From Good to Great: 3 Practical Ways to Keep IT Innovation Humming

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Source: “Caption Contest: Data Center Evolution”, Network Computing, 13 August 2014

I was piqued by the recent caption contest entitled “Data Center Evolution” by the folks at Network Computing (see above illustration). It sets me thinking of the agents of change in the IT landscape in the last few years. If an organization’s investment in data protection infrastructure has been overshadowed by other mega infrastructure initiatives, the technology gap will put organizations in a risky and compromising position during data loss and mitigation cases.

From server and storage virtualization, data center consolidation, cloud computing and mobility, to hybrid cloud services, big data lakes, software-defined storage and flash technologies, IT professionals are kept busy orchestrating IT and business objectives. With the astounding growth of the digital universe and over half of the information in it that needs protection currently not being protected, it is some what surprising for data protection to be playing second fiddle in many enterprises’ IT blueprint or strategy. To some extent, many enterprise IT organizations are derelict in keeping data protection strategy in tandem with their IT initiatives. That is worrying.

So how do you keep IT innovation humming without undermining data protection, which is the last line of defense against data and business loss? Let’s go back to the drawing board.

  1. Take stock, prioritize and begin with the end in mind.

Now and then, you find yourself in a rut and in need of a little boost to take your IT infrastructure to the next phase of transformation. So you have heard about the trending towards data center consolidation, virtualization, hybrid cloud services and big data lakes. What’s next? How do you determine if some of these transformational strategies will benefit IT and business? More importantly, how do you ensure that you minimize any gaps in protecting your data in your data center transformational initiatives?

I strongly recommend a storage and data protection assessment be conducted on a half-yearly basis in assessing the state of health of your IT infrastructure in the areas of data capacity planning and any data protection gaps. It validates proof-points of your IT investments and priorities, and provides a basis for evaluating any critical technology gaps within your IT strategies. In essence, you have an opportunity to align your IT and business objectives after the assessments with such a function-analytical approach.

Borrowing one of Stephen Covey’s mantras on habits for effective people, it pays to “begin with the end in mind”. Creating a service-oriented consumption model and rendering IT-as-a-service to business users reaps enormous cost and user experience benefits. The EMC data protection continuum blueprint, which incorporates data protection and availability, is an excellent place to start. Enterprise IT needs to forsake the sanctum of IT control and empower business application users with self-provisioning of application access, data protection and elasticity of storage capacity required according to defined IT policies and guidelines. With the end goal in place, it makes planning and prioritization of IT initiatives easier.

  1. Move beyond the number of 9s and towards business metrics.

SLAs are great. They defines IT’s commitment to delivering quality service to their business users. However, how many IT organizations are tracking the impact of IT strategic rollout to their organizations’ overall business agility and performance? Besides operational excellence, CIOs need to incorporate user experience and other business metrics such as productivity, customer acquisition cost, gross margin and cash flow into the technology metric tracker. The real end-game is to expand enterprise IT as a brokerage service provider for both business users (consumers of IT) and customers.

  1. Tap into the M-Factor.

Organizations today, in order to attract and retain talent, need to respond to the needs of the Millennial Generation or Generation Y (a.k.a. the “Me First” generation). The Millennials are individuals born in the mid 80s and late 90s, and have the characteristics very different from their past generations. They are expert at technology and demand changes and reasons. They bring about much creativity and innovative approach to their work place yet are individualistic, lack communication and interpersonal skills. This M-factor is going to change the IT workplace with its emphasis on immediate communication, consumption, entertainment and access to knowledge.

By empowering business users, especially the Millennials with an IT self-provisioning service portal as a product of enterprise IT’s IT-as-a-service strategy, IT is now able to converge service elasticity and time-to-service in a service-oriented consumption model. This is a compelling move as it brings about cost benefits and user productivity. Millennials are also demanding IT services to be “always-on” and flexible, while at the same time giving them visibility and control over the data protection of their applications and data. Otherwise they would export their applications or even data off-premise with a third-party cloud service provider, bypassing IT and thereby posing security risks to the business.

Your IT innovation and strategy is only as strong as the weakest link. Data protection and availability strategy has to be crafted into the overall IT blueprint in future-proofing your investments. Don’t leave data protection at the mercy of chances.

Have you scheduled your storage and data protection assessments today?

 

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