Friday, August 5, 2011

Architect certification increasingly impacts professionalization of IT in the cloud era

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes/iPod and Read a full transcript or download a copy. Sponsor: The Open Group.

We've assembled a panel in conjunction with the recent Open Group Conference in Austin, Texas, to explore the impact and role of certifications for IT professionals. Examine here how certification for enterprise architects, business architects, and such industry initiatives as ArchiMate are proving instrumental as IT organizations seek to reinvent themselves.

There are now a lot of shifts in skills and a lot of movement about how organizations should properly staff themselves. There have been cost pressures and certification issues for regulation and the adoption of new technologies. We're going to look at how all these are impacting the role of certification out in the field.

Here to help better understand how an organization like The Open Group is alleviating the impact and supporting the importance of finding verified IT skills is Steve Philp, Marketing Director for Professional Certification at The Open Group; Andrew Josey, Director of Standards at The Open Group, and James de Raeve, Vice President of Certification at The Open Group. The discussion is moderated by Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions. [Disclosure: The Open Group is a Sponsor of BriefingsDirect podcasts.]

Here are some excerpts:
de Raeve: The primary driver here that we're hearing from members and customers is that they need to get more out of the investments that they're making -- their payroll for their IT staff. They need to get more productivity. And that has a number of consequences.

Realizing talent

They want to ensure that the people they are employing and that they're staffing their teams with are effective. They want to be sure that they're not bringing in external experts when they don’t need to. So there is a need to realize the talent that they've actually got in their internal IT community and to develop that talent, nurture it, and exploit it for the benefit of the organization.

And professionalism, professionalization, and profession frameworks are all tools that can be used in identifying, measuring, and developing the talents and capabilities of your people. That seems to be the major driver.

Philp: Something I have noticed since joining The Open Group is that we’ve got some skills and experience-based certifications. They seem to be the things that people are particularly interested in, because it’s not just a test of your knowledge about a particular vendor or product, but how you have applied your skills and experience out there in the marketplace. They have proven to be very successful in helping people assess where they are and in working towards developing a career path.

That’s one of the areas of certification that things are going to move more towards -- more skills and experience-based certification programs in organizations.

Looking at certification in general, you still have areas like Microsoft MCSE, Microsoft technical specialist, application development, and project management that are in demand, and things like CCNA from Cisco. But I've also noticed a lot more in the security field. CISSP and CCSA seem to be the ones that are always getting a lot of attention. In terms of security, the trends in mobile computing, cloud computing, means that security certification is a big growth area.

There is a need for people too in the building of teams and in the delivering of results to nurture and grow their people to be team players and team participants.

We're just about to put a security track into our Certified IT Specialist Program at The Open Group, so there will be a skills and experience-based track for security practitioners soon.

de Raeve: There is a whole world out there of technology and product-related certifications that are fulfilling a very important function in helping people establish and demonstrate their knowledge of those particular products and technologies.

But there is a need for people too in the building of teams and in the delivering of results to nurture and grow their people to be team players and team participants and to be able to work with them to function within the organization as, for want of a better term, "t-shaped people," where there are a number of soft and people-related skills and potentially architecture related skills for the IT specialists, and skills and capabilities enable people to be rounded professionals within an organization.

T-shaped people

It’s that aspect that differentiates the professionalization and the profession-oriented certification programs that we're operating here at The Open Group -- The Open Certified Architect, The Open Certified IT Specialist. Those are t-shaped people and we think that makes a huge difference. It’s what’s going to enable organizations to be more effective by developing their people to have that more rounded t-shaped capability.

Josey: We see the certification as being the ultimate drive in the uptake of the standards, and so we're able to go from not just having a standard on the shelf to actually seeing it being deployed in the field and used. We've actually got some people certification programs, such as TOGAF, and we've got some over 20,000 practitioners now.

We've gone through the certification program and we've been using and evangelizing, TOGAF as a standard in the field and then feeding that back to our members and, through the association, the feedback improvements to the standards. So it’s very much part of the end-to-end ecosystem -- developing a standard for deploying it, and getting people on it, and then getting the feedback in the right way.

Philp: It’s very much an important part of the process now. TOGAF and IT Architect Certification (ITAC) have appeared in a number of RFPs for government and for major manufacturing organizations. So it’s important that the suppliers and the buyers recognize these programs.

Similarly with recruitment, you find that things like TOGAF will appear in most recruitment ads for architects. Certainly, people want knowledge of it, but more and more you’ll see TOGAF certification is required as well.

ITAC, which is now Open CA, has also appeared in a number of recruitment ads for members like Logica, Capgemini, Shell. More recently, organizations like the CBS, EADS, ADGA Group, Direct Energy have requested it. And the list goes on. It’s a measure of how important the awareness is for these certifications and that’s something we will continue to drive at The Open Group.

In development

Josey: ArchiMate certification is something new that we’re developing right now. We haven’t deployed a certification program as yet. The previous certification program was under the ArchiMate Foundation, which was the body that developed ArchiMate, before it transferred into The Open Group.

We’re currently working on the new program which will be similar to some aspects of our TOGAF program, and it’ll be knowledge base certification with an assessment by exam and a practical assessment in which the candidate can actually do modeling. So this will be people certification and there will also be accredited training course certification.

And then also what we're going to do there is actually to provide certification for tools. There will be certifications there.

That’s pretty much what we’re doing in ArchiMate, so we don’t have a firm timeline. So it will not be available it looks like, probably towards the end of the year would be the earliest, but possibly early next year.

ArchiMate is a modeling language for enterprise architecture (EA) in general and specifically it’s a good fit for TOGAF. It’s a way of communicating and developing models for TOGAF EA. Originally it was developed by the Telematica Instituut and funded, I think, by the EU and a number of commercial companies in the Netherlands. It was actually brought into The Open Group in 2008 by the ArchiMate Foundation and is now managed by the ArchiMate Forum within The Open Group.

The latest version of TOGAF is TOGAF 9 for certification. As we mentioned earlier, there are two types of certification programs, skills and knowledge based. TOGAF falls into the knowledge based camp. We have two levels. TOGAF 9 Foundation, which is our level one, is for individuals to assess that they know the terminology and basic concepts of EA in TOGAF.

Level two, which is a superset of level one, in addition assesses analysis and comprehension. The idea is that some people who are interested in just getting familiar with TOGAF and those people who work around enterprise architects can go into TOGAF Foundation. And these enterprise architects themselves should initially start with the TOGAF Certified, the level two, and then perhaps move on later to Open CA. That will be helpful.

For TOGAF 9 Certification, we introduced that by midyear 2009. We launched TOGAF 9 in February, and it took a couple of months to just roll out all these certifications through all the exam channels.

Since then, we’ve gone through 8,000 certifications. We've seen that two-thirds of those were at the higher level, level two, for EA practitioners and one-third of those are currently at the foundation level.

A new area

Philp: Business architecture is a new area that we've been working on. Let me just to go back to what we did on the branding, because it ties in with that. We launched The Open Group’s new website recently and we used that as the opportunity to re-brand ITAC as The Open Group Certified Architect (Open CA) program. The IT Specialist Certification (ITSC) has now become The Open Group Certified IT Specialist or Open CITS Program.

We did the rebranding at that time, because we wanted to be it associated with the word “open.” We wanted to give the skills and experience-based certification a closer linkage to The Open Group. That’s why we changed from ITAC to Open CA. But, we’ve not changed the actual program itself. Candidates still have to create a certification package and be interviewed by three board members, and there are still three levels of certification: Certified, Master, and Distinguished.

However, what we’re intending to do is have some core requirements that architects need to meet, and then add some specific specializations for different types of architects. The one that we’ve been working on the most recently is the Business Architecture Certification. This came about from an initiative about 18 months ago.

We formed something called the Business Forum with a number of platinum members who got involved with it --companies like IBM, HP, SAP, Oracle and Capgemini. We’ve been defining the conformance requirements for the business architecture certification. It's going through the development process and hopefully will be launched sometime later this year or early next year.

“For the first time we feel like management is paying attention to us.”

de Raeve: There's a very good example [of the importance of staffing issues in IT] ..., and they’ve done a presentation about this in one of our conferences. It's Philips, and they used to have an IT workforce that was divided among the business units. The different businesses had their own IT function.

They changed that and went to a single IT function across the organization, providing services to the businesses. In doing so, they needed to rationalize things like grades, titles, job descriptions, and they were looking around for a framework within which they could do this and they evaluated a number of them.

They were working with a partner who wass helping them do this. The partner was an Open Group member and suggested they look at the Open Group’s IT Specialist Certification, the CITS Certification Program, as it provides a set of definitions for the capabilities and skills required for IT professionals. They picked it up and used it, because it covered the areas they were interested in.

This was sufficient and complete enough to be useful to them, and it was vendor neutral, and an industry best practice. So they could pick this up and use it with confidence. And that has been very successful. They initially benchmarked their entire 900 strong IT workforce against The Open Group definition, so they could get to calibrate themselves, where their people were on their journey through development as professionals.

It’s had a very significant impact in terms of not only enabling them to get a handle upon their people, but also in terms of their employee engagement.

They’ve started to embrace the certification programs as a method of not only measuring their people, but also rewarding them. It’s had a very significant impact in terms of not only enabling them to get a handle upon their people, but also in terms of their employee engagement. In the engagement surveys that they do with their staff, some of the comments they got back after they started doing this process were, “For the first time we feel like management is paying attention to us.”

It was very positive feedback, and the net result is that they are well on their way to meeting their goal of no longer having automatically to bring in an external service provider whenever they were dealing with a new project or a new topic. They know that they’ve got people with sufficient expertise in-house on their own payroll now. They've been able to recognize that capability, and the use of it has had a very positive effect. So it’s a very strong good story.

I think that the slides will be available to our members in the conference’s proceedings from the London conference in April. That will be worth something to look at.

Philp: If you go to the Open Group website,, all of the people based certifications are there, along with the benefits for individuals, benefits for organizations and various links to the appropriate literature. There’s also a lot of other useful things, like self-assessment tests, previous webinars, sample packages, etc. That will give you more of an idea of what’s required for certification along with the conformance requirements and other program documentation. There’s a lot of useful information on the website.
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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Case study: MSP InTechnology improves network services via automation and consolidation of management systems

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes/iPod and Read a full transcript or download a copy. Sponsor: HP.

The latest BriefingsDirect podcast discussion focuses on a UK-based managed service provider’s journey to provide better information and services for its network, voice, VoIP, data, and storage customers. The network management and productivity benefits have come from an alignment of many service management products into an automated lifecycle approach to overall network operations.

We explore here how InTechnology has implemented a coordinated, end-to-end solution using HP solutions that actually determine the health of its networks by aligning their tools to ITIL methods. And, by using their system-of-record approach with a configuration management database, InTechnology is better serving its customers with lean resources by leveraging systems over manual processes.

Hear from an operations manager, Ed Jackson, Operational System Support Manager at InTechnology, to explore their choices and outcomes when it comes to better operations and better service for their hundreds of enterprise customers. The discussion is moderated by Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions. [Disclosure: HP is a sponsor of BriefingsDirect podcasts.]

Here are some excerpts:
Jackson: We've basically been growing exponentially year over year. In the past four years, we've grown our network about 75 percent. In terms of our product set, we've basically tripled that in size, which obviously leads to major complexity on both our network and how we manage the product lifecycle.

Previously, we didn’t have anything that could scale as well as the systems that we have in place now. We couldn’t hope to manage 8,000 or 9,000 network devices, plus being able to deliver a product lifecycle, from provisioning to decommission, which is what we have now.

It's pretty massive in terms of the technologies involved. A lot of them are cutting-edge. We have many partners. Our suite of cloud services is very diverse and comprises what we believe is the UK’s most complete and "joined-up"set of pay-monthly voice and data services.

Their own pace

In practice what we aim to do is help our customers engage with the cloud at a pace that works for them. First, we provide connectivity to our nationwide network ring – our cloud. Once their estate is connected they can then cherry pick services from our broad pay-as-you-go (PAYG) menu.

For example, they might be considering replacing their traditional "tin" PBXs with hosted IP telephony. We can do that and demonstrate massive savings. Next we might overlay our hosted unified communications (UC) suite providing benefits such as "screen sharing," "video calling," and "click-to-dial." Again, we can demonstrate huge savings on planes, trains and automobiles.

Next we might overlay our exciting new hosted call recording package -- Unity Call Recording (UC) -- which is perfect if they are in a regulated industry and have a legal requirement to record calls. It’s got some really neat features including the ability to tag and bookmark calls to help easy searching and playback.

While we're doing this, we might also explore the data path. For example our new FlexiStor service provides what we think is the UK’s most straightforward PAYG service designed to manage data by its business "value" and not just as one big homogenous lump of data. It treats data as critical, important or legacy and applies an appropriate storage process to each ... saving up to 40 percent against traditional data management methods.

Imagine trying to manage this disparate set of systems. It would be pretty impossible. But due to the HP product set that we have, we've been able to utilize all the integrations and have a fully managed, end-to-end lifecycle of the service, the devices, and the product sets that we have as a company.

[Our adoption of the HP suites] was spurred by really bad data that we had in the systems. We couldn't effectively go forward. We couldn't scale anymore. So, we got the guys at HP to come in and design us a solution based on products that we already had, but with full integration, and add in additional products such as HP Asset Manager and device Discovery and Dependency Mapping Inventory (DDMI).

With the systems that we already had in place, we utilized mainly HP Service Desk. So we decided to take the bold leap to go to Service Manager, which then gave us the ability to integrate it fully into the Operations Manager product and our Network Node Manager product.

Since we had the initial integrations, we've added extra integrations like Universal Configuration Management Database (UCMDB), which gives us a massive overview on how the network is progressing and how it's developing. Coupled with this, we've got Release Control, and we've just upgraded to the latest version of Service Manager 9.2.

For any auditor that comes in, we have a documented set of reports that we can give them. That will hopefully help us get this compliance and maintain it.

... We recently upgraded Connect-It from 4.1 to 9.3, and with that, we upgraded Asset Manager System to 9.3. Connect-It is the glue that holds everything together. It's a fantastic application that you can throw pretty much any data at, from a CSV file, to another database, to web services, to emails, and it will formulate it for you. You can do some complex integrations in that. It will give you the data that you want on the other side and it cleanses and parses, so that you can pass it on to other systems.

From our DDMI system, right through to our Service Manager, then into our Network Node Manager, we now have a full set of solutions that are held together by Connect-It.

We can discover the device on the network. We can then propagate it into Service Manager. We can add lots of financial details to it from other financial systems outside of the HP product set, but which are easy to integrate. We can therefore provision the circuit and provision the device and add to monitoring automatically, without any human intervention, just by the fact that the device gets shipped to the site.

It gets loaded up with the configuration, and then it's good to go. It's automatically managed right through to the decommissioning stage, or the upgrade stage, where it's replaced by another device. HP systems give us that capability.

So this all has given us a huge benefit in terms of process control, how ITIL is related. More importantly, one of the main things that we are going for at the moment is payment card industry (PCI) and ISO 27001 compliance.

For any auditor that comes in, we have a documented set of reports that we can give them. That will hopefully help us get this compliance and maintain it. One of the things as an MSP is that we can be compliant for the customer. The customer can have the infrastructure outsourced to us with the compliance policy in that. We can take the headache of compliance away from our customers.

More and more these days, we have a lot of solicitors and law firms on our books, and we're getting "are you compliant" as a request before they place business with us. We're finding all across the industry that compliance is a must before any contract is won. So to keep one step ahead of the game, this is something that we're going to have to achieve and maintain, and the HP product set that we have is key in that.

Due to the HP product set that we have, we've been able to utilize all the integrations and have a fully managed, end-to-end lifecycle of the service.

In terms of our service and support, we've basically grown the network massively, but we haven’t increased any headcount for managing the network. Our 24/7 guys are the same as they were four or five years ago in terms of headcount.

We get on average around 5,000 incidents a month automatically generated from our systems and network devices. Of these incidents, only about 560 are linked to customer facing Interactions using our Service Desk Module in the Service Manager application.

Approximately 80 percent of our total incidents are generated automatically. They are either proactively raised, based on things like CPU and memory of network devices or virtual devices or even physical servers in our data centers, or reactively raised based on for example device or interface downs.

Massive burden

When you've got like 80 percent of all incidents raised automatically, it takes a massive burden off the 24/7 teams and the customer support guys, who are not spending the majority of their time creating incidents but actually working to resolve them.

When we originally decided to take the step to upgrade from Service Desk to Service Manager and to get the network discovery product set in, we used HP’s Professional Services to effectively design the solution and help us implement it.

Within six months, we had Service Desk upgraded to Service Manager. We had an asset manager system that was fully integrated with our financials, our stock control. And we also had a Network Discovery toolset that was inventorying our estate. So we had a fully end-to-end solution.

Automatic incidents

nto that, we have helped to develop the Network Operations Management Solution into being able to generate automatic incidents. HP PS services provided a pivotal role in providing us with the kind of solutions that we have now.

Since then, we took that further, because we have very good in-house knowledgeable guys that really understand the HP systems and services. So we've taken it bit of a step further, and most of the stuff that we do now in terms of upgrades and things are done in-house.

One of the key benefits is it gives us a unique calling card for our potential customers. I don’t know of many other MSPs that have such an automated set of technology tools to help them manage the service that they provide to their customers.

Five years ago, this wasn't possible. We had disparate systems and duplicate data held in multiple areas So it wasn’t possible to have the integration and the level of support that we give our customers now for the new systems and services that we provide.

Mean time to restore has come down significantly, by way over 15 percent. As I said, there has been zero increase in headcount over our systems and services. We started off with a few thousand network devices and only three or four different products, in data, storage, networks and voice. Now we've got 16 different kinds of product sets, with about 8,000, 9,000 network devices.

In terms of cost saving, and increased productivity, this has been huge. Our 24/7 teams and customer support teams are more proactive in using knowledge bases and Level 1 triage. Resolution of incidents has gone up by 25 percent by customer support teams and level 1 engineers; this enables the level 3 engineers to concentrate on more complex issues.

In terms of SLAs, we manage the availability of network devices. It gives us a lot more flexibility in how we give these availability metrics to the customers.

If you take a Priority 3, Priority 4 incident, 70 percent of those are now fixed by Level 1 engineers, which was unheard of five or six years ago. Also, we now have a very good knowledge base in the Service Manager tool that we can use for our Level 1 engineers.

In terms of SLAs, we manage the availability of network devices. It gives us a lot more flexibility in how we give these availability metrics to the customers. Because we're business driven by other third party suppliers, we can maintain and get service credits from them. We've also got a fully documented incident lifecycle. We can tell when the downtime has been on these services, and give our suppliers a bit of an ear bashing about it, because we have this information to hand them. We didn’t have that five or six years ago.

With event correlation, we reduced our operations browsers down to just meaningful incidents, we filtered our events from over 100,000 a month to less than 20,000 many of these are duplicated and are correlated together. Most events are associated with knowledge base articles in Service Manager and contain instructions to escalate or how to resolve the event, increasingly by a level 1 engineer.

Contacting customers within agreed SLAs and how we can drive our suppliers to provide better service is fantastic because of the information that is available in the systems now. It gives us a lot more heads up on what’s happening around the network.

We're building a lot of information, taken from our financial systems and placing it into our UCMDB and CMDB databases to give us the breakdown of cost per device, cost per month, because now this information is available.

We have a couple of data centers. One of our biggest costs is power usage. Now, we can break down by use of collecting the power information, using NNMi -- how much our power is costing per rack by terms of how many amps have been used over a set period of time, say a week or a month. where previously we had no way of determining how our power usage was being spent or how much was actually costing us per rack or per unit.

From this performance information, we can also give our customers extra value reports and statistics that we can charge as a value added managed solution for them.

It's given us a massive information boost, and we can really utilize the information, especially in UCMDB, and because it’s so flexible, we can tailor it to do pretty much whatever we want. From this performance information, we can also give our customers extra value reports and statistics that we can charge as a value added managed solution for them.

[In terms of getting started], one of the main things is to have a clear goal in mind before you start. Plan everything, get it all written down, and have the processes looked at before you start implementing this, because it’s fairly hard to re-engineer if you decided that one of the actual solutions or one of the processes that you have implemented isn’t going to work. Because of the integration of all the systems, you might tend to find that reverse engineering them is a difficult task.

As a company, we decided to go for a clean start and basically said we'd filter all the data, take the data that we actually really required, and start off from scratch. We found that doing it that way, we didn’t get any bad data in there. All the data that we have now is pretty much been cleansed and enriched by the information that we can get from our automated systems, but also by utilizing the extra data that people have put in.
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Monday, August 1, 2011

New HP Service Manager tackles time and cost associated with help desk productivity

HP today announced the latest version on its Service Manager software in an attempt to drive out a large portion of help desk cost, 85 percent of which is estimated to be spent on personnel. Version 9.30 introduces several innovations aimed at ease of use for the help desk staff, the end users, and the administrators who maintain the system.

According to Chuck Darst, HP's ITSM Product Manager, three key features underlie the updated version: a mobile client, enhanced service catalog, and enhanced knowledge management (KM). [Disclosure: HP is a sponsor of BriefingsDirect podcasts.]

Aimed at service desk personnel involved in the incident management and change approvals processes, the new mobile client (included at no additional cost) has been built for a smart phone form-factor and is supported on a wide range of devices, including the Apple iPhone and iPad, Google Android devices, HP WebOS devices and RIM Blackberry. Prior to this, users who wanted smart phone functionality had to rely on third-party plug-ins.

The service catalog portal provides an interface to cloud environments, providing options, sources, and methods for provisioning requests. Also, with a customizable mySM dashboard, IT can directly access information when they need it. The new dashboard can tailor data from HP Service Manager or other external sources, without the need of an administrator.

The service catalog portal provides an interface to cloud environments, providing options, sources, and methods for provisioning requests.

The new KM offering provides searches using updated search engine technology and new search forms designed to increase the amount of first-call resolutions and to reduce the number of calls that need to be escalated.

Other features include:
  • Graphical “Process Designer,” which allows IT organizations to speed implementations with a new GUI-based workflow designer and rules editor that simplify the editing and configuring of workflows, conditions and rules.
  • New survey capability, so IT can tune services to better serve its customers with a new survey instrument from MarketTools that captures end-user feedback.
  • End-user self-services, which organizations allows users to access self support help or place a new support request.
  • A new migration tool and an assessment tool for migration planning.
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