How to Define IT Operations

How to Define IT Operations

Despite being one of the most important fields in large-scale organizations, it’s difficult to clearly define IT Operations with just a few words. Always walking the line between tech management and quality assurance, the IT Operations team has their hand in everything from infrastructure maintenance to ensuring finished products meet the customers’ needs and expectations, and everything in between.

Few jobs are as important and as nebulous as operations. It’s nearly impossible to define IT Operations by their individual tasks, but rather their goals and objectives. And those goals are ensuring all the organization’s technological structures empower workers and management on a day-to-day basis. As such, the very nature of IT Operations is to juggle multiple tasks and manage interruptions throughout the day. And as you can imagine, that can get pretty overwhelming after a while.

The Driving Force Behind IT Operations

As you probably already know, IT Operations teams have goals and responsibilities that are incredibly different from other branches within an organization—even when compared to other IT teams. IT Operations is challenged with pushing business requirements to the next level while protecting the operational stability of the company, which means they require a unique set of tools and methods different from other departments within the same organization.

Today, we’re going to look at the following methods and how they can be used to improve IT Operations:

  • Kanban: A task scheduling system originally designed by engineers at Toyota Motors to boost productivity and track projects more effectively.
  • DevOps: A comprehensive approach to project management that enhances communication and cross-team collaboration in all project phases, from initial planning to product release and even maintenance.
  • IT Service Management (ITSM) and IT Infrastructure Library® (ITIL): ITSM is a structured approach that looks at how to better manage information systems in order to maximize customer value. ITIL is a set of practices within this approach that looks at how to use IT services to empower businesses in their day-to-day operations.

The goal of these methods is to reduce workplace friction caused by the ongoing, fast-paced nature of IT Operations so that team members are better equipped to prioritize, delegate, and manage multiple tasks at any given moment.

Read further to learn more about each of these methods and how they can be used to improve operations tasks.

The Kanban Method

Kanban is a method that uses cards to track tasks as they move through different stages of a project. Originally, tasks were written on literal index cards, where they were assigned to categories on a Kanban board based on the task’s status. A typical board had categories like:

  • Planning
  • In progress
  • Completed

Thanks to the development of project management technology, Kanban has since become high tech and is now an increasingly popular method for improving task management and maximizing workflow transparency.

These days, Kanban is typically used as part of a project management software solution that connects groups from different locations and makes it easy to assign and monitor tasks in real time, as they’re being worked on by team members. Because it helps maximize efficiency and communication, the Kanban method is often paired with Lean and can be used as a way to increase harmony and collaboration between IT Operation and other departments within an organization.

Development Operations (DevOps)

Designed specifically for operations, DevOps is a technique that was developed in 2009 as a way to seamlessly integrate IT Operations into agile software development. That’s because, before the implementation of DevOps, most IT Operations teams found it difficult to keep up with the fast-paced nature of agile development. Agile’s stress for quick delivery didn’t mix well with IT Operation’s dynamic and expansive workload.

This led to the development of the Theory of Constraints, which states that the organization is only as fast as its slowest-moving component. And that component was often the IT Operations team.

Fortunately, there came a solution that addressed the Theory of Constraints: DevOps. [block quote]

The definition of DevOps varies depending on the organization, but the focus is on building a cross-departmental team that works cohesively to tackle problems and facilitate technological innovation. In other words, a team that all works with the same goals in mind—to improve business outcomes.

According to Amazon, DevOps is a mixture of “cultural philosophies, practices, and tools” which enhance an organization’s ability to deliver applications and services quickly and effectively. DevOps achieves this by breaking down departmental silos and merging different teams into one single community, where they work together throughout the duration of a project’s lifecycle, from start to finish. And most organizations succeed in their DevOps initiatives thanks to Kanban boards and other collaboration tools that increase communication and maximize teamwork.

IT Service Management (ITSM) and ITIL®

ITSM is an organizational approach designed to maximize the value of information technology in a business setting. To deliver this value, ITSM provides guidelines for professionals to follow in order to facilitate good IT service management.

ITIL®, on the other hand, is a type of framework that helps organizations reach their ITSM goals successfully. Think of ITIL® as the vehicle and ITSM as the journey. But enough on that, what does ITIL® actually do?

One of the most popular frameworks within the field of IT Service Management, ITIL® is designed to help organizations keep track of planned and unplanned work—both of which are incredibly common among IT Operations teams. This is achieved through ITSM tools that help teams prioritize, schedule, and complete tasks in a way that delivers efficiency and project transparency.

One of those tools that’s commonly used on ITSM platforms is Kanban, which is popular because of its ability to map out planned and unplanned tasks in a way that’s digestible and easy to understand. Whether the task is planned maintenance or an unplanned emergency stemming from a malfunction, Kanban lets you create a visual representation of your tasks. This is beneficial because:

  • It helps IT Operations teams make better estimations about their capacity.
  • High priority tasks can be brought to the top of the workload, where they’re addressed first.
  • Team members have a better idea of which tasks need to be completed to wrap up a project.

The big advantage of using Kanban in your ITIL® approach is that it makes sure all tasks are addressed in a timely manner (and when there’s adequate capacity) so that no incomplete assignments resurface later, causing additional problems.

The Takeaway

By combining Kanban with the project management approaches mentioned in this post, IT Operations teams are better equipped to tackle ongoing assignments without lagging behind. This, in turn, pushes the organization closer to its business objectives, while preventing stress-related friction in the workplace.

Stay tuned for our next post to learn about Kanban more extensively, and how it can be used to enhance the IT Operations sector of ITSM. And be sure to read our eBook “Using Kanban for IT Operations” for a more in-depth guide on helping your operations team achieve project success.

Maria Harper

Maria Harper is a demand generation specialist at Planview focusing on PPM solutions and French and German marketing. She is passionate about data-driven marketing and enjoys applying analytical insights to creative messaging in order maximize marketing potential. She graduated from the University of Missouri with bachelor degrees in German and Journalism.