Growing up as a boy in Manchester, UK, football (ok, soccer to US readers) was everything to me. I vividly remember being herded into the stadium stands on cold rainy Saturday afternoons to watch my team (#MCFC) win, draw or lose. Back then, football was for the die-hards – no frills or fancy tech, just hot tea and a suspect meat pie at half-time.
How things have changed. Now sporting events have undergone a complete transformation – all digitally-driven.
High Tech Sports
Take Levi Stadium, home of the San Francisco 49ers for example; considered by many to be the most high-tech stadium in the world. There’s too much tech to describe in detail, but you can be sure that all the Wi-Fi beacons, 400 miles of cable, photo voltaic energy and a funky mobile app have been designed with one thing in mind – enhancing the fan experience. So no ‘cattle-herding’ at a 49ers game – nope, a personalized digital experience that’ll find you your seat, food concessions, the closest bathroom — and of course the shortest beer line (#1 feature in my opinion).
Levi Stadium isn’t just another example of technical wizardry. It’s more an exercise in an organization deeply connecting with its customers through the delivery of highly experiential services. Understanding the needs, motivations and desires of their loyal fan base and servicing them accordingly.
It’s a pity this same thinking isn’t always applied in IT Operations – that is, deeply understanding what Ops ‘fans’ need if they’re to ensure a good business user and customer experience across new highly dynamic agile environments.
High Stakes IT Operations
Similar to the Manchester game day experience years ago, IT Operations has often done it tough. They’ve worked in isolated NOC’s and service centers, been placed on 24/7 call; working weekends and missing their kid’s birthdays. They have been served specialized ‘team merchandise’ in the shape of complex tools and processes – always counting on their loyalty to save the day when the next mega release comes over the wall. No great surprise then that Operations in many organizations is seen as uncommunicative and uncompromising – almost, well – tribal.
But IT tribalism doesn’t win matches in the software-driven economy game. Now, digital business realities means IT Operations must supplement its traditional fixation on reliability and resilience with a willingness to drive change – Operations must itself become more Agile. But how do you start? Thinking back to the innovation at Levi Stadium, here are three good ways.
- Gaining Loyal Supporters – Development and Operations aren’t enemies, but like rival UK football team supporters the teams are often segregated. Dev and their tools to the left, Ops with theirs to the right. From a business perspective this is plain dumb – especially when it comes to getting the most value from technologies like application performance management. Rather than frantically monitor applications as problems manifest in production and then call Dev for help, wouldn’t it be better to incorporate operational intelligence much earlier in the software lifecycle? So when code is released, monitoring could immediately provide development with an early warning on operational issues. Conversely, Ops practitioners gain accurate and timely insights into production performance requirements and KPI’s – that’s not only a DevOps style win-win, it’s an agile like best practice to increase quality and avoid technical debt.
- Filling the Business Stadium – The goal of Operations has always been keeping the business lights on, but Agile Operations now means making them shine brighter. Cloud, Microservices architecture and containers all give businesses the technical clout needed to support speed at scale, but it comes at a cost. Today’s sophisticated applications rely on specialized technologies, so it’s perhaps understandable that Operations chase the technology down the proverbial rabbit hole with more specialized tools. But the real truth is that any monitoring system which doesn’t deliver true business value by providing unified insight into how customers are actually experiencing IT services is of no use to anyone. Remember too that technology scale is about future proofing your business, so look for scalable monitoring to match it.
- Delivering a Complete Experience – The digital experience for a 49ers fan doesn’t start and end on game day. It is delivered by a linked series of services – a digital journey comprising seat selection, ticketing, parking, entry, action replays, and player stats reviews – every one of which can positively or negatively impact the fans experience. Whatever your industry, IT Operations will be called upon to support similar services, meaning deep and uninterrupted visibility across the myriad of front and back technologies underpinning every customer interaction, engagement and transaction will become essential.
Successful digital transformation needs more DevOps and agile operations, agile development, faster release cycles and higher quality software. It’s time for IT Operations to stop fixing production problems and become an active participant in supporting these goals. Without Agile Operations, your role in the software-driven business game ferociously being played out will be like that meat pie I ate many years ago – suspect.