It is interesting how I’m increasingly seeing the higher education market drive change with vendor offerings. For the second time this month, higher education—in this case the University of California at Berkley—is at the center of a new product offering from a major infrastructure vendor. In this instance, it is a new feature in the BMC Control-M Workload Change Manager, which is widely used (at around 2,800 customers, according to BMC), providing a collaborative capability to change management across heterogeneous environments.
Let’s talk about why a tool like this is needed and then touch on BMC’s new offering.
Change Management Has Become a Nightmare
In virtually every large entity (e.g., enterprise, government, education), there has been a shift in system control from IT to those that own the profit and loss in the firms—generally line managers. This has resulted in an inability for IT, which remains positioned as a cost center for common technology services, to maintain any form of technology standards. This has lead to a proliferation of different products and platforms providing internal Web services of some form or other.
Not only has this resulted in an inability to patch systems in a timely manner, it has slowed significantly the ability of the business to provide timely changes and updates to apps and services that cross platforms in order to cover the entire entity. The end result is not only a complex mess of systems but an even more complex mess of approvals and processes that are equally conflicted.
Layering on top of this is that change requests can come from any of the groups driving these various platforms and, as we have all come to learn, the folks making these requests are generally already behind their timelines when the requests are made. As a result, IT is put on the line to execute and is then blamed when the impossible isn’t instantly accomplished. This leads to lots of finger pointing, and in finger pointing wars, line organizations generally win—regardless of merit—over staff organizations (except for finance, which has historically shown amazing resilience to this trend).
The problem can be fixed in one of two ways: Get everyone on the same platform, version and hardware, which rarely works outside of very autocratic areas like Germany, or create a tool and process to better coordinate the activity across the unchangeable mess.
Education makes a good reference case for programs like this because the environment is heavily saturated with young students who rebel against authority and who will accept new tools in order to solve problems. In addition, if a worst-case scenario exists in terms of a lack of system standards, it typically exists in some college or university, given how much equipment is donated or provided as some part of a grant or government contract. In higher education, if you ask to see “standard server architecture,” you’d likely be asked if you’d like to see a unicorn instead, but it would be far more likely from an IT manager who appeared on the verge of tears.
A product that provided for some level of control and coordination effectively across the mess that education has to deal with would likely be seen as almost miraculous. In short, if the tool like this worked in a typical large university, it likely would work anyplace.
BMC’s Control-M Workload Change Manager
Launching today, Control-M Workload Change manager is designed to deal with the mess I’ve highlighted above and as noted, it was used at the University of California at Berkley as its initial reference account. The product provides a collaborative interface, which connects the various groups into a cohesive (well, about as cohesive as you can get) whole so that rollouts can be coordinated and not hung up on approvals, or non-standard naming conventions, likely because “standard naming conventions” are little more than wishful thinking on IT’s part these days. Designed to address the increasingly high volume of mobile apps that companies are driven to launch—particularly those surrounding social technology, this offering reflects a change in priorities focused on embracing (or at least accepting) the increasingly heterogeneous nature of both servers and the clients that connect to them. It’s highly automated, and this also reflects on the reality of insufficient staffing and the need to get people out of the way of company-wide efforts.
Wrapping Up: Changing Priorities
I think offerings like this one from BMC reflect a change in priorities from trying to control product diversity, which hasn’t been working all that well anyway, to dealing with it. This product presents a renewed focus on the needs of the business or organization to execute change in a timely fashion. In the end, management doesn’t want to know what the problems are; they just want the job done. Offerings like BMC’s Control-M Workload Change Manager are focused like a laser on getting the job done. And I think that is a smart change in focus to make.