Vertical versus horizontal thinking for enterprise IT

In the past, vertical thinking dominated a lot of decision-making about IT infrastructure. Terms such as “end-user,” “middleware” and “technology stack” all imply sets of vertical connections. These processes could stretch from the depths of data storage to the heights of an “operations bridge,” where all knowledge steers to a particular company with foresight and purpose on show.

However, competitive advantage usually slides in from horizontal points on the compass. Suddenly your enterprise is standing in the shadow of a competitor with a faster, fitter, smarter innovation, and you’re left wondering why you didn’t adopt that innovation first.

Larger enterprises are particularly prone to focusing on what’s best for their technology stack rather than what’s right for their business. Historically, this focus was inevitable: The rigours of managing an enterprise-wide IT backbone demand a sharp focus on core operations, security and network stability.

Think about the eras of IT procurement. Starting with the first generation, services were sourced by tower. Over time we recognised that towers had little in common and that the interplay between the towers of infrastructure and applications simply didn’t exist. This drove the emergence of the lowest common denominator of service. The business became frustrated, and IT needed a new model.

In response, multi-source procurement broke it up into best-of-breed and commodity services to better match needs. This drove a need for interfaces to connect and integrate. However, over time this created a “spaghetti” environment and a multitude of suppliers. Of course, this also required significant resources to maintain.

Today we’re particularly good at getting those vertical linkages right; we know how to centralise our data and IT services. Yet this set up has made it slow and expensive for the business to develop, build and launch new ideas and innovations. Over the last five or so years, we have witnessed business leaders going around central IT departments.

Now, horizontal connections and thinking are more important. As more and more business units look beyond their existing IT infrastructure, they’re demanding access to killer apps in the cloud, flexible remote working, access to external data services and more. 

Central IT departments need to focus on horizontal opportunities more proactively and purposefully. This calls for the seamless integration of towers — even the elimination of towers — so that businesses can deliver integrated customer experiences.

This change requires a shift in mindset and processes. As well as considering the best technology stack, the best technology ecosystem also needs consideration.

That’s where a great technology partner comes in.

The differentiating factor for many organisations comes from the relationships they have with their technology partner. The right technology partner can open doors to an entire ecosystem of innovations; these ecosystems enable enterprises to sidestep many challenges with integration, security and data.

 Do you really need a technology partner; can’t you just do it yourself?

Today’s business technology solutions are so numerous, varied and complex that it can be difficult for a single internal team to master everything a business needs. In many cases, the depth of specialised knowledge required to get the most out of certain technologies exceeds the capabilities of an internal team. Certainly, given the accelerating pace of emerging technologies — now spanning well beyond the traditional information and communications technology realm into operational technologies, wearables and Internet of Things — it’s unreasonable for any central IT department to keep abreast of, let alone make strategic decisions alone.

This means that useful features may be missed or misused, or that solutions are not properly integrated with existing systems, leaving solutions operating in less than optimal conditions.  At the extreme, lack of internal experience or knowledge of a particular technology solution can lead to irreversible technical problems that could damage other systems within the business.

For these reasons and more, when it comes to technology ecosystems, doing it all yourself isn’t really a viable option any longer. The only real way forward is to choose a great partner – a Delivery Partner of Partners, that will minimise friction and provide the speed of innovation and evergreen IT services that will be required for continuous customer experience improvements, at ever-reducing costs.

Is your enterprise stuck in a vertical mindset or open to the horizontal future?



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  1. […] Vertical versus horizontal thinking for enterprise IT […]


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