What Game of Thrones can teach IT about managing office infrastructure

June 17, 20164 Minute Read

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Anyone who has watched Game of Thrones knows that keeping a hold on a kingdom is no easy feat. Alliances are constantly shifting, disasters constantly occurring, and clever politics can be just as important as a well-resourced army.

While Westeros may have more style and drama than the average workplace, managing office infrastructure can feel a little like attempting to keep control over a kingdom that threatens to erupt into chaos at any moment. Like the Winterfell Starks, the Lannister of Casterly Rock, and the Tyrell of Highgarden—IT managers have to navigate diverse and often conflicting interests from different corporate departments. The key to keeping the chaos at bay is to keep a cool head and have a clearly outlined strategy.

A complex kingdom

Like a leader in Game of Thrones, IT managers have to handle a seemingly infinite number of moving parts and, especially in times of war, figure out where limited resources will be best put to use. It’s their job to ensure that office infrastructure runs smoothly by staying on top of essential operation components, including hardware, software, processes, policies, human resources, data, and networks. They’re tasked with reducing operational costs while increasing efficiency and with leveraging technology to create as much value as possible.

IT managers also have to ensure that all information technology resources are allocated and managed appropriately, fulfilling functions like budgeting, administration and staffing, and occasionally, political finesse. It’s up to them to maintain alignment between IT and business strategies, and to implement IT that is responsive to the organization’s needs. If the king (or lord or general) and the ground troops aren’t on the same page, it becomes a recipe for disaster. And of course, IT managers have to put out fires.

This is a critically important job. Everything that happens within an organization depends on the office infrastructure According to TechTarget, research firm IDC says investments in infrastructure management have the largest single impact on an organization’s revenue.

It can also be an extremely challenging job. Office infrastructure is basically invisible. Many people within an organization don’t understand it and/or underestimate its importance, and this can make explaining infrastructure issues or reconciling differences difficult. At the same time, the stakes are high, because when something goes wrong, it’s a crisis that everyone notices, and the smallest details can end up wreaking major havoc. IT managers need infrastructure resources that allow them to keep their sanity intact.

Battle plan

The first step to effectively managing office infrastructure is to make smart investments. Budget should be only one concern. Reliability, efficiency, and agility are the tantamount considerations. Know what you’re looking for, research potential partners, and ask probing questions. Holding complete confidence in your IT investments and trusting your partners does wonders for reducing stress. As the Starks learned all too harshly, everything collapses when you don’t have the support you anticipated.

The next step is to establish patterns of effective interaction with those partners. A report from consulting firm McKinsey, based on 50 discussions with Fortune Global 500 heads of infrastructure, found that adopting a more commercial-style service model of interacting with internal business partners—such as application development teams, lines of business, and support services—improves the cost and delivery of IT services. This commercial-style model involves a number of “building blocks”: well-defined services, detailed pricing, accurate cost allocation, supply-and-demand metrics and benchmarks, a service-oriented organization, and supporting processes and tools.

These building blocks help IT managers understand exactly how much things cost and cut down on confusion. Transparency is key. Armed with clear, detailed information, IT managers can more effectively and efficiently make decisions. Careful prioritization is also essential for managing IT infrastructure. You can’t make all applications your number one concern; having a clear outline of priorities and consistently reassessing those priorities will keep you organized and balanced. Just as in Westeros, nothing stays the same for long. Priorities shift, things change, and surviving means being attuned to those changes and shifting along with them.

Office infrastructure may not be a matter of actual life or death, but it can be a matter of success or failure for a business. Maintaining control over so many different components, services, and interests isn’t easy, and it can be anxiety-inducing, but with a smart strategy and support system in play, the infrastructure kingdom can be kept under control.

Image Credit: Francois Philipp, Flickr

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