If you read the title as "its time for transparency", you could easily mistake me for any U.S. politician or political pundit. But this blog is really about Information Technology's ‘time for transparency'; transparency in the way that IT provides services to users.
I suspect that there will be a loud call for transparency at all levels of business in the near future, given the magnitude and impact of the current financial meltdown on Wall Street and in the investment markets. IT will certainly play a key role in making the information available for business leaders and executives to monitor, control and oversee business operations on many levels. CIOs should prepare themselves and their organizations for new reporting and analytics requirements, regardless of whether they are required by new regulations or simply as a matter of good business practice.
But what about your IT operations and service delivery to your users, internal customers and/or external clients? How transparent are you with them? And to what extent do you routinely provide information regarding the quality of your services and explaining the impact on the business?
Perhaps your organization has adopted and implemented best practices and standards such as ITIL, CMMI, ISO 20000, Lean Six Sigma, and others. A well-performing IT services organization proactively informs business/application owners of major outages and impacts, before they call your service deck to inform you. A world class IT organization uses analytics to predict service outages before they happen, and prevents them from happening.
What approach do you take with root-cause analysis of problems that seem to be minor impacts? Usually the answer is "If it doesn't impact my Service Level Agreement (SLA), then let's not make an issue of this". This is the opportunity for IT to provide open and transparent access to service delivery metrics to its customers.
Why doesn't IT have "Universal Instrumentation" so that users at all levels would have open access to view the speedometer, and fuel-gauge of your business? Without transparent access how do you know if you are succeeding or failing? Is the truth hidden behind layers and layers of spreadsheets and formulas that people don't trust and "no one understands"? You need to be able drill down into the data at every level, so users and IT can build trust and confidence in the data.
Perhaps it's time for a balanced approach of notification and open access - let users have access to all levels of data and metrics in a manner they can comprehend. Data transparency means real-time visualization of quality and operational metrics from a detailed device level through application performance and its impact on business processes. Would you fly a commercial aircraft through the clouds with no instrument panel?
Going forward, the need for end-to-end visibility and real-time visualization of IT business impacts will become even more critical, as firms begin to employ IT services that are outside of the traditional data center; services like cloud computing and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). The adoption of these newly emerging services will create a more complex environment to manage, and place a greater emphasis on advanced IT service management capabilities.
Now is the time for IT to adopt a policy of transparency with users, and to build the operational management systems required for new IT delivery ecosystems that span private datacenters and network centric services providers. CIOs can avoid, or prevent, a future "IT meltdown" by taking proactive steps today.