The Great Availability Challenge: Bridging the Gap Between Business and IT
Availability — a characteristic that describes whether a resource is operable and capable of performing its designated function — is a frequently discussed topic in the IT sector. In today’s world, in which everyone has a mobile device and is connected all the time, enterprises must offer always-on services to stay competitive. Thus, availability has become relevant to the business as well as to IT. Unfortunately, the gap that often exists between business and IT is one of the greatest hindrances to availability.
Understanding Availability From Different Perspectives
In my role as an availability consultant, I regularly use a model that distinguishes availability requirements on the following three levels:
- The business process or function level that uses IT services;
- The IT service level that is composed of IT components; and
- The IT component level, with its various hardware and software building blocks.
Availability is relevant on all these levels, but depending on their backgrounds, people tend to use different terms to express availability requirements. Working from a central model will help create a foundation for business and IT to understand each other.
Getting Clarity on Availability Requirements
Understanding and then harmonizing the requirements across the business, service and component view is key to ensuring overall availability needs are met. I have seen mismatches in many cases. In engagements with IT organizations, I often see situations in which high availability is realized for all types of components regardless of whether they are critical for the business. This leads to unnecessary costs and can become a competitive disadvantage. On the other hand, if an IT solution is built in a way that is below the required availability level, the business risk can be higher than expected.
Clarifying the availability requirements is important to understanding whether the actual implementation truly satisfies what is needed. An assessment should start from the business perspective, include IT services and then define the availability for the individual IT components. These requirements must be translated into a level-specific language to ensure a common understanding. Use cases and what-if scenarios are good ways to help facilitate the alignment between stakeholders.
Agreeing on Improvement Measures
A clear understanding is necessary to conduct risk assessments and make investment decisions. Putting IT investments into the perspective of business requirements and ensuring the traceability of IT operations or maintenance activities back to business relevance is important for any organization since it helps IT leaders demonstrate their business acumen and contributions to a company’s overall success. Once everyone knows and understands the required availability across all levels, agreements can be made on the improvement measures that should be taken.