As a CIO responsible for technology infrastructure, one of the things that has always kept me up at night has been the opportunity to scale the business so quickly that the current infrastructure doesn’t keep up with the pace of evolving technologies.
My mind was racing thinking this could lead to lost revenue opportunities, failure to differentiate competitively in the healthcare market and/or missed opportunities for mergers and acquisitions. If this imaginary dilemma materializes, it will not be a good look for the information services team or the leadership of the organization responsible for strategic planning within IT.
It has often been my primary concern that changing and developing business requirements can lead to the need for significant infrastructure investments. The investments themselves are sometimes difficult, but what is even more demanding is the time required for a forklift or upgrading of key infrastructure components.
In some cases, these initiatives may take more than two years. Asking the company to pause for 24 months while upgrading its technology infrastructure is unacceptable.
There are a few things that I believe are essential to successful service delivery in this case. The first is that it is important to have a strategy around the technology infrastructure modernization business. Understanding technology life cycles and articulating the capacity and performance constraints of the first executive team is fundamental to creating and implementing a good game plan.
Maintaining a significant technology infrastructure requires continuous investment just to maintain the current environment, not to mention prepare for business growth. In order to enhance strategic decision-making, technical leadership must have a clear understanding of what the business thinks of in terms of growth and scope and what that means for them in terms of timing and investment requirements.
We all like to roll out infrastructure technology with redundant capabilities and capabilities, but in the real world this is often not possible.
Next, you must have a strong team of professionals dedicated to enterprise infrastructure technology and business continuity planning. This starts with architects who really understand the need for standards and interoperability/integration for certain platforms. These people are important to ensure that the correct design is done in the correct turns.
From there, it is essential to have a team of infrastructure engineers responsible for implementing and configuring the technology so that investments can be maximized. Finally, infrastructure operations or support teams are useful for keeping the technology running while looking for trends that indicate problems are on the horizon.
I also believe that any organization must have strong governance in order to build the infrastructure technology of the future. This governance ensures that prioritization and review are conducted, not only for investments in technology, but for investments in projects likely to require additional infrastructure technology.
Finally, I believe that having a strong relationship and partnership with the dominant players in the infrastructure space is key. This will help you better understand what other customers are doing and learn how to think about the things your organization is likely to think about in the next few years.
Similar to maintaining a relationship with infrastructure providers, I think it also makes sense to have a strong partnership with research and advisory groups that can assist you with your planning efforts.
At the end of the day, tech infrastructure executives will have to sing for dinner. Having a track record of good investments and reliable/flexible technology is a good starting point for setting and achieving goals.
However, these people also need to know enough about business and how to help translate business requirements to infrastructure needs. This includes making clear the risks of delaying investments or not thinking ahead adequately when it comes to designing and implementing new infrastructure technology.
As the dollar gets tighter and you compete with other important priorities, one has to be very intentional about these investments that often don’t have a measurable return on investment accounts.
John B. Donohue is Vice President of Enterprise Services for Information Services at Penn Medicine.