Monday, February 28, 2011

10 ways IT can prepare for an industrial revolution

Established IT systems and operations are quickly becoming impractical and obsolete as technology complexities grow, combined with the realities of post-recession economics. To successfully respond to these changing forces, infrastructure and operations professionals must take action, by using the disruptive economic events of the recession to their advantage. How? By "industrializing" the infrastructure and operations department, following the lessons of other business movements that have industrialized processes to achieve more efficient business outcomes and sustainable competitive advantage. This means enhancing and innovating standard systems, services, automation tools, and other time-saving processes that will allow for increased productivity.

But, in order to prepare for this industrial revolution of I&O, the behavior of team members must be altered to reflect the new goals of simplified standardization. In short, IT workers must be taught to abandon their love affair with complexity. So when IT workers begin to explore a project or idea, it's important to ask them two questions to avoid too much complexity playing a role: 1) Will this increase complexity? And 2) Can we hide any additional resulting complexity? If automation, process improvements, or other steps can effectively hide complexity, then the project is likely worthwhile. But if not, the request should be denied.

In addition to reshaping institutional behavior, successful industrialization efforts must focus on meeting three goals: high productivity, high quality, and high flexibility. To get industrialization right, I&O professionals can focus on 10 key steps that will ensure the necessary standardization, development, automation, and optimization of industrialized services:

1. Standardize technology platforms. Fewer components mean more efficient operations, because minimizing variance means minimizing confusion. I&O teams should look to cloud providers as examples of infrastructure standardization. It will be important to learn to reduce platforms where standardization is not possible or start with new services to save the trouble of dealing with legacy platforms. This effort must be collaborative between I&O, application development, enterprise architecture, and all other critical stakeholders.

2. Standardize processes. In order to industrialize I&O processes, the methods of performing work must become repeatable services. ITIL v3 can be used as a starting point, and supplemented with other guidelines such as COBIT and Six Sigma where necessary.

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