Insight CIO's model of IT operations favors enterprise department autonomy
As it has evolved, enterprise IT has "radical centralization and standardization at the core with massive diversity at the fringe," said Michael Guggemos.
When enterprises adopt more technology, they turn to shadow IT and that creates a costly, difficult-to-secure enterprise network.
CIOs, however, are starting to lead enterprise IT strategy by influence rather than control. By clearly outlining the exact programs IT is responsible for, other department leaders, such as the head of HR or marketing, can adopt best-fit solutions for their operations.
Enterprise technology has "radical centralization and standardization at the core with massive diversity at the fringe," said Michael Guggemos, CIO of IT solutions company Insight, in an interview with CIO Dive.
Guggemos maintains sole authority, with oversight from his manager, the CEO, "over any technology that comes into the company from any area," he said. In turn, teams actively participate in the decision-making process to adopt solutions core to their business operations.
When Guggemos joined Insight in 2010, the company applications were inconsistent, particularly after acquisitions left the IT portfolio segmented, with some redundant systems and no enforced standardization. He began to follow the "Law of Large Bodies," which he coined, to enforce the adoption of the tool the majority used, which helps contain technical sprawl.
For example, "if 70% of our environment is a Cisco Network, our standard is now Cisco," Guggemos said.
Guggemos's approach to technology favored IT running core operations, leaving the lines of business to determine the tech that would best meet their department demands. He refers to the concept as the "Hand and the Fist" model of IT.
The model is relatively simple:
In the fist, or the core, lies ERP, web and collaboration systems along with infrastructure. It is 100% owned by IT, which controls its strategic direction.
The fingers, or the periphery of IT, refers to the different lines of business. Functional tools are owned by the business function, but IT remains responsible for integrating with the core and the overall architecture.
At Insight, 40% of tool sets lie at the fingertips of the model; the other 60% is at the core, which is predominantly an on-premise larger-scale ERP stack with pieces in the cloud, according to Guggemos.
IT gives different departments relative technology autonomy because they understand their technology needs better than outsiders, according to Guggemos. For example, HR knows what solutions it needs to operate. IT comes in to help with integration, not control.
The inspiration for the model came from Guggemos's career in the U.S. Army, where he served on a Special Operations Team. Small teams would go to a location to build a "power map," tracking how an organization under assessment operated.
You would have a core where the power comes from, akin to a fist, then each finger would serve as a different operation, according to Guggemos. Applied to the technical landscape, the model allows anyone in a company to understand a business' IT strategy and architecture.
Managing Insight's 'fist'
Guggemos joined Insight at a time when companies were starting to come out of the recession and reinvest once again. But on-premise solutions made way for cloud-first decision making. The huge drive to adopt "Anything as a Service" changed how companies thought of technology expenditures, shifting from capital expenditures to operating expenses.
However, the transition to cloud-first takes time and companies have to time migrations with buying cycles.
Insight is undergoing the same technology evolution from on-premise to cloud, much like almost every nondigital native business across sectors. Right now, 60% of systems are on-prem and 40% are cloud-based. The company is working to shift more toward the cloud but runs on four year refresh cycles, according to Guggemos.
Changes to core operations take time and companies need to approach them in more cautious ways. The core fist of Insight is about 80% waterfall, Guggemos said. "It's like working on a pacemaker. You don't do agile development on a pacemaker. That's the heartbeat of an organization — you don't jeopardize it."
Once you get out to the functions of an organization, such as finance or marketing, the company can approach the technology in a much more agile way. If marketing goes down for six to seven hours, it doesn't disrupt the ability for Insight to transact, he said.
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