More on ITIL and SOA

In his “links” post, James McGovern was nice enough to call additional attention to my recent ITIL and SOA post, but as usual, James challenged me to add additional value. Here’s what he had to say:

Todd Biske provides insight into how ITIL can benefit SOA but misses an opportunity to provide even more value. While it is somewhat cliche to talk about continual process improvement, it would be highly valuable to outline what types of feedback do operations types observe that could benefit the software development side of the house.

I thought about this, and it actually came down to one word: measurement. You can’t improve what you’re not measuring. It’s debatable as to whether or not operations does any better than software development in measuring the service they provide, but operations is probably in a better position to do so. Why? There is less ambiguity about the service being provided. For example, a common service from operations in big IT shops is building servers. They can measure how many servers they’ve built, how quickly they’ve been built, and they and how correctly they’ve been built, among other things.

In the case of softwre development, is the service being provided software development, or is the capability provided by the software? I’d argue that most shops are focused on the former. If you measure the “software development” service, you’ll probably measure whether the effort was completed on time and on budget. If, instead, you measure based on the capability provided by the software, it now becomes about the business value being provided by the software, which, in my opinion, is the more important factor. Taking this latter view also positions the organization for future modifications to the solutions. If my focus is solely on time and budget, why wouldn’t I disband the team when the project is done? The team has no vested interest in adding additional value. They may be challenged on some other project to improve their delivery time or budget accuracy, but there’s no connection to business value. Putting it very simply, what good does it do to deliver an application on time and on budget that no one uses?

So, back to the question, what can we learn from the ops side of the world. If ops has drunk the ITIL kool-aid, then they should be measuring their service performance, the goals for it should be reflected in the individual goals of the operations team, and it should be something that allows for improvement over time. If the measurement falls into the “one-time” measurement category, like delivering on-time and on-budget, that should be a dead giveaway that you may be measuring the wrong thing, or not taking a service-based view on your efforts.

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