The great infrastructure and operations divide

What's the thinking behind companies splitting their infrastructure and operations organization?

What percent of your IT budget do you spend on "keeping the lights on"? If you are anything like a typical company that I work with, the answer is more than half. That doesn't leave much money for spending on new initiatives and projects—in fact, in 2010, the average IT organization spent less than 25% of their IT operating and capital budget in these categories. Most companies that I speak with tell me they wish it was more, but they get constantly caught up in the day-to-day "firefighting" which leaves little time and budget to spend on new innovations, more proactive measures, and new initiatives. And the treadmill just keeps getting faster and faster as more projects are piled on with little or no additional budget to help implement them.

While we can't stop the treadmill, I have seen some organizations slow it down enough to spend more time and money on new initiatives. How, you might be wondering? The key is in the organizational separation of the infrastructure (engineering/design) groups from the operations groups. Traditional infrastructure and operations organizational structures had the design, engineering, operations and all the support done by the same group of people. Sure, they may be grouped by the supported technology, but often still all sharing the day-to-day operational tasks. Slowly, we are starting to see companies separating the functions by assiging certain resources to operations and others to infrastructure, but the most benefit can be found when the two groups are under separate reporting structures. By taking infrastructure engineering and design resources out of the day-to-day operations, they will have more time to devote to new projects, upgrades, requests for enhancement, and most importantly, innovation. Of course infrastructure and operations cannot each exist on their own, they need to remain tightly linked through governance and service management.

This trend is not new, but it has been accelerating as IT enters a new industrialized era and as the business becomes more and more reliant on—and demanding of—its supporting infrastructure. Next week, my colleague Glenn O'Donnell and I are leading a track session at Forrester's IT Forum in Las Vegas on this topic as well as on the new skills that are required to survive this evolution. I hope you can join us and join in on the discussion around the IT industrial revolution, the bifurcation of infrastructure and operations and what impact the cloud and automation will have on our organizations.

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