Tending the Plumbing

Tending the Plumbing

A couple of weeks ago, we returned home from traveling, tired, and grimy after a very long cross-country flight. The only thing on my mind as I pulled into the driveway was a hot shower, a cup of chamomile tea, and my pillow – in that order. As the garage door opened, we could easily see a large puddle of water spread across the floor. The water heater blew while we were away. My heart sank.

It should not have been a big surprise. We had no idea how old the heater was. It was in the house when we purchased it five years ago. I don’t ever recall anyone checking it. It was left unattended. Fortunately, our plumber had an emergency 24 on-call service and they were there the next day to replace the water heater – at a premium cost, I might add. There was no time to shop around. My shower would have to wait.I could not help but reflect on a conversation I had with a client just a few days prior. He sought my help in planning for and messaging a request for funding to upgrade the infrastructure under his care. It was old, it was breaking, and it had been left unattended for too long.

Infrastructure is like that. Despite its large investment, hardware and network equipment does not last forever. Many would believe that outsourced data centers or cloud services have replaced infrastructure services. That is absolutely not the case. According to a 2019 SpiceWorks State of IT Budgets, 20 percent of IT budgets are spent on infrastructure. The Spiceworks research also shows the current reality is that 98 percent of businesses are running their server hardware on-premises.

Despite cloud and outsourcing initiatives, the total infrastructure cost has not changed over the last ten years. As early as 2010, infrastructure accounted for approximately 60 percent of the overall IT budget per Gartner. Cloud computing played a role in internal hosting cost reduction but, I believe consolidation, virtualization and cost of replacements played a more significant role in reducing overall infrastructure budgets. At the same time, Spiceworks research shows that the total cost of infrastructure is still around 70%. 

Why on-premise at all?” some may ask.

On-premise solutions guarantee the maximum level of security and corporate data privacy with an expectation of maximum physical access to any information located on a server in your own data center. On-premise solutions are demanded by medium-sized and large business companies for whom internal data control and security would be the main priority.

The second consideration I see is performance and latency concerns associated with manufacturing control data. As network bandwidth capacity goes up and costs go down, performance should be less and less of a barrier.

Nevertheless, local communication network infrastructure equipment and servers (firewalls, routers, hubs, switched, access points) along with desktop equipment will continue to require on-premise hardware and services.

The bottom line, Infrastructure is here to stay, and infrastructure expense will continue indefinitely – or at least as long as the enterprise remains in business. Just as we replace our automobiles, roofs, and appliances, corporate IT infrastructure has a lifecycle with a requirement to be maintained and refreshed.

Here is the challenge. Small to Medium businesses often find themselves in the position of having to refresh their IT equipment. Very few have an IT Strategy, and the IT leader struggles with how to pull together an IT refresh plan.

I’ve been asked: “What’s an IT Refresh Plan?”

It is a portion of the IT strategy and roadmap that focuses on the IT infrastructure, server, storage, network, telephones, PCs, laptops, printers etc. and sets out when these need to be replaced. This is a plan that is best included in the broader IT strategy.

It purely concentrates on the age of equipment. There may be other reasons that equipment needs upgrading or changing, but the IT refresh plan will always require that you have an essential if not a firm idea of when hardware and software are coming to end of life and will need replacing.

As was the lesson from my broken water heater, it is always better to plan a replacement rather than wait until an essential piece of equipment decides to break down. Not only will you reduce downtime to zero, but systems will also operate more efficiently since computers get slower as they age. You’ll also be able to plan your budgets and negotiate better pricing. Knowing that purchases are imminent, you may be able to take advantage of the end of the sales period or special offers.

Having an IT refresh plan in place will also help with the standardization of your hardware and PC configuration. Standardization removes compatibility and communication problems, improves security, and enables scheduling of updates.

Why Do You Need an IT Refresh Plan?

Investing in hardware and infrastructure does not reap apparent business rewards. It is a utility. It is expected to be there and operating flawlessly when needed. Business leadership commits to funding what they need at the time of the need, especially if there is a promise of new or needed business functionality. Projects are often tasked with supporting the initial cost for equipment or services required to deliver the promised functionality. The process may even “account” for the trailing costs of the project. There most likely is some thought put into the whether you will standardize on Apple, Dell or HP hardware. When it is a new expense (or one they are struggling with), businesses tend to ‘bootstrap,’ looking for the best deal to do what they need at the time. The choice is not always the one with the longest lifecycle.

The need for IT systems grows and expands over time as the business grows. New and additional infrastructure will be added to support the company as well as the addition of new business functionality. Most often, there is little to no planning about what the business might need going forward.

As the original equipment ages, the new stuff (that’s a technical term) is purchased and added. Before long, you end up with a hodgepodge of equipment that can involve hardware from several different manufacturers. You most likely will well end up with several operating systems. Machine specifications can vary wildly, and this can cause issues with the software. This can include getting to the point where systems simply won’t work. To add to the concern and confusion, it is highly likely you’ve not implemented asset and configuration management plans. You most likely are not sure of what you have.

Where Do I Start?

You start by developing an Infrastructure Refresh Plan and Roadmap. If I’ve piqued your interest, come back March 11th when I will lay out the necessary steps to developing an IT Infrastructure Refresh Plan.

Until next time – I am here if you have questions or want to talk!

Regards,
Mary

Mary Patry 
IT Executive Advisor and Leadership Coach   
 480.393.0722 (AZ) 
 Mary.Patry@iteffectivity.com 
LinkedIn: http:// www.linkedin.com/in/mleonardopatry 

Let’s Talk sponsored by ITeffectivity.com an IT Executive Coaching and Advisory practice targeting CIO’s challenge of leading and delivering business solutions with a focus on effective people and process capabilities. Discover the possibilities by scheduling a complimentary strategy session with Mary Patry. 

CEO-CIO Alignment is Not A Guessing Game

CEO-CIO Alignment is Not A Guessing Game

It was 2002 and I had been asked to step up into the CIO seat. At the time, I was the head of Infrastructure. I had built an excellent reputation as a “get it done” leader which had resulted from a very effective technology integration of two equal-sized merged companies. It was a tough decision. I knew I was not ready, and I wasn’t confident I wanted the job. I accepted the position to prevent someone from coming in from the outside.
 

Oh, how I often wish for a do-over. Though I was a member of the senior executive leadership, I was not accepted as a partner. I did not deserve to be. I was frustrated on many fronts as I knew I needed to step it up. As such, I requested funding to subscribe to what was then the elite CIO “training” opportunity under the Meta Group CIO mentoring program. My assigned CIO Coach, Louis Boyle, saved me big time. As my coach and mentor, he helped me to see beyond my experience and taught me to look at business problems strategically as solutions to be solved. At that time, mobile computing and business intelligence were promising technologies and I got lucky with vendor and business partners willing to work with us on some pretty leading-edge technology solutions. It helped that I had a fantastic IT team on my side.

Fast forward to today and the technology solutions back then appear to be out of an old science fiction movie. The capabilities coming out of the digital transformation are driving the integration of technology into all areas of the business. They are changing how companies operate and deliver to their customers. The hardest part is the cultural change requirements that require leaders to continuously challenge the status quo, experiment with courage, and grow comfortable with failure.

All these things have elevated the CIO role, yet I still see IT leaders struggle to collaborate with business units at a strategic level effectively. Too many times, CIO’s and their IT organization are thought to be a barrier to change and sadly in some cases they are believed to be order takers. To add to the challenge is the breadth of expectations of the IT leadership. Fundamentally, they must make sure they are delivering on core services like email and network access. If the core services are not working, no one will be interested in hearing their innovative strategic ideas.

While some challenges still exist, a 2018 State of the CIO survey reported stronger alignment between IT and their business partners. Almost three-quarters of the survey responses said IT and the business engage more frequently when there is shared oversight.

CIOs have the opportunity to play a significant role in assisting the business in driving innovation. This opportunity is greatly enhanced when the CIO is looked at as a strategic advisor.

How do you find out where you stand? It is best to ASK.

You can ask through conversation. It is not very time-consuming on both the CEO and the CIO. Unfortunately, there is a tendency for the CIO not to ask and it is not the priority of the CEO to tell.

You can ask through a survey tool. Fortunately, two InfoTech diagnostic tools have proven very helpful in both measuring and identifying opportunities to improve – the CEO-CIO Alignment Diagnostic and the CIO Business Vision diagnostic.  

 

CEO-CIO Alignment Diagnostic

The CEO-CIO Alignment Diagnostic measures six critical areas of IT performance to enable the prioritization of improvement initiatives. The survey questionnaire is only 20 questions that can be completed in less than 20 minutes. Areas addressed include the CEO’s overall satisfaction of IT, IT budget, staffing, business needs for technology, performance measurements, project portfolio progress, and stakeholder alignment.

Here is a snapshot view of the CEO-CIO alignment with the business goals view:
 
A feature of the report that resonates with both the CEO and CIO is the comparison of the CEO and CIO’s performance perceptions. A snapshot of the report is portrayed here. The gap in perceptions enables the CIO to provoke what may be the most candid conversation across the life of the CIO career. The visibility into the gaps between the CIO and CEO perception is priceless in providing the basis for the CIO focus and direction.


CIO Business Vision Diagnostic

The second tool I use is the Info-Tech CIO Business Vision Diagnostic. The insights and benefits of this diagnostic are broad. It looks at the needs of the stakeholders, enables getting beyond rumor and opinion to facts, and provides a baseline performance and capacity measurement at both the organization and the department level. An outcome of the report is the insight that enables a focus on what is essential to the business. The CIO Business Vision is most effective when it is executed periodically. CIO’s find the overall performance and capacity metrics will play an essential role in governance and strategy decisions and action plans.

IN CLOSING

 
To assure the success and effectiveness of their IT organization, CIO’s cannot leave their relationship with the CEO to chance:
  • As investment in technology continues to increase, management and control of the IT budget rests on internal IT leadership AND CIO’s need the trust of the CEO to retain that control.
  • The need for collaboration between heads of IT and LOB leaders continues to increase.
  • Availability of skilled resources will continue to plague the CIO, requiring an even greater need to measure performance.
  • As the focus continues to shift to digital transformation, there’s a high potential for more technology decisions to be made outside of IT, driving a higher need for collaboration between IT, CEO, and business peer. CIO’s cannot leave their relationship with the CEO to chance.

Even though a CIO benefits from focusing on stakeholder management and relationship building, there is value in measuring the perception of the CEO and business peers against your own.

I am providing you a link to the InfoTech CEO-CIO Alignment and the CIO Business Vision sample reports. If either sparks your interest, give me a call to discuss how diagnostics might ensure your success.

Until next time – I am here if you have questions or want to talk!

Regards,
Mary

 
 

Mary Patry 
IT Executive Advisor and Leadership Coach   
 480.393.0722 (AZ) 
 Mary.Patry@iteffectivity.com 
LinkedIn: http:// www.linkedin.com/in/mleonardopatry 

Let’s Talk sponsored by ITeffectivity.com an IT Executive Coaching and Advisory practice targeting CIO’s challenge of leading and delivering business solutions with a focus on effective people and process capabilities. Discover the possibilities by scheduling a complimentary strategy session with Mary Patry.