Many of our problems with technology don’t come from the products themselves but from getting technologies from different companies or even different divisions within a company to cooperate. We have endless meetings on this or that technology and what new wonders it offers, but we spend a surprisingly small amount of time talking about the bigger issue of getting these increasingly complex systems to play well with others.
Apparently IBM picked up on this and commissioned a study on the state of infrastructure.
It isn’t a very happy state.
Infrastructure Has Never Been More Important
At the core of this report is the concept that infrastructure has never been more important than it is today. I’ve been working in this space since the late 1980s, and I could argue it really hasn’t been less important either. It’s just that things have become increasingly complex and the tools to get technology to interoperate have always lagged the need for them. This is why services have been critical to this effort and why the IBM Institute for Business Value is so focused on this topic today.
“Innovate” has become the battle cry in an increasingly digital age where concepts like bring your own device (BYOD) and the Internet of Things (IoT) compete to see which one can either drive us nuts or put us out of business first. Connecting the dots in all of this mess separates not only the winning companies from the losers, but the winning vendors from the losers. No firm survives being tied to the concept that they are making their customers less competitive.
The survey looked in depth at 15 companies operating globally to get a sense of direction. It found the majority recognized the critical nature of infrastructure and were significantly increasing budgets in this area for next year.
Different IT Thinking
The results of the study indicated investment was going to occur in three primary areas. The first was to enable ecosystem integration because systems that can’t interoperate can’t generate an adequate return on the related investment. This ecosystem focus went beyond on-premise systems to partners and cloud systems that had become part of a hybrid solution with the need to effectively manage workloads that transcend the organization and move into the cloud. This suggests a focus on security and making sure information doesn’t flow against policy or regulations to untrusted third parties or blocked countries.
The second area of investment was to enhance transactional and analytic services, which is critical to understanding what your customer needs are, assuring customer loyalty, increasing sales conversion rates and making sure the firm is ultimately successful. This goes to the heart of the big data effort and bridges both traditional and the new mobile methods of customer transaction. It is clear the ability to translate data into actionable decisions is what justifies these efforts and forms a foundation for long-term competitive success. These are the company’s always-on mission-critical applications and, should they fail, the cost to the firm could be catastrophic. Thus, the related effort needs to be well funded and strategic in nature.
Finally they identified the need to build flexible capacity to address rapidly changing business conditions. We live in a world where not only the technology is changing but the market and customers are changing rapidly as well. The firm of today has to adapt to these changes near instantly, shifting not only data loads but the way business is done to keep up with the market and focus on both the ongoing change and event-driven opportunities like Black Friday. Study respondents highlighted the problems associated with the need to continue to provide reliable services while shifting to these massively disruptive sales events. The combination of mismatched services, equipment and ever-changing user needs is driving an unprecedented move to higher flexibility and concepts like the hybrid cloud.
The recommendations that bleed out of this study focus on keeping the enterprise agile. You need to understand the full spectrum of financial options and the limitations of each so that you are prepared for the related purchases and so you don’t create more problems by nature of the method you use to finance them. You also have to embrace innovation. In a time when the world and related technology is going through massive changes, keeping things static just isn’t viable—as much as IT would like to. Finally, you have to empower the organizations that need these changes so that they can be instrumental in creating and implementing them, for it is through this empowerment that progress is actually made.
In the end, change isn’t coming—it is here. The firms that recognize they need to change are well along the way in implementing it. Those that don’t recognize and adapt to the change, like so many failed firms before them, will be left with a period behind their footnote in history. And nobody wants that outcome.
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