The security and reliability of an organisation’s IT infrastructure is critical for business operations. Most businesses with a mature IT infrastructure often have an assortment of equipment and software from different suppliers.
A lack of standardisation can complicate day-to-day operations and the development of new systems. It adds costs and complexity to IT Services even in areas such as London where there are many potential suppliers of goods and services.
IT has moved from a cost centre to a revenue-generating activity in many companies. It is key to many customer-facing activities and as a consequence managing IT efficiently and effectively is very important. That is where standardisation of IT Services comes in.
Here are three examples of how standardisation can provide benefits. There are many more.
Reduced Acquisition Costs
Sourcing hardware from a single supplier where that is possible can mean that more beneficial pricing and/or improved IT Services can be negotiated with that supplier. Typically, an organisation will have several preferred suppliers for different areas of need. A business relationship with an IT Services supplier will be enhanced when they are confident that the relationship is more of a partnership than a simple seller/buyer one.
Asset tracking can be difficult, particularly when assets can be scattered over different geographies. The auditing of fixed assets is a part of a normal business audit, particularly in the public sector and being able to accurately track the purchase and current location of fixed assets will save a lot of time and trouble during audit season.
Procurement is simplified. With defined standards for IT equipment, there is no need for an exhaustive analysis of equipment specifications, or even to go to tender.
A final benefit of standardisation and asset tracking is more accurate budgeting for equipment refresh. If they are sourced from the same supplier at the same time, it is much easier to plan and cost their replacement.
Improved Scalability and Easier Deployment
It is inevitable that equipment will need to be replaced from time to time, and also the installation of new or replacement hardware and software supporting new IT Services. If the equipment is standardised, then planning upgrades becomes much easier because many of the issues around compatibility are removed.
Other areas, such as space considerations, flexibility and performance will be easier to manage. You can also stage the upgrades more effectively, and not incur the expense of buying equipment you will not need in the short term. In short, you will be, to a great extent, managing cash flow effectively and future-proofing your installation.
If your network is made up of hardware components from different manufacturers, and your IT Services come from a variety of different suppliers, that is a recipe for additional management effort, errors and omissions.
You will need additional resources or ask existing resources to spend more time organising different support requirements and schedules for different pieces of equipment. They may also need to spend unproductive time maintaining interfaces between equipment and software when it is upgraded or replaced. A perennial problem is that upgrades to one item of software can have the unintended consequence of breaking interfaces with other items of software. There are delays and extra effort is needed to test upgrades before deployment and fix problems after deployment.
Also, problem resolution takes a hit. If there is an issue, and equipment from multiple suppliers is involved, then there is the additional overhead of establishing the cause of the problem and working out a resolution, while each supplier is blaming the others.
Standardising on equipment, especially network infrastructure, can remove a lot of the issues around management and problem-solving. Factoring in downtimes for maintenance of firmware or software upgrades is much easier, as is replacing defective equipment.
One argument is that having different equipment is a benefit for the IT staff in that having a range of equipment broadens their skills. However, using standardised equipment allows them to become more deeply skilled in supporting the organisations’ infrastructure.
On a broader front, it can improve user management and relations. In a multi-vendor environment, users, who in general do not have IT knowledge, can find it difficult to tell the IT support staff what their issue is. Standardisation of equipment and software can make it easier for them to express their problems more clearly and with less confusion.
This will improve employee satisfaction and make for better relations between IT and other staff.
Why It’s Time To Standardise On Your IT Infrastructure
For many organisations, moving to a standardised IT infrastructure environment is a process, not an event. Having a root and branch replacement of existing equipment and systems is probably not practical from operational and financial viewpoints.
However, it is something that IT departments should consider in their longer-term planning.