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10 ways IT can prepare for an industrial revolution

Glenn O'Donnell, Forrester Research | Feb. 25, 2011
IT must industrialize infrastructure and operations -- and IT workers must be taught to abandon their love affair with complexity, says Forrester's Glenn O'Donnell. Consider these 10 pieces of advice on how to do it right.

FRAMINGHAM, 25 FEBRUARY 2011 - 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.

3. Standardize services. Clearly defining formally offered services is crucial for any industrialization process. To reduce chaos, I&O teams should create and enforce a service catalog and limit the number of services offered.

4. Understand your customer. Although efficiency is essential, it is also critical to meet business needs when standardizing the infrastructure, process, and services. I&O teams must determine who their true customers are — whether it's the end user, or another IT team — and cater to these groups. This can be done by identifying the parts of the delivery chain and considering what takes place before a service reaches the consumer. Then, negotiate with suppliers to ensure the components being used offer the right quality for customer needs.


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