Awhile back I got a call on a Friday night that is familiar to many consultants, “Can you be in City X on Monday morning?”¬† The program manager on the other end of the phone remembered hearing that I had a degree in Product Management and was eager to get me in front of his customer who was looking to transform his organization into one that managed infrastructure according to a Product Management Lifecycle (PML).¬† Now I admittedly view the world through PML-tinted glasses, but this concept had really piqued my interest.¬† The idea was a pretty simple one: convert his organization to be product-oriented and merge the PML with the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) framework and the Software Development Lifecycle (SDLC) that the organization was already spottily using.¬† As a Unified Field Theory devout I was hooked!
The customer, like most, was approaching the development, testing and management of their infrastructure through a number of siloes: people thinking about the long term strategy; another group concerned with the implementation of systems; a group that tested the integrated infrastructure; a group responsible for the daily management of the environment; and an organization dedicated to interfacing with the customer to understand their requirements (and on occasion their satisfaction).¬† Strategy, architecture, engineering and operations were divided across the organization with several silos within each knowledge area.¬† No one was incented to work together, no one had a vision of the entire infrastructure as a “system” and finger pointing was the order of the day during any outage.¬† Walking around the several floors the IT department was spread over there was an air of discontent, people bolted for the door at 5pm, at the latest, were largely disengaged and took pride in the walls they put up around their particular part of the organization.¬† Worst of all the business, their customer, was unhappy and questioning why they were spending so much on that black box called IT.
How do you solve this sort of issue through the wonders of Product Management you ask?¬† One of the great things about Product Management in my opinion is the sense of ownership that people working on a product have.¬† Whether your product is toothpaste, armchairs, or IT Infrastructure it is your product and you work hard to ensure that it is the best it can be, you think about it a lot, you constantly try to improve it, you become an evangelist for it and if you want it to be successful you try to see it as your customer does.¬† Sounds like great traits for an IT organization, right?¬† We worked together to instill the idea that the infrastructure was their product, identified their customer, actually spoke with them to understand their requirements and the perception of the current environment and defined roles and responsibilities for everyone in IT, mapped them to the PML and communicated it to the entire organization.¬† Pretty straightforward steps.
The entire infrastructure itself was seen as the brand, with product lines for Compute, Database, Storage, and Network.¬† Each product line had several products.¬† Within each product there were stacks, otherwise known as Tiers of Service.¬† Those stacks were made up of assemblies, or types of technologies, for example Platform (array), Interconnect (switches), Process (ITIL) and Resource Management in the case of the Storage stacks.¬† And the lowest level of granularity was components, or a particular instance of an assembly, again using the Storage example some components in the Platform assembly were Symmetrix, CLARiiON and Disk Library.¬† Certain assemblies were managed cross-product line like Process and Resource Management to ensure there was one coherent approach and system.
I’ll continue to share more about this particular experience in transforming an organization to use Product Management for IT and talk about tactical steps for implementing this yourself in future blog posts.