What Am I Focusing On?

As I announced a few weeks ago, I have rejoined Gartner within the Infrastructure and Operations team.  I didn’t provide much in the way of clarity regarding what I intended to focus my research upon, however, so I’m using my first blog post to offer a little more insight into what I think will be some key areas going forward (note: references to Gartner research may require client access):

  • IT operations automation and analytics strategy: IT has been leveraging automation technology almost since the inception of computing. However, much of it has been approached in an ad-hoc fashion with little to no thought regarding its implementation within the larger enterprise automation picture (see Gartner research on hyperautomation).  I’ll be looking to help provide more guidance as to why (and what) to assess in terms of automation within I&O while hopefully adding to a growing list within Gartner of “best” practices approaches towards its implementation.
  • IT operations automation/platform engineering design and development lifecycle: This is related to the previous item which will have at least two dimensions. The first is my view that while many would call IT automation technology part of the I&O infrastructure, I view it more as an application (platform).  Hence, just like other technology components that act as hosts for some type of running code, I’m interested in understanding how it approaches the “-ilities” or non-functional requirements such as availability, scalability, maintainability, etc.  I’ve already alluded to the second dimension, i.e., automation technology acting as a host for running applications (scripts, runbooks, etc.).  So, in this context, I’m interested in assessing how the increasing use of an SDLC-like approach can work to ensure appropriate code quality, security, etc.  I don’t believe that any of my thinking here is unique per se, but it seems that much of the current industry conversation focuses on automation as an increasingly intelligent tool and not an application (and integration) platform so I’d like to bring a little more balance to the discussion.
  • IT operations agility and robustness (DevOps, Site Reliability Engineering, etc.): I believe that I was the first Gartner analyst to write about DevOps back in 2010 (and yes, I was immediately corrected by a client who said that it didn’t come from the cloud). Since then, Gartner has written extensively on the subject as well as a related concept that is referred to as Site Reliability Engineering.  However, looking back now at that first note that I developed almost 12 years ago, enterprise IT appears to still be challenged with its DevOps implementations which are increasingly being sought in support of corporate digital transformation efforts.  I’ll be seeking to understand why this is still occurring after the likes of John Allspaw and Andrew Clay Shafer began talking about what would become called DevOps back in 2009 and to assess whether or not if we’ve reached the point where we need to step back and reconsider some of the conventional wisdom in this area.
  • IT infrastructure and operations resiliency processes and techniques: Resilience is a topic that has certainly become more important since the advent of COVID-19. And as the world economy continues to struggle to gain its footing, the critical nature of organizational- and technology-related resilience seems to only be increasing. I hope to more fully explore resilience-oriented engineering concepts (great book here that should be on your bookshelf) and the role that automation will increasingly play in response to a broad array of resilience-oriented risks and opportunities.
  • IT operations human factors (human-to-machine interface or HMI) design: If you haven’t seen Lindsay Holmwood’s dissection of the tragedy of Air France Flight 447, please take the time to do so. It’s a haunting reminder of what can happen when the machine designers don’t take into account the sometimes irrational aspects of human behavior. After reviewing it years ago, I became interested on how to optimize the human-to-machine relationship – especially as we within IT accelerate down a path of increasingly pervasive and intelligent automation. Shame on us as an industry if we don’t consider the often hard-earned lessons of automation usage elsewhere within our own designs.

Many thanks for your interest and I look forward to continuing these (and other) discussions in future interactions.

Gartner Chapter 2: What Am I Focusing On?

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