In today’s world, every CIO is tasked with a common objective: enable more value for the business with technology. This means not only supporting business objectives with tools and infrastructure, but doing so in a cost-effective manner.
To accomplish this, IT leaders must understand what the business needs and develop a plan to accomplish it. This is where rubber meets the road when it comes to technology infrastructure design, and there are three distinct phases to accomplishing this objective:
1. Preparing to Design the Infrastructure
Before the technical specs are defined and hardware/software is selected, be sure to walk through these exercises first. This will help ensure the final design has purpose and a positive impact.
Understand Your Customer
With the responsibility of enabling more value for the business, every IT leader must first understand who their customer is and how they serve them with the infrastructure, applications, and tools they provide. The first customer to consider is the external customer, the “real” customer – what do these people need and want from you? The second customer to think about is the business itself and how they rely on technology to do their jobs. Of course, these people want “bigger” and “faster” when it comes to tech, but strategically speaking: what do they need? Understanding the business’ objectives should be your first step when developing a strategy and a future state design to ensure you are enabling any priorities already set forth by leadership.
Consider the User Experience
After understanding the needs of your customer, think about the experience users will have. Consider multiple, diverse end user behaviors such as mobile teams and remote workers. Do these users need VPN access, or are their tools hosted via SaaS? Do they have special needs with regards to the amount or type of data they access daily? Is technology, such as video conferencing, important to them? What kind of interactions do the customers have with your systems and have you simplified the experience? The answers to these kinds of questions will be invaluable to your technology infrastructure design.
Define Performance Expectations
As you collect information from the customer and business with regards to their needs for the design and build, think about post-implementation. Anything that IT maintains or supports should be measured in terms of its effectiveness and value. This means IT leaders need to define the performance expectations of tools and systems in partnership with the business to create accountability. Defining these measurements should be done from the customers’ and the business’ perspective.
Design with the End User in Mind
As the inputs to the infrastructure design process are captured the design itself can begin. This process is iterative as you learn new information and is best tasked to system architects as someone who understands the objectives, requirements, and solutions available on the market. The ‘providing value’ aspect of the CIO’s job is two-fold when selecting the right technologies. First, ensure that you are future proofing your design by selecting tools that are easily integrated and well adopted in the industry. Secondly, do not build something that has costs that outweigh the benefits provided. This means looking at the total cost of ownership compared to the intrinsic value to the business. It also means ensuring the complexity of the systems selected do not outweigh what the organization can support.