How Can an Operations & Infrastructure Assessment Help Your Business?
Identifying how best to invest a company’s technology budget has become frustrating and prone to making the wrong tradeoffs. All too often companies will work with the knowledge at hand and the capabilities of their team to plan out their technology roadmap. The result is usually a misaligned plan which will not deliver on the needs for the business. In order to avoid common pitfalls and end up with subpar results, an Operations and Infrastructure assessment is required to ensure you are able to:
- Drive better business effectiveness
- Reduce vulnerabilities
- Improve operational investment decisions
At Lighthouse, we are always consulting with our clients to help them be sure they’re asking all the right questions, and have the right processes and systems in place to attain their goals.
Lighthouse IS, Inc., is a West Coast regional management consulting and technology consulting firm with offices in Silicon Valley, Portland, OR and Seattle, WA. Specializing in operations, technology, and M&A Support Services, Lighthouse’s primary objective is to assist both private and publicly held firms achieve their overall business objectives. Working closely with a client’s executive team, Lighthouse helps assure that the client’s investment in systems, infrastructure, data and people contribute directly to the growth of the market value of the firm.
For more information: https://lighthouseis.com
Operations & Infrastructure Assessment: A Journey of Discovery
-By Peter Adams, CEO of Lighthouse.
A good Operations & Infrastructure (O&I) assessment is a journey of discovery. It is intended to reveal bottlenecks and opportunities for accelerating the achievement of a firm’s business goals. An O&I assessment is NOT, as some IT specialists may direct it, about technology. Rather, it’s about implementing improvements to the economic value of the business, only some of which may require a dose of technology to execute.
From hundreds of assessments, performed over three decades across a wide-range of industries and business sizes, three common categories of opportunity emerge: 1) productivity bottlenecks, 2) opportunities to enhance business value and 3) critical business vulnerabilities. Once these bottlenecks, opportunities and vulnerabilities are exposed, the firm must ask itself three questions:
- What have been the economic and other costs associated with these bottlenecks over the last 3 to 5 years?
- How are our market position, brand and win-rate being affected by competitors not faced with these bottlenecks and vulnerabilities?
- How much of a discount to the value of our business will a potential buyer want if these bottlenecks and vulnerabilities were discovered in their due diligence?
A Good Assessment Process
Assessments are both art and science. Good assessors are not only highly analytical, they also have a natural, healthy curiosity and good instincts, and are adept at following a thread casually revealed in an answer that just doesn’t seem to make sense or hints at “problematical.”
Approaching an assessment as a cultural anthropologist might, by persistently digging through the layers, permits inquiry that is directed and appropriate to the answers, not the questions. The result is that hidden and latent issues are more quickly revealed. This approach works because a business is not a “thing”, but is rather a culture. The tools used must fit the needs of the culture.
“The gold in an effective business, operations and infrastructure assessment is not found in the glib answers evoked by a rote checklist of questions. It is extracted from the employee and management conversations a good assessment compels. Open ended questions and conversations reveal veins of opportunity that would never have been discovered through simple rote inquiry.”
The firm’s business vision and desired outcomes are revealed through conversations with the executives. Conversations then work their way down, deep into the organization, revealing the reality of the situation on the ground in contrast to executive perceptions. Assessors then return to the executive suite, armed with a fount of insight.
This circuit of conversations facilitates a conclusive, fact-based discussion regarding the options best suited to meet their desired business outcomes. Technology is reviewed only to see how it supports or restricts the achievement of the culture and business needs.
An Operations & Infrastructure Assessment Model
The radar graph in Figure 1 depicts the results of an eight-factor operations and infrastructure assessment.
Objectives & Strategy
Corporate strategies change. The infrastructure that supported business goals in the firm’s earlier stages may no longer be appropriate.
The tactical assets of the business (structure, capabilities, processes, systems and tools and investments) must align, be coordinated, and support the corporate strategy and objectives.
Process and Systems
All assets in your firm have limits as to both their processing capability and capacity. The whole system is only as capable as the asset that is the limiting factor – the theory of constraints. Understanding capacity and capability limits is important for identifying opportunities for breakthrough, as well as preparing backup plans and investment road-maps to support growth.
Systems simply automate processes. Inefficient or poorly-designed processes cannot be fixed by systems. If the individuals responsible for the systems and infrastructure of the firm do not have the expertise to look beneath the system to the inherent effectiveness process it is automating, the firm will automate inefficiency.
This factor relates to the capabilities of the hardware, software, infrastructure, support staff and users of processes and systems. Technology investment (governance, corporate data base, storage, system performance, system functionality, availability, cloud, servers, recovery, workstations, software, people skills and security) needs to be implemented relative to the gaps they may fill in supporting the achievement of the firm’s business goals. It is not important to have the latest and greatest technology, but rather an appropriate level of technical currency.
A slow or convoluted financial close process is typically symptomatic of a poorly implemented or designed system, database or skills gap.
Security and Compliance
Security is not exclusively about preventing cyber-attacks from internal or external evil-doers. It’s about the basic process disciplines, compliance and training surrounding the handling, transportation and processing of password as well as client, customer and employee data. The vast majority of major data breaches in recent years were caused by a lack of internal data management and handling discipline.
Compliance is broader than just governmental regulations. It includes any outside organization that has the power to hold the firm accountable. This incorporates such entities as the firm’s insurance provider, bank or any other third party authorized to hold the firm accountable to contractual arrangements.
The systems required to run a growing, profitable business become more efficient and effective when they are integrated. This means each system can access the same data repository. Data should never have to exit the system, (exported temporarily into an excel spreadsheet or note), before having to find its way back to be operated on by the next critical system in the process.
There are three considerations in this regard:
- Internal Systems, or those operating wholly within the walls of the business.
- External Systems, or those operating wholly outside the business. Payroll and HR systems are common examples.
- Hybrid Systems, or those operating partially inside and partially outside the walls of the business. Pushing pieces of your system into the cloud, for example, brings an order of complexity to the overall system. Hybrid systems can result in a firm losing control of how it operates, as the external components of these systems are standardized for the masses of subscribers and not tailored to your business. They can also change on the whim of the provider – increasing your vulnerability to changes.
The most visible of all factors is a consistently bad user experience. It is typically symptomatic of larger, hidden issues – whether those be system or cultural.
Workers become frustrated when the data needed for them to do their jobs is not reliably and easily accessible. Systems must work well with no lag time. Slow systems response could indicate anything from an outdated workstation to something more serious – like a hacker has hijacked the server.
The Operations & Infrastructure assessment process described above is thorough and proven. Periodic re-assessments keep management informed of whether things are improving or getting worse. And getting started doesn’t require a huge investment, expert assistance or even following the complete assessment process described above.
We are happy to have brought some insight from our partner Lighthouse on a comprehensive Operations and Infrastructure assessment. We hope that the information has been informative. Please let us know if you would like an introduction to Lighthouse.
Additional Offer from Atmosera
Get an Azure Assessment valued at $5,000 for free *.
Continuing on with the assessment theme, during the first quarter of 2018, Atmosera is providing a special offer on an Azure assessment. If you are curious how a move to Azure may benefit your organization – improve efficiency, benefit your cost structure, or provide improved performance and functionality, Atmosera has a quick, reliable Azure assessment process. Here’s how it works:
- Based on your workloads: We collect and analyze data from your existing environment and evaluate its performance.
- In-person 2 hour workshop: Together we align your business needs to various Azure or hybrid options to modernize your environment, improve performance, or better manage risk.
- Comprehensive plan: We will present options and traded-offs including how a move to Azure can lead to improved business outcomes.
- Q1 2018 limited time offer: The cost of a typical Azure assessment is $5,000 which, as a part of this offer during the first quarter of 2018, we will provide to you for free.