The Digital Transformer: Towards a New Digital Body of Knowledge

betz_aug_colTechnology is becoming a large component of all economic activity, and increasingly, is directly experienced as a value delivery channel by the customer. New digital technologies, such as cloud computing, social computing, mobile computing, big data analytics, the Internet of Things, and cognitive computing, as well as improved uses of older technologies, enable enterprises to deliver more value through innovative products and services.

Guidance for industries wishing to transform or “digitize” through use of IT, is currently, fragmented into overlapping and sometimes conflicting bodies of knowledge. The emergence of Agile and DevOps as dominant delivery forms have thrown this fractured ecosystem into chaos. Organizations and individuals with investments in frameworks such as the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) and the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) are re-assessing these commitments. There is now an opening for a new, integrated, open, and standard framework for digital industry.

The de facto consensus in larger information technology organizations in the 2000s was “plan it with TOGAF, build it with PMBOK, run it with ITIL, govern it with COBIT.” The Data Management Body of Knowledge (DMBOK) was developed to meet the needs of the data community. Development projects were planned, proposed, funded, executed, and governed. Their results were handed off to Infrastructure and Operations groups to be run with standard IT Service Management processes.

Then digital and DevOps hit the scene. As new customer-facing digital properties like Google, Amazon, Etsy, Flickr, and Facebook scaled to massive proportions, it became clear that traditional IT approaches did not meet their needs. Because these systems were directly market-facing, delivering monetized value in fast-moving competitive marketplaces, they required a degree of responsiveness previously unheard of. “Ten deploys a day” was reported in 2009 by the CTO of Etsy, John Allspaw, a pace unthinkable to those following a traditional IT Change Management process, and leading companies continue to deploy with ever-increasing frequency.

Such speed – tightening the plan-build-run cycle beyond all recognition – was never an end in itself, but rather was sought to accelerate market feedback. Continuous delivery pioneers also discovered that making smaller changes more frequently resulted in better system stability, as long as the organization invested in continually strengthening capabilities such as release automation, monitoring, and organizational learning more broadly. As pre-eminent software engineer Martin Fowler observed, “if it hurts, do it more.”

As of 2017, the legacy frameworks are showing their age in the new digital world. A central problem is their specialization. How does one establish boundaries or scope between the application of TOGAF, ITIL, COBIT, DMBOK and PMBOK in a digital world of cross-functional teams, ongoing experimentation and continuous delivery? The Agile movement has started to create its own guidance, but its efforts to date are proprietary, partial, and/or controversial. The Agile and DevOps communities will likely remain development-centric, and therefore limited from the perspective of the digital executive concerned with a full range of operational topics (service management, sourcing, finance, asset management, end user computing, human resources, governance, etc). At the time of writing, there is no framework providing the necessary C-level synthesis.

Meeting this goal is, in part, why I wrote my new textbook, Managing Digital: Concepts and Practices, currently in early LeanPub release. In it, I propose a new framework for thinking holistically about digital management, based not the outdated Stack or Lifecycle paradigms, but rather on an emergence or scaling model: “from startup to enterprise.”

The book treats the reader’s understanding as an evolving system, introducing concepts as they become necessary to an organization’s growth. Agile and Lean perspectives are woven throughout, with in-depth discussion of their impact on traditional IT management approaches.

Chapter 11 is a survey of Enterprise Information Management, specifically tailored to be of interest to the data community, placing information management in historical and organizational context and positioning it as a key component of digital management for the future. I’d love to hear any reactions to it.

Extensively researched with over 270 citations and 250 figures, and including discussion questions and research topics, this book is intended for both classroom and professional use. Developed and maintained using the same continuous integration principles it describes, the book is an adaptive product intended to grow with the digital profession. Please let me know what you think.

Afterword: It’s just about two years since Bob Seiner asked me to start a column in In my brief period here, I’ve discussed issues of digital transformation important to me, and hopefully of interest to you. I have now accepted a position as Principal Analyst at Forrester Research, and hope you will keep in touch with me there.

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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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