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Shifting from Infrastructure to Innovation

In my conversations with CIOs and other IT executives, I often hear how their teams are focused on maintaining a solid, reliable infrastructure. Their priorities are continuity of service, meeting SLAs, and minimizing disruptions and downtime. That’s an important, admirable goal, but as every IT exec now knows it’s not the whole picture.

If your teams spend too much energy on maintenance to ensure things don’t go wrong, they’re probably going to miss the opportunity for moving forward – and the threat of being left behind.  Consumerization of IT and the cloud have changed everything. As one customer exec pointed out to me recently, “Public cloud options can be the pink slip for IT infrastructure and operations teams.” Let’s face it, the monopoly is over.  Public cloud services, both consumer and business, have set a new standard for IT service delivery – ease of access, speed, reliability, etc. – as well as expectations on price, and IT teams are expected to match or better that standard if they want to stay in the game.

With so much available today on demand in the cloud there’s greater pressure than ever on IT to somehow reduce expense and shift Keeping the Lights On to new, innovative projects that drive business productivity and profit growth. You need to empower your teams to think and act differently, enabling them to be a world class IT organization.

Your teams can no longer focus on the infrastructure; they have to focus on taking advantage of the infrastructure to deliver new business value through innovation. In a world of options – private cloud, public cloud, hybrid cloud, virtualized and physical infrastructures – the focus needs to be on making the right choice that’s right for your business.

The question is no longer “How do I make my infrastructure the best it can be?” but: “What’s the best infrastructure for what we want to do?”  IT has to decide the most logical place to provision and operate infrastructure and applications, based on criteria such as cost, risk, compliance, security, etc. That’s where the innovation comes in – what works best where? What capabilities can I start to deliver as services? What cloud services can I take advantage of to help drive what the business is trying to achieve?

That’s the shift we’re seeing in IT. Instead of providing a super reliable infrastructure to support your applications, you’ll be sourcing and providing services. As I mentioned in my previous post, IT will become a broker for services that the business needs, with a fact-based approach to identifying the best source of those services, internally or externally. Being a service broker will help your teams shift toward innovation, while matching or bettering the standard set by public cloud services.

Some of those services – the ones supporting your mission-critical activities – will stay on-premise for reasons of security and compliance. Some of them – the utility part – you’ll offload to a cloud infrastructure provider through IaaS. The rest of them – the part in the middle – you’ll offload to a SaaS or PaaS vendor (someday these may come back in house or they may stay in the cloud or even move back and forth depending on cost and changing business demand).

Being an innovative IT organization is about trying new things. About being daring. About making decisions faster, killing projects sooner, investing more in projects that warrant it. And about how the cloud – private, public, hybrid – can help you do that.

This is going to take a mind-shift on the part of your teams and a critical look at your processes. You’re going to have to be more customer-centric and deliver cost transparency to your stakeholders. You’re going to have to standardize the services you offer (think 80/20 rule) and enable self-service access to them. And you’re going to have to put the right governance processes in place – who gets access to what and where does your data live.

In my next post I’ll walk through how you can tackle these challenges.

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