The top 3 complexity challenges faced by CIOs

Article by Nilesh Rane



As the world recovers from economic crisis, organizations are increasingly looking at IT as a savior as well as an innovator to support future growth. But here lies the twist...

IT to the fore

As organizations across the world recover from perhaps one of the most daunting crisis, they are increasingly looking at IT as a savior as well as an innovator to support future growth. But here lies the twist – IT must deliver despite the fact that decisions taken during the crisis may have severely impacted the ability to handle future growth.

The complexity creeps in

With the increasing importance of IT, the challenges for in house IT teams also multiply. Maintaining complex IT environments/infrastructure need constant monitoring and updations - for many organizations this means little or no time left for innovation led growth. To top it all budget restrictions delay investments required to upgrade or replace aging systems that require much greater efforts to maintain.

The Top 3 complexity challenges for the CIO

Any change in business and technology increases the infrastructure complexity exponentially that leads to three tangible and direct impacts for any organization. These are:

Increased Costs

Organizations have realized that it is expensive to maintain disparate systems with multiple standards that each requires a specialized skill set. This leads to increase in maintenance and integration costs – a situation best avoided if possible.

Increased Risk

Complex systems can have many points of failure that may be difficult to fix. Legacy infrastructure/environment becomes increasingly fragile over time and the skills required to fix these systems may be difficult to find. These failures can have serious repercussions for your business.

Decreased Agility

Complex IT infrastructures need resources to keep them running. This has an adverse impact on business agility as the focus is on keeping the IT environment intact than on the changing business needs/environment. Complex infrastructure becomes a bottleneck to making things happen.

How do we go about making a change – Change the economics of IT

As per traditional IT economics, organisations spend roughly 70% of their budget on day-to-day operations, leaving only 30% for any kind of innovation. There is an obvious need to switch that focus. Ideally, the focus should be on their core business. Research has shown that IT organisations that drive the best business results are the ones that enable the entire company – not just IT – to spend more time and energy on innovation. There is a real impact on the business when IT becomes a driving force to enable expansion into new markets, deliver new products, optimize supply chains, or provide information that helps executives make better operational decisions.

But we were talking about Infrastructure…Right?

No doubt we are - a switch in focus cannot happen overnight or merely by stopping operational work. It is absolutely necessary that existing business operations must continue while a strong and agile IT infrastructure is put in place. The new IT economics, with a strong focus on innovation, requires infrastructure services that eliminates unmanageable complexity and delivers a solid foundation.

So how do we align our IT Infrastructure to deliver efficiency?

As Gartner puts it (The Current State of IT Infrastructure and Operations Maturity: Immature!)– “Most I&O [Infrastructure and Operations] leaders need to urgently make improving I&O a high priority.”

It is important for any organization to understand its current IT Infrastructure and Operations maturity level and how that compares with industry averages. But where do we start from? The best way forward for most organizations in this case, is a multi-stage plan of ongoing incremental improvement, including infrastructure monitoring where each step is driven by immediate business goals to deliver substantial benefits.

This brings us to the five ways by which a CIO can handle complexity challenges in the organization

The correct approach will, however, depend on your immediate business needs:

Approach 1 – Standardization

Standardize your IT infrastructure; reduce the number and types of infrastructure components. This way you can provide more predictability and enable compliance while reducing dependence on specialized skills.

Approach 2 – Consolidation

Consolidate and simplify your IT infrastructure; reduce the number of servers, storage systems, network devices, processors, applications, databases or sites. This will not only lead to cost savings but also make your infrastructure more manageable. The visible impact on IT budgets makes for a compelling business case for consolidation and fund future infrastructure improvements.

Approach 3 – Automation

Automate your IT Infrastructure management; Automating infrastructure management processes including set tracking, application provisioning, patching, code deployment, rollback, monitoring, failover and assigning computing resources will  not only save you time but also lead to decreased costs, increased consistency and improved reliability.

Approach 4 – Virtualization

Virtualize your IT environment; by sharing resources including bandwidth service and firewall services across applications or departments by creating server, storage or network pools your organization can maximize utilization and ROI while keeping costs at a minimum. Virtualization is an effective strategy that delivers greater flexibility to meet peak business activity or deploy new business initiatives without additional costs.

Approach 5 – Utility Computing

Utility computing is the new infrastructure mantra; by adopting utility computing your organization can dynamically increase or decrease capacity to meet its changing business needs. This innovative approach gives a new perspective to IT and allows you to right-size your infrastructure to meet demand spikes without over-provisioning costly resources.

Let your infrastructure spur innovation in your organization

If you feel that your present internet datacenter in India is a complex environment that is not optimized to support innovation, it is essential that you start with the process of building a robust and more agile infrastructure. Without a solid foundation/infrastructure many organizations erode their ability to compete in a dynamic business environment, thereby, leading to increased business risks. Infrastructure complexity will not go away by itself, but it can be minimized and managed. Now is the time to build an infrastructure that allows a shift in focus to delivering business outcomes.