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11 Characteristics of a World-Class Infrastructure

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Many criteria distinguish a world-class infrastructure from a mediocre one. In this article, infrastructure expert Rich Schiesser describes 11 of the most common factors.
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Table 1 lists 11 criteria that frequently differentiate world-class infrastructures from those that are merely average—or more often, mediocre. Each pair of these factors is contrasted and described in more detail following the table.

Table 1 Common Criteria of World-Class Infrastructures

World-Class Infrastructure

Mediocre Infrastructure

1. Totally supported by executive management

1. Little or no support from executive management

2. Meaningful metrics analyzed, not just collected

2. Convenient metrics (not necessarily meaningful) collected, not analyzed

3. Proactive approach to problem solving, change management, availability, performance and tuning, and capacity planning

3. Reactive approach to problem solving, change management, availability, performance and tuning, and capacity planning

4. Help desk involves call management, not just call tracking

4. Help desk focuses on call tracking, not call management

5. Employees empowered to make decisions and improvements

5. Employees empowered very little, or not at all

6. Standards well developed and enforced

6. Standards poorly developed, with little or no enforcement

7. Employees well trained

7. Employees poorly trained

8. Employees well equipped

8. Employees poorly equipped

9. Processes are designed with robustness

9. Processes designed with little or no robustness

10. Technology used effectively to automate streamlined processes

10. Technology applied inappropriately, if at all

11. Integration of systems-management functions

11. Little or no integration of systems-management functions

1: Executive Support

Executive support is one of the primary prerequisites for implementing a world-class infrastructure. Executive support doesn't mean merely approving budgets for hardware, software, and human resources (executives in many firms with mediocre infrastructures readily approve budgets); it means an IT executive who actively participates in the planning, development, and decision-making processes of systems management.

Active participation by executives can take on many forms. It may involve executives taking the time to understand the challenges and obstacles of providing sound infrastructures. It may consist of managers helping to prioritize which functions of systems management are most important to their firms. It may result in executives backing up their staffs when negotiating reasonable (rather than unrealistic) service levels with customers. Finally, it may be the CIO or his representative ensuring that other departments within IT, notably applications development, actively support and comply with established infrastructure policies, procedures, and standards.

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