As we approach the holiday season and possibly the end of the financial/budgetary year, let’s pause for a moment to think about 2012. For many IT infrastructure and operations (I&O) professionals, 2011 was a challenging year; the bad news is that 2012 isn’t going to be any easier. With the pressures of the continued mandate to “deliver more with less” added to by increased business demands on, and scrutiny of, IT service delivery; all against a backdrop of increased business and IT complexity.
The high level view
- Increased business scrutiny: IT cost transparency and value demonstration. One could argue that the challenges listed as “increased expectations” next will also increase the scrutiny of IT performance.
- Increased expectations: agility, availability, “hardware,” and support and customer service.
- Increased complexity: cloud per se, mobility, and compliance.
The top 10 challenges
- IT cost transparency. Something’s got to give in terms of “what IT costs.” IT is and will continue to be a sizable expense to the business. I&O is spending the business’s money, the business wants to know whether it is being spent wisely, and who can blame them. Consequently, I&O organizations need to know what their services are and what they cost. It isn’t simple and in many ways it's a great example of where I&O needs to “jump before it is pushed.” Think about having to answer the CEO’s off-the-cuff questions as to how the corporate email service compares to cloud services such as Gmail.
- Value demonstration. In some ways, IT cost transparency is an onramp to the end game of value demonstration. How does IT positively impact the business? That’s the business’s view of value not I&O’s BTW. Which IT services deliver the greatest value, which deliver little or no value? Are we making IT invest decisions based on value or are we still too supply-focused (led by volumes and technology-related factors)? If we could demonstrate the business value derived from IT, surely we would be being asked to spend more rather than having to respond to corporately-mandated, quick fix, end-of-year budget cuts.
- Agility. I hate the “A” word these days. Like cloud, “agile” has been abused by vendors and practitioners alike of late. It is, however, appropriate for the business’s needs of I&O. The speed of business change dictates a rapid response from I&O. Not only is it speed and flexibility, it is also “agility of mind.” A change in I&O mindset that asks “why not?” rather than “why?”
- Availability. Nothing new here. The business needs high quality, highly available IT (or business) services. The difference is in expectations and alternatives. For a number of reasons, the business is becoming less forgiving of IT failure and, again, who can blame them. As with anything else that is procured either personally or corporately, you want to receive what you pay for (or more) and there are always alternative suppliers.
- “Hardware.” It’s a funny term really and I use it somewhat “tongue in cheek” to poke fun at the language we use in IT. End user devices, will however be a big challenge for I&O in 2012. Whether it is the fact that our “internal customers” are unhappy with their “outdated” corporate laptops or the fact that they can’t have corporate iPads, or the whole “can of worms” that is BYOD (bring your own device); personal productivity hardware will be a battleground of business discontent in 2012.
- Support and customer service. For me, support is one thing and customer service is another; ideally I&O delivers both. IMO my Paging The IT Organization: You Need To Support The People Not The Technology blog covers the support side in that it is ultimately about supporting the consumption of IT services by people rather than supporting the technology that delivers the IT services. And that service-centricity by frontline staff is not enough, it needs to be all IT staff. The same is true for customer-centricity. Please let’s stop calling our internal customers “end users.” We ought not to forget the challenges of supporting BYOD either.
- Cloud. Issues abound. Do we really know what cloud is (particularly in light of what my colleague James Staten terms “cloud washing”)? Are we looking at cloud as a technical or business solution, or both? Do we know enough about the status quo to make informed decisions about moving IT services to the cloud? Probably not, yet for many cloud is the answer but I can’t help think that we haven’t really taken the time to fully understand the question.
- Mobility. Whoa, this blog is too long…I guess I could have done a blog on each element if I didn’t have “real work” to do. BYOD comes into play here again but I think that a bigger issue is at hand (which thankfully encompasses some of the BYOD challenges). To me a fundamental issue is that we are still technology-centric. We all hear talk about MDM (mobile device management) as “THE big issue.” To me, however, this is old school IT. We are focused on securing access to the mobile device when I would prefer that we secured access to the IT service. The device is a red herring and of little interest to the customer. They want (or at least we hope that they continue to want) to access your services any which way they can and need to.
- Compliance. Whether it be internal or external regulatory compliance. Maybe governance is a better word to use? Either way, most of the above will potentially have a negative knock on to compliance whether it be SOX, software compliance, or meeting internal requirements for “transparency and robustness.” With everything going on elsewhere, it is easy for me to imagine a degradation in internal control, not reacting to new risks as a minimum.
The observant amongst you will have spotted that I’ve only mentioned nine challenges in the preamble and subsequent list, so what’s the tenth?
Survival. All of the above challenges need to be addressed, and the failure to address the demands and issues across the full spectrum of challenges will put the internal I&O organization at risk of extinction. It is in many ways, a Darwinian “survival of the fittest” scenario, it’s time to “adapt or die.”
Times up (well, a little bit exceeded). I’ll remove my drama queen tiara for now. Is it food for thought? Do you agree? What did I miss? What did I get wrong? Please let me know.