Introducing the IT4IT™ Reference Architecture

In October of 2015, the IT4IT Forum, which is a part of the Open Group, published Version 2.0 of its standard IT4IT™ Reference Architecture. The Open Group has 500 organizational members drawn from 41 countries, so support for IT4IT will be considerable and widespread.

The IT4IT Reference Architecture states in its preface: “The Open Group IT4IT™ Reference Architecture refers to the capability or capabilities required to manage the business of IT, covering IT end-to-end from plan, through build and operate.”

As we know, the combination of cloud computing (and even shadow IT), the Internet of Things, mobile multi-purpose user devices, and data science is causing a ‘perturbation in the force’ that is pushing many organizations to re-examine both the CIO’s role and the structure of their IT department. Shadow IT continues to show that cloud IT services can be acquired without months of solution design and development.

So the question for today is: have you heard about the IT4IT™ Reference Architecture yet and, if so, have you used it?

Here’s some highlights extracted from the Open Group documents:

  1. The IT4IT vision is a vendor-neutral open standard reference architecture and value chain-based operating model for managing the business of IT.

Comment: Some observers believe the business model for IT is changing, not just the operating model. In a cloud computing environment, the service providers will take over the business of running IT while the CIO serves as an IT visionary, innovator, and service broker.

  1. The IT4IT goal is to specify a fully integrated approach for managing IT, based on a value chain model instead of discrete processes. Four primary value streams are described:
  • Strategy to portfolio (S2P) – receives strategic demands from the business and produces a Conceptual Service Blueprint;
  • Requirement to deploy (R2D) – takes the Conceptual Service Blueprint and builds, tests, and delivers a deployable service (output is the Service Release Blueprint);
  • Request to fulfill (R2F) – takes the Service Release Blueprint and is responsible for the tasks to transition the service into production and make it consumable, including the Service Catalog Entry;
  • Detect to correct (D2C) – provides a framework for integrating the monitoring, management, remediation, and other operational aspects; it also provides a comprehensive overview of the business of IT operations and the services these teams deliver.

Five supporting activities are also identified: governance risk and compliance, sourcing and vendor, intelligence and reporting, finance and assets, resource and project.

Comment: It will be important to establish the hand-offs between the different value streams, especially if some are outsourced to cloud providers. Aligning IT to the business is always a concern — are the strategic demands appropriate and achievable? Do the business’ innovators understand the new technologies well enough? And the importance of the support activities should not be minimized.

  1. It is stated that IT4IT does not replace existing frameworks such as ITIL, COBIT, and eTOM, standards such as ISO/IEC 20000, ISO/IEC 27002, ISO/IEC 38500, and others; rather, it is complementary to these best practices. The IT4IT™ Reference Architecture provides the missing underpinning IT operating model that guides the implementation of vendor products in alignment with the other standards.  Appendix A provides more detail on the standards that were considered in preparing the architecture.

Comment:  Applying the many standards and integrating the various products is hard enough by itself, so an integrating structure such as the IT4IT™ Reference Architecture should be helpful.  It will be interesting to see how well IT4IT succeeds with this objective.  Hopefully, IT4IT will also help to align the differing viewpoints of customers, service providers, and tool developers and to gain a widespread agreement on the information requirements, regardless of where and by whom the work is done.

  1. The IT4IT™ Reference Architecture includes four views that are meant to remain constant regardless of changes to process, technology, and/or capabilities.

The service model captures, connects, and maintains the business and technology attributes of the service as it progresses through its lifecycle.  IT4IT is based on a service-oriented operating model; this is in contrast to traditional IT lifecycles that are project-oriented. The provider/broker IT model places its focus on services as the primary IT deliverable and requires a higher degree of flexibility, velocity, and adaptability.

The information model represents the set of data objects (and their relationships) that are required throughout the service lifecycle.  According to IT4IT, data objects have the following characteristics:

  • They describe an aspect of an IT service;
  • They are inputs or outputs associated with an IT4IT functional component or a service lifecycle phase;
  • They are uniquely identified, and have a lifecycle of their own;
  • They maintain structured information that allows for relationship tracking and automation.

The functional model is the set of functional components and their relationships. The IT4IT™ Reference Architecture identifies and defines essential building blocks — functional components — which create or consume data objects and can be aligned with the appropriate value streams. A functional component is the smallest technology unit that can stand on its own and be useful as a whole to a customer. A grouping of one or more functional components represents the technology elements of an IT capability.

The integration model is composed from the following three types of integrations:

  • System of record integrations: entity relationship definitions that ensure the consistent management of the lifecycle for individual data objects;
  • System of engagement integrations: these are user interface integrations derived from value stream use-cases and user stories;
  • System of insight integrations: these are data-centric integrations driven by the need to provide traceability, end-to-end visibility, transparency, and to capture measurements related to services (for example, performance) or the service lifecycle (for example, fulfillment time).

Comment: Needless to say, there is much more to the IT4IT™ Reference Architecture. The idea of an “enterprise architecture” for the IT enterprise is not new, but IT4IT can provide valuable guidance. In my opinion, being proactive and logical about organizational design will be important in the era of Digital IT.’


This is what I’m currently thinking. What do you think?  Your comments are welcomed, especially if you’ve tried to put IT4IT to use in your organization.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada
Don Sheppard
Don Sheppard
I'm a IT management consultant. I began my career in railways and banks after which I took up the consulting challenge! I try to keep in touch with a lot of different I&IT topics but I'm usually working in areas that involve service management and procurement. I'm into developing ISO standards, current in the area of cloud computing (ISO JTC1/SC38). I'm also starting to get more interested in networking history, so I guess I'm starting to look backwards as well as forwards! My homepage is but I am found more here.

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