In this ever-changing, ever-evolving tech world, the enterprise is constantly on the precipice of innovation, or, at the very least, adopting the latest developments. Both this year and into 2021, the most resilient in the enterprise will be helmed by infrastructure and operations (I&O) leaders who make infrastructure-led innovation a top priority.
Today (Monday, Dec. 7) was the start of the virtual Gartner IT Infrastructure, Operations & Cloud Strategies Conference 2020. Gartner analyst and vice president of advisory Christopher Mixter delivered the keynote address in which he focused on this “new way” of thinking, the hallmark of progressive I&O organizations.
Infrastructure-led innovation presents a strategy to stakeholders hamstrung by business challenges and important for those who want to expand the scope of their enterprise by employing operational practices that benefit customer experiences and solutions.
“Effective I&O leaders aren’t waiting for any kind of new normal to make itself known; they are already innovating,” Mixter said in his address. “Prior to the crisis, enterprises only knew I&O through their help-desk experiences or the annual budget cycle. The pivot to remote work has created newfound visibility for I&O and enough positive sentiment from the broader organization to give I&O leaders the courage to launch a reinvention of their digital foundations.”
The keynote identified the four capabilities that make up infrastructure-led innovation: Cost intelligence, workforce transformation, platform ops, and marketing.
Cost intelligence: Mixter explained, “Cost intelligence is the ability to balance cost management with new investment and show the enterprise how to free up ‘capital’ in the form of time, creativity and cash to re-invest in I&O.” The most effective I&O organizations follow this discipline, because they need to protect financial interests, while defending funding for the needed digital acceleration. Mixter cited Gartner research that found that 65% of CEOs and 69% of boards of directors are eager to step up the pace in the adoption of new digital business.
Workforce transformation: While the workforce has undergone tremendous changes imposed by COVID-19, including a dramatic shift to working-from-home, new developments bring even more changes. IT departments reliant on building servers and ticking off checklists must adjust to the pursuit of skill in advanced analytics, automation, continuous delivery and cloud. All companies want meaningful and successful growth, and these new competencies will help through visibility and relevance. Mixter said, “To reinvest and redeploy the time and treasure harvested through cost intelligence, I&O teams will need to be staffed with people embodying a more expansive skill set than what infrastructure has historically called for; in the past two years, for instance, over 40% of heads of I&O have been hired from outside of the I&O team. Infrastructure-led innovation demands transformation of the entire workforce.”
Platform ops: Mixter said, “The newest I&O customer is the 41% of the non-IT workforce that now customizes and builds technology for work. Success hinges directly on how these new customers are served, and platform ops helps reach them.” Foundational to the enterprise will be the acknowledgement and execution of the need to shift from a product-centric approach to a digital foundations, customer-centric one. “Customer in, rather than technology-out” may seem counterintuitive, but it’s one of the most vital elements of platform ops. There’s a responsibility and independence to this method of management, and software delivery teams, inside and outside of IT, will develop and operate their own products.
Marketing: It’s mildly surprising that only 54% of organizations look beyond metrics and directly measure customer value. This is what businesses that embrace infrastructure-led innovation are doing: Seeing beyond metrics. “Reliability isn’t marketable because it’s simply table-stakes,” Mixter said. “Metrics such as customer effort or lead-time for change illustrate how I&O enables the business through greater speed and agility. The most effective I&O leaders are making marketing a design principle of the function.”
It’s no longer acceptable to purport to over-focus on exceeding expectations of reliability to impress your CIO. Gartner research revealed that I&O leaders “who over-perform on customer value metrics while merely meeting expectations on reliability are seven times more likely” to be successful.
“This year, I&O teams delivered the most significant IT transformation of our generation. In 2021, infrastructure-led innovation will enable I&O leaders to be known for the business innovation they provide as opposed to the infrastructure they manage,” Mixter concluded
The Gartner IT Infrastructure, Operations & Cloud Strategies Conference 2020 provides analysis on cloud strategies and infrastructure and operations trends.