4 questions that CIOs need to ask about IT modernisation

  • Posted on November 18, 2016

IT modernization

Today, with advances in cloud computing and the expectation that IT innovates to deliver corporate strategy, modernising is essential for all businesses. However, actually getting a programme started remains a challenge for everybody. Because of this, more CIOs are adopting a bi-modal approach to IT modernisation, which will ensure that they are able to keep their companies moving, while allowing for more innovation.

This approach combines predictability (where the central aim is to manage, maintain and secure core systems) and exploration (where IT uses new technologies to drive innovation) to create an innovative and agile IT department.

Beginning an IT modernisation programme is hard work. As such, those businesses requiring a new IT agenda should first look at the scale of the task that lays before them. In other words, they should ask themselves: ‘What are the components in our IT ecosystem that will be affected by modernisation?’ In doing so, they must accept that they cannot separate applications from infrastructure. Changes in one will affect the other, meaning holistic planning is essential.

When the CIO knows what will be affected by change, the next step is to ascertain how impactful that change might be. This process can be dictated by the ‘tolerate, invest, migrate, eliminate’ mantra. Underlying this mantra are four key questions:

  1. What can we leave unchanged?
  2. What can work again with modifications?
  3. What do we really need to change?
  4. What don’t we need anymore?

The answers to each of these questions will be informed by the levels of business criticality, risk and cost posed by components and balancing each. For example, if a solution meets the business need and an investment will not add material business value it can be tolerated in its current state. If the business cannot accept the current system but either wholesale change is impractical or minor modification is acceptable, it can be invested in and enhanced to leverage modern IT practices.

This can be illustrated within the retail sector, which is prone to seasonal peaks and troughs. As such, an elastic data centre is ideal. By utilising the cloud, retailers can lease any extra processing power when required, and simply scale down once demand subsides. This modification of old components to work with new IT is one way organisations can manage their modernisation risk.

The next scenario is where a system, critical to the business, is either failing to deliver what is needed or is at critical risk of failure. In this case, there is an immediate need to address the problem to ensure the business can operate effectively. This is clearly the most radical change and one not undertaken lightly.

A CIO should constantly challenge whether a component is needed at all. Can it be retired as it is no longer relevant to the business? Is the return on investment lacking? Where there is a lack of value there is no need to tolerate these components, so the best move is to either, where possible, to migrate processes to another component, move to a manual solution or possibly should the commercial market offer an ‘as a Service’ solution with similar capability move to that.

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