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Infrastructure and operations (I&O) leaders who embrace infrastructure-led innovation will drive greater enterprise resilience, according to Gartner, Inc., especially as growing digital ambitions compete with ongoing economic uncertainty. During the opening keynote of the Gartner IT Infrastructure, Operations & Cloud Strategies Conference, Christopher Mixter, vice president, advisory at Gartner, explained that infrastructure-led innovation is a new way of thinking among progressive I&O organizations. It is a strategy that helps stakeholders overcome business challenges and enable growth by using infrastructure technology and operational practices that enhance customer experiences and solutions.

“Effective I&O leaders aren’t waiting for any kind of new normal to make itself known; they are already innovating,” said Mr. Mixter. “Prior to the crisis, enterprises only knew I&O through their helpdesk experiences or the annual budget cycle. The pivot to remote work has created newfound visibility for I&O and enough positive sentiment from the broader organization to give I&O leaders the courage to launch a reinvention of their digital foundations.”

Gartner outlined four capabilities that comprise infrastructure-led innovation. They are:

Cost intelligence
COVID-19 has given IT leaders the momentum to accelerate digital business in their enterprises, with 65 percent of CEOs and 69 percent of Boards of Directors reporting wanting to do so, according to Gartner. In a balancing act of defending new investments to support digital acceleration and acceding to the organization’s need to preserve capital, the most effective I&O organizations are following the discipline of cost intelligence.

“Cost intelligence is the ability to balance cost management with new investment and show the enterprise how to free up ‘capital’ in the form of time, creativity, and cash to re-invest in I&O,” said Mr. Mixter.

Workforce transformation
The future of I&O will be less about building servers or being well-versed in checklists from the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) and more about pursuing competencies in advanced analytics, automation, continuous delivery, and cloud. Such competences will help maintain I&O’s visibility and relevance and will be viewed as critical for returning the organization to growth.

“To reinvest and redeploy the time and treasure harvested through cost intelligence, I&O teams will need to be staffed with people embodying a more expansive skill set than what infrastructure has historically called for,” said Mr. Mixter. “In the past two years, for instance, over 40 percent of heads of I&O have been hired from outside of the I&O team. Infrastructure-led innovation demands transformation of the entire workforce.”

Platform ops
Platform ops is a development, deployment and operational management approach that enables software delivery teams inside and outside IT to build and operate their own products. It is a product-centric approach to infrastructure management that brings together people, processes and technology and promotes the shift in culture needed to deliver a more customer-centric digital foundation to the enterprise. One of the most important elements of platform ops is the idea of customer-in, rather than technology-out.

“The newest I&O customer is the 41 percent of the non-IT workforce that now customizes and builds technology for work,” said Mr. Mixter. “Success hinges directly on how these new customers are served, and platform ops helps reach them.”

At present, most I&O functions measure and report on their reliability in terms of availability and mean time to repair or recover. Those embracing infrastructure-led innovation are looking beyond such metrics and measuring customer value directly, but still only 54 percent of organizations are doing so today.

“Reliability isn’t marketable because it’s simply table-stakes,” said Mr. Mixter. “Metrics such as customer effort or lead time for change illustrate how I&O enables the business through greater speed and agility. The most effective I&O leaders are making marketing a design principle of the function.”

In fact, I&O leaders who over-perform on customer value metrics while merely meeting expectations on reliability are seven times more likely than their peers who over-focus on reliability to exceed their CIO’s expectations.

“This year, I&O teams delivered the most significant IT transformation of our generation. In 2021, infrastructure-led innovation will enable I&O leaders to be known for the business innovation they provide as opposed to the infrastructure they manage,” said Mr. Mixter.

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