By: Patrick White and Simos Hadjiyiannis
Unreliable, inefficient IT infrastructures plague companies across industries. Often, leaders are so focused on driving innovation, they’re unable to prioritize the rationalization and consolidation of their IT infrastructure.
As a result, their IT operations are inefficient, the environments are unstable, and they’re costly to run. What’s worse, most leaders are unaware of how their growing IT footprint—or “IT sprawl,” as we call it—is negatively impacting their business operations and customer relationships.
So, how do you know if your company suffers from IT sprawl, and what can you do to treat this IT ailment?
How to identify if your IT footprint is overgrown
We’ve worked in global IT for over 20 years in multiple industries. Across all industries, We’ve consistently seen six signs that a company faces IT sprawl:
- Integration problems: Too many variations, technologies, and services trying to integrate into one cohesive system will create a massive and inefficient IT sprawl.
- Difficulty finding the right talent: The ongoing IT skills gap is well documented. Meanwhile, one of the hallmarks of IT sprawl is the variety and complexity of an organization’s IT systems. These combined challenges can make it especially hard to find people with the specialized skills required to manage the various systems effectively.
- Complicated maintenance agreements: Too many products or systems in the environment can cause confusion and lead to repeated contract revisions to account for new infrastructure.
- Ever-growing cost: The IT cost per person will likely be too high if the IT footprint is too great. These costs will vary widely depending on the industry. For example, IT cost for an oil company will be different from a call center company. It’s important for leaders to understand what the benchmark is for their specific industry.
- Low utilization and siloed data storage: Servers and infrastructure may be underutilized by the teams using them. Too many varying environments, applications, and platforms cause massive inefficiency and overlapping capabilities. Siloed data storage is also one of the biggest examples of IT sprawl. All these factors are indicative of a clear need for consolidation.
- Shadow IT: Shadow IT occurs when IT assets and systems are introduced and managed by non-IT personnel. For example, an engineering team may install and manage their own application server without IT’s awareness. These situations exacerbate IT sprawl and introduce security, availability, reliability, and other risks to the company.
Many of these signs and symptoms are the direct results of mergers and acquisitions (M&A), decentralized IT departments, and shifting CIO priorities. A company with numerous M&A will result in added IT that has likely not been organized or consolidated accordingly.
Similarly, a company with decentralized IT could be managed across different regions, functions, and offices, making governance or management of the infrastructure very challenging. Additionally, when a CIO doesn’t have a concrete strategy or the priorities keep changing, a company’s IT sprawl grows unnecessarily.