Defining Transformation & Innovation at IT Infrastructure Layer

in this post, i present my thoughts on how to define a ‘transformation’ at an IT infrastructure layer by differentiating between an innovative solution and a transformation solution.

for the past few months, ‘transformation’ is the new buzz word for both, the customers looking for IT servcies and for the IT service providers. since there is no industry standard or a globally accepted definition of what constitutes a transformation solution, this term is used as per one’s convinience.  each customer that i have come across (ranging from fortune 500 to fortune 50) have their own way of defining a transformation initiative. each rfp for IT outsourcing now requires the service providers to present ‘transformation projects and approaches’.

in the recent past, many IT infrastructure management rfp’s are also requiring the IT infrastructure service providers to put on their thinking hats and present a “transformation roadmap” as part of the rfp response. customers are looking at solutions that can change the nature of IT infrastructure services. in my opinion, the problem of defining transformation gets even more tough as you go down the layers of IT. at a business process automation layer, it is much easier to define transformation than at the IT infrastrucutre layer.

so how do we define transformation at the lowest layer in the IT landscape – the IT infrastructure layer. for that we need to explore:-

  1.  who consumes the IT infrastructure and associated services,
  2. is there a standard taxonomy of the terms – innovtaion & transformation with respect to IT that can also be extended to IT infrastructure layer
  3.  apply that taxonomy to classify the projects into transformation & innovation based on how they impact the consumers of IT infrastructure & associated services.

1. identify who consumes the IT infrastructure services

looking from a consumer and provider point of view, i would like to start by defining the consumer of IT infrastructure services. these services are typically consumed directly or indirectly by the following entities:-

  • enterprise customers – in come cases the enterprise end customers consume the IT infrastructure services directly or indirectly by using business automation services/applications hosted on IT infrastructure (e.g amazon customers interact with online applications to buy/sell goods, which is hosted on the IT infrastructure).
  • enterprise application teams (use servers & operating systems provided and managed by IT Infrastructure services to host applications which typically automate or address business processes requirements)
  • enterprise IT customers – use network services to connect (and make use of services like DNS, DHCP, email etc) for the transfer of information etc

2. defining transformation & innovation

what is transformation and how it can be different from innovation? well going by the  very basic definition, these two terms can be explained as:-

  • innovation –  a new way of doing something; the goal of innovation is positive change, to make someone or something better.
  • transformation – the process of a major change in form, nature, or function; the goal of transformation is to change the very form/nature (caterpillar to butterfly)

 it is important to notice that innovation can be related to : “a postive change”, to “new way” of doing something and not necessarily doing something new. whereas, transformation: is addressed towards the very core of a form and initiaties and leads to the change in the form.

when the same definition is applied to IT infrastructure, innovation and transformation can be termed as:

innovation – new solutions to IT issues. and in that sense, transformation can be termed as-  solution addressing to change the very nature of consumption of IT services.

3. examples of innovation & transformation

using the concept of IT infrastructure consumers and the definitions of innovation vs transformation, i have tried to list down few solutions that  i think can be termed as innovation and which can evolve as transformation.

innovation – new way of doing traditional things; new solution to IT problems.

  • server consolitaion, virtualization – solves IT problems of under utilization of IT assets and hence are “innovative solutions”
  • email infrastructure consolidation by upgrading from Ms Exchange 2003 to 2007  – solves IT problems of email infrastructure consolidation

transformation – change the form; change the way IT infrastructure services are consumed by its consumers.

  • building enterprise private infrstructure cloud by using virtualization along with softwares like cassatt – changes the way IT Infrastructure services will be consumed by enterprise IT application teams who are direct consumers of the services.
  • unified messaging solution – integration MsExchange 2007 with unified messaging solution will change the way enterprise IT users will use collaboration solutions like email, instant messaging and voice/telco services.

any thoughts/feedback?

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