Building IT

“Does anyone have a great whitepaper/document or book that will properly tell you how to effectively build an IT environment from the ground up?” was the  question asked on LinkedIn the other day.

So far the respondents have all, but a few, focused on implementing the information technologies (IT) versus focusing on why an IT environment, the tool of information, is required. IT is just another tool that needs a reason to exist. Cool or magical is not a reason to exist. In the past we have used tools to capture our stories and events. Tools such as stone, plant materials/ochre, brush, paints, ink and paper were used. These have provided a means (the tools) for us to share information during some discourse to relate stories of safety, food source or just being entertaining by the fire. Information was shared as there was a need, perhaps a collective need for the good of the community, to protect itself, to feed itself so it could regale in stories tomorrow.

Tools were used to meet a need and evolved through use, adaptation and need to do the ‘WHAT’; tell a story by capturing an event.

This phenomenon, the need to communicate, versus the tool we use resonates through Mark Dean’s comment “These days, it’s becoming clear that innovation flourishes best not on devices but in the social spaces between them, where people and ideas meet and interact. It is there that computing can have the most powerful impact on economy, society and people’s lives.” (http://asmarterplanet.com/blog/2011/08/ibm-leads-the-way-in-the-post-pc-era.html)

So, it is perhaps not HOW IT, however more of a question of WHY IT and WHAT IT will help in the HOW to build IT. Understanding WHAT tools and how information will be used will help in shaping the needed environment and resources to design, implement and support an IT environment.

Back to the question. Once, requirements are known on what information is to be gathered, accessed, stored and secured, and for what purposes other areas of implementing an IT environment need to be determined. There is a need for people and a disciplined approach to manage an IT environment and also what information and tools are required to support an IT environment. All too often servers are attached to networks with ill-regard to change, configuration and security management processes, or the tools to manage the various IT components and software. When there is a lack of a discipline approach to support an IT environment Availability, of the Information businesses require to make operational decisions and customers to make purchasing decisions upon, becomes problematic and is not assured.

Here are my thoughts before a server or router are bought …

Start off with business requirements; functional; what do you want to do?

Capture current state, what future state looks like and gaps between now and then

What information is required?

- to operate the business,

- for the creation & support of products and services,

- to ensure customer purchasing decisions are made in your favour

What is the classification of the information? Restricted, Confidential, Internal, Public

Are there requirements to protect information; to ensure information integrity and protect against misuse and compromise?

What information will be used, by whom, when and why?

What processes or capabilities will be required that will use the above information?

Who are the people that will execute these processes and require information to make decisions?

Will information be shared across internal and external organizational boundaries?

What is the annual budget to support and invest into the IT infrastructure?

What types of capabilities will employees and customers require? Some examples

Employees

- Accounting, finance, HR

- Design, model, build a widget

Customers

- Research

- Buy a product, return a product

- Product support

What Information Security capabilities will be needed?

From the above list of items selecting the technologies may become easier and then all you have to do is hire the people, select the tools to support the IT environment, implement the disciplines, such as Information Security, Incident & Problem management Change and Configuration management, and develop a roadmap of technologies, dependencies and investments and align this to your business strategy.

For me the goal of IT is to ensure the Availability of the Information you need to gather, access, store and secure for the operation and management of your business and to support customer purchasing decisions.

Lastly, calculate the amount of budget you wish to allot to building an IT environment and the ongoing annual budget to support, maintain, replace and invest to safeguard your Information ‘Gathering, Accessing, Storing, Securing’ Technologies.

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