Article

IT operations treasure hunt – the first stages

Ongoing improvement in efficiency and effectiveness is in the interest of IT operations itself. Standardization and consolidation are powerful drivers of this. Traditional actions, such as critical reviews of the need for SLAs or of contractual arrangements, often bring rapid successes (see Operations – the search for hidden treasure).

At a time of massive expansion of the cloud, exploding numbers of virtual servers require a high degree of automation and, at the same time, a great deal of expertise in designing and implementing viable, sustainable concepts. But this also requires the creation and preservation of the space to complete the necessary homework – the analogy with the idea of “not having time to sharpen your axe because you want to chop down as many trees as possible as quickly as possible” is obvious.

Standardization as the basic and universal measure

The term standardization is often used in different contexts in connection with information technology. This analysis focuses on the standardization of internal enterprise IT and therefore on consistency of technical components, systems, processes and procedures.

Standardization is carried out at various architectural levels (e.g. network, databases, server types, desktop services, etc.). At the lowest level, for example, standards can be agreed for hardware and infrastructure components (e.g. desktop, servers, operating systems, routers). Building on that, middleware components can be standardized (e.g. webservers, database systems). At the same time, the overgrown jungle of applications which often comes about because of a lack of knowledge of available solutions, individual preferences, etc. is also a target for attempts at standardization. The reduction in the product variants and technology used can significantly reduce both essential and non-essential complexity.

The key advantages of standardization of the product and technology portfolios used are obvious: exploitation of various economies of scale, such as procurement benefits, a reduction in licensing, maintenance and operational costs, pooling of expertise and easy management of the IT deployed as a whole, all of which can usually be measured clearly in financial terms. These advantages are offset, however, by risks that are difficult to measure such as loss of flexibility and freedom to meet requirements, resulting in a lower level of satisfaction among departments, which can even extend to associated negative impacts on end customers, demotivation of employees, etc.

Standards also have a lifecycle. As the IT sector is largely driven by technology which has a short shelf life, the degree to which the IT standards used are expedient and up-to-date must be continually monitored and reviewed. Of course, outdated or even obsolete standards must be renewed or replaced.

Consolidation as a further optimization step

Consolidation represents a further efficiency measure and is the next logical step after standardization. The main aims of consolidating standardized systems, databases and applications include simplification and easier scalability of the IT infrastructure.

  • Logical consolidation relates to standardization and simplification of administrative tasks, maintenance and user support.
  • Physical consolidation covers the system technology itself including concentration of storage systems, replacement of servers with blade servers, efficient use of computing and storage resources, standardization of operating systems, etc.
  • Application consolidation builds on logical and, to some extent, physical consolidation and extends this to the application level.

IT consolidation is just as important an item on the digital agenda in a commercial environment as it is in the public sector. In addition to optimization of IT and its processes, the focus is particularly on saving effort and costs.

Positive factors such as easier management and more stringent control, better use of resources, technical and operational scalability, centralized and consistent procurement of hardware and software, disentanglement of functions, central security, etc. are, however, offset by disadvantages and risks such as monolithic software architectures, data losses during migration, a loss of flexibility and acceptance by the suspension of individual, location-specific applications, longer support times because of inadequate prioritization, more work for the departments and reliance on external providers like data center operators, etc.

In order to answer questions such as

  • How do you weigh up the advantages and disadvantages of IT consolidation?
  • How do you assess the appropriate scope for IT consolidation?
  • How do you preserve the long-term flexibility and capacity for innovation of the organization, despite short-term, efficiency-driven consolidation?

consideration of the whole picture is essential.

On the basis of its many years of experience, ResultONE is able to provide this kind of support. For this, ResultONE uses a specific, detailed version of its Act2Perform© procedural model which incorporates evaluation of a large number of standardization and consolidation projects.

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