Thursday, November 29, 2012

Plumbing the Taxonomy: Why? Part C - Security, Integrity and Compliance

During my years working as an employee of provincial and civic government, I discovered the importance of a special kind of incentive: removal and avoidance of pain.

We all know (I hope) that it's inappropriate to bribe government employees to get better or faster results from them - and that getting caught doing so could land everyone involved in jail.

What recent history has shown, however, is that there are many other types of business misbehavior that can land people - CEO's in particular - in jail, or at least get them and their organizations sued and/or sanctioned. And some of those types are also business MIS behavior.

So, if you want to incentivize a government employee - or anyone who works for a large, rule-bound organization (i.e. the kind that's prone to have a mainframe) - rather than giving them something, you want to take something away: negative experiences, consequences and potential for consequences, aka pain.

In the world of MIS (does anyone still use that abbreviation? it makes for some great puns), where some of an organization's most sensitive data and activities take place, having data or processing compromised can trigger significant pain, from regulatory audit findings and related sanctions to legal and criminal trouble for executives. Compromise can include exposure of confidential personal information of customers and citizens, leading to great expense to "make it right" as well.

All of which illustrates the value of ensuring your organization's most sensitive data, processing and business behaviors are provably compliant with relevant regulations, and sufficiently secure that only legitimately authorized parties have appropriate access to it.

Consequently, this is an essential value on the "why?" dimension of solutions used to manage large IT enterprise environments, particularly those that include mainframes.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Plumbing the Taxonomy: Why? Part B - Continuity

How quickly can you reboot a bank if it crashes? And how do you access your accounts in the meantime?

What do you do if the air traffic controllers' computers suddenly become non-responsive - can you put the airplanes in a suspended state?

Why is it that we take for granted that the largest, most critical organizations on earth will keep functioning, 7x24, 365 days per year?

Because Continuity is a business mandate that is built into the computers that can be trusted to keep the world economy, and other critical areas, functioning.

And many of the software solutions that keep mainframes running so well have this reason for their existence: to keep the business running even if something bad happens to the mainframe. That can include backup and recovery, real-time fail-over to another mainframe (likely elsewhere in the world in case of natural disaster), and just the ability to see a problem coming and get everything in place to prevent or quickly deal with it.

This value of the "why" dimension is worth the entire existence of some organizations. If a bank suddenly stopped operating for hours, it would take a potentially lethal financial hit. If it stopped for days or weeks, it would likely go out of business. So its mainframe computers must have the necessary solutions for continuity to ensure that the bank doesn't crash. And yet, so few non-mainframe environments have ever done a successful recovery test of their entire production computing configuration - or even the most critical part - often, even in organizations where they have a mainframe that has done such disaster recovery testing and planning.

That's one of the reasons why the mainframe is such an important part of keeping the world economy running, and why Continuity is such an important value of the mainframe.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Plumbing the Taxonomy: Why? Part A - Business Enablement

Welcome to the second dimension of the taxonomy! And this value is the most basic of reasons for running something on a computer, mainframe or not: to do the work of the business that's paying for it!

To be more specific, this is about the applications that provide specific business deliverables that drive revenue, handle accounting, manage products, and basically act as the core competence of the business that's paying for IT.

This is why computers were invented in the first place: to enable organizations to perform their core business activities in a faster, more reliable, automated manner.

Everything else in the taxonomy (with the possible exception of the last value in this dimension) serves the business indirectly, but this value is what it's all about. Therefore, anything that calls itself an "application" probably includes this value of this dimension.

But - and here's the interesting thing - this is only one of several values in this dimension, so there are other business reasons for computing than just performing core competence processing!

However, if you don't have this one, you definitely have a problem with your IT.