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Dos and Don'ts of IT Infrastructure
By Ursuline Foley, Managing Director, XL Catlin
The advent of cloud computing has set the stage for faster, more responsive and more cost-effective IT capabilities. Organizations are focused on migrating to the cloud to drive efficiency, savings, and scalability in addition to the ease of maintaining supporting efficiency. In terms of service trends, the holistic understanding of IT infrastructure, its availability, and business impact is gaining popularity calling for services that can respond to business threats and steer the businesses forward.
Challenges facing IT Infrastructure
The whole IT ecosystem is getting a lot more complex. Every application requires the co-operative and complementary collaboration of three to four different parties, comprising the internal team, external partners, and multiple service providers or vendors in the market for garnering a successful outcome for the business. Even, businesses themselves wish to rely on more third parties for some of their business services. Here arises the challenge of ensuring alignment and accountability between all the involved parties to advance the business.
Another challenge is the pursuit of the faster speed of delivery that has businesses and technology coming together, but agile delivery is dependent on the IT infrastructure speedily responding to the usage, scalability requirements, and changes with minimum impact. The appropriate tuning of these variables can be challenging to achieve, and it could negatively affect the better speed of delivery.
Identifying the Right Partner and Service Provider
Given our global and complex landscape of apps and services, XL Catlin looks for those companies that have a proven track record of having the required skills as well as the ability to scale.
Looking beyond the skills they bring to the table today, we evaluate the company’s profile indicating how fast and well they can provide the particular skill set demanded by customers. The reference calls provide insights into how the company functions under stress, their view of partnerships, and their methods of rectification (such as the provision of additional skills or investments) post failure.
Our company believes that apart from faultless contracts and agreements such as service level agreements (SLA), a partnership is about understanding your partner’s challenges and keeping them in the loop about the strategy you are using. This implies sharing and explaining the business tactics you are implementing, what you hope to achieve in the next few months or years, and giving your partner a bigger picture of how and where they are applying their resources and skills.
We motivate partners and service providers to encourage innovation, proactive thinking, and transparency of opinion in their teams
This collaboration also helps your partner structure their resources and the training and capacity of their teams according to your environment. We see a very thin grey line between partners and employees.
A thing we have learned over the years is the importance of an incentives approach that avoids applying the penalties outlined in contracts unless faced with no alternative. Remunerate a company’s good work by entrusting them with more work of a different kind and agree to serve as references for them. We motivate partners and service providers to encourage innovation, proactive thinking, and transparency of opinion in their teams to resolve issues as one team and foster planning for big programs.
Misconceptions about IT Infrastructure
There are certain misconceptions that people have about IT infrastructure. Migration to the cloud is going to get you a lot more services and scalability while helping to reduce costs on the infrastructure side. But assuming that moving to the cloud will immediately sort out all of your problems with your applications and functionalities is a fallacy. Another misconception is considering your solitary effort enough for addressing all technological issues. The IT world today requires everybody from the cloud provider to the internal team, partners, and service vendors to understand and learn about how the current state of the IT infrastructure landscape is operating. This leads to better management of everyone’s expectations and setting of more realistic objectives.
IT Infrastructure Project Achievements
We redesigned a future state platform from the perspective of infrastructure, data management, and business for the union of two companies—XL and Catlin. We tested the designs, the connectivity, bandwidth, and security on all the points of contact between the different integration points. All the reconciliation of the data for investments with its night and daytime data flow between different points was completed within 12 months.
Also, in the last five years, we undertook the re-transformation of a finance platform. We established a whole new data center for them, moving the legacy applications while redesigning the financial accounting processes and all the financial reporting alongside the building and bringing in new products for more global fields. We had to bring in new skills within these new technologies basically, and as a result, we achieved a lot more detailed reporting and analytics with finance resulting in more financial savings and technological efficiencies. Driving scale into our platform enabled us to integrate Catlin and XL for finance processes in under two years.
Advice to CIOs
Having lived and worked in the IT infrastructure space for more than 30 years, I would say that hard work coupled with extremely strong business partnerships is very profitable for the business. Partnerships can be strengthened internally by meeting on a regular, maybe weekly basis and having work allocated across technology and the business, promoting full-ownership or full responsibility for one’s work by treating each member as part of the team.
I recommend understanding how your infrastructure supports your business and making that connection real for yourself and your team. The more you learn about the role an infrastructure component plays in your business, the more ownership, and accountability you will want to build into your monitoring and scalability to eventually contribute to the health of your environment. So observe, examine, and comprehend the connection between how a component is used in the business, and the significance of the effect its presence and absence has on the business. Comprehensive familiarity with the infrastructure will definitely inspire you to deploy the right skills and process controls in order to maintain the right level of balance between the risks and health of your organization’s environment.