Technology infrastructure has been designed to work for us — both the business and the individual — so it’s not surprising that it has more than a few things in common with people. One such commonality is the need for a regular health check. Just like us, your infrastructure needs to be assessed from time to time to determine the functionality of the entire IT environment, from the technology to the operational processes involved.
Complex technology environments within organizations are constantly changing, so if you don’t keep up with those changes and keep your processes in sync, gaps will start to appear, creating risks for the environment and those who depend on it — your business, your clients and any other stakeholders.
If your infrastructure environment develops health issues – be it gaps, outages, service interruptions or performance degradations — it will adversely affect your internal and external processes and potentially damage your reputation with clients.
How do you know when you need an infrastructure health check?
There are three ways to think about an infrastructure health check (IHC). One is from an opportunities perspective, which assesses what you need to modernize to improve your performance, availability and supportability of the environment.
A second approach is to undertake a proactive IHC, which involves going into the environment to assess what’s in place, where the links and interdependencies between systems and processes lie and address issues before any major problems arise.
The third, and all-too-common approach, is a reactive IHC that is performed when the organization is already experiencing service interruptions where the root causes haven’t been determined, and where problems continue to arise on a regular basis.
It is sometimes hard for businesses to take a proactive approach, perhaps because funds have been allocated to other projects. However, a proactive IHC will help to prevent the persistent outages and other problems from arising in the first place. Think of it as insurance for the business or an audit for your IT environment to assess whether your processes and operations are properly linked and documented and whether your infrastructure is set up to meet your business needs. Those process areas include activities such as incident management, problem management, configuration management, performance management, change management, asset performance and even skills management.
One of the telltale signs that you need an IHC is repeated interruptions in service, performance or availability. Someone in your IT department might be carrying out temporary fixes, such as server reboots, which fix the problem at that given time but, sure enough, the problem returns a day, week or month later.
Another common problem is loose change-control processes, such as new applications or processes being added to the environment without going through the proper channels.
What should you expect from an IHC?
Hardware vendors or application developers typically have a narrower view of a health check focused solely in their areas of expertise and interest. A truly agnostic definition of an IHC, however, is an end-to-end approach to analyze the health of your technology environment to solve problems, improve availability and performance, or plan for the future from a growth or modernization perspective. In a nutshell, an IHC should ensure your IT environment is operational for your needs now and in the future.
What you get from an IHC depends on your approach – be it modernization, proactive or reactive deep analysis. For example, an IHC modernization is designed to look at the existing environment, validate the current architecture and ensure the implementation can meet the desired service requirements. Recommendations are based on the organization’s objectives. If the goal is to move to the cloud, the IHC could offer an insight into your current environment and recommendations on the best application candidates to make that move. The IHC could also provide a high-level roadmap on where to begin. From there, you might seek a more detailed cloud journey assessment and IHC deep analysis of your application interdependencies and requirements to determine how readily they will work in the cloud.
Whatever the purpose, objectivity — combined with accurate knowledge of your infrastructure environment — is critical. A best practice approach, therefore, would be to pair an objective expert who has broad industry knowledge with an IT architect who is a specialist in the specific IT environment being targeted.
It also makes sense to conduct some level of health check on your own environment first. Then bring in advisory services from an external industry expert so that the analysis is targeted to your more critical concerns and observations.
What’s the value of an IHC?
It’s often harder to quantify the benefits of a proactive approach to infrastructure health than it is to count the cost of outages and performance interruptions. However, there are some demonstrable benefits from objective IHCs that we’ve documented from our own experience in three companies: 1) savings of $2.1 million in operational efficiencies after a server modernization, 2) a $1.1 million reduction in costs caused by system interruptions after a remediation to improve system availability and 3) significant performance improvements after an IHC that found 60% of business processes were redundant and 40% of data was duplicated.
Ultimately, your ability to survive and thrive in your industry depends on being able to guarantee service availability to your end client as well as your internal business, such as your financials, human resources or marketing websites. An IHC makes business sense because having a healthy infrastructure will secure client trust and bolster internal productivity.
Dean Papa is directing practice principal for Cloud, Platforms and ITO Offering Delivery and Transformation Architecture at DXC Technology. Responsible for enterprise services technical consulting at DXC and previously at HPE Enterprise Services, he is experienced in business-focused IT strategy, application and infrastructure rationalization, structured operational process improvement, and product offering and business operations management.