June 6, 2019
As we laid out in a December article, The Key to Creating a Successful IT Strategy? Simplify. Simplify. Simplify, HighPoint has experienced two tiers of IT capability across our client base: one set that has simplified technology and can appropriately adopt turnkey technology innovations; and the other that is a generation behind, in part due to overly complex IT infrastructure and application layers. In that article, we also referenced the importance of not only standardized business processes and streamlined applications, but also a simplified foundation of infrastructure on which this all rests.
Like the execution of a 3-year business strategy, infrastructure changes take time. Such changes oftentimes require the retirement of legacy hardware to standardize support and make room for current or next-generation infrastructure, while simplifying that infrastructure, and realizing efficiencies – all while maintaining a solid security posture across the enterprise. At its ultimate end, infrastructure optimization accomplishes this base level by becoming invisible–with seamless backup and continuity, similar to an electrical grid or utility, and typically with some sort of outside cloud support.
Beyond modernizing that which is outdated and reducing redundancies, incorporating any (or all, if appropriate) of the following foundational areas into your IT infrastructure-layer strategy promises greater agility, scalability, cost-effectiveness, and security, while also helping your business deliver on its down-selected imperatives.
*Note: Infrastructure strategy in the past began with ‘own vs. outsourcing’ reviews: This brief checklist does not include topics like desktop help desk and hardware outsourcing, which are assumed to be in place where they make sense, and in some cases, made irrelevant by aspects of the below. Examining each aspect of one’s hardware servicing, alongside the below items, will free up your best engineers for next-level capabilities further down this list.
- Cloud (including hardware standardization)
If your company thinks of the infrastructure web services cloud as simply a place to store data and files, your infrastructure evaluation can turn into an antiquated on-prem vs. cloud debate. The real discussion should focus on the value of cloud computing services to your specific business model: services that may bring greater flexibility, innovation, and agility to your organization. The benefits of leveraging the cloud may include better remote and mobile team member collaboration, seamless scalability and efficiency, faster time to market, improved continuity, and in some instances, cost-savings. Bringing together stakeholders and decisionmakers throughout the enterprise to assess where value-added cloud services may make an impact, and then developing a sound cloud strategy within your IT infrastructure and application strategy, is an essential element of your infrastructure checklist.
- Virtualization (For Internal Server bases, and/or with partner firms)
Within your internal/external server optimization, virtualization technology provides lower cost of ownership by enabling one machine (servers, storage devices, desktop workstations) to do the jobs of many. It also provides enhanced security and peace of mind: if one guest machine, as in the case of a server, suffers a malicious attack or goes down, the impacted virtual machine can be taken offline without impacting the entire network. As there are a variety of virtual environments–Full (e.g., VMWare), Hardware-Assisted (uses native hardware), and Hosted (applications run in a virtual environment)–stakeholders and decisionmakers should review and determine which approach is compatible with your cloud and server infrastructure strategy, and then accelerate remaining virtualization opportunities.
- Business Intelligence/Data Architecture and Flows
Data provides business intelligence that few other information resources can. Typically, when it comes to data management and analytics, the larger the data sets, the more accurate the empirical findings, and more robust the analytic options. That’s why ensuring you have the right technical data architecture underlying your infrastructure is essential to enabling data scale and next-level analytics. Furthermore, a well-architected data foundation with seamless/non-disrupted data flows and minimal middleware will better link to more on-time, automated visual business intelligence platforms, building adoption and usage across the organization. Examining your data flows, data warehouse solutions, and architecture used to capture, organize, share, store, and manage data are another critical component of your infrastructure strategy.
- Security (and Business Continuity)
As outlined in our previous Insights blog Prioritizing Security in IT, there are countless incidents–from data breaches and malicious attacks to more subtle phishing solicitations, trojan and botnet infiltrations, spyware and ransomware, IoT hijacking, distributed denial of service (DDoS) disruptions, or other attacks–that are frequently cited as among the top risks within any organization. Add to that natural disasters like earthquakes and fires, which can compromise, or even cripple, an organization’s IT infrastructure, data, and day-to-day operations. Ensuring your business has invested in and socialized its security policies and processes and business disruption readiness is paramount to managing risk.
With the above foundational IT infrastructure elements, you may turn to applications associated with Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning, the Internet of Things (IoT), and a variety of other automation tools. Each of these elements may impact your infrastructure strategy. Building Automation and advanced capabilities into your IT strategy needs to be carefully evaluated against the costs. Advanced automation can make business sense where there are pockets of meaningful inefficiency, inaccuracy, or customer/employee processes where voice is less efficient and effected than scripted learning and servicing. In any new capability consideration, alongside the infrastructure implications, be pragmatic: Make sure to apply the appropriate automation technologies to the right use cases.
Learn more about the value of IT strategies with longer-term time horizons in HighPoint’s Future Matters: The Importance of Developing a Long-Term IT Strategy.
Why complicate what’s already complex?
HighPoint solutions are designed to simplify without compromising effectiveness. If your company is seeking strategic alignment between its IT organization and the core business, we bring a commonsense approach and a hybrid team of technology strategists and former tech executives–who have been in your shoes–to tackle the most critical IT challenges and deliver success.