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IBM Study Reveals Why a Strong IT Foundation Changes the Conversation

Jacqueline D. Woods, global marketing VP, Systems Software and Growth Solutions, IBM Systems and Technology Group - Photo by Bill Bernstein

Just a decade ago, conversations about infrastructure took place mostly among IT professionals in the data center, focusing on speed, reliability and cost reduction. Today, infrastructure conversations are occurring throughout the enterprise, including the C-suite, various departments such as sales and marketing, and IT. The discussion is much broader, encompassing cloud, analytics, mobile and social. Infrastructure is on everyone’s mind, not just the CIO’s.

“[The study] helps you start the conversation so you can begin working on the transformation.”
—Jacqueline D. Woods, global marketing VP, IBM

The rapid rise of technology and interconnectivity is driving infrastructure changes and discussions. Ten years ago, people didn’t have two or three devices apiece, there wasn’t an application for everything and wireless data communications weren’t common. That’s all changed. “When you look at the acceleration of connectedness, there’s almost a tipping point that occurs that says, boom, now I can connect everything,” says Jacqueline D. Woods, global marketing vice president, Systems Software and Growth Solutions, IBM Systems and Technology Group. “Having everything connected provides me with significant benefits such as improved productivity. Once I experience those benefits, I want more.”

For example, the financial services industry demonstrates how infrastructure has had to adapt. Over the past decade, a customer with a 401(k) has progressed from reading paper reports to being able to access the 401(k) portfolio online with real-time analytics at the ready. Today’s customer can analyze multiple retirement funds, research potential investments and change allocations in real time and on any device.

“At any point in time, I can look to see what’s going on and, more importantly, I can create a transaction. This trend has empowered consumers,” Woods explains. “It has clearly put more stress on the IT infrastructure that has to support all of the transactions and inquiries, analysis, information and integration. As a business, how do I take my systems of record, which are keeping track of financial portfolio data, and integrate them with systems of engagement such as mobile platforms or location-based services? That’s the new paradigm. It’s not a step function. It’s a shift.”

To meet those challenges, enterprises need an infrastructure that has efficiency, agility, speed and connectedness. “Low-latency, parallel processing, high-throughput, input, output and fast query response times are all characteristics and capabilities of a robust infrastructure,” Woods notes. Companies with that kind of infrastructure and capabilities have a competitive advantage.

Strategic IT Connectors

A recent study by the IBM Institute for Business Value supports this idea. “The IT infrastructure conversation” was authored by Woods and colleagues Nate Dyer, Pamela Hurwitch and Eric Lesser. The study found that a group of leading organizations—the Strategic IT Connectors—was better prepared to leverage the megatrends in IT than organizations that didn’t view IT strategically, the Siloed IT Operators. The Strategic IT Connectors were more prepared for big data and analytics and employed these tools more than others, Woods says. They were ready to use a cloud environment because they had a vision around efficiency, deployment and orchestration. They were more in tune with social and mobile. As a result, these companies tend to outperform their peer group across all industries covered in the study. “These companies are using their infrastructures as the underpinning of growth, which is important,” she adds.

Shirley S. Savage is a Maine-based freelance writer. Shirley can be reached at

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