Infrastructure Management

How to generate more business value from your IT infrastructure

This is a contributed article by Sam Routledge, Chief Technology Officer, Softcat


The “fourth industrial revolution” is in full swing, presenting a real opportunity for businesses. However, many are being held back by outdated IT infrastructure and a lack of targeted investment.

However, according to The Hackett Group, the main business threats reported by companies globally all directly relate to the transition from industrial-age to digital-era operating models.

Whilst digital is ostensibly about software, apps and data, the right infrastructure – flexible, scalable and automated – is a key foundation for achieving a competitive and digitally-enabled business.

Knowing where and when to invest in your business’s IT infrastructure is crucial. Many institutions understand the need to change how they work, yet few get beyond isolated success or incremental benefits.


Prioritize investment

PwC’s 2017 Global Digital IQ Survey findings show businesses around the world are recognizing the need to switch to digital and 57 percent expect digital technology investment to grow revenue.

Unfortunately, throwing money at IT doesn’t automatically equate to revenue growth – if it did we’d all be laughing. As with most things, you need to get the balance right.

What does a successful IT investment strategy look like? Above all else, it needs to align with your company’s overall business goals. Draw up a business road map with your senior management and identify where your current technology gaps are and where attention needs to be prioritized or re-allocated.

You can use analytics further down the line to get an accurate picture of when you should reduce, or increase spend to meet changing financial realities or support more aggressive corporate growth.


Look to the cloud

61 percent of businesses are trying to disrupt current markets or enter new ones, with Hong Kong and Australian firms considering themselves as the most exposed to disruption.

Inflexible IT infrastructure can be a major barrier, particularly making old and new systems interoperable. To overcome the issue of interoperability and avoid disrupting patch solutions, you could introduce a separate environment for new technologies which can be built upon; this might be where cloud services come into play.

Cloud can deliver significant savings and be less troublesome than trying to manage multiple changes internally and at the same time.

Many forward-thinking companies are taking a hybrid cloud approach. This refers to a mixed computing, storage, and services environment made up of on-premise infrastructure (or private cloud), combined with one or more public cloud services.

The hybrid approach can be beneficial because it enables organizations to move between the two worlds, using the most appropriate platform for each workload or application.


Drive cultural change

According to SAP, 84 percent of companies globally see digital transformation as a top priority for survival in the next five years.

However, digital transformation is not 'just' an IT exercise. It must be driven by, or at least in conjunction with, employees and customers.

Change can be unsettling, and workers can understandably be apprehensive about any differences in role, focus or tasks, especially if it involves a technology element they don't necessarily understand.

For example; if moving to the 'cloud' you can’t just 'buy cloud’ and hope everyone catches on to the concept overnight. No person or training course can transform single-handedly. There's also a whole range of concepts to become familiar with for teams to work at the speed that cloud can enable.

Focus on the move to 'becoming cloud' - a gradual process of change - which will transform the culture in a structured and less intimidating way.

Help your staff by providing as much clarity as you can; translate top-line goals and priorities into specific metrics and KPIs for employees at all levels. Allow them time and space to experiment with new technology and let them know it's ok to get things wrong! Encourage users to communicate and feedback so the right support is identified.


Protect it

CEOs worldwide identify cyber threats as the business threat of greatest concern but businesses in Europe and the Middle East are lagging those in Asia, North America and South America.

It takes only one look at the all too frequent news headlines to understand why companies are so concerned with IT security. Constant reports of state-sponsored hacking attacks and insider leaks reflect the real threats organisations face daily.

Unfortunately, many companies put too much focus on compliance and ‘ticking off their checklist’. A much better approach is to move from perimeter-focused security measures to embedding it in the core of your network from the start. It can be useful to use a probability model here, to reduce your attack surface and work out where resources should be most profitably directed.

Companies working in this way are better able to drive discussions about risk in more consistent, business-aligned terms. It helps them start making decisions based on real-time data and move away from making decisions driven by fear, uncertainty and doubt. 

Adopt the principle of least privilege when it comes to access to company data. This prevents employees accessing sensitive data they don’t necessarily need. Assign each new account the fewest privileges possible and escalate privileges as necessary. At the same time, when access to sensitive data is no longer needed, all corresponding privileges should be immediately revoked.


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