In a world where software-defined business drives a new approach to digital business across every vertical, we still see examples of companies getting things wrong where really they should be getting things right. Or at least right a whole lot more often than they actually do.
The airline industry is a prime example of business mishaps, hiccups and calamities. Away from headlines regarding customer service on the ground or in the air, we have seen organisations including Delta Airlines and British Airways hit hard due to malfunctions in their central IT systems.
Delta in particular suffered as a result of what was reported to be a business continuity system failure. Several hundred of the airline’s servers scored abortive connection failures as a result of a primary system outage.
Failures like this can often be traced to fundamental errors in the source software code used to run the IT backbones of major firms’ IT operations. When things escalate and systems start to come crashing down, then we start to hear people talking about 9-digit defects and 9-digit losses.
- A 4-digit loss may be swept aside as an expensive inconvenience.
- A 5-digit loss means Line of Business managers start to lose their jobs.
- A 6-digit loss means divisional heads start to lose their jobs.
- A 7-digit loss means country managers start to lose their jobs.
- An 8-digit loss sees the boardroom C-suite start to implode.
- A 9-digit loss sees the company potentially go out of business.
Connected services, connected business
So why does the modern nature of business throw up these incidents? Part of the reason is that software systems are now so carefully interconnected that they have often reached the point of fragility.
Whether it is by software-defined networking controls or through the lower substrates of software code that will logically include Application Programming Interfaces (APIs), we have constructed an approach to systems integration that is as complex as it is powerful as it is ultimately delicate.
When one failed interaction or data exception can throw a system into meltdown, then we can most easily define that a broader level of IT service management intelligence should be brought to bear.
As systems become increasingly cross-channel and integrated on a multi-modal basis (and firms themselves start to merge, acquire, divest and diverge their operations), then we only face further operational complexity and the potential to fail.
Service management at the core
Service knowledge driven by an intelligent service management layer can provide a new glue to help connect huge systems like these that can suffer from incompatibilities and disconnects. This is not just about getting some new networking and workflow engineering intelligence into the way IT systems are run; it is a wider approach to embrace software-defined business from ground zero. We know that firms are now moving to adopt Agile (as in the CAPS A use of Agile) business models, so the need to evidence a far higher level of dynamic business flexibility has never been more important.
As we now construct software and data-driven, cloud-based, services-empowered computing networks, we have the opportunity to avoid these 9-digit loss failures with what we can define as a 7-point checklist for improved operational business intelligence.
A 7-point plan for service management excellence
- Service definition at the core: Firms that claim to have embraced so-called digital transformation and put software-defined controls at the heart of their business operations models can now structure their workflows and central customer propositions around service-definition as the mainstay of the way they do business. This service-centric approach to business will allow firms in all verticals to architect for the unknown, scale for new business and bend with greater flexibility than at any time in the past.
- Clear definition of roles & responsibilities: Bringing service-driven computing to bear at the front end of Line of Business operations means knowing who is responsible for what across the spread of any departmental matrix. Strategically planning roles and responsibilities upfront allows us to maximise the context of each service as it is defined and brought into life.
- Consistent and constant review of data and data quality: Our services are only as good as the data that they live on. As our information lifeblood, we must ensure that a consistent, carefully delineated and constant review of data quality is set as a standard procedure.
- Training - fire drills and tests to ensure everybody knows what to do and when, without thinking: In a world where intelligent automation is changing the way we do business, we also need to empower staff and stakeholders at all levels with as much ‘automated response’ intelligence as possible. This can manifest itself as fire alert-type drills to sharpen our human responses.
- Documentation - online, readily available and mobile: Providing comprehensive documentation that is relevant, updateable, socially (workgroup) connected and accessible to all individuals based upon agreed departmental policy access controls is an essential layer in this new operational fabric for business.
- Continual Service Improvement: Measure and focus on what you can control versus what you cannot. Small increments lead to bigger improvements and this makes them eminently sustainable.
- Celebrate success, learn from it… and use it to guide the path ahead: As you build your own foundation of success virtuously upwards you can then start to carve your own template for best practices. Within your own preferred and agreed parameters these best practices can then also be shared between industry partners and potentially open sourced at an industry-wide level. Knowledge shared is empowerment for all.