Another View: Emerging IT management roles

Mark Forman

Increasingly, IT is being bought or deployed as a service.

Applications software yields most value when shared as a service across an organization. Similarly, hardware is most productive when shared via storage area networks and utility computing.

Indeed, the Federal Enterprise Architecture and the E-Government Act provide an explicit basis for the deployment of the 'IT as a service' concept through the use of shared services and Web services.

Most organizations are finding that they can significantly lower costs and improve service by applying standards based on best practices and taking advantage of economies of scale.

In 2001, I generally called this concept 'buy once, use many.' Now, there are numerous reference architectures and recommendations for how CIO organizations should be structured to enable use of shared IT services.

We reviewed the work of highly rated CIOs, global standards such as IT Systems Management, and thought leadership work from companies such as Gartner Inc. of Stamford, Conn., International Data Corp. of Framingham, Mass., and Forrester Research Inc. of Cambridge, Mass. We found more than 200 'services' or offerings a CIO organization is supposed to provide.

In the context of the Federal Enterprise Architecture and the Fortune 500, there is no way a central IT organization can develop and provide every IT service needed. But there are functions that only the central IT organization can provide if the enterprise is to achieve high quality of service and economies of scale.

A common finding is that the CIO organization should be structured as a business services broker. A broker matches available products with consumers. A central IT organization doesn't have to build shared applications, but it does have to make the business model work to match suppliers with those who need supplies.

If an enterprise CIO organization assumes the role of the business services broker, groups within and outside the organization innovate by creating shared services that add value to enterprise.

Discovery and registry are good examples of services embraced by the federal government at its Web site for IT components, www.core.gov.

Typically, application components are registered with key information that developers need to select and integrate common code into an application. The discovery service lets a code developer or solutions architect find an existing application or component that fulfills a requirement. The best way to implement such a service is to have the enterprise-level organization maintain the registry and directory, since it helps locate and integrate an existing application that may be hidden within an organization.

Many e-government initiatives are moving slowly because they lack a cross-agency funding structure. When the central IT organization creates a financial model as part of the broker function, a lot of friction is removed from the system. It also opens up the possibility that an agency IT initiative could provide a service to many other agencies, enabling a better quality product than any one agency could afford.

Mark Forman, former Office of Management and Budget administrator for e-government and IT, is executive vice president at Cassatt Corp. of Menlo Park, Calif.

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