7 Ways to Help IT Teams Think Strategically

Infrastructure and operations leaders can use these steps to make stronger decisions on the evolution to digital platforms.

Cities are without doubt the world’s most popular places to live. According to the UN, while the world’s population will continue to grow over the next 30 years, the urban population will grow much faster. In 1950, 30% of the world’s population lived in cities; by 2050 this is projected to rise to 66%.

Although the growth of megacities will have far-reaching effects on all aspects of business, it requires IT infrastructure and operations (I&O) teams to reconsider where they locate data centers.

Not long ago, most of the discussion about a new data center would have focused on technology trends, and what was most useful to the business. “Analyzing megatrends is an example of how to start with an more “outside-in” approach, and from that develop an I&O strategy that examines technology last, rather than first,” says Andrew Butler, vice president and distinguished analyst.

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Rethink the Way You Work

In short, I&O teams need to think more strategically. It’s vital that they are not only ready to help implement a new corporate direction before a competitor does, but that they create agile data centers and an infrastructure that is robust enough to cope with a huge array of future demands.

I&O teams must ensure they understand the forces that are changing their industry and their company and how this will affect IT. By banishing parochial thinking and emphasizing interrelationships, they can explore new ways to implement and manage IT components as part of a larger context.

Seven Principles to Thinking More Strategically

There are seven principles that will help I&O teams become more aware of the bigger picture when making decisions. It will also help them be more strategic when discussing different options for how to configure and run data centers and IT operations with colleagues in IT and the business.

  1. Think Very Critically – Make sure you have a full understanding of the problem before making a decision, and keep asking why until you drill down to the concrete answer. Ensure these decisions can be easily communicated.
  2. Quantify — Even the Unquantified -Analyze total cost of ownership and discounted cash flow to go beyond just evaluating the technical aspects of any investment or decision. For non-quantifiable issues, apply multilevel, weighted ranking analyses.
  3. Prefer Working Top-Down Versus Bottom-Up – Work top-down to create a hypothesis about the suitability of any decision, then systematically test and modify it, as more analyses are performed and more facts are revealed.
  4. Work “Outside-In”: Technology Last, Not First – Work “outside-in” to analyze how megatrends, the corporate strategy and direction of the company, and the way that roles are changing to implement that strategy, are all shaping technology decisions; as a result, technology should be examined last, rather than first.
  5. Integrate and Systematize Solutions; Stress Interrelationships – Think “system” first by stressing the functionality, integration and interrelationships of component parts in a data center. This will make it far more likely to produce an agile solution, rather than one with high quality component parts.
  6. Take the Long View – Quickly – Develop a high-level strategic plan and roadmap quickly (ideally in one day). This will provide a strategic framework to test and refine.
  7. Reach Out: Collaborate and Communicate on an Ongoing Basis – Welcome input from everyone. The more viewpoints you can attract, the more you can compare guidance to arrive at the right solution. Articulate your position clearly, succinctly and with maximum visual impact.

Gartner clients can learn more about each of these steps in the full research report How to Teach Your IT Team to Think More Strategically, by Andrew Butler, et al.

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