I have spent a lot of time over the last few months thinking about the often haphazard evolution that IT management approaches and technologies have taken over the last few years. And in many respects the use of the term “evolution” is, for once, nearly accurate in its original scientific sense rather than in its modern marketing guise. Many approaches have been tried with a small number delivering some benefits. The rest have either died out or are in the process of fading away slowly, stuck in niche ecosystems.
IT infrastructure management today faces a number of severe, unavoidable challenges. Chief amongst these, although by no means always the most visible, is the need for infrastructure management to become far more responsive to the high level, often ill-defined, value drivers of the business. This challenge will inevitably require fundamental changes in both IT management toolsets and core infrastructure modification – much of which is already underway, at least in parts. It does however also need radical, probably painful, alterations in IT behaviour and process.
At the very least it is becoming apparent that with so much focus still placed on the “overhead” costs associated with daily management of all aspects of the IT infrastructure that there is pressure in many organisations for the undertaking of Network and IT management team consolidation. Indeed, there is probably a case to be made for this to happen in all but the most complex and specialised of network, server, storage or software environments. The drive to add greater flexibility to the IT administration and management teams also offers potential for these previously separate units to interact more swiftly and with hopefully more room to explore new methods of driving and supporting true business innovation through the use of IT. These alterations in work patterns will hopefully foster better IT – Business / Business – IT communications to enable business objectives to mould IT resource usage. Indeed the end game is really about IT being able to utilise all the infrastructure management tools in combination proactively to enable new business operations and the generation of additional value.
The unification (albeit still with some elements of embedded specialisation) of IT skills will be helped as the management tools available begin to encompass broader areas of the infrastructure than has previously been the case. There are already moves to bring together some elements of networking, systems and storage management capabilities into single tools with a degree of functional commonality. Equally the integration of management tools seeking to combine virtualisation and platform administration will assist in these changes as will the development of resource reconciliation, recharge and reporting solutions along with enterprise wide licensing schemas.
In order for IT to modify its operations to provide better services and flexibility the road to change will involve significant effort, and disturbance, for many large IT organisations. IT workers in small and mid-tier businesses are usually rather more generalist than specialist in nature so will have less to modify in their operations. Of course, the business itself needs to be able to exploit these capabilities and so it too needs to able to change its operations just as quickly. I suspect that as IT and the IT professionals who deliver these fundamental services enhance their flexibility that they will probably rush ahead of the ability of the rest of the business to exploit these changes. At last a chance for IT to be seen leading the business or simply just more pain ahead?