Return to site

Rethinking I&O Staffing

in Digital Business Environments


· Articles

The roles of CIOs in organizations are morphing from managing infrastructure and operations (I&O) to driving digital business initiatives that deliver bottom-line contributions. This shift in focus has caused many organizations, more than 70% according to some industry analysts, to use the cloud to gain early access to new platforms and shift spending from CapEx to OpEx (1). Indeed, hybrid cloud infrastructures have moved from being an aspirational goal to a reality with cloud spending now accounting for approximately 50% of IT spending and growing.

This rapid increase in cloud spending alongside persistent skills shortages and budget constraints should prompt many organizations to rethink their org charts, job descriptions, and processes to better align with digital business initiatives, new technical realities, and spending patterns. The need to contain wasteful cloud costs, often estimated to be in the 15% to 25% range, has led to the emergence of FinOps as a discipline (2). Table 1 outlines an approach to achieving these strategic objectives.

broken image

Table 1 Strategy for Aligning I&O Staff with Digital Business Infrastructures


Form Follows Function

Allowing applications and use cases to drive infrastructure design improves agility, efficiency, and manageability while reducing costs and technical deficits. Applying this same “form follows function” approach to organizational design provides similar benefits by helping CIOs, architects, and Operations to better understand the impacts of infrastructure decisions and technology and marketing trends on organizations. For example, configuring and managing hyper-converged infrastructure is different from orchestrating resources for cloud-native apps or managing standalone AI systems. Likewise, outsourcing infrastructure management to a managed solution provider (MSP) or bringing cloud tech on-premises also affects organizational roles. The following checklist should prove useful in hiring decisions, defining new job titles, and building cross-functional teams.

  • Align processes and metrics with business and operational objectives.
  • Hold team members accountable for the team’s successes and failures.
  • Create a culture that embraces change and taking calculated risks that offer a high risk/reward ratios.

Identify Missing, Excess, and Obsoleted Skills

Automation tools that insert themselves between administrators and the systems they manage improve staff productivity and application reliability even as they frequently decrease the need for knowledge of hardware system internals. Configuring and managing storage, networking, and backups/restores are inherently more complex than managing servers. Hence automating the configuration, managing, and provisioning of storage and networking resources generally delivers shorter ROIs and faster improvements in user satisfaction than server provisioning. Modern in-house infrastructures are not the datacenters of old, but use “cloud-like” provisioning & management software layers to remove low level infrastructure/hardware skills. Policy-based backups/restores and continuous alert monitoring ensure that SLAs (service level agreements) are honored by minimizing human errors and undetected failures. Allowing users to initiate their own restores further improves staff productivity and user satisfaction.

Justify investments in new AIOps tools by:

  • Analyze historic storage and networking growth versus headcount growth.
  • Include learning curve costs in calculating the cost of a new hire
  • Calculate lost opportunity costs caused by an inability to hire missing skills
  • Estimate productivity improvements from automation, planned hybrid cloud integrations

Explore Multiple Solutions to the Persistent Skills Shortages Problem

Skills shortages and budget constraints are so prevalent and have existed for so long that they have become defining characteristics of most users’ IT organizations. This suggests that the most viable solutions to solving staff shortages are increasing the use of more autonomic systems, AIOps, or outsourcing to managed service providers (MSPs) or cloud service providers (CSPs).

Customers who manage their MSPs effectively maintain control of their sensitive information but otherwise treat them as adjuncts to their IT teams (3). Many MSPs offer customers the option of keeping their infrastructure on-premises, in their data centers, or at third-party data centers. MSP services may vary by vendor. but commonly include tech support, active administration, business continuity, cybersecurity, consulting services, and CapEx or OpEx purchasing options.

Users evaluating MSPs should invite both on-premises infrastructure vendors and pure-play MSPs to bid for their business; this ensures that opportunities are not missed. Offering MSP options to users increases the visibility of lost opportunity costs and helps senior management prioritize spending. As with all outsourcing agreements users are strongly advised to negotiate strong guarantees with easily enforceable remedies and to keep ownership of workloads that can damage an organization’s reputation, revenues, or business operations.

Choose Automation Tools Based on Needs

Before evaluating AIOPs tools set a planning horizon based on asset management considerations and hybrid-cloud plans. With technology and the market rapidly evolving, planning horizons more than 5 to 7 years out are mostly exercises in hubris. Choosing tools that provide needed functionality and the best ease of use over the planning horizon rather than those with the most “bells and whistles” may reduce learning curves and costs by increasing competition from non-incumbent vendors.


Measuring the success of investments in new technologies, hybrid, and cloud-native applications by their bottom-line contributions has exposed the need to update org charts, job descriptions, and processes to improve agility and operational efficiency. Beginning with low-risk changes such as reducing wasteful cloud spending builds support and the probability of org and job responsibility changes achieving long-term success.

- Stanley Zaffos, AdvisorLionfish Tech Advisors, Inc.