Cloud engineers and practitioners are usually deeply technical and experts in cloud architectures and software development. However, their world overlaps, or collides, with IT service management (ITSM) when it comes to putting their projects into production and into the hands of internal teams or external customers. Some organizations, such as Capital One, knew this from the start of their cloud journey and created a cross-functional “Cloud Center of Excellence” to integrate cloud expertise with ITSM expertise.
But how do organizations such as Capital One “ITSMify” their technical cloud engineers? This article explains how.
When cloud engineers don’t grok ITSM
There are a number of things that come into play here, from why there’s a disconnect to the impact:
- Cognitive overload. Cloud is complex, ever-changing, and on its own can cause cognitive overload. The last thing any cloud engineer needs is “more people, process, and technology” that aren’t cloud. Hence, it’s easier to ignore ITSM.
- Cloud experts can be detached from the organization. It’s normal for cloud projects to hire external cloud experts who are completely unfamiliar with the organization. They don’t know the culture, the tribal knowledge, the ITSM systems, the processes, tools, staff, customers, or business. You can predict that if this isn’t addressed, then the resulting cloud project will not fit at all with the rest of the organization.
- Reinvention of the wheel occurs. Cloud engineers that aren’t familiar with the organization’s ITSM policies and practices will likely reinvent existing processes and duplicate tools. A new ticketing system. A new user directory. A new front-end portal “service desk.” A new operational dashboard.
How to ITSMify a cloud engineer
As many cloud engineers are inherently, proudly, and immovably technical, sending them a one-hundred-page ITSM process document to read will not work. Holding meetings with ITSM staff to “educate” them (they’ll likely interpret this as “speak down to them”) will not work. The cloud-engineer response is likely to be “I don’t have the time to listen to these people who don’t understand what we’re doing, who are not part of the project, and don’t understand the cloud and are stuck in the past.”
Therefore, the best way to ITSMify a cloud engineer is with tools and activities that assist them to:
- Be productive
- Help their cloud get better adopted
- Help them avoid censure for unapproved practices.
The great news here is that the best cloud services are already ITSMified to some degree. They’re all services (not products) for a start. All the services have APIs and the cloud engineer knows and loves this. So, any ITSM tool that can drive a cloud API is a winner in the cloud engineer’s eyes.
The pitch to a cloud engineer, to ITSMify them, is therefore this:
“Can we add some actions to the backlog to integrate the cloud with our IT service desk and service catalog to start with?”
And make sure you have ITSM representation on the daily standups. If asked “Why?” the answer is “You know in the new Unicorn Project book by Gene Kim, how Maxine couldn’t get up to speed on builds and systems because they were undocumented and impossible to reach or get approvals for, and how that nearly closed the company? We want to help avoid/fix that!”
Using a Cloud Centre of Excellence Team
The bigger picture of what to do to completely ITSMify a cloud project is to appoint a Cloud Center of Excellence team and follow the signposts across the six perspectives of the Cloud Adoption Framework (CAF). Not all of these perspectives are technical, but a decent cloud engineer will appreciate the use of the CAF to work well with ITSM.
The goal is to have the ITSM tool as a source of truth and process for the cloud. It’s not healthy for a cloud service to reinvent ITSM capabilities that are unique to that cloud. Especially since your organization may have more than one cloud (aka multi-cloud).'It’s not healthy for a #cloud service to reinvent #ITSM capabilities that are unique to that cloud.' – @ukcloudpro Click To Tweet
An example of how the integration between cloud and ITSM tool works is this:
- The cloud engineer uses AWS CloudFormation, say, to build an environment
- This environment should be codified in the AWS Service Catalog (or other cloud service catalog)
- The ITSM tool or ITSM service catalog can call the cloud service catalog.
This way, cloud engineers are leveraging ITSM tool capabilities and lots of people can use the fruits of the cloud engineer’s labor to consume cloud and make the cloud project a success. Everyone’s a winner.
A truly terrible cloud engineer will not see the value in this – it’s perhaps a test to use to weed out the terrible! You may hear “What’s the point? If users don’t understand cloud, they shouldn’t be using it!” and that’s a sign that your ITSMification is very much needed!
Steve Chambers generates real-time analysis on the topics of Cloud, DevOps, and ITSM. Steve helps organizations that range from global to local, commercial to public sector, and startup to enterprise. With these organizations, Steve operates at the conjunction of cloud service providers and organizations that consume their services, and analyzes and advises on the impact on their people, process, and technology.
Steve's career spans more than twenty years including banking, consulting engineer with Loudcloud, professional services and presales management at VMware, Cisco and VCE and executive CTO office at Atos Cloud, and numerous roles with startups in the cloud software business.
In addition to his day job, Steve is also an Associate Consultant at ITSM.tools.