I don’t normally write about my work on this blog (at least not directly) but this post probably needs a little disclaimer as, a few months ago I started a new assignment working in my employer’s Microsoft Practice and, whilst I’m getting involved in all sorts of exciting stuff, it’s my intention that a large part of this work will involve consultancy engagements to help customers understand the opportunities for optimising their infrastructure. Regardless of my own involvement in this field, I’ve intended to write a little about Microsoft’s infrastructure optimisation (IO) model since I saw Garry Corcoran of Microsoft UK present at the Microsoft Management Summit highlights event back in May… this is a little taster of what IO (specifically Core IO) is about.
- Core infrastructure optimisation.
- Business productivity infrastructure optimisation.
- Application platform infrastructure optimisation.
Organisations are assessed on a number of capabilities and judged to be at one of four levels (compared with seven in the Gartner model):
- Basic (“we fight fires” – IT is a cost centre) – an uncoordinated, manual infrastructure, knowledge not captured.
- Standardised (“we’re gaining control” – IT becomes a more efficient cost centre) – a managed IT infrastructure with limited automation and knowledge capture.
- Rationalised (IT is a business enabler) – managed and consolidated IT infrastructure with extensive automation, knowledge captured for re-use.
- Dynamic (IT is a strategic asset) – fully automated management, dynamic resource usage, business-linked SLAs, knowledge capture automated and use automated.
It’s important to note that an organisation can be at different levels for each capability and that the capability levels should not be viewed as a scorecard – after all, for many organisations, IT supports the business (not the other way around) and basic or standard may well be perfectly adequate but the overall intention is to move from IT as a cost centre to a point where the business value exceeds the cost of investment. For example, Microsoft’s research (carried out by IDC) indicated that by moving from basic to standardised the cost of annual IT labour per PC could be reduced from $1320 to $580 and rationalisation could yield further savings down to $230 per PC per annum. Of course, this needs to be balanced with the investment cost (however that is measured). Indeed, many organisations may not want a dynamic IT infrastructure as this will actually increase their IT spending; however the intention is that the business value returned will far exceed the additional IT costs – the real aim is to improve IT efficiencies, increase agility and to shift the investment mix.
Microsoft and its partners make use of modelling tools from Alinean to deliver infrastructure optimisation services (and new models are being released all the time). Even though this is clearly a Microsoft initiative, Alinean was formed by ex-Gartner staff and the research behind core IO was conducted by IDC and Wipro. Each partner has it’s own service methodology wrapped around the toolset but the basic principles are similar. An assessment is made of where an organisation is currently at and where they want to be. Capability gaps are assessed and further modelling can help in deriving those areas where investment has the potential to yield the greatest business benefit and what will be required in order to deliver such results.
It’s important to note that this is not just a technology exercise – there is a balance to be struck between people, processes and technology. Microsoft has published a series of implementer resource guides to help organisations to make the move from basic to standardised, standardised to rationalised and from rationalised to dynamic.