In today’s business world, companies are constantly looking for ways to streamline their overall operations.
In life, as in business: change is hard. It requires risk, learning and evolution – and none of these come easy. Yet, change is also essential in today’s business climate, where technology is changing faster than ever. Being receptive to technology’s evolution – and creating an infrastructure that supports it – is critical for a company’s survival.
The question for businesses should be: How can I use the technology of today to create business advantages for our company? How do I prepare my infrastructure for evolution, and benefit from the results? Consider these Dos and Don’ts when assessing how today’s technologies can benefit your infrastructure:
That’s where adaptive infrastructures come in. Adaptive infrastructures are the future of IT modernization – allowing the technology system and businesses it runs to be more flexible, secure, stable, controllable and agile than ever before – and more productive for an entire business. An adaptive infrastructure is the foundation for modernization, and modernization delivers all of the benefits today’s businesses want throughout their organization: increased efficiencies, better productivity, and added profitability.
“Business processes and IT are so interdependent, that developing IT systems which can adapt easily – and almost immediately – to a changing business environment becomes critical for today’s companies,” says Chris Miller, Chief Technology Officer at Advizex.
To drive the point home, Chris cites the example of today’s shopping climate: “Years ago, brick and mortar stores operated independently from online retailers. Today, a retailer likely operates in both spaces – and those two systems need to work collaboratively to deliver a homogenous experience for the end user. These interdependent systems also mean centralized insight into key business metrics and performance indicators: sales, inventory and tracking, etc.
“Almost everything in our lives now has a component of technology. Fifteen years ago, agricultural equipment was purely mechanical. Today’s tractors, broadcast spreaders and harvesters employ hundreds of sensors that are collecting large amounts of real-time data that’s doing things like analyzing soil conditions, humidity levels, crop growth rates. The equipment can then automatically adjust to take advantage of this data analysis, increasing crop yield and overall efficiency. Businesses are analogous to this equipment. Without the right sensors in place and the ability to adapt to changing conditions, the organization won’t effectively compete in the marketplace.”
Instead, shift your thinking: the goal shouldn’t be to avoid failure; it should be to recover faster. This allows you to learn and constantly improve.
Adaptive infrastructure provides your business with the ability to swiftly respond to change. On the most basic level, creating a software-defined adaptive infrastructure brings cloud-like capabilities to on-premises and hosted infrastructure, enabling a company to automate infrastructure management and service deployment. Decoupling capabilities from hardware and providing them in software allows for easier portability to public cloud and a common experience across both public and private clouds. These infrastructures are also easily updatable for what’s ahead: changing security needs, infrastructure changes, evolving consumption needs and more. Implementing a software-drive hybrid cloud infrastructure enables rapid adaptation to change without the need to purchase and implement new hardware.
1. Don’t Be Afraid of Failure
For decades, the goal of IT has been to mitigate problems and create technology solutions that eliminate outages and interruptions. This can be a mistake: fear of failure inhibits change for the good. Reliability causes comfort with the status-quo. This can lead to processes, or a business, becoming stagnant or obsolete. Instead, shift your thinking: the goal shouldn’t be to avoid failure; it should be to recover faster. This allows you to learn and constantly improve.
To do this, IT can look at what caused a failure and design a system to recover from it in a more automated fashion. This not only helps assure rapid recovery from issues, it also allows IT professionals to do more than “fix problems.” Instead they can develop solutions.
How does this benefit the company? IT professionals are highly trained individuals, and they most likely didn’t get into IT to fix problems day-in and day-out. They want to develop and plan. With the right technologies in place, IT professionals can focus on process development instead of service calls. They can prepare and look ahead. The company not only benefits from this foresight, they also benefit from better day-to-day results. Using automation to address recurring problems guarantees consistency every time. It might also eliminate the outage in the first place: if something breaks, the technology is going to tell you.
2. Do Customize
In the 1960s, Toyota revolutionized the manufacturing world, improving their workflow and overall production. The process became a global phenomenon, and Toyota shared their expertise with others: offering training and insight into their techniques, and laying the foundation in manufacturing for what is now known as DevOps in the IT world. Another Japanese company, Hitachi Tool and Die, took this inspiration literally – implementing the exact same processes within their manufacturing facility. However, their assumptions were wrong: lifting Toyota’s processes and putting them in place within their own facility wouldn’t work. Hitachi assumed that their products – thousands of tool SKUs – could be manufactured the same way Toyota produced their product line: a limited number of car models.
The lessons of manufacturing from decades ago can also be applied to IT today. Implementing rigorous systems that work for one organization can slow down someone else. Instead, it’s important not to change the world, but instead learn from your own mistakes and change those. You’ve got to look within your own business environment and design your processes around that. This leads to another important point…
3. Don’t Expect Change Overnight
We often say that it’s important to crawl before you walk. Companies should first consider the things they want to optimize and organize their talent accordingly. This means putting a select number of people onto the team to develop the solutions while still allocating people to deal with the current day-to-day.
This leads to another important point: sometimes companies or people are resistant to implement a new process or infrastructure solution because they believe it will result in cutting jobs. Unfortunately, this is a mistake: Technologies like automation can increase workflow through an organization, helping companies grow their ability to produce within their industries. Cutting jobs to save cost is a short-term solution with a big long-term problem: cutting jobs always reduces capacity for work. When business grows, now you have to find and retrain people when bottlenecks occur. It’s much better to develop an internal mechanism to move available staff to growth areas as automation eliminates repetitive tasks.”
4. Do Build a Culture that Supports Risk Taking
Before implementing new technologies, it’s important to assess your culture: does it welcome change? If not, why? Is it risk ready or adverse? Do you have executive buy-in and sponsorship of the change?
Sometimes people avoid a change of technology because they worry about a loss of control. They think, “if we automate things too much we will lose control over the decision-making process.” This thinking assumes that automation can’t be stopped or paused. In fact, automation can incorporate self-checks that allow IT professionals to track more intelligently and strategically.
When you commit to a change in technology, it is important to also commit to a change in processes. Technology improvements and implementing technology that is designed for automation and evolution isn’t a project that runs through your system – it’s a culture shift. For this shift to happen, executive ownership and support are critical. Executives have to ask themselves: “Are we open to having the culture of our organization change, so we’re set up for growth?”
5. Do Look at IT From a Business Perspective
Do the individuals within your IT team understand how what they do connects directly to the company making money? Does the business value the time savings, solutions and more that IT brings to the table? If your answer to either of these is “no,” there could be a bigger problem. When IT is seen as part of the business strategy, the solutions it brings are valued.
IT professionals need to understand how what they do is useful; that they are an important part of the end goal. When they do, they see the value they bring and work to enhance this even more.
To do this, it’s important to quantify how what IT does relates to business benefits. Consider this example: a healthcare company was assessing whether a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) solution would work for them. While weighing the merit of the system, IT determined that there would be a cost savings. They also determined that frontline staff – nurses and other medical professionals – would save time. In presenting the solution to the head of nursing, this time savings was made clear: the VDI solution would cut staff login time per patient from 5 minutes down to 5 seconds. This was a savings that the head of nursing could immediately understand. She was sold.
This was a mindset shift, and mindset shifts are what lead to positive change. As soon as you build that value proposition, you get the backing you need. The people in IT will see how they are doing something valuable to the business; and the business will see more clearly how IT is an integral part of the future.