The IT operations team are the unsung heroes of just about every medium to large organization. Indeed, the reality is that - without effective IT ops - it’s unlikely that your wider team will ever reach its potential.
Actually, the chances are that you’ll quickly find yourself struggling to keep up with your competitors.
Today, we’re delving into everything you need to know at a practical level.
We’ll cover all of the important theory around what IT operations involves, what it achieves, who is responsible, and how it’s managed. We’ll even check out some emerging trends that are changing the face of IT ops.
But first, let’s kick off with the absolute basics.
What is IT operations?
IT operations is the sum of all of the processes, policies, and services delivered by your IT team across the wider organization - along with all of the related workloads that support these.
As such, IT ops can equally comprise hardware, software, infrastructure, and governance issues.
We’ll make a more comprehensive review later, but, for now, some examples include:
- Data management.
- Infrastructure and networking.
- Incident responses.
- Project management.
- Facilities management.
- Disaster recovery.
- Solutions development.
- Quality assurance.
- Systems design.
This is a pretty wide mandate, to say the least. In many cases, there will be other teams within the department who have more direct responsibility for some of these tasks - with IT ops taking more of a coordinating role.
In other words, IT ops means managing the wider IT environment, in order to facilitate both your IT team’s internal work and furnishing your wider organization with the tools and solutions they need to perform their daily tasks effectively.
Why does IT ops matter?
Honestly, this has never been more important. See, modern business’s IT needs have never been more complex or varied. At the same time, IT in general has never played a more direct role in your company’s success.
New technologies like - like cloud computing - as well as wider organizational shifts, including the move to remote work, have hugely expanded the importance of delivering effective IT services - as well as complicating it.
Similarly, exploding demand for transformation solutions reflects both the potential dividends of digitalization and the risks associated with ineffective or outdated technology.
In the face of these trends, improving IT operations helps us to achieve:
- Improved visibility.
- Reduced complexity.
- Lower operating costs.
- Better agility.
- Enhanced risk management.
- Maximum efficiency, productivity, and profitability across our organization.
Those are some pretty big impacts. By contrast, ineffective IT ops can quickly lead to excessive costs, unnecessary risks, and insufficient oversight over our business’s IT assets and processes.
Hopefully, this puts across the urgency of achieving strong IT ops.
What does the IT ops team do?
Now that we’ve got a firm grasp of what IT operations achieve, we can can delve deeper into what the more concrete responsibilities are.
Here’s what you need to know about the central tasks of IT operations teams - in no particular order.
Ensuring continuity, uptime, and access to services are some of the central responsibilities of every internal IT team.
One of the most important aspects of this is incident management.
That is, responding to events that risk interrupting or otherwise undermining our IT services. There are effectively three strands of incident management:
In other words, our IT ops team has an equal focus on stopping incidents from occurring, along with putting things right when an incident does occur.
As you might expect the goal here is to maximize uptime and minimize delays in returning services after an incident.
Problem management is a somewhat broad corner of IT ops - and it’s quite closely related to incident management too. Essentially, this is how we deal with problems that we can’t prevent.
For example, our tech gradually becoming redundant or our colleagues moving on to new opportunities.
These are still problems but they’re also kind of facts of life. Since we can’t prevent them, the goal becomes to minimize and mitigate their impact.
Both of our examples here require a large degree of forward planning.
This requires a combination of contingency planning, analysis, documentation, and lifecycle management policies.
Access management is how we determine which users can access different IT assets and what they can do with them. Here, IT assets are mainly data sets, software packages, environments, or even physical devices.
IT operations covers this at both an abstract and a hands-on level.
So, on the one hand, we’re dealing with the policies that govern access - while on the other we have a stake in the actual technology that’s used to enforce this.
The big challenge here is coordination. So, we might have a whole raft of different people in our IT team providing different kinds of solutions to end-users.
If these don’t consistently enforce our access control policies, then it undermines the whole thing. That is, any breach of our access control system could be catastrophic - and would effectively be as if we had no system in place at all.
We’ll see how Budibase handles role-based access control a little bit later.
We can also think more broadly about how IT ops monitors and manages our internal service delivery - including support tasks.
Essentially, what we mean by operational control is the process-based side of service delivery.
This can include routine tasks like infrastructure monitoring, audits, and inventory management.
It can also pull in any tasks related to interactions with end-users, resource allocation, and communication. For example, triaging support tickets, prioritizing issues, and managing end-user expectations.
This one is a little bit closer to traditional ops management within the IT department. Facilities here are your business’s physical environment. So, network infrastructure, servers, and any associated hardware - even mundane stuff like cooling, room access, and more.
Just like with any other aspect of IT operations, our ultimate goal is to ensure continuity, cost-effectiveness, and reliability around our IT service delivery.
Again, monitoring plays a huge role here - as does day-to-day maintenance, device management, physical inspections, and more.
Facilities management is also a somewhat unique aspect of IT ops, in the sense that we’re also dealing with physical hazards - and health and safety - especially with regards to electrical systems.
Finally, we have technical management. This relates to how we provide the technical capabilities that our team needs to carry out their daily tasks - at a hardware, software, and infrastructure level.
We can think of this at two fairly distinct levels:
- Providing the capability that our team needs today.
- Predicting how this will grow and evolve in the future.
Within each of these strands, we’ll encounter a range of challenges and trade-offs - around security, cost-effectiveness, user experience, lifecycle management, licensing, legal, compatibility, and more.
While other nodes within the IT department may have a more direct role in furnishing our teams with specific functionality and capabilities, IT ops takes a bigger-picture approach to ensuring that the entire organization is furnished with appropriate tech.
You might also like our guide to building an employee management app .
IT ops vs DevOps
This is probably one of the most common questions for anyone that’s getting acquainted with IT operations for the first time.
That is - what is the difference between IT ops and DevOps?
There’s a decent degree of overlap here, but the reality is that they’re two separate disciplines. You should have a pretty clear idea of what IT ops is all about by now - so let’s briefly explore DevOps so we can understand the core differences.
At the most basic level, DevOps aims to create and support streamlined, efficient solutions development processes - whereas IT ops has the same aims across all aspects of your IT department.
This can draw on a range of principles and tools from IT ops and traditional software development workflows alike - including automation, data ops, system monitoring, and networking solutions.
DevOps is also typically characterized by adherence to an Agile methodology - where IT operations is more methodologically agnostic.
Despite these distinctions, we’ll often need to draw on aspects of both disciplines - even within individual projects or initiatives.
IT ops vs infrastructure management
Another issue that commonly breeds confusion is figuring out where to draw a line between IT ops and infrastructure management. As such, it’s worth clarifying the exact distinction here too.
As you may well expect, infrastructure management has a much narrower focus.
Really, it’s only concerned with keeping our networking hardware online and accessible to the users that need it. This overlaps to a large degree with IT ops in the cases of facilities management, incident responses, and security - among others.
Depending on the specific resources you have available within your team - infrastructure management might be a separate responsibility or it could be subsumed within IT ops - or this could even vary on a task-by-task basis.
You might also like our guide on how to create a workflow model .
4 IT ops trends
Okay, enough of the theory.
That is, we know what IT operations is and what it achieves at this point - but we’re just as interested in how this is changing.
See, IT operations is particularly exposed to a rapidly changing landscape - in terms of technical, economic, cultural, and regulatory issues.
So, in response to emerging threats, advancing technology, and ever-increasing demand on IT teams, here are some of the key trends that you should be on top of for IT ops today.
Serverless is a subsection of cloud computing that’s based on the idea of functions-as-a-service.
Essentially, the idea is that networking and server capabilities are provided on as-used basis. Despite what the name suggests, you still need servers to host your solutions.
The name comes from the fact that these are abstracted away from development processes. In other words, developers don’t have to worry about managing servers - instead, they simply package their solutions into deployable containers.
The idea is to reduce the overheads associated with hosting, as well as simplify the day-to-day workflows involved.
These days, it’s hard to point to any business function that isn’t being transformed by the rapid rise of artificial intelligence. Far from being an exception to this, IT ops is disproportionately impacted.
Indeed, a huge number of core IT operations processes are particularly ripe for automation through AI. This includes threat detection, infrastructure monitoring, patch management, help desks, resource planning, and more.
We’re already seeing this playing out - with a diverse array of vendors already offering AI and machine learning functionality within their core products.
While we’re a long way off peak adoption, we’re already at a point where ignoring the role of AI within IT ops could mean risking falling behind your competitors.
Edge computing is an emergent paradigm within infrastructure and networking that aims to store and process data as closely as possible to where it’s needed. This is a highly user-centric approach to designing networking and cloud computing solutions.
At a technical level, the goal is simple. The closers we can process our data to where it’s needed, the better the performance we can achieve - across the speed and volume of processing.
This has a practical, business-level benefit too.
In particular, edge computing is useful for facilitating high-volume, systematic, or real-time data processing, making it easier to furnish on-the-ground teams with up-to-date, actionable insights,
Finally, low-code development is sweeping IT ops teams in organizations of all shapes and sizes. The idea here is that - since a huge number of development tasks are actually fairly repetitive - we can achieve huge benefits when we don’t need to do these manually.
In other words, the essential goal of low-code is to reduce the technical skills and resources required to output effective solutions.
However, there’s also a large amount of internal variance within this tool class - with many of the most well-known names being a little too basic for widespread use within IT departments.
Take a look at our ultimate guide to IT transformation.
Budibase for IT ops professionals
At Budibase, we’re on a mission to revolutionize the way businesses build custom solutions. From internal tools and utilities to public-facing web apps, companies around the world choose Budibase to solve all kinds of problems.
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We’ve also got our own cloud-based hosting to get you up and running in a flash. Check out our pricing page to learn more about both options.
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Budibase is miles ahead for external data support. Our platform offers dedicated connectors for SQL, Postgres, Airtable, Google Sheets, S3, Oracle, Mongo, Couch, Arango, REST API, and many more.
We’ve also got our own built-in database, with full support for uploading CSV data.
Controlling access to your apps and data has never been easier. Budibase offers flexible role-based access control. Simply add users to a defined role and grant permissions based on screens, data sources, components, automation rules, or even individual components.
We also offer free SSO with OpenID, OAuth, and more.
Budibase makes automating workflows a breeze. Our platform features a simple, flow-based UI for configuring, nesting, and combining built-in automation triggers and actions.
You can even leverage external events using Zapier, WebHooks, REST, and more.
Budibase won’t be beaten for extensibility. Use our dedicated CLI tools to build your own data sources, components, and automation actions - or browse our community contributions and add plug-ins at the click of a button.
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