Beyond the Server Room

As IT Becomes an Enabler of Business Value, a New Framework for IT Decision Making Must Emerge

Beyond the ServerIn the September/October issue of Educause Review, David Maxwell, President of Drake University has written an excellent essay titled ‘Technology and Shared Governance’ that describes his views on the process of IT decision making in an era of continuous technology disruption. This essay, well worth the read, motivated the team here at BRUNS-PAK to think about our experience working with clients to plan changes to their IT infrastructure…core assets that underpin all elements of the IT value chain in an organization.

It is worth noting that as an IT professional, no one needs to tell you about the challenges of prioritizing and implementing IT solutions when faced with a never-ending stream of user demands, operational performance challenges, and cost control objectives. For Maxwell and his team at Drake, the emergence of MOOCs (Massively Open Online Courses), offers a highly visible example of a technically-driven innovation that is rewriting the business rules for IT on the Drake campus. But every organization faces their own tough challenges: in insurance, the Affordable Care Act introduces major new demands; in media, online migration from traditional media venues is forcing massive changes in technical platforms; in publishing, the move to e-media is shifting core workflows and driving new customer delivery demands; and across virtually all industries, mobility and Big Data are dramatically changing IT workloads, security practices and quality of service metrics.

Despite these demands, not all organizations have woven the IT investment and maintenance decisions into the fabric of strategic planning. It is not uncommon for major IT infrastructure decisions to be made on the basis of the technical considerations alone, isolated from the potential impact these decisions may have on broader operating performance. As a historically frugal and efficiency-focused organization, BRUNS-PAK is not a stranger to managing the costs of information technology in balance with our core requirements. But, through the years, we have also learned the importance of shining light on the operational potential of our technology decisions in order to see how small changes today could yield large long-term benefit.

Using this approach, we acknowledge that technology decisions must be evaluated for their ability to support, or their impact on, critical foundational considerations including:

  1. round-the-clock availability and access through established and emerging endpoint solutions
  2. robust business continuity, data security and disaster recovery
  3. risk exposure, management and mitigation
  4. operational efficiency and effectiveness
  5. cost management and optimization
  6. sustainability initiatives
  7. capital and operational budget considerations and constraints
  8. internal and external communications strategies

However, beyond these basic technical and financial considerations are an equally, if not more, important series of decisions that revolve around IT’s emerging role as an enabler of business value, and not just a supplier of technical infrastructure. In this role, technology decisions should be evaluated for their impact on organizational challenges such as:

  • the ability to drive more robust relationships with customers, suppliers and partners
  • the potential to convert data and information into marketplace innovation
  • the ability to create community or expand the organization’s relationship with its broad constituent population
  • the capacity to enable social change through organizational advances

In the modern organization, IT can no longer be confined to the ‘server room’, it is an integral component of end-to-end business process for more organizations than not. For example, transportation company Union Pacific (profiled in a terrific 2012 article in Information Week), makes extensive use of in-field sensor technology and sophisticated planning and management procedures that conflict with any categorization of them as a “railroad company.” For them, technology investments often translate into “better, faster, cheaper” service benefits that result in greater customer loyalty and profits.

How Can BRUNS-PAK Help

For many organizations, the data center remains the foundation for all IT infrastructure. Through our expanded consulting services group, and well-established design/build services team, BRUNS-PAK is uniquely positioned to assist customers seeking to assess long-term strategic direction for their data center. We are working daily with companies to identify best practices approaches to data center strategy to deliver both operational efficiency and long-term performance benefits. Of importance, the BRUNS-PAK team has a series of established processes to help optimize the IT infrastructure across on-premise, colo, cloud, and other emerging architectures to deliver a best-practices environment to support current and future business needs.

For more information on how we can help your organization with strategic planning services for your IT infrastructure, contact Jackie Porr at 888.704.1400 or via email at jporr@bruns-pak.com.