Realigning IT with the Organization

Try these three strategies to get started updating your network infrastructure.

Maybe your network needs some cosmetic work, or maybe an outright overhaul. Either way, deciding how to bring a decade-old design up to date can be daunting.

Few IT departments have the resources to attack more than a few network infrastructure projects simultaneously. These three simple strategies will help you identify where to focus your time and what to take on first.

1. Ponder what the organization really needs.

We all like to think we're focused on the core mission, but when you're constantly immersed in technology and operations, it can be difficult to find time to align your projects with the organization's needs. Aim as high as you can in your organization to understand what it needs and where it's going in the next one to three years. If you can tie a project to a clear business goal, then you'll find it easier to get cooperation from the rest of the organization. Examples could be as mundane as tolerance of necessary downtime and disruption, or as important as funding for a project.

2. Decide what will get IT noticed.

The truth is that spending a year upgrading LAN switches or eliminating single points of failure in the data center will only be called a success if no one notices what you've done. That's good for you and your boss, but you need to mix in projects that will have a direct and beneficial end-user impact.   

The most obvious candidates are connectivity improvements, such as wireless or WAN optimization, but any project that makes people feel that the IT department is helping the staff do their jobs better is a candidate. Design your project to give maximum benefit to users, even if you have to fight a battle against entrenched attitudes, such as those surrounding network security. If a wireless project makes sense, for example, fully explain how ubiquitous wireless is today and how the staff would benefit. Remove the web-based portal that seemed like a good idea 10 years ago and move to automatic wireless authentication systems such as Wi-Fi Protected Access 2 (WPA2) Enterprise.

3. Understand that your department could be outsourced tomorrow.

Most top managers have wondered whether outsourcing IT would be more efficient. Put yourself in that executive's shoes and make a list of all the ways the IT department adds value to the organization.

Be honest with yourself.  Look at everything your IT department does, zero in on the places where your team has the very best return on investment, and focus your resources on those areas. Sure, you're providing fantastic e-mail service and keeping a farm of web servers running smoothly, but there are outside service providers that can probably do as well at a lower cost.  Overnight, your job could change from running those systems to managing the relationship with a third party.

Scan for areas of IT central to your business and direct your efforts to supporting that core: improving uptime and service level agreement  monitoring, integrating network services and securing information flows to reduce overall risk. 

May 05 2011