Why an IT Infrastructure Road Map?

The role of the senior IT leader grows ever more complex and challenging. Finding support that can complement the skills of a CIO and his IT team is a huge challenge in today’s digital work. My conversations with senior IT leaders often revolve around ensuring how their strategic objectives are being met – alongside an agile and stable environment - and that they continue to retain operational and financial control of their IT worlds

There is a real thirst for the latest thinking on the subject of IT Leadership so I have decided to contribute to the debate by joining the ranks of the blogging community.

In this, my first blog I have decided to ask the question: why an infrastructure roadmap? For many organisations their IT infrastructure is like the Foundations of a building. You know the underlying IT Infrastructure (The foundations) of the building surrounds you because the building functions and /applications work and support you, however, if you make major changes or extend the building then the foundations become critical and typically need some form of investment and care.

Unlike foundations, however, IT Infrastructure isn’t quite as solid and requires constant care and attention from your IT department and because digital infrastructure cannot easily be seen they can be somewhat forgotten, neglected even. Until something happens.

Unfortunately, when a failure occurs - or a project comes along that needs a change - it can be disastrous for the organisation impacting availability of systems, data and security and all of the applications that sit on it to work.

Identifying the Problem

Infrastructure Investment may not seen as a priority until the services which run every day start to fail. Infrastructure is not typically included in the discussion between the Business and IT at budget planning and therefore needs a program to avoid failure scenarios and to prevent cost spikes.

As we shall see in the next couple of blogs I am writing on this subject, an Infrastructure roadmap provides the capability to keep the Infrastructure visible, up to date and remove the element of potential surprise when a larger investment is required that has not been planned.

Key Element of IT Strategy

An Infrastructure roadmap sits at the core of your IT team’s capability to deliver working systems and develop new solutions for the business it is supporting. The roadmap a key element of the strategy as new systems and services can’t be deployed, secured and serviced without being underpinned by robust and reliable Infrastructure.

Often left out of discussions when applications are being designed, built and/or purchased it can be an expensive wake-up call if some parts of the infrastructure don’t support or need significant changes or upgrades to support the strategy.
Infrastructure is all about operating and managing your corporate assets. Computing power, storage, and security all need to be available, performing and secure in most cases 24/7.

As projects and programs are developed, the Architecture of your Infrastructure will be impacted and require updates that are managed and form a key part of your strategy.

Roadmap Infrastructure Benefits

The Infrastructure roadmap provides the blueprint and plan of how the organisation’s infrastructure will change and develop over the next 2-4 years and support the decision-making and direction of the organisational IT Function. The benefits of having a roadmap are many but some of the main ones are:

• Investment – forward planning around contract renewals and hardware replacements will allow the organisation to plan, budget and forecast costs more accurately and determine how costs could be spread across periods if required
• Align the projects and programmes within Infrastructure to the business objectives and other development projects so that clashes are avoided and opportunities can be leveraged.
• The structure of the roadmap supports improved communication within the organisation as the projects and programs can be widely shared and discussed across teams
• As changes happen or investment plans change than having a roadmap allows the impact and consequences of the change to be better understood and more easily reflected within the overall IT roadmap and strategy.

Outline of a Roadmap

Typically Infrastructure Roadmaps set out the direction of travel for the next 1-5 years. Many companies will have a current year program or portfolio of projects for the current year and potentially beyond. The closer the item is to the current time the more accurate the Roadmap should be with the 5 year view potentially being aspirational and/or forward looking.

Using the roadmap to chart key decisions on contracts and services is very important. Global Networks, Desktop Refresh's Outsourced Data Centre’s Cloud based services are all going to have long selection, re-selection and migration timelines. Planning these in early will help IT teams to focus and understand when large changes are coming.

Roadmaps should be living documents, updated annually as part of any overall IT Strategy and business alignment work undertaken, including elements of the Infrastructure that are known to be changing. That annual review may also be used to get formal approval for the next phase of activity to be generated and formal projects and/or programs generated. In my next blog on this subject I will outlines the basics of an IT roadmap and infrastructure strategy.