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How to Prepare for an IT Infrastructure Assessment

Nov 29, 2012 6:00:00 AM

by Ken Cameron

how to prepare for an IT infrastructure assessmentYou have decided it is time for an IT infrastructure assessment. Thoughtful preparation will ensure your assessment is carried out thoroughly and accurately, without omitting any important considerations. The details are pivotal, since it’s likely that your assessment is the first step in a strategic technology planning process, including the evaluation of potential services alternatives.

The solutions you ultimately choose will be only as good as the quality of your assessment -- you can’t afford a weak start because you’ll get weak results.

Preparing for your IT infrastructure assessment is all about getting organized.

Collect technical data about your infrastructure.

You’ll need a rundown of your physical and virtual hardware inventory, configuration, usage, capacity and volumes, age, location, etc. You also need a software inventory of operating systems, databases, tooling, and applications – what licenses you have, version/release information, how many, age, who is using the applications, plans, etc.   Do you have functionality and/or capacity requirements that current hardware or software don’t fulfill?

Collect data about staffing.

How much IT staff time is typically devoted to the various support categories – operations, technical support, planning, and administration? What functions do each subgroup perform?  Identify time spent on day-to-day operations versus project work. What are the patterns, by department and by type of support requested?

Collect data about services and service quality.

Obtain copies of services descriptions, service level agreements, and service level reports. Survey your internal customers to elicit feedback about how well service delivery meets expectations of timeliness and other key factors. Ask for improvement suggestions. If appropriate, also survey external customers because ultimately their satisfaction determines your success.

Do the math.

Determining what you have and how you’re using it is only part of a comprehensive IT infrastructure assessment. Your people will need to assemble all the pertinent financial data associated with your IT operations in order to accurately evaluate which systems and processes are cost-effective and which are not. Include both operating and capital budgets, asset lists with depreciation and book values. Capture “hidden” costs, too, because total cost of ownership can be dangerously skewed otherwise. For instance, labor costs include not just salaries, but benefits, mileage reimbursements, HR costs, etc. 

Create a dashboard-style chart that shows relevant IT profiles and associated expenses and unit costs by platform/function.  

You can’t quantify everything, but compiling detailed data will allow the most refined analysis.

Just filling in the gaps won’t be enough.

Your assessment will help you develop cost-effective solutions that are strategically focused and uniquely tailored to your operation, giving you best-in-class IT infrastructure that will be reliable, flexible and scalable as you move forward. You’ll need to consider:

  • Data center space and facility’s needs.
  • Disaster recovery capability.
  • Hosting or managed services options.
  • Potential sourcing of specific platforms.
  • Options for providing help desk, virtual working environments and field support.
  • Remote infrastructure management.
  • Cloud computing, including infrastructure-, platforms- or software-as-a-service options.

These solutions can lead to improved service quality, higher levels of scalability, faster times to market, and, of course, potentially lower costs.

One additional step can assure the strongest preparation.

Once you have amassed the data for your assessment, ask an expert in IT infrastructure planning to review your assessment plan.  Discuss your culture, current plans, plus your business and technology strategies. Their experienced, objective appraisal can detect anything you might have overlooked and ensure you’re asking yourself the right questions. All of them.

They’ll also help you determine the most appropriate sourcing questions to ask potential vendors or service providers, to elicit the specific details you’ll need to make solid decisions when the time comes. Your consultant can help conduct your assessment, bringing their industry insights to the task of identifying IT gaps and opportunities specific to your enterprise. Using outside experts can also streamline and expedite the process and provide results sooner.

 

 Benchmarking IT Costs

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