Throughout my career I have helped many companies build IT strategies and roadmaps from both a technology and business perspective. A common strategic theme is accessing information to aid the decision making process on how to move IT and the business forward. Pre-2012, I would say that this had been a fairly high-level approach adopted in the industry.

This process can last a number of weeks and can involve a number of iterations. Common challenges include inaccurate data, risks of not being specific enough to business units and being very technically focused, one of my old mentors used to say that we had to “leverage scale but be intimate when required”. This rings especially true when you’re defining strategy that has to deliver services to multiple lines of business across multiple geographies.

I mentioned 2012 in my opening as it was around this time I saw a shift in the market. While the holy grail of dependency mapping internal systems were still being fought by every EA and Config Management group I came into contact with. New analytics vendors like Splunk, which have been around for a little while, had started to join the dots by taking an almost ground up approach – security and event log management across infrastructure and applications = operational intelligence and fairly accurate view of how systems talk to each other.

This view of dependencies started to form the basis of automated and intelligent operational management as well as helping organisations to start on the path of using almost real time data analytics to inform the future business and IT strategy. Thus, reducing the steps in Figure 1 by half and the number of iterations and meetings 10 fold.

From 2014 this analytics view and approach had to become richer as organisations required not only an internal view, but also one consideration had to be the rise of Cloud services across the organisation as the move and use of products such as Salesforce, Office365, Google and Dropbox became prevalent. Not only in terms of managing the security of organisational data but also to help analyse user and business patterns to help inform strategy. This analytics approach is now helping many organisations become “intimate first and provide the ability to leverage scale”.

Seeing and being involved in ‘operationalising’ services such as DropBox, Google Apps and Office365 by first using analytics to understand demand and usage has helped many IT organisations to be seen as business focussed, user centric and a true partner.