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King Philip Came Over For Good Steak: The Taxonomy of IT PT 2

Posted by: Geoff Smith
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King Philip Came Over For Good Steak: The Taxonomy of IT PT 2

IT's Kingdom Classification- Phylum

In Part 1, I set up a conversation that compares the classification of IT to the taxonomy for biology, which we all (ideally) learned in high school.  Using the seven levels of classification, I began to outline how we can determine the genealogy of technology as it exists today in IT environments.  The hope is that we can use this taxonomy to categorize IT environments and identify those where our specific services and values align, and to better guide our customers moving forward.

At the Kingdom level, I identified three business/IT classifications that focused on how IT is viewed by the business.  These were Cost Center, Operational Enabler, and Profit Generator.  Within each of these, we can further define the characteristics of any particular environment with the next layer of taxonomy:  Phylum.  Because so much of the taxonomy comes from root Latin, I took the liberty to subtly insert some Latin
flavor, so I beg forgiveness in advance.

In biology, Phylum is used to group organisms into divisions based on a general body type.  Back to our Honey Badger, it resides in the Phylum Cordata, indicating that it has a core body structure based of a hollow dorsal nerve cord (basically a spine and brain stem configuration).  And since we know Codata exists within the Kingdom Animala, we also know from this one term that the Honey Badger is not a plant, bacteria, nor a fungus.  So using this as a guideline, we can divide each IT Kingdom into several phyla, which characterizes IT by its general operating philosophy.

Kingdom Cost Center

Phyla Prehistorica -   IT thinks in terms of the past versus the present or future.  Judgment and evaluation are based on what has worked in the past, even if that past includes such gems as LattisNet and Microsoft BOB.  The perspective of a Prehistoric is often skewed against newer innovations as being less secure, less flexible, or just plain not needed.

Phyla Genericus – The use of “generics” or consumer-grate alternatives to Tier 1 solutions.  For example, white box servers and free editions of software.  Support and updates may be available if the vendor is not retired and living on a beach somewhere, however the response and coverage offerings are usually less than complete.  Integration and cross-platform troubleshooting is a challenge, as well as creating value statements for moving toward top-tier platforms.  I’ve encountered NFR implementations in production, and a fear of the term licensing (not that I blame them for that).

Phyla Customata – Environments where IT looks at customization as a badge of honor and an expression of talent.  While some percentage of customization may be beneficial to the business, going this far degrades the ability of the organization to stay within view of technology best practices, or to adopt newer technologies that may solve the same problems in a more efficient way.  The business may not realize it, but they are at the mercy of the customizing agent.  Resistance is futile, to give a shout out to my Star Trek homies.

Kingdom Operational Enabler

Phylm Isolata – Environments that are tightly controlled by entrenched, long term IT staff or vendors. While the platforms may have been built to specification at the time, they are now customized or controlled to protect the interests of the original implementers or sponsors.  Change here is all but impossible, without the buy in of those currently in control. The underlying theme in these environments is one of “go along to get along.” Find your niche, and demonstrate your value, and your role may expand.

Phyla Impervius -  Working with impervious environments requires skills different than those of the isolata.  IT staff and management stay up to date on IT trends and technologies, but because these environments are viewed differently based on the perspective of business units or managers, investment is not a sure thing.  Therefore, IT will be very selective in where they apply their dollars, and will push back relentlessly if their internal concepts differ from yours.

Phyla Supersizus-  Often in IT environments that have successfully begun to bridge the gap between Cost and Profit, growth is exponential.  We see scenarios where the user to server ratio approaches 2:1.  Where the technology may not be top of the line (see genericus), the availability of funding has been consumed too quickly.  Scale and redundancy may have been addressed, but with a result of being overbuilt. Unless these environments are reigned in and operational costs reduced, the next round of funding may force IT to buy from the dollar menu.

Kingdom Profit Center

Phyla Complexia – When dealing with Profit Centers, often you run into complex environments that utilize great technology and have very skilled IT talent.  While initially your role may be minimal, great success can be had by showing forward looking value.  Concentrating on understanding the why and how of their IT choices are critical, so that you can find gaps to work from.  Internally, IT may not think that vendors and providers can assist due to their purpose-built and complex platforms, so break down the walls by addressing individual gaps and not trying to overreach.  Show value, build a relationship, and it’s a win/win.

Phyla Adequata – Even though IT is profit generating, that does not mean that the business provides an open checkbook. In this phyla, IT is built to the levels required to maintain a pre-defined level of benefit to the business. If the platform is operational and meeting demand, then IT focuses on operational initiatives and feature benefits. Performance or future growth is not the determining factor for investment, but should challenges arise, money will be spent to continue to keep IT up to speed.  Think in terms of Legos here.  The base is built, has a solid operating foundation, and as need arises blocks of capacity or features are added.  Virtualization and cloud is a great play here, as the technical concept matches very closely to the underlying business/IT philosophy.

Phylm Simplicitus – There exists a segment of the Profit Center Kingdom that prides itself on simplicity when it comes to IT.  Keeping things streamlined, creating automated processes and change control, and living by a mantra of alignment to best practices allows IT to focus on more strategic requirements.  Often in this phyla, you will find IT will consider many alternatives to challenges or initiatives and settle on the one that provides the least disruption to their current “way of life.”  They may forgo that one differentiating feature in order to maintain the status quo. This can be a very effective philosophy for the business, and IT acts as the guardian at the gate.

When looking over these divisions, you can see some common characteristics in Phylum under different Kingdoms.  That’s ok, because these are not hard and fast rules but, rather, guidelines.  You certainly can have a Cost Center that has Impervius characteristics, or a Profit Center in the grips of a Customata culture.

Think of the Phylum division like a movie trailer.  By understanding the Kingdom/Phylum relationship, you may be able to avoid plunking down $24 bucks on the next Mars Needs Moms bomb.

Part 3 Coming Your Way Soon!

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