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Change agents

It takes world-class IT operations to implement a digital business strategy

By Richard McGill Murphy

In the hit HBO series Silicon Valley, data centers are portrayed as a kind of high‑tech Hades where out‑of‑favor tech execs go to atone for their sins. The system administrator who mans the data center at Hooli, the fictional tech giant in the show, is an aging, ponytailed automaton who literally toils underground like some Wagnerian Nibelung, far from the glamor of the consumer Internet.

While funny, this image is seriously out of date in a world where IT ops increasingly drives business performance. Operations pros manage workloads across a web of legacy data centers and private and public clouds. More and more, they’re responsible for delivering quality experiences to customers and employees.

Today’s software users have little tolerance for sub‑par experiences. Roughly seven in 10 consumers will abandon a slow or buggy app in less than 15 minutes, according to a recent survey by PagerDuty. IT operations glitches can also hamper mission‑critical business motions like sales, finance and customer service. In the PagerDuty survey, 40.4% of respondents identified sales as the function outside IT that’s most directly impacted by IT ops problems.

At the same time, IT ops leaders confront a world of metastasizing security threats and compliance demands. In ServiceNow’s most recent State of Work survey, 86% of senior IT leaders said that by 2020 they would need intelligent automation just to keep up with business requirements.



In this edition of Workflow, we take you to the front lines of IT operations. Nationwide Insurance executive Mike D’Ippolito explains how IT drives his company’s core business via new products like real‑time auto insurance pricing based on data streams from moving cars. D’Ippolito is meeting the demands of an accelerating business by automating processes, reducing handoffs and shifting workloads to the cloud.

Like many other companies, Nationwide has also drastically accelerated the pace of application development by implementing agile and DevOps methodologies. Check out our handy infographic for a quick refresher on how to harness these two techniques for better, faster development cycles.

Governance is a key challenge for IT ops leaders, given that AI and other emerging tech projects frequently bubble up from the grass roots of organizations. Danny Bradbury reports that management tools like AI councils, which impose centralized decision‑making and collaboration across business units, can create order out of this chaos. Properly implemented, these councils can help break down walls to get two key requirements of successful AI initiatives—data and money—flowing where they need to go. 

IT ops also factor significantly into improved digital experiences for employees, which can have a measurable impact on the critical benchmark of engagement. According to Gallup, 34% of U.S. workers say they’re enthusiastic and committed to their work. That’s the highest figure since 2000, when Gallup began reporting the numbers. The percentage of actively disengaged employees stands at 13%, down from 20% in 2007.

The strong economy is certainly part of the explanation for these happier statistics. But as Riva Froymovich argues, it’s also the case that new digital tools like chatbots are delivering the experiences that keep employees engaged and motivated. In a recent ServiceNow survey, more than half of all CHROs (56%) said the ability to create a digital, consumerized experience will define their roles in the next three years.

No CHRO, or CIO for that matter, can deliver great experiences without the help of IT operations. It’s time for IT ops pros to emerge from their caves and get the credit they deserve as strategic business partners.

Richard McGill Murphy is the editor in chief of Workflow. A journalist and social anthropologist by background, he runs a research and publishing program at ServiceNow that studies how emerging technologies are shaping the future of work.

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