Matching IT priorities with IT realities

Business leaders want IT teams to innovate while saving money, yet IT teams are working on keeping the lights on and fixing problems. How can IT shift the dynamic?

Matching IT priorities with IT realities

Fall is back-to-school time, though for those of us who aren’t going back to school, it’s a really good time to reassess 2016 priorities and budgets to see what projects can get done by the end of the year. It’s good to take stock to see what’s been accomplished this year, and see what priorities should take precedence before the new year (and a new budget) approaches.

At the beginning of 2016, some CIO priorities for the year included standardization, integration, faster service delivery, more innovation and better IT and business alignment. No problem, right? Right—unless you’re actually working, day to day, to keep networks and apps up and running for users. That makes it a lot harder to achieve those lofty goals.

A recent study on the role of IT shed some light on IT’s realities these days. A full third of respondents spend most of their time firefighting, and another third are deep in administrative duties, helpdesk work and troubleshooting.

Adding to that, survey respondents also named some of the barriers they face to improving the IT situation. The first, named by 44 percent, is lack of time and resources, followed closely by “insufficient budget” with 40 percent. Just after that is that IT is perceived as a cost, not an opportunity.

The big takeaway is that IT isn’t able to realize its potential to innovate and lead in an organization when it’s so mired in upkeep tasks. And it’s not entirely clear what the path forward is for IT. There isn't a one-size-fits-all technology or solution that IT can follow to gain back more time and start innovating a larger percentage of that time.

IT takes the reins

We’re at an interesting moment of IT decision making, where IT teams are looking forward to new technologies and processes but are also faced with a morass of legacy equipment. We hear a lot about integration and standardization, as both business and IT dream of proactive, innovative IT departments unencumbered by finicky, cranky old systems.

Many IT departments need to break the persistent cycle of only fixing problems, leaving them without time for new projects and purchases that can get to the root of the problems. And IT is being seen differently now, especially as non-IT business teams are much more tech-aware than in the past. Non-IT departments ask a lot from IT now and expect super-fast, super-user-friendly services.

For IT teams, the devil’s in the details on those goals of integrated systems and standardizing on fewer, better platforms. The choices are hard: which new technology will become a must-have, and which is just a flash in the pan? And which technology will help solve, rather than add to, the problem of an unintegrated infrastructure? That’s the big question IT has to face to move from reactivity to proactivity and add value to the business rather than just spend budget in the same old cycles.

Getting out of firefighting mode

The first steps toward moving out of firefighting and break/fix patterns are seeing all of what’s included in IT’s domain—whether it’s remote locations, various cloud instances, user devices or all of the above. It’s likely a daunting prospect, since IT infrastructures today are often a tangled web of legacy systems, third-party apps, cloud instances and remote offices.

It’s not pretty, but it can’t be ignored. So visibility is the first order of business. When taking stock, consider remote locations and employees working from home or on the road, who need the same user experience as the people in the office. Figure out exactly how many applications are in the cloud and how many are running from your data center.

From there, it’s not just visibility, but control, that will lead to an informed IT department. If you can’t see what’s happening in all of your locations, you can’t tell what end users are really experiencing. Technology products today can let you pinpoint user experience from locations around the world, whether inside or outside the firewall, in the cloud or not. You can see where the network is slow and why.

With the right details in hand, IT can fix underlying problems for good, cut inefficiencies and build for the future. That’s when time gets freed up and IT teams can finally tackle those big-picture goals set at the beginning of the year (and last year, and the year before).

This article is published as part of the IDG Contributor Network. Want to Join?

Join the Network World communities on Facebook and LinkedIn to comment on topics that are top of mind.
Must read: 10 new UI features coming to Windows 10