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Stay one step ahead of the business in the year of technology infrastructure

The business world is moving fast and pre-emptive measures must be taken to stay ahead

I blame Y2K. Normally by now I would have written to staff to thank them for their contribution during the previous year and set out our key objectives for the new year, but this year I have had no time for quiet reflection.

In an effort to make up for lost time, I sought help from members of TIF (Technology Infrastructure Forum) to identify the "must dos" for 2000. A common theme is that 2000 will be the year when infrastructure moves out of the IT department and into the area of business-critical support for the e-business revolution.

Part of the problem that TIF members identified is that e-business is changing the definition of where infrastructure starts and ends. Infrastructure is becoming increasingly critical to the business and, correspondingly, more complex. In the e-business world, infrastructure is the backbone of an organisation and key to delivering a total service to end-users and customers.

In order of priority here is the collective wisdom of TIF members' top "must dos" for 2000.

Number one is ensuring that the business fully understands that infrastructure is a critical part of the overall design and delivery of any new business application and needs to be built-in at the start.

There needs to be a clear understanding as to what can be achieved and what cannot, in terms of operational performance and resilience - the aim being to establish a roadmap for infrastructure deployment and investment set against the needs of the business.

Number two is security. A key deliverable in 2000 is the development of a security framework which starts at the end-user and goes right through to processing and data management. Failure to convince the business that electronic trading can be secure is seen potentially as a major barrier to the expansion of e-business.

Next comes cost of ownership. With wireless technology set to explode, and new faster data communication products coming on stream, IT managers, as always, agree that a high priority is to reduce, or at least contain, the cost of ownership. The key to this is seen as automating the hell out of front-line and second-line support services.

Fourth is that old chestnut, skills shortage. As the infrastructure model grows more complex, fewer in-house departments will be able to afford, let alone recruit and retain the necessary levels of resources and skills to provide a total service.

Therefore, having a service sourcing game plan is seen by IT managers as key to meeting the demands of the business and staying one step ahead of the requirements. It is no longer enough to simply have a resource utilisation plan. This must be coupled with a plan for where the resource will be procured, covering training, recruitment and in-house sourcing versus outsourced strategies.

Finally, at number five, is the small matter of getting a grip on asset management - every IT manager's dream, but a nightmare in reality.

The clear message from TIF members is that the top "must dos" are all about service delivery. IT cannot hide behind the old clich‚ that the business needs to tell us what it wants before we can come up with a solution.

The e-business world is moving so fast that IT has to stay one step ahead of the business and undertake pre-emptive investment. IT departments must own the end-to-end service delivery and ensure there is a total service proposition which encompasses performance criteria, resilience, operational constraints, availability and security - all wrapped inside a defined service level agreement.

Tim Gregory is head of IT at Lloyd's and chairman of TIF

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