Standardization, consolidation and virtualization of IT infrastructures are now “old hat” in IT management, “yesterday’s news” in the age of artificial intelligence, big data and the Internet of Things. Nevertheless, harmonization of infrastructure can present an IT organization with significant challenges.
IT infrastructure harmonization – why and what should you harmonize?
IT infrastructure harmonization is the term used for the principle of designing functions, landscapes and IT process chains of the same type in the same way. It increases scalability and transparency, reduces costs and helps to direct the strategic focus of IT towards supporting the core competencies of the company and of IT itself.
In addition to hardware-related entities such as data centers (e.g. servers, storage systems) and networks (e.g. LAN, WAN), typically everything from workstation equipment (e.g. clients, operating systems, peripherals), through IT services (e.g. email systems, security services like virus scans and intrusion detection, user helpdesks), to business process (e.g. on the basis of an SAP installation with multi-client capability) can be harmonized.
In the course of harmonization, further steps in addition to conventional standardization, e.g. using data centers as described above, should be considered as end goals, as should the use of international, hybrid cloud architectures (a combination of public and/or private clouds). We will be looking at this topic in more detail in one of our next articles.
Harmonization programs are usually complex. In order for them to succeed in the context of increasing complexity, effective collaboration within the company organizations concerned and with any external partners is essential.
If this is not the case or is only possible to a limited extent, additional challenges ensue. The corresponding risks are of various types and may constitute fundamental hurdles for the program. Communication and cultural obstacles, unclear responsibilities, a lack of transparency and coordination in IT, unclear targets, superficial arrangements for IT architecture and IT security are just a few of the factors that can potentially lead to failure. It is fair to say that these failure factors apply not only to harmonization programs but all programs.
It is often the case that programs turn into bad investments for these reasons. It is therefore all the more important for top management to be aware of the potential risks and to act accordingly.
Successful IT harmonization
Many important tasks have to be completed for a successful IT harmonization program, starting with an analysis of the preparation and motivation of those involved and commitment to the objective, including strict control. Close coordination with departments, group subsidiaries and holding companies is required, as it is with IT partners and other service providers.
All these factors are a matter of course in program management that corresponds to accepted standards. Especially in the area of harmonization at an international group level, however, they often prove to be stumbling blocks: much of what is taking for granted in one’s own cultural environment requires clarification in other countries. Conflicts of interest, gains and losses of influence and shifts in power are often dealt with only indirectly through proxy problems.
Three elements repeatedly come into focus in this connection:
- Target vision
The creation of a clear, shared target vision that takes account of individual degrees of freedom is essential to a harmonization program. Analysis and alignment of HR capacities, requirements and areas of risk is just as essential as assessments of complexity, organizational structures and an understanding of culture and service. The same applies to the issue of transparency: the earlier problems come to light and parties are informed of them, the greater the basic trust and the easier problems such as follow-on costs can be avoided.
Even before the program starts, particular attention should be paid to preparation and establishment of collaboration between IT service providers and recipients of those services. Clear lines of responsibility, transparency and mutual trust are essential, as are an effective project management office and consistent transition and transformation controlling.
Unified, consistent control and stabilization of the program across all partners, clear governance and a determination to succeed are key factors in the success of the program. In order to prevent uncertainties arising in the operational units concerned, any strategic changes in the program should be carried out quickly but with due consideration. An internal early warning system with clear escalation structures which identifies deviations from the plan at an early stage and suggests countermeasures is also important for effective management of the migration process. Professional claims management in respect of suppliers also helps to defend against claims and assert the company’s own interests.
On the basis of its many years of experience, ResultONE is able to provide this kind of support in terms of both advice and implementation. For this, ResultONE uses a specific, detailed version of its Act2Perform© procedural model which incorporates evaluation of a large number of transition and transformation projects.