• rm@rmbastien.com

The Two-Headed Beast

The Two-Headed Beast

Your corporate IT function is not a homogeneous aggregation of geeks.  It is compromised of quite a diverse set of people with different skills and focus points. At the highest level, enterprise IT can be divided into two larger groups; two hemispheres distinctive by their respective objectives, skills, and cultures. 

The Infrastructure & Operation Hemisphere

On one side, what is usually labeled as Infrastructure and Operations is responsible for acquiring, deploying, and operating the infrastructure portion of IT. 

That infrastructure is everything that you can see and touch, such as computers, mice, or screens.  It also includes the array of devices that you could see and touch but are hidden under the floors or in remote air-conditioned facilities where servers, disk arrays, and network appliances are humming. 

The first head of IT is the one that is the most accountable for the Keep-the-Lights-On (KTLO) set of performance measures that I described in the first book and repeated a few times since.  They live and breathe for making sure that every infrastructure gizmo is alive and well.  The span of the skills required for that first half is similar to the operations department of many other organizations where a large and sophisticated network of technologies is deployed, like a power utility or the London subway.  There are field technicians, installers, procurement specialists, repairpersons, and most importantly, operators that monitor the current health of all the managed infrastructure. 

The first head of IT is predominantly dealing with immediacy: what is going on at this moment, or today, or tomorrow, maybe next week, at times next month.  Only a few planners care about next year.

One very important difference between Infra & Ops is that their work is subject to (a) extensive cross-industry standardization and (b) is very often externalized. This means that what they do and how they do it is quite similar from one organization to another. As a consequence, it is also in that hemisphere that you find most of the cloud solutions, external vendors of all types, and alternate sourcing options.

The Business Change Delivery Side

The other side of corporate IT bears a greater variety of names, such as Development, Software Factory, or Solutions Delivery.  Whatever the name, their role is to deal with change.  They drive the information technology changes that ensue from business evolution, business transformation, or digitalization.  They also manage the software-based business applications used within your operational processes. The second head of IT is the one who is the most accountable for the On-Time-On-Budget (OTOB) set of performance measures.  The second head of IT is predominantly dealing with tomorrow.  They care about what will need to be in place next year, next quarter, next month.  Only a few cares about what’s going on to their creations once delivered because they’re then busy working on the next change and because the newly delivered solution is usually being managed by the operations side.

Dysfunctional and Ripe for Radical Change

This side of IT is subject to fewer standards and to an array of dysfunctional behaviors. Most of the issues that I describe in my writing pertain to this half of IT — and not Infra & Ops. The journey you are staring will lead you to identify the root causes behind these unhealthy behaviors. The good news is that the sources are not technical at all, and you can do something about it.


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