IT as a partner

Different models for cooperation

IT can see its role in different ways. There are three basic models:

  1. Guardian of technology. In this role the IT takes care of some technological platform and does not interact with the used of this technology. Any large data center can act in this manner. Other examples are a power plant or air traffic control. The key measures are availability and cost per unit.
  2. Service provider. In this role the IT provides a set of agreed services with predefined SLA’s. This is the ideal ITIL model. The Service provider is closer to the customer than a Guardian of technology and can react to customer changes but the changes need to be negotiated. Service quality is a key measurement.
  3. Partnership. In this role the IT works with the business for the same goals as the business. It is less structured than the Service provider model and roles can be mixed. Most IT units in small companies or very IT centric businesses work like this. Key measures are revenue, market share and profitability.

The ITSM movement has been trying to convert all IT into the Service Provider model. There have been some valid reasons for this. The Guardian model is not appropriate for an internal IT, it works only if there is little need for interaction between the customer and IT. Early mainframe data centers tried to work like this.

The partnership model can be messy and disorganized. Lack of processes may lead to inefficient and unstable operations. A partnership can work only if there is trust between the partners and if there is little trust, then service level agreements may seem like a solution. Experience has shown that the SLA’s do not guarantee good service.

Framework for partnership

It is obvious that a partnership is not based on SLA’s. This logically means that the service catalogue becomes less interesting. A partnership model is based on partners and common goals. As trust is the key to successful partnership it is very important to manage partner relations well. Partner relations need to be managed at strategic, tactical and operational level.

The partnership model does not remove the need to have a good customer service and support function which handles all routine needs. Good change control is also necessary although not necessary ITIL style. Continuous deployment may as well be the optimal approach.

Risk management is quite important, this includes ensuring availability and continuity. Recognizing and solving faults is important. A partnership will not work well if one partner is incompetent. A partnership requires capability and maturity so this is not a beginner model.


This simplified model shows key components.

The IT Partner function works at all levels from strategic to operational and it consists of teams that are working together to ensure that the IT Operations fully supports the common goals. It may include outsourcing partners and service integration is one key activity. In most cases there are several partnerships with different business partners and also with different outsourcing partners.

Service and Support works on the concepts of Service Desk 2.0. The main goals are to provide solutions to customers changing needs. Fixing “incidents” should be infrequent. Customers should see SD as a source of new technology and solutions.

Change control works at enterprise level to ensure that changes run smoothly. It covers all partnerships and vendors. It is capable of running a high volume of changes if that is required.

Operations can be a combination of several operations who run their own domains. I can contain internal units, outsourcing partners and public or private cloud elements. There are application, hardware, network and platform operations.

Risk management is not a separate function, it is a part of all the functions and processes. Risks are managed at partnership level.

Case MetLife

The case of MetLife is an example of what I try to explain here.

MetLife  encourages technologists to come up with revenue-generating ideas.. ”Technology is not just an enabler. It’s the fabric of the company — and the future.” That may just be the best insurance policy MetLife can buy.


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