Executive Summary:

Microsoft’s Dynamic IT initiative (which is based on the Infrastructure Optimization—IO—model) is intended to increase efficiency. Unfortunately, in a slow economy many companies will take improved efficiency as a reason to cut costs further by eliminating IT positions.

For the upcoming IT Pro Connections Conference (www.itproconnections.com), I’m preparing to chair a panel discussion about what keeps IT pros awake at night. Among all the possible sleep-stealing concerns, one theme keeps jumping out when I talk to Microsoft people: the Dynamic IT initiative, which is based on Infrastructure Optimization (the IO model). If you’re frowning skeptically and wondering why I might think this topic would keep you awake when you have more immediate concerns, let me explain.

The basic premise of Dynamic IT and the IO model is to decrease business costs by making IT more efficient: By optimizing computing infrastructure, IT can progress from the Basic level to become Standardized, then Rationalized, and finally Dynamic. According to Microsoft, “With this strategy and assistance from an experienced Microsoft team, forward-thinking organizations are implementing tools and techniques that drive down costs and dial up efficiency. By standardizing, automating, and more tightly controlling the IT infrastructure they manage in this way, these organizations are finding they can save hundreds of dollars per desktop each year.”

You might infer that I think you’re spending sleepless nights worrying about how to implement the IO model in your company. You probably should be, but that’s not my point.

Although Microsoft insists that Dynamic IT’s increased efficiency will “free up” IT pros to become more strategic, the concern is that most companies will consider those “freed-up” IT pros to be non-essential. Doubtless, some smart companies will embrace the idea of IT staff having time to think strategically and plan for future innovation—instead of barely having time to react to the latest crisis. However, what might wake you up at night is the idea that, especially in a slow economy, a lot of companies will take improved efficiency as a reason to cut costs further by eliminating IT positions.

Premier Ultimate Support
Let me give an example of how prevalent the IO model is within Microsoft. Not only are Microsoft developers building IO concepts into their products, but Dynamic IT is even making its way into Microsoft Support programs.

I recently spoke with Charlie DeJong, general manager of Support and Health, in the Microsoft Services organization. We discussed Microsoft’s announcement of availability of Microsoft Services Premier Ultimate (see www.microsoft.com/services/microsoftservices/srv_enterprise.mspx). According to Microsoft, Premier Ultimate “builds on the current Premier Support family of offerings by combining unlimited problem resolution support with current Premier features such as proactive IT health assessments, account management (both onsite and dedicated) and onsite support, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.”

DeJong added, “With Ultimate, we are engaging with existing customers with whom we have history and knowledge of their environment. We’re assessing their incident history and pain points and IT plans, and collaboratively coming up with a roadmap for additional preventative proactive services that they agree to consume over the course of a three-year contract.”

So although this new offering isn’t for most customers, it does show how Microsoft is laying the groundwork for helping companies become more efficient. The IO model comes into play as a benefit to Microsoft, as well as to the customer. DeJong said, “The further we can move customers up the IO maturity model, the healthier they are, the happier they are. Studying customer data, we realized that the more proactive services a customer consumed, the healthier they got, the less reactive support they consumed. We recognized that’s good for our customers and good for Microsoft. About the same time, customers started realizing the same thing, and we started hearing that they wanted a different relationship with Microsoft, where we were more focused on proactively moving ahead their IT agenda and increasing their IT uptime, and less focused on solving the problem du jour and less focused on managing hours that are consumed when reactive incidents arise.”

What Worries You?
Like the IO initiative in general, such offerings as Premier Ultimate can reduce IT workload and help IT evolve to provide business leadership. When I think of IO and IT sleeplessness, I don’t believe you should become an insomniac, worrying over losing your job when IT becomes more effective. What concerns me is that companies will hear only the parts of the IO message that they want to hear. I’m losing sleep over how to demonstrate to business management that, by focusing on innovation instead of having to be reactive, IT can bring increased value to the bottom line. What do you think?