Here are the barriers IT pros wish they could eliminate

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Magic Wand Infrastructure Part 4

Part four of a four-part Magic Wand Infrastructure series.
Part 1: What's your magic wand infrastructure?
Part 2: Waving away complexity
Part 3: Voila! New staff, new mindset
Part 4: Barriers to making magic

Pete Buonora, Enterprise Architect, BJ’s Wholesale Club
Tim Elkins, CIO, PrimeLending
Cynthia Stoddard, SVP and CIO, NetApp
Cliff Tamplin, former VP of Technology Support & Risk Management, Hyatt Hotels Corporation

INTRODUCTION: What if you were handed a magic wand and could wave away the past? The Enterprisers Project assembled a group of seasoned IT leaders in an interactive exchange to find out.  Here are highlights from the conversation.

Barriers to Making Magic

The Enterprisers Project (TEP): I’d love to hear some comments on the barriers you’d like to eliminate with your magic wands. Would one of those be the ‘not invented here’ syndrome Cynthia mentioned, or the reality that some of the most core systems you need to run your business are getting dated and needing more specialty niche skills to operate?  

Cliff Tamplin: I think you hit the nail right on the head there. The cost of replacing some of these big custom systems can be astronomical if it truly is something that provides a competitive edge to the company. There’s an element of ‘If it’s not broken don’t fix it’ to this, or more importantly the sense that it’s IT’s problem if the maintenance cost is high and they need to suck up the cost to replace it.

Cynthia Stoddard: Along with that, you still have to keep the business running, so to stop and replace becomes difficult because you need to stay focused on the needs of everyday business and the business must adopt and assimilate the changes. Because of this, it takes time to unravel this complicated infrastructure. So unless you wave your magic wand and all the systems are changed out, and all business process are adjusted, it may not work. In reality it takes time to go piece by piece and unravel the ecosystem to get to that new infrastructure.

TEP: Tim, your infrastructure is relatively recent. Do you feel you’re mostly in a good place from that perspective?

Tim Elkins: Yeah, I think I’m very fortunate. We built our complete infrastructure starting about five years ago and moved over our core systems about two years ago. Where we have work to do is in building out an Exchange environment onsite. I don’t want to host that, Microsoft can do a better job than I can; I want to push it out there. There are still things we’ve got to cost-justify tearing down and moving them over and that’s something we’re working on now.

Training the Next Generation of IT Wizards

TEP: In closing, how do you speak to an up-and-coming CIO who is looking to effect some meaningful change in his or her IT environment but doesn’t have that magic wand? How do you make a move? Where do you start to generate some momentum within the business?

Cynthia Stoddard: I was talking to an up-and-coming CIO who was looking to simplify their infrastructure platforms and I recommended starting with some of the standardized, out-of-the box business processes that every organization should have but aren’t really differentiating. Areas such as HR, Payroll, Talent Management. There are a lot of good, standardized solutions there. I would say start with the easy, show some successes, and show that you can simplify and go up the complexity curve from there.

Cliff Tamplin: I’d throw things like email out there as an obvious thing to outsource. Nobody ever got promoted for running email.

Pete Buonara: If you look at where you and your team are spending time, that you’re spending X number of hours on non-strategic things, I’d target that Shift focus towards real business outcomes and constantly ask yourself how the work you are doing will make customers’ lives better.

TEP: That’s great. And as a thank-you to everyone, your IT magic wands are going out express mail to you right now.

Cliff Tamplin: I think anyone who finds one will make quite a lot of money from it.

Cynthia Stoddard: That’s right, and I think most of us would be willing to give it a try!

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