BizOps in Practice: Practical Steps for Maximizing Business Performance

    Enterprise IT teams are adopting dynamic organizational models to speed the delivery of business outcomes, and improve their ability to navigate change, improve resilience, and maximize stability.

    One of these models is called BizOps. Through BizOps, teams translate business goals into tactical operations and use data and analysis to optimize decision making.

    BizOps teams consist of a cross-functional group of experts from IT operations, application development, business, product management, and Site Reliability Engineering (SRE). These teams identify key business challenges, and strive to map IT investments and resources to business value.

    In the following sections, I’ll provide some best practices for how various teams within an enterprise can get started with BizOps and take pragmatic steps to boosting business performance. Specific sections are included for these key groups:

    Business Leaders and Product Managers

    Whether as a business leader or product manager, executives who have profit-and-loss responsibilities face several challenges, perhaps none more difficult than navigating today’s fast-changing business climate. Security, business stability, and long-term growth are essential requirements for companies.

    To succeed, product managers must be the CEO of their business domains. They must know the competition, the product, the go-to-market strategy, and the customer. They need to work with product, IT, finance, engineering, and operations teams to deliver new innovations and ensure high customer satisfaction and loyalty.

    The best product executives recognize that their technology architecture is in fact their business architecture. Therefore, the details of software development and operational excellence become intertwined with their strategy and thinking. It’s about acknowledging the customer journey, and its associated workflows and agile stories, and establishing effective business value stream mapping. All this is critical to success.

    These leaders understand the workflow linkages between IT, products, and the customer experience. In this regard, agile is important, but it’s only one ingredient to success. So as a product manager, how do you fuel success, product innovation, and faster time to market as part of the BizOps team? These executives can take a number of key steps:

    • Increase collaboration with IT leaders and teams across development, platform engineering, and operations. Establish a consistent business strategy through technology, processes, and staffing decisions.
    • Define the business and customer value. Match it to the customer experience to measure what matters to the customer. Isolate key metrics that lead to common failures that keep teams from delivering the expected business outcomes. Know what data to ignore and what to collect in order to deliver faster and more accurate outcomes.
    • Determine who the customer or user of the product is. Identify the digital practices that enhance the customer experience. Consider customer feedback mechanisms. Create workflows that feed data to product managers, so they can act quickly and more effectively lead product improvements.
    • Use observability metrics, analytics, and artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning models to gain customer and product insights. Harness these insights to help IT and business leaders improve decision making, and identify direct product enhancement opportunities.
    • Accelerate digital transformation by strengthening links between return-on-investment decision making and analytics and actual development and operations work streams.
    • Focus on the ability to accurately determine and automate cause and effect. Optimize the balance between maximizing return on investment and improving the customer and user experience.

    Within product management, leaders can focus on individual and team empowerment. They can define workflows and use value stream mapping to establish a consistent strategy. They can then harness data, technology, and processes to measure progress toward key objectives, and ultimately improve the customer experience in the most cost-optimized manner possible.

    Application Development

    The reality is that application developers (app dev), owners, and DevOps teams face similar challenges. These teams need to collaborate more, develop with higher velocity, and deploy more frequently, while improving code quality and containing costs.

    Enter BizOps. Application development staff on BizOps teams can provide expertise into service design. They can help BizOps teams gain improved transparency and focus on accelerating and optimizing software value streams that deliver business results.

    Because software is now the lifeline for customers in almost every business, it is critically important for BizOps teams to harness software development expertise. When application development staff are on a BizOps team, they have a unique opportunity to innovate by addressing opportunities in the software development lifecycle. Following is an overview of the actions you can take to make an impact:

    • Boosting developer agility and productivity through automated processes and technologies, while improving capabilities for delivering self-service access to on-demand cloud infrastructure.
    • Improving the user experience by utilizing meaningful performance data to measure performance, promote development and operations collaboration, and improve service deployment and visibility.
    • Automating manual tasks across various stages of the software development lifecycle, such as testing and release management, in order to drive improvements in quality, agility, and productivity.
    • Addressing business compliance and security requirements earlier in the software development lifecycle, before an application is ready for production or scaled into a public cloud.

    In addition, application development staff can aggregate and incorporate SRE insights and metrics that can be focused on efforts to improve quality and reliability. They can provide observability and metrics to operations teams to offer visibility into future releases and features. Through AI and machine learning, they can prepare to increase deployment frequency, enhance software testing, and gain enhanced insights into quality.

    What else can application development staff on BizOps teams do? They can directly address the constant concern of application infrastructure performance problems, which cost time and money and disrupt the business.

    To be successful, modern application migrations require risk mitigation and security plans and they need to focus on business outcomes. BizOps teams can accelerate a strategy for continuous delivery measurement and development in order to drive development-centric improvements across the often fragmented software development lifecycle.

    BizOps teams can also bridge the development and operations chasm by providing collaboration opportunities, common objectives for projects, and access to automation and data necessary to drive development efficiencies. Finally, BizOps teams can reduce the business risk of change to the software development lifecycle by enabling a pragmatic approach to development acceleration and deployment velocity. These teams can achieve these objectives by matching business demands, technology choices, expertise, and process knowledge in a focused, surgical manner.

    IT Operations (ITOps)

    Today, IT operations (ITOps) executives on BizOps teams have a unique vantage point and face a few core challenges. Organizations are using multiple clouds and a variety of application architectures, leaving operations teams managing a mix of classic and modern environments.

    Complexity is increasing, while service demands are escalating. Customers don’t wait for poorly performing services; they simply take their business elsewhere. Agile and DevOps teams are pursuing application modernization and innovation, establishing new customer engagement models that depend on highly performing services.

    So what should ITOps executives do? On a BizOps team, ITOps executives are accelerating operational innovation and practices to deliver high performance. They are also delivering new application and infrastructure innovation that improve the customer experience.

    Through their efforts, teams can improve the experience for internal teams, such as developers and DevOps teams, line of business managers, and end users. In addition, they can boost the experiences of external customers. Using agile as a common framework, ITOps teams can align workflows between technology and the business.

    ITOps staff on BizOps teams should lead the way on adopting several core operating principles:

    • Align on key performance indicators (KPIs). Understand and define relationships between IT outputs and business KPIs. ITOps can lead discussions on the critical alignment of desired business outcomes with operational resources, service priorities, and customer expectations. This can also include structural alignment, such as the integration of people, process, and technology.
    • Define the customer. ITOps must lead the team on defining who the end customer is, and how the customer defines value, while establishing goals and inflection points that will provide a great customer experience as the core business outcome. It is vital to understand the customer experience, and define it using workflows, customer journey mapping, and agile approaches.
    • Support digital agility. Teams can work through the process of defining the proactive efforts that will increase efficiencies. Free up IT resources by focusing on top business priorities. This is critical for moving from a reactive to a proactive operating model. To meet these objectives, teams must focus on customer growth, rather than maintenance of applications and systems. It is also essential to automate manual workflows.
    • Employ analytics. ITOps must select and access the right data and technologies, and connect them with the right people in the business. Establish intelligent remediation by defining the best actions, workflows, and processes. Create analytics work streams that help establish a data-driven culture. Streamline incident resolution processes, enabling teams to identify and resolve issues in a faster, more intelligent, and more automated fashion.

    These core operating principles fuel great outcomes. They empower ITOps teams to move away from ad hoc processes and to establish semi-structured, and ultimately fully automated workflows, for example for remediation. Making this natural progression can have a direct impact on the customer experience. Some ITOps teams view this as part of their observability-as-code initiatives, using analytics and automation to streamline problem and incident management.

    Finally, ITOps staff on BizOps teams understand that organizations are evolving their on-premises infrastructure and adopting more public cloud services. In this way, they can benefit from the innovation of modern application capabilities, at both scale and speed. Microservices, multi-cloud, and software-defined everything is pushing ITOps to modern, collaborative approaches. BizOps teams that utilize their ITOps expertise have a great opportunity to embed intelligent automated operations into the technology architecture.

    Site Reliability Engineering (SRE)

    Site Reliability Engineering (SRE) is a relatively new operational model for applying software engineering principles to solving infrastructure and operations challenges. The SRE discipline is quickly gaining traction in enterprise IT as infrastructure and operations teams begin to focus more on software reliability, development and DevOps collaboration, and the customer journey and experience.

    SREs take a pragmatic approach to operational excellence. They attempt to align metrics, service reliability, costs, and the customer experience. SREs want to provide the highest level of service reliability at the best price.

    As part of the BizOps team, SREs can help address several traditional infrastructure and operations challenges, including the following:

    • The use of too many operational tools.
    • A lack of understanding of the customer and what they value.
    • A limited understanding of the customer journey and the associated workflows that affect the customer.
    • A lack of visibility into business service performance levels and dependencies.
    • Poorly defined business metrics and KPIs.

    BizOps teams that utilize SRE talent can successfully drive business growth. This requires high levels of software reliability, continuously improved service performance, and customer feedback mechanisms built into the service life cycle.

    Complexity is rising. Many services use multiple cloud architectures and modern applications, such as containers and microservices architectures. It has never been more critical to collect data that defines service level indicators (SLIs) and that supports service level objectives (SLOs).

    SRE staff on BizOps teams should pursue several core operating principles:

    • Define for the team what the service and user journey are. Develop a map consisting of what the service components are and how a customer or user experiences the service. Plug this intelligence into agile value stream management processes.
    • Define SLIs. SLIs are performance metrics collected to inform SLOs. Focus on metrics that matter to SLO reliability objectives and business outcomes. You will likely to have to use observability tools to achieve these objectives.
    • Introduce SLOs. SREs can use SLOs, defining a level of service reliability that is required to maintain an acceptable level of user happiness and customer experience over a specific period of time.
    • Set an error budget. Once teams can establish consensus around how SLOs should be created, they can move forward with adopting an error-budget-based approach. This enables teams to safely run innovation as part of their SRE initiatives.
    • Employ automation. SREs should consider the role of task automation to help reduce manual toil and increase team productivity. For certain processes, such as incident and problem management, the use of intelligent automation can recommend the best course of remediation or fully automate the remediation process.
    • Leverage AI and machine learning. The use of advanced AI and machine learning analytics models can help SREs and BizOps teams operate more efficiently and effectively and scale to address more services.

    Conclusion

    For most companies, the technology architecture is now the business architecture. To gain a sustainable competitive advantage for their businesses, BizOps teams must establish optimized service reliability and the ability to respond quickly to customer demands through digital services and products.