Guest post originally published on Snapt’s blog by Mark Trent
Upgrading an organization’s tech infrastructure can be a tricky affair.
On the one hand, there are technical people who are eager to work with upgraded technology, and who can easily see the technical benefits of new infrastructure and software in helping their organization achieve its objectives. On the other hand, you have business executives who have to balance massively complex budgets and keep a company profitable, and who might struggle to see how the cost of an infrastructure upgrade is justified.
Neither side is wrong as both have the best intentions for the company from their differing perspectives. The biggest problem is that often the technical and business components of a company are simply speaking different languages. Getting those parts of the business to speak in the same language is the key to successful communication.
For technical people eager to convince their respective management teams that upgrades are necessary, it means communicating to them in a way that matters to their aspect of accountability – which means often breaking things down into matters of revenue, efficiency, organizational benefit, and long-term profit.
Now, I want to add a caveat here that I do understand certain generalizations have been made in the above statements. In truth, many executive managers are very technically-minded and understand aspects of tech and many engineers are easily able to translate technical matters into business sense.
Hopefully, this article will be of use to those technical teams who are less equipped to cross that great divide and help them to motivate their business towards investing in improved infrastructure.
Learn how technology serves the business
The most important motivation behind any big project or infrastructure decision is understanding how it enables a company to meet its business objectives. While it can often be easy to justify replacement costs for technical benefits like ease of use, maintainability, performance, and security, the focus needs to be on tying the infrastructure improvements to the core purpose of a business and how it will enable the business to better achieve those aims. These aims might include
- getting more customers
- meeting customer demands more efficiently
- improving operational efficiencies
- growing revenue.
To do so means that as a technical team, you need to ensure you fully understand the core purpose of the business and the processes behind how it accomplishes the different business objectives.
If this is something the team cannot understand easily, it may mean doing some research and actually spending time with different facets of the business to learn how they use different systems to perform their jobs and where the current technology is perhaps failing them.
This might not initially seem interesting to a team that just wants to play with tech all day. But understanding the real problems a business faces can better shape how you communicate technical issues to others and can help identify opportunities to solve problems that can add real benefit to the company.
The above exercise should also serve as the perfect opportunity for helping your engineering team gather the data needed to measure how a company is doing in these areas. Critical decisions shouldn’t be made on preference or emotion, but be justified by solid data, and so your team needs to ensure they collect the appropriate data.
Make a strong business case
When you think your team has fully understood the greater business need and has gathered the appropriate data, then it’s time for you to start putting together that formal business use case and placing a focus on the following areas to convince the company that an infrastructure replacement project is the right choice.
A critical part of making big technology decisions is understanding how systems play a part in helping a company grow or maintain revenue. For a company selling a technical product (for example, an enterprise SaaS business) this is straightforward.
However, this can be difficult when technology does not provide the company’s direct source of income. In that case, it’s important for the technical team to understand how current systems help to drive things like payment, merchandising and logistics decisions, managing customers, and other aspects of the business. They can then take the following steps.
- Measure how changes in technology might drive improvement or efficiencies.
- Measure the financial impact of that improvement over a period of time.
- Calculate a return on investment against the initial capital outlay or increase in operating expenses.
For example, newer systems could help support staff:
- process customer queries more efficiently, or even automatically
- processing payments faster
- use critical customer data more intelligently
- make more informed decisions.
All of these benefits should be measurable in terms of revenue growth and this should be highlighted in any proposals.
While not all infrastructure or system changes will drive these improvements, they could still be justified in how they might impact other business-critical factors like security, governance, future performance, or just “keeping the lights on”.
In these cases, it’s important for the team to understand the financial impacts of failure in these areas and to use this to evaluate and justify upgrade costs.
For example, if the anticipated cost of a security breach is $10 million, and your security analysis estimates annual risk at 1% based on current infrastructure vulnerabilities, then spending $100,000 on new security infrastructure to address those vulnerabilities could be justified easily.
No one wants to work with a system that is slow or that requires a few extra steps to get things done.
It’s important for teams to understand how current systems are performing under existing corporate processes and determine if technical changes will have a positive impact on this. Yes, newer infrastructure might make software perform quicker, but the measurable improvement might not be significant enough to justify the expense – especially if a change in process is also required.
Teams should ensure that any changes have a positive impact on corporate efficiency and find the measurable data that could showcase this improvement. If technical teams can find ways to improve the efficiency of a business’s repeatable processes by 2-5%, that could easily justify an infrastructure upgrade.
This does require that your technical team both understands these processes and can effectively measure their impact on business operations.
We’ve spoken about a lot of critical points that can help a team calculate a return on investment and provide justification for new investment. However, none of this will matter if the team is not able to effectively communicate this to the business.
It can be easy to get lost in the technical details of a change, so it’s important that teams can take all this data they have collected and communicate it in a way that aligns with the core values of the business and speaks to revenue, efficiencies, and even employee wellbeing. Having the relevant data to justify this is also critical here.
Teams should focus on communicating simply and ideally use the data to drive their communication with the business. There is nothing wrong with dropping a few technical details here and there, but the focus should remain on connecting the project to what makes a company function and – most importantly – profitable.
As with many other things in life, decisions on technology infrastructure can easily come down to timing.
Teams can often be right in recommending a change, but “jump the gun” in recommending the move too soon – while current systems are still effective enough, or the people and processes are not ready, or the business has other financial pressures in the current period.
Equally, teams can be too late. While it is often easy to justify making a change slowly or at some point further in the future, delays can also lead to escalating costs or extended vulnerabilities. As a result, the company may no longer be in a position to afford the upgrade when the time comes.
Technical teams ought to be sensitive to the financial position of a business. If revenue is down, time might be better spent trying to solve that problem with existing systems before asking a company to spend money they don’t have on new infrastructure.
How can Snapt help?
We understand that putting all this information together isn’t easy. If you are interested in upgrading your application infrastructure for improved security, visibility, and control, and you are unsure how to build the business case for it, please contact the team at Snapt for a consultation. We will help you to calculate return-on-investment (ROI) and plan your successful infrastructure upgrade.
Obviously, we think Snapt solutions are a great option for an infrastructure upgrade – with next-generation load balancers, web application firewalls (WAF), web accelerators, and global server load balancing (GSLB). At the risk of blowing our own trumpet, we think we’ve got some good answers to many of the usual obstacles to upgrading.
Our affordable monthly prices, open APIs, and easy-to-use software lower many of the typical barriers to entry. Our customers can
- avoid an item of big initial capital expenditure
- integrate Snapt solutions with their existing systems and workflows without significant process change
- have any technical team member manage the solution without specialized training.
Give it a try and see for yourself how Snapt can help justify your next infrastructure upgrade.