IT Governance: What VARs Need to Know About Managing Data and Technology

The laws of physics don’t necessarily apply to IT.

For every action there certainly is a reaction — though it’s not necessarily equal and opposite.

“Actions taken within the IT organization can produce ripples that have tsunami-like effects in other areas of the organization,” said Aaron Mills, Global Knowledge Vice President of Channel Sales.

IT governance is more complex than it’s ever been. It was relatively easy to contain these ripples when data centers were physical and monolithic, and CIOs were only responsible for operating finite, contained architectures.

Gone are the days of identifying your department as an “IBM shop” or a “Microsoft shop.” Modern data centers are comprised of dozens of mission-critical components spanning multiple vendors.

And it’s not just the hardware that has complicated things. Middleware, applications, databases, security and cloud-based services all combine to disrupt the holistic management environment.

The role of the generalist or the jack-of-all trades IT professional is increasingly challenged. With so many moving parts, specialization has become a necessity.

“Data center professionals are among the brightest individuals on this planet. They’re brilliant,” Mills said. “But the data center and all of these various multifaceted components demand specialization. It’s really tough for the same individual that knows how to implement and oversee security architecture and framework to also be the same individual that’s going to be responsible for application development and all the project management and components that go into that.”

There’s a reason why Mills views IT governance as “the biggest challenge” in IT today. To ensure success, a data center and its technology must be built on three foundational elements:

  1. A clear and comprehensive framework
  2. A skilled and confident staff
  3. Diligent collaboration and communication

Organizations are investing heavily in new technology, with an emphasis on cloud services and security. But how do IT managers ensure everything remains in sync with organizational objectives? That’s the toughest job in IT.

It all starts with a plan

With so many specialized environments within IT departments, a well-intended action taken outside the framework can have a profound affect downstream.

So how do you prevent ripples from turning into tsunamis elsewhere in the organization?

“It requires a more thoughtful approach,” Mills said, “which has to begin with a deeper awareness, a deeper appreciation and understanding for all of the tools and resources and the associated cause-and-effect-relationships that exist across the broader IT ecosystem.”

IT governance has become entirely contingent on complex relationship management. Tech professionals can’t afford to work in silos—the need for constant communication, collaboration and transparency is the foundation of a successful management plan. The various IT specialists need to work in closer coordination with their peers. It’s management’s job to establish and respect the interdependencies across the IT and business landscape.

If all of this was being managed within the four walls of a data center, it would be difficult enough. Add virtualization and the use of cloud providers to the equation, and the relationship management is all the more complicated.

“It’s no longer just between IT and the business,” Mills said. “We’ve introduced cloud computing providers. That convoluted and complicated process of managing relationships now becomes a shared responsibility between the IT organization, the business organization and, in many cases, off-balance-sheet service organizations.

“For all of the positives that the new technologies bring, the management of that set of relationships has become, I believe, one of the greatest opportunities and challenges facing the modern data center.”

The opportunity that Mills speaks of must be seized by value-added resellers (VARs). Implementing a strong IT blueprint is a great way to fill a customer’s unmet need. This is where VARs have the opportunity to really prove their worth.

“The VAR, as a trusted advisor, can play an important role,” Mills said. “We want to consistently put the VAR in the position of being the facilitator and the enabler using Global Knowledge and consultative processes to make sure that the organization is coordinating, synchronizing and executing effectively.”

As the technology evolves and data centers increase in complexity, the need for greater governance surges. VARs can absorb this responsibility. With the proper IT knowledge, a successful strategy is within reach. This is their opportunity to implement a plan, manage a customer’s data and deliver a profit.

That’s how you ensure a happy customer.

Data center air traffic controllers

Mills likens the role of a data center manager to that of an air traffic controller. With so many flights in the sky, you can’t afford to make up your plan as you go.

A plane can’t taxi on a runway, much less take off, without a concrete flight plan. There are also various hand-offs along the way that occur from one air traffic control zone to the next to make sure flights arrive at their destination safely, on time and with a minimum of disruptions.

The concept of an integrated and IT-wide flight plan is crucial. With that comes the need for impact analysis and the mapping of changes. Whenever an action is taken, it must be understood how various parts of the organization will be directly or indirectly affected.

“It’s sort of like that air traffic controller plan, to say, ‘Every time we introduce something new into the system, we need to have an effective mechanism to highlight that, to incorporate something new into our tactical day-to-day project planning and communications plan,’” Mills said. “Make sure that all of the other effective parties along the value chain and the delivery chain within the business, not just IT but within the business, are getting full visibility.”

Communication and transparency are necessary skills for a data center manager, but Mills believes the ability to manage change is the most important trait. The multifaceted architecture that comprises a data center is constantly changing from patches to new software releases. A constant fine-tuning is necessary to stay in sync with the original plan, and then to adapt to transformations within the IT department and the business community.

Cloud challenges

Mills says to think of cloud providers like outside contractors that are now a core component of your IT ecosystem. Cloud computing is often seen only as a way to save money by renting computer power. It needs to also be viewed through a big-picture or strategic lens.

“Cloud absolutely introduces a set of variables and relationship management factors into that governance model that exponentially increases the importance of, and the opportunity surrounding IT governance,” he said.

Mills says the prospect and potential for cloud led to an aggressive pursuit, of which IT professionals are now having to deal with the ramifications.

“That catalyst (for cloud) is the thing that’s now put the concern and challenge onto steroids,” he said.

VARs are expected to understand all of the moving pieces. Physical data centers may be shrinking, but the introduction of cloud has only increased the complexity of overseeing all of the data whether it’s moving or static. So how do VARs ensure they have the proper knowledge to manage this increasingly convoluted process?

A great way to start is to partner with Global Knowledge.

Skills are the backbone of a successful staff

Change is going to be coming at specialized IT professionals on a daily basis. Organizations must take proactive steps to eliminate skills gaps. They can’t afford to be reactionary – not when speed is of the utmost importance.

“In the past, because these individuals are extremely bright, I think there was a tendency to say, ‘Hey, I’m smart enough. I can figure it out myself.’ Or ‘I’ll just read the manual,’” Mills said. “I think that there was a long period of time where the pace of technology, people felt they could keep up with it by sheer wits or a little bit of elbow grease. I don’t think that’s even remotely possible anymore.”

IT departments are no longer identified as a one-vendor shop; they consist of many nuanced pieces that make up the collective set of tools and resources. So in some instances you’ve got IT professionals running VMware in an AWS-hosted environment. How do you train for that?

Specific vendors aren’t going to provide that kind of skills development – they’re only going to focus on their own particular process.

This is where Global Knowledge comes in. We are available to help bridge that gap. Our training can help IT professionals look at the multiple components coming from different sources and understand the interplay and the combined skillsets required to manage each.

Mills points to several of our experts, particularly in cloud computing and cybersecurity, who develop courses that provide more of a holistic thought process review and a knowledge-based assessment. It’s not about promoting a certain brand or solution; it’s about thinking more strategically about meeting organizational needs.

“Nobody has the depth and breadth of relations that we do across the technology community,” he said. “And nobody has the commitment to the channel that we do. So, therefore, that interplay and that set of unique capabilities that Global Knowledge brings to bear, I think puts us in an excellent position to partner with the VAR community and the under-user customers in terms of helping governance.”

Ultimately, an emphasis needs to be placed on training. Mills believes that professional development has become too much of a do-it-yourself exercise. Training needs to be thought of proactively and pursued in alignment with the organizational framework.

“That mentality of, ‘hey everybody, you’re on your own,’ has got to be turned on its head,” Mills said.

Don’t tackle IT governance alone

Crafting a framework that aligns with business goals is one of the most complicated tasks facing modern-day IT professionals. Why take on that challenge by yourself? Global Knowledge’s consultative process is the best way for VARs to make sure an organization is effectively and efficiently using its resources.

The data center is too important to be managed haphazardly. IT governance is never simple, but it gets easier with proper working knowledge. The cause-and-effect relationships within the data center need to be fully internalized and understood to prevent unexpected tsunamis from materializing throughout the organization.

It’s no longer good enough to bank on the ingenuity of your personnel. VARs must be cognizant of their employees’ skill sets and make IT training a regular part of the job. Your IT governance plan could be perfectly designed, but you need trained personnel to execute it.

To effectively manage the moving data and the evolving technology, Mills says the following question must be asked and then solved.

“Do we have all of the necessary competencies and confidence across the team to quickly and effectively take advantage of the tools available to IT professionals?”

You need a plan. You need trained employees. And you need the ability to collaborate and communicate with vendors and different departments within your organization.

IT governance is too big of a task to execute independently. Global Knowledge simplifies the process by providing you with the skills transformation and competencies needed to ensure new technologies sync up with organizational goals.

“The change that is going to impact data center professionals that is outside their field of vision is going to come at them on a daily basis,” Mills said. “Skills development and confidence must be addressed not after the fact but in a proactive way. The days for that are here and now.”

Visit www.globalknowledge.com/channel to learn more about Global Knowledge’s partner program and how to provide your clients with the essential skills required to master today’s technologies and get the best return on their investments.

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