Why Technology Infrastructure Really Does Matter

By Joe Clabby

I recently had the opportunity to join a debate with fellow analysts (and friends) Judith Hurwitz and Adrian Bowles – as well as with Anna Topol, an IBM chief technical officer – that can be found here.   (At least I hope we’re all still friends). My key take away from this event had to do with the definition of infrastructure. It seemed like pulling teeth to get everyone to agree on a common definition of infrastructure.

To me, infrastructure is the hardware and software that makes it possible to run applications and databases. It includes servers/storage/networks – and it includes systems software, middleware and whatever other programs are needed to deal with applications and data (such as security, data management, and so on). Still not sure if my fellow analysts agree with my definition (it may be too broad).

Following the debate, I read two books in a three book series about how to run an IT organization. I’d like to share some of the information in these books with you because I think together they present the best argument ever on why infrastructure really does matter.

Okay, here goes: I think the last time I wrote a book review was in fourth grade (I read a book about the Alamo and used a typewriter to write my report). So what has prompted me to write another review fifty years later? It’s the fact that this book is so good I just had to tell somebody…

In 2011 I wrote a company profile on Blue Cross Blue Shield of South Carolina (BCBSSC). To write this profile I interviewed Stephen K. Wiggins, who is BCBSSC’s chief information officer – and coauthor of the book series including “Picasso on a Schedule” and “Managing Picasso” (he has partnered with Kenneth C. Abernethy, a PHD from Furman University). The company profile congratulated BCBSSC for its organizational structure (which I likened to the Star Trek “borg” – robot-like aliens who worked in unison for the common good of the collective) – although Wiggins organization encourages IT personnel to constantly adapt, change and specialize. I also congratulated the company on its philosophy, its rigorous development environment, its aggressive commitment to using standards, its best practice implementations – and its ongoing commitment to help grow IT skills in South Carolina – and beyond. To me, BCBSSC represents the pinnacle of how an information technology (IT) organization should be run.

Both books are subtitled “the art and science of managing IT” – and that’s exactly what these books provide: a view from one of the most insightful CIOs in the industry and business commentary from a business visionary on how IT should be managed as a business. These books can be used as handbooks on how to structure an IT organization (using PaulGustavson’s Organizational System Design Model – or IT-OSD); how to manage an IT organization using a hierarchical matrix approach; how to resolve conflicts; and, finally, how to run IT as a profit center and a business. And within these books readers will find the best answers to why infrastructure really matters.

I intend to write a much deeper review of these books at some point over the next two week. But for now, if you really want to get a handle on why infrastructure matters, I encourage you to at least read the table of contents for these books – or potentially grab them at Amazon using the links provided.

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