IT4IT was borne out of a recognition that how IT manages itself needs to evolve for the new service-centric era. Enterprise IT needs to shift from being shops that do everything themselves into service brokers that combine internal services with offerings from multiple external service providers, (e.g. Cloud, XaaS) and increasingly deliver through service catalogs on a subscription basis.
At the same time, however, enterprises are trying to embrace agile software development, a movement that started about 13 years ago with the Agile Manifesto. The challenge has been that although the agile software development methodology had gained traction in small development teams, it has not yet reached large-scale software development in big enterprises. The main reason for this is that the methodologies do not scale up to enterprise level; they focus solely on software development and ignore the overall business context. While methodology extensions like "Scrum of Scrum" try to address the scale-up of software development, the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) is one approach to bridging the gap to the business.
So, we have two frameworks, IT4IT and SAFe, that both try to address important ways enterprise IT organizations need to evolve from traditional and increasingly deficient processes.
But how do these two frameworks work together, if at all? Let us briefly look at how they each work and compare the two to help define the purposes and limits of each.
IT4IT Reference Architecture
The primary focus of the IT4IT is on service development supporting the new style of IT. IT4IT focuses on information architecture of the IT domain: IT data objects and proper linkage between these data objects throughout their lifecycle. It fosters a vendor-agnostic integration architecture.
Fig 1: The IT4IT Reference Architecture
The Scaled Agile Framework
SAFe focuses on individual roles, teams, activities and artifacts necessary to scale agile software development from the team to program to the enterprise level. At the highest level, SAFe distinguishes three areas:
Portfolio — aligns multiple programs with the business’ enterprise strategy,
Program — aligns multiple teams to create value to serve the needs of the enterprise and its stakeholders, and the
Team — focuses on small teams responsible for defining, building and delivering user stories.
One key concept for structuring the overall organization are Agile Release Trains (ART). An ART is a long-lived collection of typically 10-15 teams, but sometimes fewer, and typically consists of roughly 50-125 individuals that are aligned on a single product backlog and will define, build, test and deliver value to what’s called a value stream.
A value stream that delivers value to the enterprise can consist of one or more ART, but an ART delivers value into only a single value stream. An exemplary SAFe instance with six value streams half of them having a single ART and the others having two ART's could easily consist of 450-1125 team members in total.
Comparing IT4IT and SAFe
Let’s compare the two frameworks’ primary purposes, target audiences, central concepts and applicability.
1. Primary Purposes
The primary focus of the IT4IT Reference Architecture is on defining, building, subscribing to and consuming IT services by looking holistically at the entire IT operating model. IT services could be realized using solely software or may be supported using software, but from the perspective of the IT4IT Reference Architecture, software is not essential to the services provided by IT. Helpdesk, collaboration, communication (mobile phone), personal productivity (laptop) or repair services are examples for non-software centric IT services that are typically offered by IT organizations. IT4IT provides a process-agnostic framework for defining, building, running, and consuming services. Building off-the-shelf sellable software products (especially packaged software applications) is not part of the primary objectives of the IT4IT Reference Architecture.
As for SAFe, its purpose is to define, build and release software. Being able to build off-the-shelf sellable packaged applications is a significant part of its value proposition. DevOps is an aspect of SAFe — for example, it includes deployment and operations personnel as members of the ART. However, how to create, maintain and fund the underlying development and production infrastructure that is needed for DevOps is outside the scope of SAFe.
SAFe is a knowledge base for implementing agile practices at enterprise scale, and so it’s primarily targeted at large-scale software development organizations. It has been successfully applied in programs with as few as 50-100 people, as well as in enterprises employing thousands of software developers.
IT4IT has been developed by a consortium of companies with large-scale IT organizations, with the intention of creating a prescriptive blueprint for running IT within companies that often have multiple thousands of employees within IT alone.
From this perspective, there seems to be a huge overlap, but two aspects should be considered:
First, IT organizations have a much broader scope than just software development, including help desks, data centers, end user training, and the administrators and technicians that keep all the hardware infrastructure and systems running. IT4IT covers these aspects as part of the Requirements to Deploy or the Detect to Correct value streams.
Secondly, an IT organization may have multiple thousands of employees, but at the same time, they need to provide hundreds or thousands of applications and services. This often leads to small teams per application or service that typically work independent from each other. For those small, independent teams, SAFe would be overkill and simple Scrum may be a better choice. So even in large-scale IT organizations, there may only be a small number of initiatives where SAFe adds additional value.
The central concept of IT4IT is the artifact (or data object), the relationships between the data objects, their interactions and dependencies, and the management of those throughout their lifecycle. The project is a primary artifact in the service development phase that is responsible for driving the service development and deployment.
With SAFe, the central concepts (besides the basic Scrum concepts, code quality and transparency) are program execution (based on a single portfolio backlog) and the alignment of teams and the coordination between teams within their ARTs.
So while a project is a significant entity in IT4IT, it is not significant in SAFe. Instead, the most important entity in SAFe is the ART, which is always running and does not have an end date (i.e., develop in cadence – release on demand).
When assessing how each framework applies for specific purposes, it is important to look at how they align to existing standard and organization-specific processes.
IT4IT is process agnostic, which means different service and software development paradigms can be used in conjunction with it. Therefore, it is important to understand the separation between the Reference Architecture itself and the “process overlays” that document current IT practices on top of IT4IT References Architecture:
In the Strategy to Portfolio value stream, demand, budget and investment portfolio can be managed using yearly budget cycles or by following a lean process like Kanban or Scrumban.
When the service development task is software oriented, the software development methodology could be a more traditional approach. But IT4IT does not prevent the use of XP, Scrum or any other agile methodology.
The linkage between Requirements to Deploy or the Detect to Correct value streams could follow a more ITIL-oriented approach or a more lightweight DevOps approach. IT4IT focuses on the data that needs to be captured and managed rather than how that data is acquired and how it is processed.
As for SAFe, the software development part of it is built on top of Scrum, while the planning phases incorporate additional ideas from Lean and Kanban.
IT4IT and SAFe: Friends or Foes?
In our opinion, the IT4IT Reference Architecture and SAFe are complementary. However, the overlap between the two is not 100 percent. It is important that you clearly understand the purposes and liabilities discussed above and do not try to use them in a combined fashion as a universal tool for all tasks.
IT4IT is an important initiative within HP Software, and the launch at The Open Group will be supported with presentations by Lars Rossen, Distinguished Technologist and Chief Architect of IT4IT initiative, Solution Architect Kees van den Brink, and Georg Bock, Senior Director of Portfolio Strategy for HP Software IT Management.
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