By Patrick White
Unreliable, inefficient IT infrastructures plague companies across industries.
Many leaders are so focused on driving innovation that they’re unable to prioritize the rationalization and consolidation of their IT infrastructure. As a result, their IT operations are inefficient, the environments are unstable, and they’re costly to run.
What’s worse, most leaders are unaware of how their growing “IT sprawl” impacts their operations and customer relationships.
How to identify whether your IT footprint is overgrown
I’ve worked in global IT for over 20 years, in multiple industries, with many companies that have freed up physical spaces and created more flexibility by shrinking their IT footprints. I’ve consistently seen six signs that a company faces IT sprawl:
- Integration problems: Trying to integrate too many variations, technologies, and services into one cohesive system will create a massive IT sprawl.
- Difficulty finding talent: The ongoing IT skills gap and the variety and complexity of an organization’s IT systems can make it especially hard to find specialized employees to manage the various systems.
- Complicated maintenance agreements: Having too many products or systems in the IT environment can cause confusion and lead to repeated contract revisions to account for new infrastructure.
- Ever-growing cost: The more sprawling the IT footprint, the higher the IT cost per person. These costs vary widely, depending on the industry: IT cost for an oil company will be different from that of a call center company. It’s important for leaders to know the benchmark for their specific industry.
- Low utilization and siloed data storage: Servers and infrastructure may be underutilized, and too many environments, applications, and platforms cause massive inefficiency and overlapping capabilities. Siloed data storage is one of the most visible indicators of IT sprawl.
- Shadow IT: When non-IT personnel introduce and manage their own IT assets and systems—such as when an engineering team installs and manages an application server without IT personnel’s awareness—that can exacerbate IT sprawl and introduce security, availability, reliability, and other risks.
Many of these signs and symptoms are the direct results of mergers and acquisitions (M&A), decentralized IT departments, and shifting CIO priorities. A company with numerous M&As may accumulate IT infrastructure that has not been organized or consolidated.
Similarly, a company with decentralized IT may be managed across regions, functions, and offices, making governance and management very challenging. Additionally, when a CIO lacks a concrete strategy, or the priorities keep changing, a company’s IT sprawl grows unnecessarily.
Preparation is key when addressing your IT footprint
Before you begin, it’s important to do the discovery, inventory, and communication work:
- Build for the future of your business: To make the best IT decisions, you need to know what your business is using now and what it plans to use. (You may believe it’s important to refresh IT in 200 locations, but your organization may have plans to eliminate those 200 offices.)
- Be cognizant of end-user IT usage: Know how users apply IT and what you can and can’t move without disrupting your business. If you move a server 3,000 miles away and that server is used hundreds of times a day, you’ll significantly slow down business for the end user.
- Prioritize rationalization: You can’t achieve progress without rationalization. Before you create automation, you must recognize what and how it uses IT.
- Communicate plans with all stakeholders: You must inform and achieve buy-in with all stakeholders throughout the process. Some teams may be using the old apps, and any movement from those apps could hurt their business if they’re unaware of the upgrades.
- Expect complex technical requirements: From day one, technical leads must be involved in all phases to ensure the business makes sound decisions.
Customer use case
I recently worked with a global infrastructure company facing significant risk, outages, and business impact due to servers that had reached end-of-support status. We helped this company refresh, consolidate, and virtualize its physical and virtual servers and storage worldwide, performing data center and office infrastructure discovery and deploying new virtualized hosts and clusters to eliminate as many physical servers as possible.
With the implementation ongoing, the company is experiencing significantly fewer outages across sites and has:
- automated incident troubleshooting,
- reduced network latency with local egress through Palo Alto Prisma,
- standardized network enterprise routing technologies, and
- established global standard configuration, verified by automatic compliance checks.
Five steps to shrink your IT footprint
I recommend a five-step workflow to shrink your IT footprint:
- Discover: Perform discovery to create an IT inventory of servers, storage, applications, and services.
- Analyze: Analyze your inventory, capacity, age, utilization, and performance.
- Review: Review analysis findings with your users to identify opportunities for application and service rationalization, consolidation, and decommissioning.
- Create: Create a design, cost case, and plan that includes a modern, rationalized, and consolidated IT infrastructure and capacity for any new capabilities and services.
- Execute: Execute a plan to rebuild, migrate, decommission, modernize, and centralize your IT infrastructure.
You’ll also need IT and business leaders on board, noting that reaping the benefits of a reduced IT footprint will require initial and ongoing investments, such as new hardware, remediation labor, and refresh activities. The upgrade may also require changes in user behavior, such as eliminating pockets of shadow IT.
A healthy IT footprint
Whether through M&A, divestitures, or digital transformation, organizations are constantly changing. Through consolidation, optimization, and rationalization of your IT infrastructure, you can create both efficiency and resiliency to free up time and budgets to help you focus on innovation that better serves your customers and your business.
Learn how Kyndryl can help modernize your IT environment to accelerate your business objectives.
Patrick White is a vice president and account management partner at Kyndryl.