IT Infrastructure Planning: Where To Start
IT infrastructure has traditionally been associated with significant capital investment as well as ongoing expenses for maintenance and upgrades, planning is critical to ensure cost-effectiveness as well as top service levels.
IT infrastructure is no longer simply an electronic support system. It’s become a pervasive, essential component of daily operations and a foundational factor in determining your firm’s future success. The IT infrastructure planning process defines and refines IT’s role within your organization and then identifies what’s needed in the way of equipment, applications and manpower to fulfill that role.
A smart, strategic plan focuses on solutions that have the potential to improve service levels while reducing IT operations costs.
Planning looks into the future, anticipating what services your IT infrastructure will need to support, based on overall business goals and implementation priorities. But it’s particularly difficult to predict longer-term needs when technology is changing at lightning-fast speed. Effective planning supports flexibility, so you can capture new opportunities that might appear.
Where to start?
The highly-regarded technology research firm Gartner recommends you address three stages of opportunity:
- What you need to stay up and running.
- What you need to enhance or expand internal capabilities and service levels.
- What you might need to transform your company – potentially dramatic changes to your current infrastructure or operations models that could better position you for long-term organizational health and profitability.
IT infrastructure planning should address everything required to provide necessary technology services to internal and external colleagues and customers.
In order to do that you need data.
Understanding where you stand versus where you want to be helps identify gaps that need to be filled and opportunities to make improvements.
You’ll need to evaluate hardware, software, data center management and support needs, personnel deployment, etc. along with the costs associated with each area.
You’ll need to evaluate your marketplace, competitive environment and industry trends. Growing employee enthusiasm for “bring your own technology” (BYOT) adds new layers of concerns but could also present new opportunities to reduce expenses while upgrading service.
Reducing costs is vital. Margins continue to decrease, the competition is tougher than ever, and you’re trying to thrive in a still-sluggish global and domestic economy. You’ll need to carefully evaluate the potential financial and operational advantages of switching to a different services methodology such as outsourcing or cloud computing, whether for specific services or entire segments of your IT operations.
IT infrastructure planning is only as good as your follow up.
Your plan is a working document. It has no value unless you regularly compare progress to the success benchmarks you’ve established and make the necessary corrections to remain on course.
And planning isn’t only about tools and services. It’s about assuring business continuity in the event something untoward happens. Disasters can be small or sweeping, and the disruption isn’t always proportionate to the physical size of the problem. Even an isolated equipment or application failure can temporarily cripple a business. And recent weather events surely point up the need for preparation against potentially catastrophic disasters. Are you sure you’ve thought of everything and have a realistic back-up plan in place?
It’s not possible to predict all the technological changes that will come our way in the next several years, no matter how carefully you try to follow IT thought-leaders and currently-emerging trends. But it’s become obvious that across all industries every aspect of business operations and management will rely more heavily on IT than ever before.
Effective IT infrastructure planning enables your organization to apply new and emerging technologies to develop creative, cost-effective solutions to meet your short- and long-term business goals.