Reliance on legacy IT infrastructure is holding back many organizations and preventing them from reaching their business potential. It is also a major hindrance to digital transformation. Ripping out and replacing the existing IT infrastructure is not the easy answer. It’s a lot more complicated than that.
A big part of the problem is that often the existing IT infrastructure has developed over time to meet the business needs at that time, and the ongoing requirement to continue to provide services has prevented any meaningful rationalisation.
In addition, as with IT, business practices have become a mixture of the tried and trusted and new policies and procedures designed to meet immediate business imperatives. Often there is a misalignment between what IT provides and what business needs.
Adding today’s new imperatives of remote access to systems, working from home and digital transformation means that upgrading, updating, and the possible replacement of all or part of the IT infrastructure is a necessity. Right now, that usually means a move to a Cloud environment.
IT Infrastructure management indicates that the IT department needs to be aware of these impending and planned business changes to make sure that the IT infrastructure can support new developments. Gartner recommends that the Head of IT sits on a high-level planning forum where such matters are discussed.
IT Infrastructure Modernisation Roadmap
Modernising IT infrastructure is a step-by-step process, usually of four or five steps:
- Objectives setting. Unless you define what you want to achieve by upgrading the IT infrastructure, it will be difficult to measure progress and know when you are finished. Aligning these objectives with the overall business strategy is absolutely essential.
Some useful indicators include:
- Getting more for less – Implementing new business processes and aligning elements of the existing IT infrastructure to support them can provide the opportunity to gain immediate productivity and cost benefits.
- Better Business Continuity – Business strategy today is often more of a focus on survival than on the traditional one of managing profitability. This process can ensure that the new IT infrastructure can provide appropriate service levels in normal operations and can provide a speedy return to them in the case of an unexpected outage.
- Enhanced Security – The frequency and virulence of network attacks and general malware exploits have significantly increased recently. Again, this provides an opportunity to develop new and improved security systems and operations that will help the security team monitor network activity and secure corporate data and Intellectual Property.
- Employee involvement – A general problem when changing business operations is that of taking staff with you. Moving them from their comfort zones and asking them to undertake new duties can generate friction and if not properly addressed, stop a project dead in its tracks.
Making sure that the Objectives Setting process is a company-wide project with staff involvement can bring a sense of ownership and involvement.
- Audit. Finding out what you already have is usually carried out in parallel with step 1. Sometimes some immediate benefit can be gained by reorganising the existing infrastructure. As an example, it could be profitable in terms of operational efficiency and improved service levels to relocate systems and data between servers. Another example is reorganising network routes to minimise hops and provide alternate routing in the event of a network failure.
- Planning. Having completed step 1, the objective is now to see what can be used from the existing infrastructure, and what new hardware, software and associated services like training and education are needed. The output will be a phased programme of tasks delivering the planned upgrades while ensuring minimum disruption to existing services. Outsourcing some aspects, for example, cloud hosting, to expedite project delivery and maintain existing service levels should not be ruled out.
This is a typical project management exercise. The preparation and issue of requests to tender for new equipment might be needed, and some capital work could be necessary, for example, to upgrade a Data Centre or lay new cable routes.
- Migration. This is where the rubber hits the road – implementation of the project plan developed in step three. It is vital at this point to understand that the plan is not written in stone and changing business circumstances may require changes in response.
- Post-Migration. A formal review after each stage of the migration is essential to review what was done and how it has met the original (or modified) project objectives.
- Operations. It is essential at each milestone during the project roll-out to make sure that the operational requirements to keep new and existing services running at a satisfactory level are in place.
Taking the longer view, this is not a once-off process. We live in a volatile business environment where business needs change on almost a daily basis. With Digital Transformation and external connectivity, an up-to-date and efficient IT infrastructure is assuming a key role in supporting a business.mm