Delivering Value to Businesses through Information Technology

Andre Bromes, CIO, Goodwill Industries of Greater New York
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It is a chillier than normal Spring here in NYC. The wind is blowing a lot more than expected and then there was the forecast of a couple of nor’easters. All on the first day of Spring! What gives? Why can’t I enjoy the weather in all of its predictability? Wait, the weather is not that predictable, now is it? It is not an exact science to forecast the weather, although meteorologists may make you feel differently. Around this time, you may be asking yourself, what does this have to do with IT Infrastructure (hardware, software, network, and people-team type stuff)? A lot! Much like the weather, Infrastructure is not really an exact science. It has a ton of scientific/mathematical principles, but there can’t be exactness, because people and their behaviors are not exact.

  Today, the IT Infrastructure extends to end-users that embrace technology at a very encouraging rate  

We can look at people, processes and systems and look to continuously improve in anyone of those areas. However, we simply cannot expect to get a five 9’s rating on how well Ricardo and Amber addressed their end user’s use of technology a year from now. Although meteorology isn’t an exact science, it is a science. Meteorologists predict the weather and issue warnings based on formulas, calculations, historical evidence and other data. c teams can use a similar approach to make sure that their Infrastructure is properly measured and ready to support their business. We do this through frameworks like Information Technology Infrastructure Library or ITIL, a favorite of mine. This process helps your business establish a baseline on how service is being delivered, which then allows you to see warning signs and plan around them. This is of immense importance because as the IT organization improves around ITIL, immediate and measurable value is delivered to the business.

Furthermore, we have to make sure the right technology is in place to support the strategic goals of the organization. How do we get there? Not with server upgrades (believe it or not). Upgrades to systems only delay the discovery of how broken a business process is or how depleted your talent pool may be. We need to first explore methods of addressing the gaps in the process, providing recommendations and being prepared to have an answer to follow-up questions, even if that answer is “I need to account for an additional metric and get back to you.” (Hint). We should have answers that address BOTH alternate and exceptions to the natural flow of the process before it hits those gaps. Yes, we need alignment and support, but moreover, we need accountability for all tech adopters.

We all understand that Data Centers, Network fabric, security layers (defense in depth–more on this in a bit) and enterprise software are part of any IT Infrastructure. However, we forget that people are as well, and not just IT peoples. Your IT team is made up of more than just the men and women that check-in on a daily basis and talk bits and flops (clean up in aisle 0b111).

Today, the IT Infrastructure extends to end-users that embrace technology at a very encouraging rate. Where did these wonderfully disruptive tech users come from–Ye ‘Ol Shadow IT. In my opinion, Shadow IT exists for one main reason–to get the proper tools into the hands of people that want to use it and for the most part, know how to use it. I am in no way naïve enough to say that is the only reason for the Shadow, however it serves a vital purpose. That being said, part of the IT Organization’s maturation process is to learn from those users, what works and what failed miserably. If you don’t have this scenario, then your Infrastructure is more than likely lagging behind and you have a problem. Developing IT departments learned to adopt a user-centric service approach to how IT is delivered. They also consistently, constantly and collaboratively improve around their framework for successful service delivery. I wish I could say that I have that down pat, but I’m still learning and still adopting– and developing. Every day, I learn from the talented team of users I’m surrounded by at my company. It’s a process of continuous improvement. When that process stops, your service is of little or no value or at the very least, questionable. It is a hard and long road filled with bad words like “budget”.

Nevertheless, that still isn’t an excuse for me, and hopefully not for you. In my interpretation, it just means that I have to get smarter and be more intentional on how I include users into my IT team. It is an augmented reality of how IT service is delivered–seeing your business and its employees through a different lens.

You thought I forgot about my Defense in Depth comment, right? Well, I did for a second… From a security perspective, we look at Defense-In-Depth, as layering your system tools to help mitigate risk to your business’s crown jewels, aka most sensitive data. What if I told you that it extends to your people tools also? Layering your approach of how your technology talent is best used to make sure that your business assets are protected is of massive importance. Making sure people are accountable at the right layers, ensuring those layers are identified and clearly defined, is as equally important as categorizing your data, and layering the appropriate levels of security based on those categorizations.

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