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10/3/2012
02:25 PM
Eric  Lundquist
Eric Lundquist
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4 Ways To End Your IT Break-Fix Rut

It's a classic IT influence problem: Can you leave the break-fix cycle behind? Consider this advice from Interop keynote speakers.

IT leaders, this year's Interop keynote speakers pushed one common theme. If you can't get out of being the break-fix department, you will see your budget and your status in the company disappear. What can you do now to end the cycle? Here are four ideas drawn from the Interop show in New York this week.

1. Get your network act together.
The pitch for one network, managed by one network management system and security infrastructure, and able to adjust to the developing mobile network of things came--not surprisingly--from Cisco. But the pitch from Cisco's Doug Merritt, senior VP of products and solutions, makes sense. The CIOs and IT managers I speak with are drowning in demands for a BYOD-free-for-all, bandwidth available on demand for any application, and security which reaches all users all the time. That is a big undertaking, but unless you can develop a single network umbrella strategy, I don't see how you will ever get out of the break-fix dilemma.

Pitching the CFO and the CEO for 2013 budgets to create a comprehensive network plan will not sound as sexy as pitching the socially networked, big data enabled enterprise, but all those cool apps will wither without a strong network underpinning.

2. Make sure your new apps are born in the cloud.
Cloud computing may be the most overused term since personal computing, but the concept is here to stay. Ric Telford, VP of cloud services for IBM should get some credit for actually putting together an Interop presentation that skipped the cloud hype and drilled down to a methodology for the enterprise to take advantage of the cloud.

In his view, the shift is to "applications of engagement" where the cloud environment provides a platform to create and integrate mobile, social, and analytical applications. These engagement applications differ from traditional enterprise transactional applications in that they are designed to largely take place outside the traditional enterprise confines and focus on collaboration. This one, in my opinion, will take a rethink of how companies create and deploy applications, but the payoff will be customer engagement applications that can outdistance the competition.

3. Your company's IT operations are important to your company's brand and growth.
This may be the ultimate breakaway from the IT break-fix role. Ben Fried, CIO for Google (and an exec with a long history of working within the enterprise), laid out a strong argument for turning IT into the innovation engine instead of a bureaucratic anchor. (See our related Interop coverage, Google CIO: Enterprise Software A Racket.)

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Why not give your employees the best personal systems based on their choices of vendor, operating system, and applications, he said. What is the point of giving the Mac fan a five-year-old laptop running Vista? Be transparent in making sure your employees have the systems and vendors that they prefer, let them know via analytics how much their technology is costing the company, and think about productivity applications in the primary sense of collaboration capabilities, Fried advised.

Allowing your employees to make their own technology decisions and being in the forefront of using tech to improve your business is good for the company and also good for the brand, noted Fried. This might all sound too radical (and costly) to many in IT, except the person doing the talking is from Google, which recently became the second largest technology company in stock value, behind Apple and ahead of Microsoft.

4. Ask if your security rivals that of cloud services.
Most CIOs are wrestling with the relationship between the cloud and security. Holding security close would seem to make sense. After listening to Stephen Schmidt, chief information security officer for Amazon Web Services, speak about security, I came to agree with those arguing that best security practices are the same whether you are doing it on premises or using the cloud model. (For details on Amazon's security strategy, see 5 Ways Amazon Web Services Protects Cloud Data.)

If you have a strategy to make sure your security is enforced, and know how you want to measure and monitor that enforcement, then it matters less where that security is taking place. I'd suggest taking a look at Amazon's security policies and capabilities and comparing how they measure up to your capabilities. It is not often that companies are transparent about their security capabilities, but Amazon will allow you to measure your capabilities and policies versus its cloud service.

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