Traditionally, infrastructure and operations (I&O) organizations deliver infrastructure projects, oversee the data center and keep legacy systems running. Beyond finding ways to reduce costs and increase service delivery performance without investment, organizations rarely look to I&O for innovation.
The increasing speed of technology change has created tremendous opportunities (and pressure) for IT leaders to align with business priorities. However, I&O teams consistently struggle with staying relevant in the fact of major business changes.
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These six key I&O trends will impact IT leaders in the next 12 to 18 months — and help you become innovators within the business:
Trend No. 1: Just-in-time infrastructure
A recent Gartner survey revealed that I&O functions are seeing shorter timelines, with all technologies in deployment expected to reach adoption within the next six to 18 months. This feeds into a larger trend of just-in-time infrastructure, or how deploying infrastructure as quickly as possible is just as important as deploying it in the right location, whether that be in the public cloud, data center or elsewhere.
Gartner is already reviewing a number of purchase agreements from service providers that list expected delivery time next to each line item, reinforcing I&O leaders’ priority of increasing responsiveness to business needs and anywhere operations.
While introducing time-to-deployment as a negotiating factor can improve an enterprise’s position when comparing providers, it also might lead to a complex array of vendor choices and comparison points, along with some evolution of current providers’ relationships.
- building business cases that include time-to-deployment business impacts.
- emphasizing delivery/implementation times in provider negotiations and contracts.
- broadening provider solution options where feasible.
Trend No. 2: Digital natives
Digital native companies are those that started using public cloud from the ground up and include it at the center of their business model — for example, Uber or DoorDash. More and more companies that leverage digital capabilities out of the gate are popping up across industries such as insurance and retail, challenging established, legacy brands to innovate and catch up.
By 2025, 70% of I&O leaders who ignore innovation will be marginalized to legacy system support only.
- developing plans to shift non-digital-native organizations to greater agility and cost efficiencies to compete effectively.
- shifting to emphasize operating expenses to better emulate digitally native companies.
- enabling solutions that improve customer experience in non-digital-native organizations.
Read more: IT Budgets Are Growing. Hereʼs Where the Moneyʼs Going.
Trend No. 3: Management confluence
As I&O moves toward integration and operations, various management and monitoring tools need to be brought under one comprehensive tool to better drive agility and business value. For example, application performance monitoring, digital experience monitoring, IT service management and artificial intelligence (AI) operations.
“While there might never be a real single pane of glass when it comes to I&O tools, Gartner expects increased vendor merger and acquisition activity to get as close to a single tool as possible,” says Jeffrey Hewitt, VP Analyst at Gartner.
A comprehensive management tool will reduce overall costs and produce better returns on investment, as well as drive I&O agility through hyperautomation. However, integrating the output of the various tools on the market is no easy feat given the different capabilities and stakeholders in the mix. We recommend:
- inventorying the current management tools at your organization.
- identifying areas where tools can be combined to form a valuable, comprehensive view.
- using automation tools in a way that is unified under a single dashboard.
Trend No. 4: Data proliferation
Data will continue to multiply in variety, velocity and volume. In some cases, data will be created at the edge, deemed as “junk” and destroyed immediately. In other cases, it will be generated and deemed valuable enough to be kept. Regardless, I&O needs to support the storage and access of data across the enterprise.
Although data retention policies are outside the direct purview of I&O, leaders can still help prioritize optimal data retention in a long-range planning view. We recommend:
- working closely with the chief data officer to influence data retention policies that drive the greatest cost efficiencies.
- using file analysis software to best leverage data and identify the potential risk of unknown data.
- proactively mitigating potential compliance and regulatory risks using enterprise information archiving (EIA).
Read more: Cloud, AI and Software Are Top Investment Areas for Data and Analytics
Trend No. 5: Business acumen
I&O work and outcomes often lack a clear connection to business needs and goals, which prevents leaders from positioning potential innovations in compelling business terms. As a result, new I&O hires will need a more business-based mindset, rather than a technical background, so they are able to focus on the business benefits of a technology and how it connects to overall organizational goals. This also ensures more comprehensive and effective business decisions are made.
For example, the exercise of choosing between public cloud and edge is largely business-driven as organizations calculate the risk-return ratio of both options. Building a business case for just-in-time infrastructure requires business acumen, too.
Because this challenges traditional I&O hiring practices and requires a cultural change, we recommend:
- collaborating with HR to determine skills requirements, job scope and recruitment plans for this new batch of I&O hires.
- emphasizing behavioral competencies over technical skills in the recruitment process.
- positioning nontechnical I&O hires to demonstrate infrastructure-led innovation to business leaders.
Trend No. 6: Career leaders to career lattices
Career advancement in I&O is moving away from single domains driven by workloads and legacy technical skills, and toward a path that emphasizes multiple competencies and learning agility. This is exacerbated by ongoing core modernization that many enterprises are conducting.
While it creates more opportunities for I&O team members and minimizes the traditional “territorial thinking,” it does require more planning and collaboration with HR. We recommend:
- identifying skills gaps in the organization according to these top trends and using a skills alignment quadrant.
- collaborating with HR to create “career lattice paths.”
- offering training and development to support these new I&O career paths.