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The Evolving Role of IT: How Organizations Are Changing the IT Function to Remain Competitive

December 10, 2012 No Comments

The past decade has brought technology that powers IT organizations to the forefront of many C-level business decisions. Couple these trends with the requirement “do more with less”, and you get businesses under tremendous pressure to deliver innovative products faster than ever while still containing costs.

Given these pressures, current IT management strategies are simply not sustainable. This has sparked a trend to consolidate infrastructure in an effort to cut IT operations and maintenance expenses – costs that typically account for 70 percent of IT budgets. In addition to the tremendous cost incurred to merely “keep the lights on,” many organizations report that the constant pace of changes and maintenance often results in application downtime. Downtime causes project delays  —  wasting precious time and budget.

These challenges have resulted in the emergence of tightly integrated software and hardware systems that help organizations consolidate and streamline operations. The benefits of these systems can be organized into three categories: simplified IT, enhanced innovation and greater insight.

Simplified IT

In a typical data center environment, there are several people or teams dedicated to multiple tasks and systems including servers, storage, network administration, virtualization management, middleware deployed and management and application management. In contrast, integrated systems enable a fewer team members to run complex data center operations, with reduced skills. Integrated systems are engineered for fast, agile and cost-effective application delivery and operations. Many systems pre-integrate and pre-configure and optimize previously separate computing, storage, networking hardware and software. Rather than configuring disparate systems and fine-tuning integrations over time, integrated systems are set up and configured once so that updates and additional configuration can be automated based on an organization’s needs.

Beyond initial goals associated with cost savings and improving quality, the use of integrated systems helps foster business-focused skills among IT professionals, which allows for an organizational shift. By streamlining and even automating the administrative tasks that typically dominate the time and attention of IT staff, more time and resources can be dedicated to expanding development projects and initiatives that support key business and operations goals.

Enhanced Innovation

Integrated systems help IT and development teams focus on remaining competitive by delivering on innovative applications and solutions. By automating workflows and deployments, organizations can focus on enhancing existing solutions and pursuing build outs for areas that could benefit from new solutions. Take a financial institution as an example. Consumers are increasingly demanding an innovative, user-friendly online banking experience – like using a web or mobile application to manage their money. Not only are these technologies a necessity to meet customer needs, but they often require constant hardware and software updates for functionality and interactive design elements. This requires banks to not only ensure that upkeep, reporting and security are taken care of, but also that a team is dedicated to driving new and innovative solutions to customers.

Deploying integrated systems enables financial institutions such as banks to aggregate data from multiple sources and provide employees and customers with real-time access to information. Through reduced infrastructure and application costs, banks can devote a larger amount of budget to product development and rolling out enhancements.

Greater Insight

Big data can be defined as volume (the scale of the data), velocity (how fast the data is moving), veracity (how accurate/truthful is the data), and variety (forms of the data). Today’s big data challenges for transactions and analytics are increasing the demand on data systems. To meet these data challenges, organizations must reduce complexity, accelerate time to value and improve the economies of IT by consolidating disparate, fine-tuned systems.

Organizations are realizing the potential of the data they create on a daily basis through enhanced analytics. By making this data actionable, organizations can respond to customer needs faster and in a more targeted manner to generate better results. Through the use of integrated systems designed for transactions and analytics, organizations can optimize and configure them to best meet the challenges of managing this data. Going back to our financial institution example above, unlocking the power of data analytics through an integrated data warehouse system loads and processes data faster and provides key analytics capabilities to analysts. With the information generated, bank employees can determine the best offers to present to a customer when they visit a branch, or what offer to display the next time they log onto their online banking account to check their balance or inquire about new products.

The bottom line is that integrated systems are transforming the IT function and enabling organizations to remain competitive. By freeing up resources such as time and money, teams can focus on providing solutions that map back to the core business priorities that are top of mind amongst the C-suite.

Jason McGee is a Distinguished Engineer (DE) and Chief Architect for IBM PureApplication System, IBM Workload Deployer and WebSphere Cloud Computing. He is responsible for defining technologies and products related to running middleware on expert integrated systems and cloud infrastructures. He is a Senior Architect on the WebSphere Foundation Architecture Board. Jason earned a B.S. degree in computer engineering from Virginia Tech. Follow him on Twitter @jrmcgee.

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