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Updated by Charles Bystock on 08/21/2014

characteristics-it-infrastructure-1It’s not enough to evaluate your IT infrastructure purely as a discrete set of capabilities. To meet today’s decision-making needs, you need a bigger, better baseline. A service-based IT infrastructure baseline looks at your entire enterprise – not just what you’re using, but the services you’re delivering, to whom, how well and the true costs. The key characteristics of such a baseline are completeness and accuracy.

Managing your IT environment has become more complex and less predictable, as technology continues to change dramatically and enterprises struggle to determine how to best transform themselves in a world where it’s nearly impossible to see what’s around the bend. To build a baseline that has real value, you have to delve deeply into every aspect of your IT status.

Why service-based?

Your enterprise IT serves many masters, all of them demanding. They want more services, more reliable services, seamless services across departments, applications, the globe. You’re more accountable now for expenditures, working in the do-more-with-less economy. You must be able to identify and track costs relating to use and consumption by workload or project, not just in the aggregate.

You must be able to identify every cost, direct or indirect.

IT infrastructure and the services you deliver are inseparable, so you have to look at infrastructure from a service point of view and take a holistic approach to building your baseline. Put simply, your ability to successfully integrate the latest technologies and best practices with existing technical and professional capabilities will determine your future agility.

A complete, accurate baseline gives you the means to find the most effective blend for your enterprise.

Today’s IT environment is all about hybridization. With the right baseline in hand, you can adequately assess all your options to determine how you’re going to integrate existing legacy systems with cloud-based options -- IaaS, SaaS, PaaS, now ITaaS. The range of options grows and evolves every day, but without a service-based IT infrastructure baseline, it will be difficult to decipher their potential value to your organization.

Further, siloed services, no matter how beneficial, cannot deliver the capability and seamlessness that a fully integrated environment can provide.

Gartner’s Massimo Pezzini has stated that most companies which are able to successfully integrate cloud options with their current IT infrastructure are seeing far greater agility, flexibility and ability to transform than they would have dreamed possible just a few years ago.

A competitive future requires a cohesive, enterprise-wide strategy.

You have to understand clearly what services you’re providing and the true costs, in order to determine whether continuing to deliver those services in-house represents the most cost-effective solution compared to sourcing externally. How well do you currently rate in terms of flexibility, reliability, scalability and predictability? You’ll need all these to ensure future service delivery capability, productivity, cost-optimization and agility in the face of opportunity or adversity.

It will help create your baseline and compare costs if you think of services on a “need” continuum:

  • Core or essential services, some or all of which you may want to retain in-house.

  • Services that enable non-core business functions or departments, such as email or HR, which may be easier to outsource.

  • Optional services such as consulting.

Your organization chart may not give you enough detail, if it only shows generalized  categories such as operations, application development, security, planning, and so on. A service-based IT infrastructure baseline reflects a holistic approach that enables you to truly assess your organization’s ability to:

  • Control costs

  • Manage risks, including disaster protection.

  • Get more from existing systems

  • Scale resources and response as your company grows and the marketplace changes

  • Ensure good governance and compliance

The purpose of IT is to provide a strong-yet-flexible foundation for the services you provide internal and external customers. With a complete, accurate IT infrastructure baseline, you can think more creatively and plan more strategically, confident you aren’t missing something.

Photo Credit: @kenfagerdotcom via Flickr