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Dynamic Decision Making and IT Operations

Planning for technology infrastructure and architecture

As business technology managers we are constantly challenged by a need to support a broad spectrum of information technologies within our organizations. Now more so with the establishment of the amalgamation of services that now comprises the cloud computing ecosystem.

The pure purpose of these technologies is to improve end-users needs as these systems evolve. Managers are in turn constantly challenged in an effort to present and optimize a single infrastructure to support the many different requirements within organizations.

We are blitzed daily with newer and allegedly better means to choose, implement, hone, improve, migrate or upgrade our technologies, via web-casts, product pitches, conferences, email blasts etc.

Some points to consider: are some of these marketing pitches for "change/upgrades" really necessary or inherently imperative to ensuring that operations run lean, effective as well as within compliance and budgetary requirements? The only fact that I subscribe to is, systems are dynamic in nature.

As managers, we need to evaluate the most appropriate of practices that will benefit our organization. These should include national and international standards, business goals, objectives and needs; budgetary requirements, external & internal threats, internal operational requirements. After which we should compile a decision matrix and rank requirements on importance or impact on functionality across the enterprise, which should align on-going IT operations with business requirements...and then choose to effect change ...or not.
Factors that should be considered are the intervals in time that we finalize IT operational decisions e.g. at the start of a project or in the instance where we encounter some event which changes our IT functions in a manner that warrants a re-evaluation of technologies.

Personally when I am commissioned to lead a project, I walk into our brainstorming armed with my well-worn Ishikawa (fishbone) mind-set.

Why?, well as most project managers will attest to, the requirements in week one never matches the requirements say in week six of a twelve week project. For me a good rule of thumb is to have an appropriate grasp of the end result required by senior management /client and draft a reverse process with my team to match the initial requirement. This leaves us ample branches for change in requirements from senior management or a client (as expected) and by extension, gives us some latitude with time and budget management.

I agree with my peers that, in order to ensure the successful operation of any IT infrastructure a solid framework must be in place. There are several standards that we can draw from during our planning implementation and control stages, some of which are :

ISO - 27001:2005 & BS 17799 - ISO 27002:2005
CoBIT - Control Objectives for Information and Related Technology
ITIL - IT Infrastructure Library
CMMi - Capability Maturity Model Integration

The importance of ITIL is well documented, especially given its place with respect to ISO 27001 in a sense, however I do believe that one methodology can draw on the other in certain instances.

The ISO27001/2 series defines an information management framework which sets; directions, aims, objectives as well as defines a management approved policy and holds management commitment.
Its processes methodically identify security requirements by assessing security risks.

The results of these assessments help guide the prioritizing of metrics to manage risks and the appropriate management action.

This then guides the selection and implementation of controls (policies, practices, procedures, organizational structures, software/hardware functions) and mechanisms.

Controls implemented subjectively should follow the identification of security requirements; with their aim, being, to ensure that risks are reduced to an acceptable level while meeting an organization's security objectives. Why panic and spend $50,000 to mitigate a risk that will cost an enterprise $100.

The ISO 27001 prescribes a Plan-Do-Check-Act, Process Approach. The fact that it is a Process Approach emphasizes user understanding of an organization's information security requirements and can help define and establish information security policies and objectives including it's well known Information Security Management System (ISMS) framework.

Following on the guideline of ISO27001's ISMS is ISO 27002:2005 which can be regarded as a comprehensive collection of good security processes. These define a standard code of practice outlining techniques one can implement to secure data.
When drafting our decision matrix for frameworks we need to be cognizant of framework overload; set implementation goals for frameworks and ensure that we have adequate project management resources.

However when it comes to roll outs, the preference is to proceed cautiously (as with any framework roll-out) because the of-chance of an incorrect categorization of control objectives and/or application can defeat the purpose of a framework implementation & ROI assessment.

Typically other Six Sigma processes can augment the above stated methodologies very well with my favorite being a variation of the Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA).

In conclusion I subscribe to the school of thought where; we should embark on hardware and other system related infrastructure based on controls and objects which are independent of vendor marketing pitches.

The goal in mind should always be how to improve our systems based on our enterprise's need, the budgetary and operational impact and our business objectives.  If any one system is functioning effectively per managements defined requirements and business objectives, why upgrade if all you are going to get are the same results pre upgrade?

What may work say in one small business enterprise may not necessarily be effective in another similar sized enterprise or another type of business operations.

More Stories By Jon Shende

Jon RG Shende is an executive with over 18 years of industry experience. He commenced his career, in the medical arena, then moved into the Oil and Gas environment where he was introduced to SCADA and network technologies,also becoming certified in Industrial Pump and Valve repairs. Jon gained global experience over his career working within several verticals to include pharma, medical sales and marketing services as well as within the technology services environment, eventually becoming the youngest VP of an international enterprise. He is a graduate of the University of Oxford, holds a Masters certificate in Business Administration, as well as an MSc in IT Security, specializing in Computer Crime and Forensics with a thesis on security in the Cloud. Jon, well versed with the technology startup and mid sized venture ecosystems, has contributed at the C and Senior Director level for former clients. As an IT Security Executive, Jon has experience with Virtualization,Strategy, Governance,Risk Management, Continuity and Compliance. He was an early adopter of web-services, web-based tools and successfully beta tested a remote assistance and support software for a major telecom. Within the realm of sales, marketing and business development, Jon earned commendations for turnaround strategies within the services and pharma industry. For one pharma contract he was responsibe for bringing low performing districts up to number 1 rankings for consecutive quarters; as well as outperforming quotas from 125% up to 314%. Part of this was achieved by working closely with sales and marketing teams to ensure message and product placement were on point. Professionally he is a Fellow of the BCS Chartered Institute for IT, an HITRUST Certified CSF Practitioner and holds the CITP and CRISC certifications.Jon Shende currently works as a Senior Director for a CSP. A recognised thought Leader, Jon has been invited to speak for the SANs Institute, has spoken at Cloud Expo in New York as well as sat on a panel at Cloud Expo Santa Clara, and has been an Ernst and Young CPE conference speaker. His personal blog is located at http://jonshende.blogspot.com/view/magazine "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit."

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