What is the scenario in India when it comes to SLA management?
We believe that the adoption of formal SLAs is fairly limited in India. SLA formulation and management requires IT and multiple business stakeholders to accept a single version of the truth, in terms of the data that drives the metrics. This is typically a fairly resource-intensive task that involves aggregating data from multiple application repositories, databases, infrastructure management systems, configuration management databases and service desks. The cost is at least in the order of tens of thousands of dollars, and in many cases above the U.S.$100,000 mark.
A company would take up such a resource-intensive project only if sufficient scale exists and/or if the awareness of the need for IT maturity is high – these conditions are rare in India. Even globally, formalized internal SLAs are more important to the very large enterprise than any other kind of company (this does not include service providers of all kinds, because SLAs are the core of their business).
When the service involves application hosting, SLAs would be related to uptime (availability), which is qualified by factors such as the number of concurrent users to be expected. Performance is a little more difficult to define. Ideally, performance should be measured in terms of end-user experience, but sometimes measuring end-user experience involves hard-to-scale tasks such as installing agents on end users' desktops, and with the growth of mobile users, it's hard to control the endpoint and the network, complicating matters.
It needs to be appreciated that SLAs can be met only under certain given conditions – for example, if the average user's Web experience is to remain above the threshold, strong URL filtering is required to ensure that Web usage is in accordance with policy, and requests for exceptions should be carefully managed. At a high level, there isn't much that is arguable about the right SLAs. However, collecting and aggregating metrics is usually quite tough. Data typically resides in multiple databases, infrastructure management systems and possibly multiple service desk solutions. Building connectors to these data sources, aggregating them and developing dashboards for reporting are all resource-intensive tasks.
Tools don't do much here – the professional services' costs typically equal the average SLA management tool's licensing costs (a 1-to-1 ratio). Hiring an expert who is familiar with the metrics that work in terms of securing buy-in (and truly representing the business' interests) and hiring the IT talent to build the data connectors is much more important than any tool-related considerations.
Vendors have the necessary tool knowledge to build connectors to the data. They also provide mechanisms such as rules engines that ease the process of aggregating the data to build metrics to be monitored. Dashboards are usually provided to aggregate and present the metrics in an automated way, which provide automated alerting services, analytics, etc., and in effect, create a single system of records that everybody can agree on. So, it's less about tool features and more about competence that the SLA management tool provider brings to the table.
How did you get interested in mainframes at such a young age?
I always tell people that it's not my fault. Both my parents were mainframe software developers. It's sort of in my blood. My senior year in high school, I took an independent study course from my dad to learn all the basics. Each summer during college, after graduating from high school, I had an internship with NESI. That's where I learned the majority of what I know now.
Why aren't you administering Linux and Windows boxes like most people of your generation?
When you see the power of how the mainframe can have so much control over things, you get over a little Java program that you can use to run a game or something. I felt like this was more challenging, and I could go further with this type of job. With the mainframe there's so much to learn. There are so many things going on. It's like you can play this game forever and never reach the highest level. That aspect of a mainframe career got to me, and I never looked back.
What does IBM have to do to get young people interested in mainframes?
That's definitely the question of the year. IBM has already been working to address this problem through the Academic Initiative program. We have to get past the stigma that the mainframe seems to have with the younger generation. Most people don't know the mainframe very well. My peers told me I was crazy for going into this career. IBM is trying to get schools to teach this curriculum. It is a problem being worked on, but it's one of those that can't be solved in a week or a day or a year.
How did you get involved in zNextGen?
It sort of began at Share in Boston, which was in August of 2005. They held a little get-together for younger people at a tavern, and that went so much better than people expected it to go. I got involved in it by participating in that. The next thing I knew they decided to make zNextGen a full-fledged project this year. They designated me as project manager, and I was happy to take on the job.
Tell my why zNextGen is such a good thing.
As I'm sure you're aware, there's not exactly a flood of new mainframers coming into the business. The goal isn't to get people interested in mainframes necessarily, but for those getting into the mainframe, there wasn't a community for them to speak and reach out to. We're sort of there to encourage people to come to Share, to branch out in the mainframe community, use your resources out there, build a network of friends and mentors. We sort of have this goal to be the gateway for newcomers to the mainframe.
What are some new, upcoming plans for the group?
We have plans to really work with projects to make sessions more beneficial to members. We also do have some things hopefully planned outside of the Share conference. I was just up in Poughkeepsie, [New York], for an IBM course, and we had a dinner event up there. Hopefully we'll do more of those.
Let us know what you think about the story; e-mail: Mark Fontecchio, News Writer. This article originally appeared on SearchDataCenter.com.
What is the biggest challenge in getting a job as a first-time CIO? Is it out-competing others who look similar on paper?
I think there is a tremendous amount of competition. Most of the CIO positions out there are usually going through some type of an executive recruiting network. The recruiters I talked to don't usually pull up a set of criteria in a database online. One recruiter I talked to doesn't even recommend candidates putting information into an executive recruiting online database, because most executive recruiters aren't going to use it. They're going to look to the contacts and network of sitting CIOs or deputy CIOs to ask if there is someone on their staff or someone they know.
You became CIO of the World Wildlife Fund at age 37. What helped you most to get that job?
I was recruited for it. I did not approach an executive recruiter for that position; they approached me, at the recommendation of another sitting CIO. I had established my credentials in the private and for-profit sector. I had gotten experience with a variety of technologies at some pretty tier-one organizations: it was Sallie Mae on the financial services side, and PricewaterhouseCoopers on the consulting side. I had gotten all my tickets punched. I got my technical MBA at Johns Hopkins University. I actually took it a step farther. A year after I obtained by graduate degree I started teaching as an adjunct faculty at Johns Hopkins -- intentionally.
As a way to increase your network?
Increase my network, increase my exposure. As an adjunct faculty I was giving back to the IT community and the educational community, but at the same time I was greasing the skids for easier access to publications. When someone was looking at my bio and saw I was a director of this, a tech MBA and teach at a graduate level, when I submitted articles I believe they had a little more merit behind them.
What's the biggest mistake you made in plotting your career?
I'm not sure that I made any.
I really don't think that I have. I've gotten consulting experience, I've gotten for-profit experience, I've gotten Big Five experience, I got my tech MBA, I've got publishing experience, I've got my graduate adjunct faculty. The only thing that I would -- I don't know if this is really a mistake. I was about to say, started my graduate work earlier. But Hopkins wouldn't really let me enroll in the program until I had a specific number of years of business experience.
Fifty percent of your experience is in consulting, and you strongly recommend that aspiring CIOs work as consultants. Why?
You've got to get both sides of the fence if you want to be a viable CIO. You have to understand the consulting proposition. You have to know also how to manage consultants and vendors.
Being a consultant makes you a little bit humble. There are many instances where you have to sidestep and put the brakes on what you may know technically or business wise. You may have to deal with a client or a customer that is not that smart or that doesn't know as much as you do, and you've got to figure out creative and diplomatic ways to get that customer on board or eliminate any roadblocks that the customer may be putting up. In the organizations that use consultants regularly, some of the internal employees are a little bit jaded. They're thinking, 'Why did we have to go to the outside, when we could have probably done this on the inside.' Serving in a consulting role gives you far more experience than flat-out IT experience.
I have a simple phrase: IT drives technology decisions. The business units drive application business technology.
Then, halfway through Chapter 8 is when I start talking about integrating sports to build your relationships and to grow your network and build stronger relationships with your vendors.
It doesn't have to be about who pays for what, as I clarified in my book. My guidance to people is, check what your policies are. If there is a no-pay policy, fine, pay for yourself. There are some clear benefits of getting out of the office and spending some time with people, getting to know them. And at the end of the day, because I have a better relationship both professionally and through sports, I have several vendors who I can pick up the phone and say, 'Listen Tom, I need this done, you need to help me out with this.' Now granted, they should be able to do that regardless, as a vendor. But it doesn't work that way. And if you look at the quotes from the vendors in the book, people tend to reciprocate, form partnerships and get more stuff done, cut through the [bull], when they have a better relationship. And I have found that a 30-minute meeting in my office doesn't get me a better relationship with a strategic vendor.
Let us know what you think about the story; email: Linda Tucci, Senior News Writer
Gregory Smith, author of "Straight to the Top: Becoming a World-Class CIO" and CIO of the World Wildlife Fund, talks about his carefully plotted route to the executive ranks and offers some tips for aspiring CIOs.