IT operations is the overarching term for the processes and services administered by an organization's information technology (IT) department. As such, IT operations include administrative processes with support for hardware and software. Important roles of the IT operations team include tech management, quality assurance, infrastructure management and confirmation that finished products meet all the customer's needs and expectations. IT operations support both internal and external clients.
Every organization that uses computers has at least loosely defined IT operations, based on how the organization tends to solve internal and client needs. Elements of IT operations are chosen to deliver effective services at the required quality and cost -- usually considered to be separate from IT applications. In the example of a software development company, IT operations include all IT functions other than software development and management. There is, however, always some overlap between departments.
IT organizations should also be agile and able to adjust strategies in times of a crisis.
Different organizations will define IT operations in various ways. The term can also be used to describe the department that manages IT operations as well as the collection of services, processes and standardized procedures of the department.
Responsibilities of IT operations
IT operations are responsible for defining the way an organization manages software and hardware. The department also provides other IT support, such as network administration, device management, mobile contracting and help desks.
IT operations management (ITOM) and IT operations analytics (ITOA) are both specific roles within IT operations. Both roles help an organization refine the way IT approaches services, deployment and support. They both also help to ensure consistency, reliability and quality of service.
Why are IT operations important?
Weak IT operational processes have the potential to undermine the quality of IT services and other business processes within a company. Therefore, it is important that a company's IT operations focus on improving business requirements while maintaining the operational stability of the company. In addition, strong IT operations can enable a company to change their business process in order to adapt to shifting customer needs.
It may also be necessary that IT departments adapt to modern technology trends. If not, an organization could risk falling behind their competition. The modernization of a company's IT operations can help a company reduce its operational costs while also increasing the agility and efficiency of their IT operations. This transformation is required if the company wants to perform well and remain competitive in the current global landscape.
IT operations trends
Unfortunately, even if the necessity is apparent, many IT leaders delay digital transformation of their IT operations. Although legacy technology and practices can use much of a company's IT budget to maintain the infrastructure, chief information officers (CIOs) can often be dissuaded to make the change due to the challenge and risks.
However, CIOs that choose to undergo the digital transformation, and adapt to current trends, can experience vast improvements in their IT operations, such as:
- reduced IT complexity;
- improved visibility across the entire IT infrastructure;
- increased ability to make preemptive and immediate corrective actions that minimize risk;
- maximized efficiency across the company; and
- improvements in productivity and profitability.
Current major IT trends affecting IT operations include serverless computing, artificial intelligence (AI) and edge computing.
Serverless computing and another capability called function platform as a service (FPaaS) are expected to become more widely used between 2020 and 2022. They provide computing resources as scalable cloud services. Serverless computing would eliminate the need for infrastructure management and provisioning.
The critical time frame for the implementation of artificial intelligence (AI) in business is expected to be between 2021 and 2023. It should greatly affect infrastructure and operations (I&O) functions such as failure recognition and predictive analytics. The integration of AI will enable faster IT operations and help grow the company's infrastructure without the need to hire more staff.
The edge computing trend is expected to continue growing between 2020 and 2023. Edge computing allows workloads and client data to be located on the periphery of the network, as close to the customer as possible. Edge computing can improve customer experiences by reducing latency.
Other trends that are affecting IT operations include:
- Digital diversity management -- a focus on the rapid increase and diversity of assets and technologies available in the modern digital enterprise. Digital diversity management also identifies, monitors and manages the assets and technologies that directly affect or support a specific business.
- Elimination of the data center -- most enterprises are expected to shut down their traditional data centers in the coming years, forcing IT leaders to consider where they will keep current and future workloads.
- Network agility -- the network is the underlying element to everything IT operations and businesses rely on. Therefore, focus must be placed on how networks can perform at a faster pace. Building network agility that relies on automation, orchestration, and the integration of AI. This is expected to show impressive results for improving network speeds. Furthermore, networks must evolve to meet the needs of trends such as 5G and edge computing.
- Increased importance of talent management -- organizations are starting to demand better collaboration from people who can work across teams and departments. This requires IT leaders to transform the previous culture in which employees focused solely on the technology stack they managed. Instead, establishing a new work style that gets employees to think beyond their stack and work outside of their team.
- Global infrastructure -- an organization's customers and suppliers are more and more likely to span the globe, creating the necessity for I&O leaders to deliver their infrastructure everywhere. As a result, IT leaders must look for partnership strategies that provide an ecosystem of capabilities and support with a reasonable budget.
The IT operations processes
Some specific IT operations processes include incident management, problem management, access management, IT operations control, facilities management and technical management.
- Incident managementrefers to the control that businesses must take over the lifecycle of all incidents. Incidents refer to events that are not part of normal operations that may disrupt operational processes. The objective of the incident management process is to resolve any issues and return the IT service to the user as quickly as possible.
- Problem managementis related to incident management, but with a focus on preventing incidents before they happen and minimizing the effects of incidents that cannot be stopped. Problem management includes analyzing incident reports and using the data collected by other IT service management processes to detect any significant problems or trends.
- Access managementis the process of providing authorized users with the rights to use a selected service, while preventing unauthorized users from access. Access is prevented by using policies defined by the information security management system (ISMS). Access management is also referred to as identity management and rights management.
- The goal of IT operations controlis to monitor and manage a company's IT services and their underlying infrastructure. IT operations control includes everyday routine tasks related to the operation of applications and infrastructure components. This may include backup and restore activities, routine maintenance, job scheduling and output management.
- The facilities management process includes all aspects involved with maintaining a company's physical environment. This includes building access management, power, cooling, heating and environmental monitoring. The primary goal is to ensure the proper maintenance and management of the physical environment in which the company's IT infrastructure is located.
- Finally, the goal of the technical management process is to deliver technical expertise and service to improve maintenance of the IT infrastructure.
Some methods that are being used to improve IT operations processes include DevOps, Kanban and IT service management (ITSM) and IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL). The primary goal of these methods is to better prepare employees to prioritize, manage and delegate multiple tasks at any moment by decreasing the amount of friction caused by the ongoing, rapid nature of IT operations.
DevOps helps IT operations teams adapt to a fast-paced Agile development environment. It also improves cross-team collaboration and communication by providing a comprehensive approach to project management.
Kanban helps IT operations teams achieve successful implementation of the DevOps method. It maximizes communication and efficiency by providing a task scheduling system that enables IT operations teams to boost productivity and follow the progress of projects more effectively. Kanban is often paired with lean software development to increase collaboration between IT operations and other departments within the organization.
IT service management improves the management of information systems to maximize customer value. IT Infrastructure Library provides a set of practices within the ITSM approach that address how IT services should be used to empower the day-to-day operations of businesses.
Popular IT operations vendors
Popular vendors that offer IT operations management platforms and related services include IBM, HP, Google, Cisco Systems, Microsoft and VMware.
Other vendors include, but are not limited to:
- CA Technologies
- Hewlett Packard Enterprise
- RISC Networks
- Loom Systems
- Interlink Software