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This chapter is from the book

The Clash of Cultures

So you want a more adaptive infrastructure but don't know how to make it happen? IT people realize all too well how difficult selling infrastructure improvements into the organization can be. In companies with less enlightened management, any IT department trying to create an adaptive infrastructure encounters two common yet fundamental reactions.

Stability is good.

People often feel it's good to have an infrastructure that is stable, unchanging, and predictable. While this goal is admirable, an infrastructure must also be flexible, even breakable, to be fully leveraged by business. Existing e-Business applications are often unstable, and infrastructure is often the culprit. In the world beyond e-Business, making infrastructure more stable, but still flexible, requires a careful balance between structure (standards) and innovation (adaptability).

Infrastructure costs are bad.

Business usually regards infrastructure as a cost to be minimized or as a necessary evil. Until recently, however, e-Business costs were exempt from this problem: No budget was too large if the project was e-Business. In the post e-Business world, companies are scrutinizing projects carefully to make sure they deliver true business value and an adequate return on investment (ROI).

As business increasingly becomes "informational" in nature, the systems for information capture, management, and delivery become even more central to business strategy. If infrastructure can support business strategy, even if only making it possible to take customer orders, the organization will see value in it.

The hard part will be convincing the business to spend money on anything beyond the particular project needs of the moment. To counteract this tendency, you need a funding strategy that is more responsible and focused on the long term.

A clear misalignment between business and IT organizations dominates infrastructure decision-making. Business is chronically disconnected from what is happening on the infrastructure side. When this rift occurs, the business units might decide to support their own application development projects using outside consultants, without considering whether the infrastructure is in place to support the planned applications.

Not surprisingly, this disjointed style of solution delivery often creates applications that don't perform nearly as well as originally intended and that are too complex and costly to implement. Such applications can even degrade the performance of other applications, because developers don't understand the complexities and dependencies of a shared network infrastructure within the organization. e-Business was no different; its larger-scale issues simply put more pressure on IT to get things right for all applications, rather than just one at a time.

In e-Business, each new application tended to be based on the "latest and greatest" solution, which required endless and extensive variations in infrastructure. This approach was counterproductive and tended to increase the complexity of managing the entire infrastructure. The need to support every variation often leads to mediocre support at best—or expensive and ineffective outsourcing at worst.

In the world beyond e-Business, given the renewed interest in affordability, business must make choices about what really makes a difference, and then IT must deliver it. This situation is actually better for infrastructure planners, since vague goals are replaced by specific projects with explicit service level requirements, which in turn should make planning easier.

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