Windward Insights

IT Optimization: What's Smart and What Needs to Stop?

Published Feb. 18, 2016
Written by Sean McDermott

Wooden frame of a new house under construction

The challenge of optimization comes from having to make some serious institutional and even behavioral changes within an organization. An enterprise needs to take an unflinchingly honest look at the tools it uses, across the board, finding and then fixing or eliminating those that are redundant or unnecessary.It sounds straightforward, like a proverbial culling of your IT field, but each process and protocol is often associated with real people — individuals and teams who have come to depend on a particular solution and will have a very hard time changing the way they get things done if told to do so.

Not to be too dismissive, but these are growing pains that every organization must go through if they want to implement the best IT solutions. Once everyone understands the inevitable advantages an optimized IT solution will deliver, getting them in harmony becomes easier. Still, we need to get everyone to appreciate how the need for optimization arises in the first place.

Think of it like a small, quaint house that was picture perfect when first built. As the family living there grew, as needs changed, they started renovations. The problem was that instead of renovating with the whole house in mind, each project became the responsibility of different teams of contractors, each given plans by different architects or designers — and nobody working together. Suddenly, that idyllic little bungalow has become a crazy collaboration of random rooms, strange additions, and curious features. Sure, it functions as a house. Each feature might be nice enough on its own, but as you walk through you see three bathrooms in a row, a hot tub in the kitchen, or a big-screen TV in the garage. Get the point?

Someone needs to gut that monstrosity and start again, keeping what works and getting rid of what doesn’t. Maybe a complete teardown and rebuild is required, but that’s usually not the case. More often, to get back to IT and away from home improvement, we need to take a detailed inventory of all the tools people are using and look to consolidate. Are any redundant? Can they be upgraded or do they need to be replaced? How can we find out what people are using and, more importantly, how can we get the maximum benefit from it for everyone throughout an organization?

For us, it starts by going through an organization’s IT approach (walking through that crazy house) and spotting what’s been done well, what’s being done right. We find the smart people doing the smart things, then look to replicate that. Once we know what’s worth keeping, we get those solutions out of their silos and share them. This means extensive use of collaboration technology, cross-organizational work groups, and lots of clear, consistent communication — but that creates the level of transparency and interaction we need to cultivate a truly innovative environment. And that’s exactly what the best organizational IT solutions demand.

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- Sean McDermott

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