Information Technology (IT) needs to embrace the future
Where IT was…
In the last twenty-plus years I have spent working in Information Technology, I have seen a lot of changes. My career started on large-scale Unix systems where we had to dedicate a team of multiple systems administrators to keeping a few Unix systems running. When it was all said and done, our IT focus was really on one thing: keeping the organization’s technology running.
Where IT is…
If we fast forward more than twenty years, the underlying technologies have changed incredibly. We have seen the rise of the Internet, the shift to client-server technologies, and the impacts of cloud computing. We have seen an escalation in dangerous viruses, malware, ransomware, and in the requirement to keep on top of constant patches to both applications and servers. We are now responsible for applications which exist on-prem., in the cloud, or in both environments. The applications and services on which our organizations depend may run on hundreds of servers (many of which require more care and feeding than your average pet does) and there may be hundreds of these applications. But all differences aside, modern IT is still focused on one key requirement: keeping the organization’s technology running.
Although the primary objective of an IT department hasn’t changed, it now takes even more time and effort to meet it. In a world where 24×7 application up-time is a common expectation, simply keeping an organization’s technology awake and alive is a full-time job. Here’s a look at all the components that go into basic IT upkeep today:
- Application & Server Management
- Patch management
- Anti-virus & anti-malware
- Software updates and software distribution
- Server and operating systems upgrades
- Custom application bug fixes & enhancements
- Application availability, performance & functionality
- The need to keep applications running from anywhere in the world
- Responding to issues before they impact the users, applications, or servers
- Providing effective threat detection and response
- Maintaining firewalls & other security systems
- Adding and removing access for users to systems and applications
- Meeting compliance requirements
- Backup & disaster recovery
- And more!
As IT organizations, we’re fighting the same battles that we have been for years now to meet this primary objective. Most organizations spend a significant amount of their IT team’s budget and time on tasks which are required to make this possible, such as patching systems, upgrading Operating Systems, configuring systems for monitoring, backup and disaster recovery, and performing common and repetitive tasks like onboarding and offboarding employees. But to help drive growth and innovation within the organizations we serve, we need to do more than simply keep the tech up and running.
Where IT is going…
IT needs to go beyond the basics to help their organization make fundamental changes through leveraging technology. IT organizations need to explore how they can digitally transform to compete in the new world. However, the challenge is always the same in IT – resources. In my decades of consulting, I have never worked with an IT organization who would describe themselves as adequately staffed. The mantra for IT for years now has been “do more with less,” and if anything, this is continuing to be true in the future. In a recent report from WSJ, they stated that “Within five to seven years, IT groups are estimated to be up to 40% smaller, as well as faster and more specialized because of a confluence of events including the enterprise-wide shift to the cloud and automation in IT, according to Forrester.” In the next several years we will be forced into becoming more efficient through cloud adoption and by leveraging automation.
There are four steps I recommend we take to move towards a more digitally transformed future.
1) Embrace the cloud: Cloud technologies are fundamentally changing how we do business today. With the release of on-prem. Cloud solutions, the last barriers to entry should no longer exist.
2) Embrace automation: It is estimated that nearly $2 trillion is spent in annual wages performed by something as common as onboarding duties which could be automated. Automation can increase efficiency and free up resources by automating time-consuming and highly repetitive tasks. Automating tasks like onboarding can also improve employee retention as 69% of employees who experience a positive onboarding are more likely to stay for at least 3 years. Automation as a Service is a growing area in IT, and Managed Automation as a Service is also making inroads to help organizations embrace automation.
3) Empower users: Empower your users to take care of their own needs through providing self-service options for their requests which are fulfilled through automation.
4) Get rid of the “Pets”: In today’s IT world there are too many servers that are more like “Pets” than “Cattle”. Decreasing the number of Pets will make it easier to maintain these systems and in turn free up time for IT personnel to focus on more important tasks.
Summary: IT departments are still fighting the same battles we have been fighting for years and it’s time that changed. We can help our organizations to digitally transform, but not if we are spending all of our time just keeping the technology of business running. We need to work smarter so we can move towards a future where IT functions less like a maintenance crew and more like a critical partner in the success of the organization.