Cisco Measures the State of IT Operations Readiness

While many organizations still spend most of their IT budgets on keeping things running, organizations that do invest in IT innovation see improved customer satisfaction, according to Cisco.

Cisco IT Readiness Index

IT operations can be complex, and determining how mature and ready those operations are for change and innovation has long been a challenge for many organizations.

Cisco announced its IT Operations Readiness Index on Nov. 1, in an attempt to help quantify IT maturity levels. The new index is based on a survey of over 1,500 senior IT leaders from around the world. The index includes definitions on different maturity levels for readiness and also provides insight on where organizations are today. The report noted that 78 percent of IT budgets are spent on "running the business" as opposed to being allocated for innovation initiatives.

"This kind of number has been floating around for a while and varies depending on who you ask and whether it includes aspects like headcount, power and cooling, and facilities," Joseph Bradley, Cisco’s global vice president of IoT, blockchain and AI, told eWEEK. "It’s important to raise as a topic because it forces us to consider whether IT is a cost center or a driver of change and value creation in the business." 

Overall, Bradley said that the IT Operations Readiness Index looks at all areas of infrastructure, and assesses how well organizations handle events using analytics and automation. 

Bradley added that cyber-security is definitely a part of the “readiness” aspect of the report. For example, he said that during an outage or a security breach, effective general infrastructure operational procedures will have a significant impact on cyber-security readiness. This could include enforcing policy, making timely and consistent changes, applying patches and monitoring health, which will close vulnerabilities and detect anomalies. 

According to Cisco's survey, there is a correlation between IT investment and improved outcomes.

"Eighty-eight percent of respondents saw improved customer satisfaction when asked specifically whether their investment in transforming IT operations has produced benefits in the past 12 months," Bradley said. "We think that’s really powerful."

Operation Readiness Phases

Cisco identified four key maturity stages to define the IT readiness of an organization. The four categories include reactive, proactive, predictive and pre-emptive. Bradley explained that the four maturity stages are based on outcomes and capabilities—what they’re able to do and not what people, process and technologies they have put in place to get there.  

The survey found that 38 percent of organizations are proactive today, learning from past events to improve processes. In contrast, 26 percent were identified as being reactive, with IT staff reacting to operational events as they happen. Only 14 percent of organizations were identified as being pre-emptive, using data to continuously optimize outcomes.

"We saw definite tendencies—the more advanced organizations that gathered more data, analyzed more data, used more kinds of analytics and used automation more widely were more likely to have a chief data officer," Bradley said. "These organizations also had more data scientists, were more likely to be using AI and were more likely to be using outside vendors for various operational activities, and so on."

For organizations looking to improve their IT readiness, Bradley said there's no silver bullet. At a high level, it's impossible to move up the maturity levels without having a clear view of what’s going on in the infrastructure, which requires data and an ability to act on it quickly, which is why automation is required. He added that Cisco's view is that AI will play an important role in both analysis of data and automating operations tasks. 

"It's worth noting that more advanced organizations did not allocate more budget to IT operations transformation," Bradley said. "This is not a case where throwing money at the problem will solve it, necessarily."

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at eWEEK and Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

Sean Michael Kerner

Sean Michael Kerner

Sean Michael Kerner is an Internet consultant, strategist, and contributor to several leading IT business web sites.