I’ve been speaking recently with many business and technology leaders about the state of the state in IT and the need for a total transformation in the way we run IT. There are many factors validating the need for such a transformation, including technology consumerization, digitization of the enterprise, and simply, the rising cost of IT.
These added pressures are causing IT leaders to spend even more time on “run” tasks, concerned with only keeping the lights on. There is a significant difference between “core” and “context” activities or those focusing on the growth initiatives that have a measurable impact on business growth, versus the run activities that detract from hitting key objectives. Unfortunately, IT departments frequently find themselves stuck in the weeds, falling short on the core initiatives within their organization.
To address that challenge and transform the way organizations run IT, here are seven steps to help drive real change.
Adopt a true service delivery framework, like ITIL. ITIL ensures that each function, role, response and priority is set so that when events and incidents occur, the business can respond swiftly and more efficiently. Companies have historically struggled to build process into their environments, often exploring the wrong path like adding staff versus reallocating talent. A framework allows companies to re-shape how they design processes, scale intelligently, reduce labor costs, and eliminate unforced errors. It also allows companies to begin adhering to best practices and standards to reduce the time spent on “run activities.”
Lend an eye to out-tasking. Today, too many companies try to handle all IT tasks in-house with limited staff and resources. This approach often leads to wasted resources, higher cost, lower performance, and less focus and attention on growth and transformation activities. To address this, many organizations are teaming with a managed services provider on out tasking to remove defined run tasks from their plate.
Though the term “outsourcing” has historically held a negative connotation, out-tasking is different. Consider the role of the HR department. They likely out-task the management of corporate 401K policy, monthly payroll, etc. We need to do the same thing in IT and look at the specific functions that can be done differently, better and more cost efficiently by those outside the organization.
Consider a single pane of glass. In our modern IT world -- one in which data, tools, talent, software and hardware are distributed literally anywhere -- it becomes harder to monitor IT. Different tools are required to manage increasingly complex environments, meaning there are often multiple panes of glass we must use to manage our IT operations. At the lowest level that could be three to four tools but for some organizations, it could mean 15 to 20. Thus, this often creates siloed environments in which only two to three people are equipped to access the tools and there is no holistic picture displaying the health of the network. IT must find a way to bring separate tools together, viewing IT through a single pane of glass.
Lean out by eliminating the noise. Imagine for a moment a world without spam filters. We would be bombarded with hundreds and thousands of useless junk emails, all of which would have to be manually touched by us and ultimately deleted. What’s more, think of how often we would miss important messages or not respond expediently. In IT, we are similarly challenged to eliminate the daily noise and clutter and, in so doing, enable resources to focus more aggressively on core.
Consider common IT events, such as a device outage, a circuit malfunctioning, high CPU usage, etc. These alerts demand attention, with some requiring immediate actions and others simply serving to inform us or, more importantly, distract us. Now imagine if we could use the right tools, and technology to automatically discern the viability of the event, like false positives, duplicate alerts and multiple alerts for the same event.
Think automation. In 2016 Gartner dubbed automation “the next frontier for IT,” explaining that the benefits automation offers organizations -- from improving accountability and predictability to helping slash costs -- are simply too powerful to ignore. Therefore, transformative IT leaders are aggressively considering which existing tools, processes and methodologies can be automated to start reaping the gains of automation. With automation, one of the most powerful components comes in removing human interactions and touch points. Eliminating manual process and increasing time to resolution and response time, allows IT teams to get back to focusing on core activities and bringing innovative concepts to the business.
Align with business stakeholders. As business leaders consider the applications and services that can move their business forward, IT leaders must similarly think like their business unit peers -- particularly regarding what they want to know about their systems and their preferred manner of communication. For example, a head of marketing likely does not care about the inner workings of the devices and systems that comprise marketing automation and CRM systems. But they certainly care if their scheduled email does not go out. For IT to reduce its run operations, it must provide better visibility into how stakeholder systems operate and communicate in the language of the business leader. Historically, IT has been more focused on the device, the systems, and technology, instead of the business service.
Build contextual knowledge of your organization. Proper IT infrastructure support requires that substantial amounts of information be documented and stored centrally. Unfortunately, traditional IT departments have not done a thorough job in documenting their environments. So what are we left with? A sea of spreadsheets, Word documents, SharePoint sites and information that lives in our engineer’s head. As a result, when problems arise, the time to resolution lengthens because companies embark on a massive search for information. To transform IT, we must build systems that allow critical information to be stored in a single repository that is one click away, rather than buried in spreadsheets or confined to one team member.
Clearly the time for an IT overhaul is now. We cannot help our businesses grow and most importantly transform if we are mired down in running IT. The transformation starts with looking at constructive and actionable steps that lead us down the road to IT relevance.
As Carousel’s Chief Client Officer, Tim Hebert is responsible for cultivating and curating our corporate culture, defining and delivering the ultimate client experience, and investing and impacting our local communities. Tim is an influential role model leading transformation not only at Carousel, but in inner-city public education with the adoption of Rhode Island’s Academy for Career Exploration. He has taken significant leadership roles within the state of Rhode Island as a Trustee for the Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council, a Director of the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation, and a board member for several non-profits including Boy Scouts of America-Narragansett Council, Tech Collective, Rhode Island Museum of Science and Art (RIMOSA), and Greenschools.