Many IT industry commentators (not least Quocirca) constantly hassle IT managers to align their activities more closely with those of the businesses they serve; to make sure actual requirements are being met. However, that does not mean that lines of business can stand aloof from IT and learn nothing from the way their IT departments manage their own increasingly complex activities. Two recent examples Quocirca has come across demonstrate this.
Everyone needs version control
First, take the tricky problem of software code version control. Many outside of IT will be familiar with the problem, at least at a high level, through the writing and review of documents. For many this is a manual process carried out at the document name level; V1, V1.1, V1.1A, V2.01x etc. Content management (CM) systems, such as EMC's Documentum and Microsoft's SharePoint can improve things a lot, automating versioning, providing checking and checkout etc. (but they can be expensive to implement across the business).
With software development the problem is a whole lot worse, the granularity of controls needs to be down to individual lines of code and there are multiple types of entities involved; the code itself, usually multiple files linked together by build scripts (another document), binary files that are actually deployed in test and then live environments, documentation (user guides etc.), third party/open source code that is included and so on. As result the version control systems from vendors such as Serena, IBM Rational and a number of open source systems that have been developed over the years to support software development are very sophisticated.
In fairly technical companies, where software development is a core activity, the capability of these systems is so useful that it has spread well beyond the software developers themselves. Perforce Software, another well-known name in software version control, estimates that 68% of its customers are storing non-software assets in its version control system. It customers include some impressive names with lots of users, for example; salesforce.com, NYSE, Netflix and Samsung.
To capitalise on this increasing tendency of its customers to store non-IT assets Perforce has re-badged its system as Perforce Commons and made it available as an online service as well as being available for on-premise deployment. All the functionality developed can be used for the management of whole range of other business assets. With the latest release this now includes merging Microsoft PowerPoint and Word documents and checking for difference between various versions of the same document. Commons also keeps a full audit trail of document changes, which is important for compliance in many document-based work flows.
Turing up the Heat in ITSM
The second area where Quocirca has seen IT management tools being used beyond the business is in IT service management (ITSM). FrontRange's Heat tool is traditionally used for handing support incidents related to IT assets raised by users (PCs, smartphones, software tools etc.) However, increasingly its use is being extended beyond IT to other departments, for example to manage incidents relating to customer service calls, human resources (HR) issues, facilities management (FM) and finance department requests. Heat is also available as an on-demand service as well as an on-premise tool, in many cases deployments are a hybrid of the two.
Of course, there are specialist tools for CM, HR, FM and so on; specially designed for the job with loads of functionality. However, with budgets and resources stretched, IT departments that already use tools such as Perforce version management and Heat ITSM can quickly add value to whole new areas of the business with little extra cost. Others, that are not already customers, may be able to kill several birds with one stone as they seek to show the business that IT can deliver extra beyond its own interests with little incremental cost.