Hey IT! Get with the Program: Make Operations a Strategic Weapon
Don’t start your battle without preparation
By: Brent Smithurst
Sep. 2, 2012 10:00 AM
Too often, Information Technology leadership lives in its own world, far removed from business decision-making. This can result in IT being an easy target for blame. If everything goes well, IT is a high-spend cost center. If things go poorly, then IT isn't doing its job. Non-strategic IT departments are too often seen as the bad guys-They are an obstacle, a process-loving bureaucratic group that slows everything down...Other departments must find a way around IT in order to launch those pet projects quickly. Now you, the CIO, are caught in a downward spiral, spending more time fighting political battles, less time addressing your organization's immediate tech needs and zero time planning for the future. The IT Ops team is in a constant scramble to keep up, overburdened with administrivia and maintaining uptime. In this bleak picture, IT isn't exactly a potent weapon in the battle for innovation.
The solution? Get proactive!
Identified your strategies? Good start. But you need more than just top-of-mind strategies to truly make your IT operation a strategic weapon. It's time to deliver on their promise.
Clear the battlefield...or at least your schedule
Second, investigate Software as a Service (SaaS) as a way to reduce overhead and maintenance expenses. SaaS can make good business sense for any size project: Email, HR-management systems, project management, content delivery, source code repositories, IT help desk, bug-tracking software, and test case management are all examples of services that could potentially be migrated to a SaaS vendor. Ask four questions when considering SaaS:
Audit usage of the existing services IT offers to the organization, both in terms of how often those services are accessed and your cost of keeping them running.
Third, reevaluate all in-progress projects with their respective business owners. You may be surprised to learn that some projects can be halted completely, others can be scaled back, and some should be revisited (to attack the scourge of outdated requirements).
Get your army in the (private) cloud
And why a private cloud? If your organization must adhere to strict government regulatory data requirements, the private-vs.-public battle may already be decided. A private cloud ensures that you retain complete control over resources and data. As CIO, you are ultimately responsible for your organization's digital assets, and it makes sense to retain as much control over that data as is possible within your own security policies and parameters.
Get started: Repurpose some of your in-house servers into an on-site private cloud. There are a wide variety of private-cloud technologies (both commercial and open source) to choose from, and plenty of easily accessible consultants who can help you. Yes, you'll see upfront expense, but the long-term benefits will outweigh the short-term costs. Or, consider a simpler alternative: hosted private cloud.
Arm the troops with a polyglot private PaaS
A so-called "polyglot" PaaS handles multiple languages and frameworks. There are many single-language PaaS solutions, but if your organization develops in more than one language, you'd need to deploy a single-language PaaS platform for each language. That burdensome approach sustains your language silos, and multiplies overhead work. You're better off selecting a polyglot PaaS in the first place—one that accommodates the languages (Java, .NET, Ruby, PHP, Python, Perl, etc.) in which your developers code.
Future-proof your forces and choose an extensible private PaaS. As your resource skillset evolves to support your business growth, you'll need to accommodate new languages and frameworks.
Test locally, deploy globally: A good PaaS will enable production testing on local clients. Developers will know if their apps will run in the corporate cloud because they've already tested them in a simulated production environment.
Good private PaaS auto-scales and auto-configures, and your IT team monitors everything. It facilitates deployment handoffs, and shaves time off deployment process, freeing both devs and IT to focus on strategic innovation instead of paperwork, rework, and finger pointing.
Capture the flag...wisely
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