VP, Business Transformation
  • Data Center
I read an article the other day about a technology product. It’s a well-known brand, so I won’t use the company name. The piece caught my attention because it used an important phrase in the content: “…align IT with the business…”

Aligning business strategy and technology strategy has been a goal for most companies for a long time, and a worthy one at that. But getting there isn’t easy. Because the fact is most companies are too mired in the day-to-day grind of trying to keep systems up, operational, and compliant—with fewer people and shorter deadlines than they used to have—to give much time and attention to adopting and deploying the features of the products they have or to aligning technology solutions with business outcomes. 

Wood, Hewlin and Lah were correct in their book Consumption Economics: The New Rules of Tech when they stated there is a growing gap between what manufacturers, systems integrators and value added resellers are selling, and what can possibly be adopted and deployed. Given the fact most companies are bogged down with operational issues and fighting fires, it’s not surprising. Many products get deployed—sometimes months after they are purchased—without ever realizing all of the features that were needed in order to achieve the expected ROI. But there’s more to this issue than missing financial returns on technology investments. It speaks to some larger problems.

Our IT environments have become so complex, simply managing assets has become increasingly difficult. Just knowing what devices are deployed and the location, condition, and maintenance status of those assets is an ongoing battle, let alone keeping track of what features are and are not being used. And if managing these assets is not done well, other problems can arise, including security risks.

Product maintenance lapses could leave an organization just as vulnerable as a cyber-attack. Infrastructure elements that are not under a valid services contract could be the biggest security risk an organization may face. For example, what happens if a device goes down, and the product can’t be replaced quickly because it’s not covered? Or what happens if a new security threat emerges, and the infrastructure is back-level on software maintenance or too old to be upgraded with new code to close the security gap?

The fact is today’s competitive business climate requires IT teams to do more with less, to be more knowledgeable on multiple technologies, and to provide guidance on emerging technologies. And that isn’t going to change anytime soon. So, what can be done to free up time to focus on business outcomes while narrowing the consumption gap? Implement a lifecycle management strategy.

Lifecycle management is a term first introduced by American Motor Corporation in 1985. And the concept of lifecycle management in an IT organization is much different now than when it was first introduced. Today, it means identifying assets and problems in the enterprise through network discovery and assessments and then remediating issues found. This basic, yet important, information serves as the foundation for proper planning and budgeting. The process begins with a baseline and a plan to remediate the most serious issues. And then moves forward from there.

Fundamental to implementing a successful lifecycle management strategy is a strong asset management tool capable of giving users the shared ability to identify an asset’s location, condition, warranties, service contracts, age and value. More than an Excel spreadsheet is needed. While Excel overall is a great tool and it allows you to sort and filter data, it’s most definitely not an asset management tool. But simply getting a better handle on asset management doesn’t close the consumption gap referred to by Wood, Hewlin, and Lah. It takes more than that.

How are highly-efficient, successful organizations addressing the consumption gap problem? They are spending time on aligning IT to business outcomes—doing more to leverage the features of the products they have so they can deliver enhanced functionality to users—instead of monitoring and managing technology infrastructure. The reality is those day-to-day tasks can be offloaded to an outside organization while your IT experts focus on the business of delivering features to your users, getting products to market quicker, hiring and onboarding employees more efficiently, and getting in front of more customers. 

Effective lifecycle management depends on building and maintaining a secure, reliable technology infrastructure that is not only manageable but is also capable of scaling to meet your business needs over time. And, that is often accomplished best by partnering with an organization that can not only help guide you, but can also provide the technical expertise and services to manage the daily operation of the environment. When you can wrap the technology costs and management services into a predictable monthly expenditure, you can operationalize the delivery of IT services and free up capital and resources to focus on your business. Wouldn’t it be helpful to be able to upgrade your collaboration, network or data center infrastructure every three to five years without having to incur a major capital expense? 

The first objection I typically hear when I talk about lifecycle management is, “We can’t afford to do it.”  But given the growing consumption gap, the complexity of managing today’s IT environments, and the importance of aligning IT with the business, a good question to ask yourself might be, “Can we afford not to do it?”

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