Unify Your Stack

Unlock the Potential in Your People, Processes, and Products

Written by Kate Lake on June 9, 2022

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As organizations grow and change, it’s only natural for their tech to follow suit. But if IT growth isn’t approached strategically, it tends to sprawl. Integrations get complex. Shadow IT sneaks its way in. You spend chunks of your day on the phone with vendors. And suddenly, your infrastructure’s so dispersed, you’re not sure you can see it all at once, let alone catch and address problems as they arise. 

This snowball effect makes your infrastructure weaker, less manageable, and more vulnerable to compromise. Whether you’re currently dealing with the effects of an overgrown stack, or looking to keep your infrastructure streamlined to prevent sprawl, IT unification can help.

Unifying your stack can both counteract sprawl that’s already occurred and prevent your infrastructure from overstretching in the future. It’s a lift that lightens all other loads: it makes it easier to see and manage your IT assets. It empowers employees with the processes and experiences they need to be productive. And it keeps costs low and security high.

Like many IT admins, you may be working with existing equipment, processes, dependencies, and unique quirks that make unification seem a bit out of reach. But there’s a process designed to account for the stubborn, the complex, and the weird that can take you from your current setup to your dream future state: one where everything just works. 

We can walk you through that process. 

The Benefits of Unification

Over the next few months, JumpCloud will be diving into the four steps to unifying your stack with all the resources, insights, and how-tos you’ll need to follow along. And like many other IT professionals who have made the unification journey, you’ll likely find that the benefits were more than worth the up-front work. 

Make your infrastructure work for you (not against you).

By day, you’re an IT professional. By night, you’re probably also an IT professional. 

In IT, it can feel like the work never stops — and that’s because it never really does. Your security, hosting, and backups can’t afford to close shop at 5:00 with the rest of the office. But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be able to.

When your infrastructure’s a mess, everything’s a mess — which can make working reasonable hours feel like a lofty dream. But when your infrastructure’s tight and streamlined, things just… work. With a unified architecture centered around a core, data reports to a single source of truth. Manual processes get automated with reliable integrations. Visibility becomes clear and accessible. All of which make managing your stack infinitely easier — which means it’s also easier to adapt your infrastructure to growth and change. 

So by day, you may still need to be an IT professional. But by night, you can just be you. 

Achieve security that’s so good, you can actually sleep at night.

Work stress dreams are one thing. Work nightmares are another — and the Security Breach Nightmare is one of the worst. You know, the one where your boss calls you at 3 a.m. to tell you that all systems are down and you need to come right now to fix everything. 

It’s not pleasant.

But it’s a common one for IT professionals, and unfortunately, it’s not an impossibility. For IT professionals without a strong security posture, it’s more realistic than they may like to believe. If you’re in this boat, you’re not alone — and you don’t have to panic. Unifying your stack can do leaps and bounds for your security. 

First, it smooths out all the kinks in your integrations. We know, we know — you and your team worked hard on those custom APIs. But when it comes down to it, native integrations are king. 

Adversaries look for unstable integrations as easy pathways into your network. Unifying your stack replaces weak integrations with a strong foundation of native ones. It creates a tighter defense that’s harder to penetrate and, therefore, less appealing as a target. 

And better yet, a smaller set of tools makes monitoring and reporting easier. Getting full visibility into your stack doesn’t have to feel like an unattainable luxury; with a unified stack, you can easily program your reporting tools to capture everything you need to see within your architecture.

And when you have a carefully curated stack, shadow IT sticks out like a thumb drive in 2022. That makes it easier to spot and address shadow IT as it occurs, allowing you to keep your stack unified long term. 

At first, it may feel counterproductive to concentrate your security functions rather than spread them out; however, the idea of diversifying assets in the name of security often gets taken to an extreme, where IT professionals no longer feel they have control over their environment’s security. Unity, by contrast, gives you clarity, confidence, and thorough knowledge of your systems. It grants your organization reliable, maintainable, and affordable security through clear visibility and strong communication amongst the tools in your infrastructure. Ultimately, a strategically unified infrastructure allows you to both build a better defense and mount a quick and confident offensive, should the moment arise.  

Trusting in your infrastructure’s security not only eases your day-to-day, but it also relieves some of the stress you may take home with you. It makes the Security Breach Nightmare less probable and more manageable. And it helps you improve productivity, strike a healthy work/life balance, and maybe sleep a little more soundly.

Unlock vendor efficiencies. 

Your friends think you sit in the basement coding all day (hood up). Your coworkers think you have a magic “fix it” button to make all their technology work. Your mom thinks you’re saving the world.

In the range of what people imagine you do when you say you work in IT, we doubt anyone’s picturing you sitting on the phone with vendors.

But, even Clark Kent worked a day job, and even IT professionals have to work with vendors. 

That doesn’t have to be a bad thing.

Working with vendors is a chore at best when your infrastructure is working against you. But when everything’s working together and moving in the same direction, it’s almost like you really do have a magic “fix it” button for everything.

That’s because vendors are meant to be partners rather than transaction facilitators. When businesses allow the number of tools in their infrastructure to get away from them, they end up with too many vendors to form a meaningful partnership with any of them. But in an environment where your tools are consolidated and unified, you reduce the number of vendors you work with while deepening your relationship with each. This can make a bigger difference than you might imagine. 

First, every conversation becomes more productive. When you have a close relationship with your vendors, they understand your organization’s goals so that every recommendation is strategic, serving not just immediate needs, but also larger business initiatives. 

Those closer relationships also mean less volatility. Building lasting partnerships with vendors that form your core makes you a priority customer. You’ll be less likely to be juggled from account rep to account rep and more likely to be able to collaborate with someone who already knows your business.

And this may sound counterintuitive, but dream with us for a moment: getting your vendor relationships right means you spend less time with them overall — all while getting more from your stack. When every conversation is productive, strategic, and backed with the knowledge gained through partnership, it doesn’t take nearly as long to get answers and solve problems. 

Sharpen your competitive edge. 

The employee experience is changing.

The spectrum of employee experiences is growing, and the gap between “good” and “bad” experiences at work is widening. Now, “good” looks more like “amazing” and “bad” looks more like “searching for a new job.” And as more employees experience the benefits of remote/hybrid work — and share those benefits widely on social media — the secret has gotten out: work can be enjoyable. 

Now, that’s what employees expect. 

Creating positive employee experiences is a multi-faceted process, and it looks different for every company. Maybe it’s flexible Fridays; maybe it’s a health and wellness stipend or childcare coverage. But there’s one constant that shapes the employee experience in every organization: their relationship with their IT. 

IT is necessarily intertwined with the employee experience: everything from an employee’s digital identity to their work device to their day-to-day is controlled by IT — and, by proxy, you. 

You determine whether those threads are tangled and messy or neat and easy to follow. Do new employees have to set up a hundred accounts to get started or simply open their computer and start their employee journey? Do they have to learn an entire new operating system to become a productive member of the company, or can they stick with the OS that empowers them to do their best work? You influence their experience as much as any pizza day or yoga in the break room could. You design the world they work in. 

Why not make it spectacular?

Unification allows you to deliver experiences that delight rather than frustrate. Smooth integrations make processes easy to remember and execute, which keeps productivity high and helps prevent process degradation and shadow IT. Infrastructure that keeps user identities and devices in-sync allows employees to access their resources faster, more securely, and on the mediums they prefer. And intertwining those identities into all the tech they interact with, from their email to their HR platform, delivers a positive experience from the moment they (virtually) step through the door. 

Trust in ongoing compliance.

The power of knowing where things are is often underrated — until you need something fast. Even remembering where you put your car keys can send you into a panic when you’re running late. Knowing where to find the right data for a surprise audit? With a disorganized IT environment, forget it. You and your team are in for a long night(s) of searching, requesting, and cross-referencing bits of information. And if your stack isn’t unified enough to produce and save all the telemetry you need, you may never find what you’re looking for. 

But when your stack is unified, it allows for clear visibility and thorough reporting. And that reporting is on unified data — you get everything you need in one place instead of pulling it from different sources and trying to piece it together. On a daily basis, this grants you and your team an easy bird’s eye view into your organization’s compliance status. And when it comes time for an audit, your team can be ready to provide the information needed. That means some serious peace of mind for you, your team, and your leadership. 

Cut costs. 

At the end of the day, cutting down on the number of solutions you pay for cuts down on costs. While it can seem like a paradox to pay less for more value, the reality is that a consolidated but strategic infrastructure is more effective than a large but haphazard one full of duplicated, unused, and incompatible resources. 

Many products are designed to be quick buys for quick fixes, and when IT teams move quickly, it can be hard to resist the urge to invest in a point solution to solve every new problem that arises. But intentionally choosing products based on what you need and how well they work within your environment eliminates excess while strengthening your assets. It’s a win-win. And as an added bonus, the savings can be a great incentive factor when pitching unification to leadership. 

How Do You Unify? 

In a greenfield environment, designing a unified infrastructure would be straightforward. But most IT professionals aren’t working with a clean slate. One of the biggest deterrents to unification is the daunting idea of having to rethink and reconfigure existing infrastructure. 

But the prospect of never unifying infrastructure is even more daunting. Sprawl leads to more sprawl. When left unaddressed, IT infrastructure can easily spread until it becomes unmanageable — especially in environments with significant growth or change. Then, every task becomes more burdensome under layers of brittle integrations, making it harder to support the organization’s plans for continued growth or change.

Fortunately, unification can be boiled down to four key steps. Over the coming months, we’ll walk you through each to help you plan your unification efforts for your IT environment. 

1. Identify. 

Identify your core. This is your strategic planning stage, where you take stock of what you have, find the gaps in functionality, visibility, and necessity, and ultimately identify what the core of your stack should be. The core is the solution or set of solutions that forms the foundation of your architecture — for example, your identity, device, and access management solutions will likely be part of your core. 

It’s important to consider solution compatibility at this stage, as smooth intercommunication amongst solutions is critical to forming a unified environment. The rest of the solutions that will ultimately be part of your unified stack should be able to integrate seamlessly with this core — and each other — to form a complete and harmonious infrastructure that facilitates easy communication, visibility, and user experiences.

2. Incorporate. 

Incorporate your core into your stack. Once you know what components your infrastructure needs, incorporate them throughout your infrastructure. This is the step where you acquire any new solutions you may need, implement them, and configure them to meet your environment’s needs. 

3. Integrate. 

Integrate your core with the rest of your architecture. Smooth (preferably native) integrations are key — so, in steps one and two, knowing which integrations you’ll need is helpful to ensuring you choose compatible elements as part of your core. Through a strategic network of strong integrations, you’ll be able to create an IT environment that works how it’s supposed to and runs smoothly. 

4. Consolidate. 

Now that you’ve solidly implemented and configured your infrastructure’s core, you can carve away the excess. Look for places where your core products might be able to take on the work of another tool, where features are duplicated by different tools, or which features may no longer be necessary. Consolidating declutters your infrastructure and turns it into a well-oiled machine without outliers that obfuscate reporting, keep costs high, and make shadow IT harder to spot.

Start Unifying 

Over the next few months, we’ll cover the four steps to unification in depth. Stay tuned for upcoming blogs, resources, and events designed to guide you through your journey to a unified stack that works for you.

Often, a cloud-based directory forms a strong core to consolidate around. Learn more about completely cloud-based directories.

Kate Lake

Kate Lake is a Senior Content Writer at JumpCloud, where she writes about JumpCloud’s cloud directory platform and trends in IT, technology, and security. She holds a Bachelors in Linguistics from the University of Virginia and is driven by a lifelong passion for writing and learning. When she isn't writing for JumpCloud, Kate can be found traveling, exploring the outdoors, or quoting a sci-fi movie (often all at once).

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