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'What-If IT: A Management Must in Uncertain Times'

Lokesh Jindal, GM, IT Business Management, CA Technologies
Lokesh Jindal, GM, IT Business Management, CA Technologies

Lokesh Jindal, GM, IT Business Management, CA Technologies

IT leaders face extreme uncertainty. They are scrambling to intake, and analyze massive volumes of Data. At the same time, the meteoric embrace of tablets and smartphones is putting tremendous pressure on IT to deliver high-quality mobile apps. Plus, while social media may have been the last thing on CIOs’ minds just a few years ago, today there are half a million Facebook comments and 100,000 tweets every minute that IT has to mine for social sentiment and marketing opportunities.

Such conditions make life very uncertain for IT leaders. How much processing power and storage will they need over the next 12-18 months? Will they have to build and manage 200 new mobile apps —or 1000? Which cloud partners can offer them the most flexible access to the most cost-effective capacity?

In other words, IT leaders have to deliver on known near-term business requirements while also making sure they're ready to reallocate resources as necessary to deliver on requirements that are slightly less near-term—but potentially far less predictable.

This uncertainty makes "what-if" management an absolute necessity. You simply can't prepare yourself for an uncertain future unless you can ask concrete "what-if" questions about that future. What if customers start using ten times more than we currently project them to? What if mobile payments grow 1000 percent instead of 200 percent? What if we have to monitor an entirely new form of social media?

IT leaders can't afford to over-provision their development and production capacity in order to fulfill every conceivable business requirement. If they could, planning would hardly even be necessary.

But IT leaders do have to consider multiple possible business requirements—and understand how the decisions they make today potentially affect their ability to respond to those requirements. They also have to be prepared to make new decisions in the face of new requirements. And "what-if" management is exactly what they need to intelligently consider those possibilities.

For example, one answer to the question "What if our customer-facing mobile apps generate 10x projected demand?" might be "We will need $45,000 of additional infrastructure." The next logical question might be "Is $45,000 cost-justified by that additional demand?" If so, then it may make sense to plan on having the appropriate line of business fund the additional infrastructure out of its own P&L. If not, it may make sense to talk to that line of business about potential performance issues. 'What if' analysis drives better engagement with the business as well and IT truly becomes a partner to the business.

The bottom line is that in a time of such dramatic and unpredictable change, the only way to plan effectively is with good "what-if" analysis.

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