It’s Time To Reboot Your Infrastructure & Operations Strategy

I just spent the better part of December on the road visiting infrastructure & operations (I&O) executives at our clients. Meeting clients is always interesting, but this year was particularly interesting. Why? Because most of the executives I met were a bit panicked. That’s not to say they aren’t good at their jobs, or that they don’t understand how to overcome the day-to-day challenges they face. No, this was something different. Something unprecedented is unfolding — and it’s unfolding with frightening speed. Put simply, these I&O execs all echoed one thing: they’re ill equipped to support empowered employees.

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Vote For Forrester's IT Forum 2011 Theme

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Update: The polls are officially closed. We're now in the process of tallying the votes, so stay tuned for the winning theme. Thanks to everyone that voted and participated in making sure we put on the best, more relevant forum.

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It's that time of the year again. Time to start planning our spring forums. There are two in particular that are relevant for Infrastructure and Operations professionals: Our I&O Forum and our IT Forum. But it's the IT Forum that I want to talk about today. Why? Because we're asking for you to help craft its theme. In fact, you may have already seen several of my colleagues posting on this. We want to make sure we collect as much input as possible to make this as relevant to you and your challenges.

We've come up with three potential draft themes and need your vote for the best IT Forum 2011 theme:

1. Unleash your empowered enterprise.

As technology becomes more accessible through mediums beyond IT's control, you have but one choice: Get proactive by empowering employees, or swim against the current. Successful BT leaders will react not by blocking access but by lending their expertise to increase the chances of technology success and empowering the users to solve customer and business problems. This year's IT Forum will provide a blueprint for reaping the benefits of your empowered organization — complete with case studies, methodologies, and step-by-step advice tailored to each IT role.

2. Capitalize on the intersection of business and technology.

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Join Forrester’s New Online Community For Infrastructure & Operations Professionals

Being an infrastructure & operations (I&O) professional is tough. How do we know? Because you tell us in the nearly 5,000 inquiries the I&O team does each year. We hear your challenges on server, storage, and network technologies. We field concerns on whether you should buy, build, lease, or forgo a datacenter altogether. We get tough questions on mobile devices and how to empower your users. Not to mention all of the “O” challenges around IT service management, asset management, ITIL adoption. The list literally goes on and on. I&O consumes nearly half of the overall IT operating budget – so it comes with a broad set of responsibilities.

That’s why I’m excited to announce a new way for you to get your tough I&O challenges solved: Your peers. Starting today, Forrester is launching an online community for infrastructure & operations professionals. It’s a premier destination for leaders to exchange ideas, opinions, and real-world solutions to the myriad of I&O responsibilities. Of course, Forrester analysts will be part of the community as well. But our goal is to facilitate the discussion and share our views. This is the place for you to hear from your peers, not just Forrester.

We’re also committed to connecting you with as many I&O pros as possible, so the community is open to all I&O readers — not just clients.

Here’s what you’ll find:

  • A simple platform on which you can pose your questions and get advice from peers who face the same business or technology challenges.
  • Insight from our analysts, who weigh in frequently on the issues and point to relevant research. 
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It’s Time For I&O To Return To A Growth Agenda

If you’re anything like me, you’re probably sweating your way through a pretty hot summer. We are, after all, on pace for the hottest year on record. And unfortunately things are going to get worse. Why? Because it’s that time of year again: Budget season. That’s right – it’s time to start thinking about 2011 and sweating through all the infrastructure and operations projects that need investment.

Fortunately, this year will be different.

I just wrapped up a report looking at I&O budgets heading into 2011 and the outlook is quite positive (you can find a copy of the report here). In fact, the biggest takeaway for me is that IT leaders tell us they’ll finally break the age-old MOOSE stalemate— setting aside 70% of the budget for maintenance of organization, systems, and equipment (i.e. MOOSE or “keeping the lights on”) and 30% for new initiatives (i.e. “innovation”). This year we expect to see only half the budget dedicated to the MOOSE, the usual 30% going to new initiatives, and a surprising 20% or so set aside for business expansion efforts.

So what does this mean for you? Today’s I&O executives must:

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Help Us Benchmark “Social Maturity”

 We recently embarked on a Forrester-wide research project to benchmark the use of social technologies across enterprise organizations. Why is this important? Well as you may know, we cover social technologies from a wide range of perspectives — from roles in marketing to IT to technology professionals. We find each of these roles differ in their general "social maturity" and that most companies are experiencing pockets of success, but few, if any, are successfully implementing it across the board. In fact, full maturity in this space could take years, but there are clear differences in how some "ahead of the curve" companies are using social technologies for business results.

Infrastructure and operations professionals have not necessarily focused on how they can leverage social technologies but rather how they might have to support (or not support) these technologies. In some enterprises, the Security and Risk group has determined that IT operations must block access to social networking sites such as Facebook.

We have come across a couple of progressive IT operations groups that are thinking about social as part of a larger help desk strategy. How?

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Excuse Me, But Do You Know Where I Can Find A Job?

That's how one of my client meetings started at last week's IT Forum in Las Vegas. Now, normally this would concern me. It could be a sign that jobs are scarce, unemployment is up, or that Infrastructure & Operations professionals are being let go. But that's certainly not the case. This was actually someone proactively seeking a new job. His company — a large US manufacturing firm — was merging with another firm and he felt it was time to move on.

This led to the first of three interesting observations at last week's Forum. Here are my top three I&O takeaways in no particular order:

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Welcome to I&O Forum -- and our new blog platform!

I'm here in London preparing for Day 1 of our Infrastructure & Operations Forum in London.

I'll be taking the stage just two hours from now to kickoff the event, so it's only fitting that we also launch our new blog platform today as well! We're working very hard to embed social media into our events and it's exciting to debut the new platform with our clients.

Check back to see new posts and join the conversation. You can also get real-time feeds on Twitter by searching the #IOFE10 hashtag.

To help you with the new look and feel of the blog, I wanted to borrow the words from my colleague, Cliff Condon, the project manager rolling out the new platform:

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Forrester, Forums, And Football?

I just bought tickets to Dallas.

Ok, that in and of itself is not a big deal, so bear with me. Unfortunately, flying is part of the job and I log about 150,000 miles a year. That means I see lovely DFW about once a month.

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A Shift In Security & Risk Research

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Note To CISOs: Be the Automator, Not The Automated

Rob Whiteley

I’d like to take a small commercial break from your regularly scheduled security & risk programming to bring you the following observation . . .

I was recently in a client session with one of our great infrastructure & operations (I&O) analysts, Glenn “Automation” O’Donnell. His research on IT automation is extremely interesting both tactically (advice for improving IT operations) as well as philosophically (a call to arms for IT professionals to update their skill set — or risk obsolescence).

Anyway, in this session Glenn made a great observation: IT is at a key inflection point in 2009 and it’s never going back. He was distilling the result of three IT macro-level events colliding: 

  • Business Technology (BT) architecture redefining how we define IT services
  • Cloud computing and virtualization redefining how we build IT services
  • Automation and ITIL redefining how we run IT services

But the big takeaway form me was automation. It’s the main ingredient in transforming information technology.

And now as we return to our regularly scheduled security & risk programming I’d like to pose the following question: What is automation doing for information security? My take: Not much.

Sure, we see pockets of automaton in information security. I’ve seen:

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