Digital Transformer: Introducing the IT4IT Standard

COL01-Image-edited-Digital-Transformer-copyAbout three years ago, I got an unexpected email from Shell Oil – in particular, their chief architect for the “business of IT,” one Karel van Zeeland. Some of you may recall that was a role I played for Wells Fargo for some time. The conversation went like this:

“Charlie, we have your book and use it at Shell. With HP, we have formed a consortium to define a new standard in this area. Would you be interested in joining?”

In short, the answer was yes, and it’s been a whirlwind of effort ever since. As culmination, I was in Edinburgh, Scotland last October for the official launch of the IT4IT standard by The Open Group. And in followup, I attended the HDI/IT Service Management Fusion conference in New Orleans a couple weeks later, where the Open Group booth had a constant flow of traffic.

As I watched Mary Jarrett of Shell’s keynote on the IT4IT journey, I reflected that in some ways, this was the culmination of a journey I started with my blog, 12 years ago last fall.

I had begun with an initial interest in “ERP for IT.” However, it had never been about ERP systems; rather, it started off questioning the lack of such systems for the domain of large-scale IT management. In other words, why was IT the barefoot cobbler’s child in automating itself?

There’s been a lot of water under the bridge since then, and as I deepened my understanding of the problems, I rebranded the blog as lean4it. But the premise continues: IT remains under-managed relative to peer functions, relying on emails, texts, spreadsheets, word of mouth, and gut feel, as opposed to data-driven systems.

And solving IT management problems has never been more pressing. Why? Two words:

Digital transformation.

Digital technology increasingly pervades all that we experience, perceive, and consume. As recently observed by the New York Times, even farming is undergoing pervasive digital transformation. No industry is immune: digitally adapt or die.

And as the digital economy accelerates, so does the need for more effective, coherent, and integrated management of digital technology. The largest enterprise IT organizations have annual budgets now approaching $10 billion, massive amounts of economic activity representing decades of accumulated IT systems and operations. And a spotlight is now shining on this legacy, representing the urgent digital transformation expectations of stakeholders.

Why IT4IT?

What is IT4IT? Simply put, it is an operating model for the “business of IT.”

Why do we need it? There has been much IT management guidance, but there are a number of gaps and issues:

  • Most of what the broader community thinks of as “IT standards” are technical (TCP/IP, HTTP, HTML, etc). IT4IT is not targeting these kinds of concerns. It is a management standard.
  • Some of the guidance is specialized, to the point where it encourages silo thinking. But more collaborative, generalizing agile/Lean approaches increasingly dominate IT delivery. This in turn increases focus on enabling the end to end flow of digital functionality, over further optimization of narrow specialties.
  • Some of the existing standards are proving slow to adapt to the new realities of digital transformation and Lean IT product development.
  • Some of the standards are proprietary. There is reluctance on the part of enterprise IT executives worldwide to align too closely to proprietary guidance.
  • None of the existing IT management standards were developed explicitly as a full, multi-view reference architecture.

We need a standard that “covers the IT waterfront” from enterprise architecture to product and project management to IT operations, as a multi-layered, precisely expressed reference model. No other standard is positioned to do this.

Platform Power

What excites me the most about IT4IT is not the name, or the current scope, or even the current specification. What excites me, and what should interest you, is that it is a platform, not just a standard. It is part of an ecosystem, along with its peer standards TOGAF and Archimate, and the Open Certified Architect and Open Certified IT Specialist (OpenCITS) certifications.

It’s significant that The Open Group’s domain ends in .org, not .com. It is a true non-profit, and yet it is a non-profit that has a clear business model and unique assets and capabilities (as all successful non-profits do). These include:

  • Formal standards development, including the ability to take standards (if and when appropriate) through the complex International Standards Organization (ISO) processes
  • A reputation as a trusted honest broker, who can attract and enable otherwise fiercely competitive parties to fairly—and legally—collaborate in a consortium model. (Current Platinum members: IBM, HP, Oracle, Huawei, CapGemini, and Phillips.)
  • Intellectual property management, including capable legal counsel
  • Marketing
  • Sales
  • Conference organizing
  • The ability to successfully cultivate a training and consulting ecosystem

and, via Van Haren Publishing, an agile and responsive world-class publishing capability, well regarded throughout the IT management community.

We considered standing up IT4IT as its own standards organization for about five minutes, given the need for ALL the above capabilities. I’m glad we didn’t do anything so foolish. As a Forum of The Open Group, we now have a platform that can bring together the disparate viewpoints of the IT industry. And we did it in a surprisingly short period of time.

The IT4IT standard is freely viewable at

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Charles Betz

Charles Betz

Charlie Betz is the founder of Digital Management Academy LLC, a training, advisory, and consulting firm focused on new approaches to managing the “business of IT.” He has previously held positions as enterprise architect, research analyst, developer and product owner, technical account manager, network manager, and consultant. From 2005-2011 he was the VP and chief architect for the "business of IT" for Wells Fargo, responsible for portfolio management, IT service management, and IT governance enablement. He has also worked for AT&T, Target, Best Buy, Accenture, and the University of Minnesota. As an independent researcher and author, he is the author of the forthcoming Agile IT Management: From Startup to Enterprise, the 2011 Architecture and Patterns for IT Management, and has served as a ITIL reviewer and COBIT author. Currently, he is the AT&T representative to the IT4IT Forum, a new IT management standard forming under The Open Group. He is a member of the ACM, IEEE, Association of Enterprise Architects, ISACA, and DAMA. Currently, he serves on the board of the Minnesota Association of Enterprise Architects chapter and is the organizer of the Agile Study Group, a working group of local practitioners and faculty examing Agile methods from the perspective of theory and pedagogy. Charlie is an instructor at the University of St. Thomas, and lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota with wife Sue and son Keane.

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