Continuing the IT infrastructure conversation

Why building a strong foundation requires more than technology

Amid a backdrop of rapid technological advances, the IT infrastructure conversation has matured, broadening from the solitary topic of technology to include the future of the business itself. As part of this, IT organizations must evolve and serve both as valued service providers and trusted advisors. Here in our second IT infrastructure report, we address their progress in this area, as well as the importance of collaboration among the IT function and other parts of an organization. Specifically, we examine how these groups can work together to capitalize on IT trends for competitive advantage and deliver the capabilities for business success today and well into the future.

Today, the ongoing IT infrastructure dialogue between business and IT executives is about more than technology— it’s about the future of the business. The modern IT infrastructure conversation is about identifying evolving technology developments and how to best harness IT trends for competitive advantage. It is about defining a business/IT relationship that is based on mutual gain, rather than control. And it is about delivering needed capabilities for the present, as well as preparing for future opportunities.

In our first research paper on the topic of IT infrastructure, “The IT infrastructure conversation,” we reported that infrastructure continues to play an important role in an organization’s ability to compete in the marketplace. The significance of this role will only grow with continued advances in big data and analytics, cloud, social and mobile technologies. As part of the study, we identified a small number of leading IT organizations, which we dubbed “Strategic IT Connectors,” that are working more closely with the business to understand their infrastructure needs and are more likely to realize better business outcomes.

We also see that a majority of senior IT executives surveyed believe they are challenged in their ability to support a strategic IT infrastructure agenda. Only a small number believe they have a well-defined enterprise IT infrastructure strategy and roadmap. Most don’t see themselves as effective in collecting, analyzing and documenting their performance measures. Further, the lack of information on metrics also makes it difficult to translate and communicate IT’s value to the organization.

A majority of IT executives also don’t believe they are success-ful at capturing repeatable best practices for application and infrastructure patterns to drive optimal performance and service quality to support their business needs. And most aren’t effective at enabling cross-functional teams of infrastructure domain experts from different infrastructure disciplines (such as hardware, software and networking) or sharing IT resources across multiple lines of business. In short, IT executives recognize that in an environment where IT infrastructure is becoming more critical, their ability to manage the business of IT infrastructure remains a work in progress.

Our research also revealed the need for a new level of interac-tion between IT and business leaders, who increasingly have a stake in the success of IT infrastructure. Never before has this conversation been as important as it is today. On one hand, as companies increasingly look to use their IT infrastructure as a competitive differentiator, technology executives need to understand how emerging analytics, social, mobile and cloud-based capabilities will affect their technology decisions and investment plans. On the other hand, line-of-business leaders are looking to make sense of the plethora of choices regarding the use of internal and external platforms to enable their most valuable applications.

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Gerald Parham

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, Global Research Leader, Security and CIO, IBM Institute for Business Value

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Originally published 16 October 2014