Friday, August 6, 2010
Being a True Business Partner as an Infrastructure & Operations Manager
Several things I have been working on lately seem to have a common theme, defining “what is enough”, enough redundancy, process, response time etc.. I have spent some time studying several of the popular Infrastructure and Operations maturity models as defined by industry leaders such as Gartner, Forrester or IDC. All of these models make the not so implicit assumption that you “should” be driving your IT department “Up” the model. In Gartner's model for example, your IT operation is not considered a “business partner” until you have ascended through all the various layers, each requiring higher levels of process discipline, scalability and business service uptime. On the surface it seems hard to argue against continuous improvement as it relates to your IT operations. I certainly believe you should always search for ways to run your IT operation or to build your IT infrastructure in better ways, however it seems an over generalization to imply that you ALWAYS need more process, more redundancy etc.. I would make the argument that to be a true partner to the business, you as an IT leader should focus on defining exactly what your business is trying to accomplish in the marketplace and target your level of IT infrastructure and operations rigor accordingly. It may be tough for the die hard technology professional to accept that a certain degree of risk is acceptable or that it is OK to not be on the latest hardware or software. What really enables you to drive value for the business is understanding the level at which your business “needs” you to operate and ensuring that you do not operate below or ABOVE that level. Operating below an acceptable level in terms of service levels, infrastructure scalability or redundancy certainly puts your business and its go to market strategy at risk. Operating above where your business needs you to be may be diverting capital and resources away from more value added activities whose value to the business outweighs the risks you may be taking in certain areas of your IT operations. So before you to go your CFO and start showing him or her charts and models outlining where you SHOULD be as an IT organization, make sure you have a clear understanding of where your business NEEDS you to be.