Tearing down IT silos

Silos. Stovepipes. Ping Pong.  Finger pointing.  We’ve all heard these terms when people talk about IT. The silos that plague IT organizations and the constant finger pointing back and forth when issues arise are preventing IT from moving at the speed of business. We need to find a way to bridge the gap between the various functions to ensure that IT keeps up with the business’ needs. Getting there will require a combination of people, process and technology.

Why is this so important now? In previous blogs, I’ve shared my perspective on the unintended consequences of IT transformations. The shift to cloud computing is driven by the business need for flexibility, scalability and agility. Today, key business processes, particularly those that are customer-facing or revenue-generating applications, live online in data centers. Customers and employees expect access to these applications and their data at any time and from any device.

Today’s IT infrastructures are more complex and interdependent than ever before. Hiccups in the infrastructure inevitably put business operations at risk. We’ve all seen the headlines of IT related outages that have real business consequences such as lost revenue and damage to a company’s reputation. These factors are driving IT organizations to rethink how they work.

I had the opportunity to speak to a number of CIOs and senior IT leaders recently at the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo in Orlando about this very topic. We talked about how a focus on people, process and technology are critical to addressing the unintended consequences of the shift to cloud computing.

People

We all know IT has traditionally been segmented by domains, such as networking, server, storage, etc. These teams are staffed with individuals who are “masters of their domain” and have deep technical expertise. While these groups certainly know their stuff when it comes to their areas of expertise, their cross-functional knowledge is often very limited. Without a doubt, we still need domain experts who have deep knowledge of a certain part of IT.

But, that’s no longer enough. When an issue pops up organizations need to quickly identify and remediate it. There’s no time for finger pointing between teams. IT must work together to resolve an issue quickly before it impacts the business. This requires us to rethink the way IT teams are organized.

More and more, we’re seeing IT organizations create cross-domain teams to manage their IT infrastructure. They are pulling the best and brightest from each of the domain areas and bringing them together to ensure the performance of the infrastructure and to work together to establish unified goals that are aligned with business requirements.  I’ve heard many times from organizations that have these cross-domain teams that they’re able to identify and remediate infrastructure problems faster because of the collaboration. 

Process

According to a Gartner report titled How I&O Can Manage at the Pace of the Business*, “businesses are increasingly concerned that Infrastructure and Operations cannot respond fast enough to meet their needs.” The report notes that, “through 2015, only ten percent of I&O organizations will be able to deliver the speed of change required by the business processes they enable which is an increase from less than 2% in 2013. This will largely be the result of I&O process constraints.” Bringing together a cross-functional team to review current processes is essential.

With a cross-domain infrastructure performance management team in place, IT should be able to drive real process change to ensure they are meeting business requirements. Historically, IT has focused on availability SLAs, which guaranteed the uptime of applications. However, I am starting to hear about a shift in focus to service level agreements (SLA’s).  With a team focused on the system-wide infrastructure, IT can evolve to provide performance-based SLAs that guarantee the performance of mission-critical applications.

Technology

Technology is the final piece. Each domain team has its favorite tool to manage their piece of the environment, but that means IT is juggling a number of tools which only provide insight into one piece of the puzzle. As IT organizations break down organizational silos, they also need a solution that provides real-time insight into the performance of their environment across the various tiers of the infrastructure. The right technology platform will provide the cross-domain infrastructure team the visibility it needs to do their job.

Bringing it All Together

Organizations that break down the silos to create a team focused on optimizing the IT infrastructure are more strategic contributors to the business. They’re able to quickly identify the root causes of issues and remediate them. They’re able to identify issues early and proactively avoid outages. They’re able to right-size the IT environment and drive greater operational efficiencies. Ultimately, they’re able to mitigate risks and have a positive impact on the organization’s bottom line.

*Gartner, How I&O Can Manage Change at the Pace of Business, G. Spafford, March 7, 2013

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