. However, the business side usually don't really understand what those metrics mean. IT Operations needs to be run as a business, measuring not only productivity, but also efficiency. Moreover, IT operations should be measured in the context of the changes that occur, and how operations responds to change. OQ can provide a good indication to IT executives as to whether IT ops investments have yielded desired results.

For IT ops this raises the issue of what is your IT Operations Quotient (OQ) in terms of how changes are dealt with. Our questions offer examples for making an OQ assessment:

  • When an incident occurs, can you quickly know "what changed"?
  • Can you automatically verify the consistency of your environments?
  • Can you quickly identify what is the incident's root-cause?
  • Can you automatically validate that your release deployed accurately?

The reality is that most IT Ops teams run their operations using one set of systems, and then roll the numbers up with another – or, they roll the numbers up through some sort of old fashioned manual process. And there are a number of reasons for this:

  • They have no real reporting & analytics system for IT Ops
  • If they do have a change and configuration management system, it's not well integrated with the rest of their monitoring & management systems.
  • Their analytics systems, if such exist typically focus on monitoring data only
  • If it is integrated, the process is tedious, and the system is woefully out-of-date to dealing with today's complexity. Again, IT Ops needs near real-time data, while the business side wants answers on demand.

Answering the OQ Questions

The problem that many IT Operations teams are struggling with is that maintaining these metrics requires an excessive amount of overhead. For example, it is simply impossible to monitor and evaluate every single configuration point in a support stack using purely manual processes. This would mean employing a workforce the size of a small city.

For efficient management of IT ops, new tools are required to do this effort and provide answers to the essential OQ questions. The best way to accomplish this is by adopting a tool that lets you know exactly what has changed in your environment, helping to assess and optimize IT operations performance, taking an analytical look at the OQ assessment, turning dynamic, overwhelming change and configuration data into actionable insights.

Your Turn
What's your IT Operations Quotient?

About the Author
Sasha Gilenson
Sasha Gilenson enjoyed a long and successful career at Mercury Interactive (acquired by HP), having led the company's QA organization, participating in establishing Mercury's Software as a Service (SaaS), as well as leading a Business Unit in Europe and Asia.

Sasha played a key role in the development of Mercury's worldwide Business Technology Optimization (BTO) strategy and drove field operations of the Wireless Business Unit, all while taking on the duties as the Mercury's top "guru" in quality processes and IT practices domain. In this capacity, Sasha has advised numerous Fortune 500 companies on technology and process optimization, and in turn, acquired a comprehensive and rare knowledge of the market and industry practices.

Sasha holds an M.Sc. in Computer Science from Latvian University and MBA from London Business School.