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, 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 expensive, hard to manage, resistant to change, and vulnerable to compromise. Infrastructures like these are a bit in need of a reset button: a strategic re-thinking of what it needs to make things work (and what it doesn’t). This process is called IT unification.
Over the next few months, JumpCloud will be diving into the three steps of IT unification. We’ll walk you through the process of cleaning up sprawl, reducing costs, and positioning your infrastructure for success. Like many other IT professionals who have made the unification journey, you’ll likely find that the benefits were more than worth the upfront work.
What Is IT Unification?
IT unification is the process of optimizing your stack by reducing the elements down to only what you need and connecting them smoothly. The goal is to create an environment that’s compact, cost-effective, manageable, and secure.
IT unification is built on the premise that more isn’t always better. In fact, more for more’s sake is sometimes worse. Think of Marie Kondo’s method of tidying a space: she helps people remove clutter so they can see, make sense of, and connect with their environment and assets.
So, think of unification like spring cleaning: it combats the clutter that happens when we’re not looking and puts systems in place that prevent it from happening in the future. This instills in your tech environment the simplicity, clarity, and intentionality you need to quickly see and makes sense of it as a whole.
The Benefits of IT Unification
Regain Control Over Your Stack
When your infrastructure’s a mess, everything’s a mess. But when your infrastructure’s tight and streamlined, things just… work. Manual processes get automated; integrations are streamlined; visibility becomes clear; data reports to a single source of truth. All of which make managing your stack infinitely easier.
An added benefit to this newfound visibility is the security that comes with it. At first, it may feel counterproductive to concentrate your security functions rather than spread them out. But 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. And with a carefully curated stack, shadow IT sticks out like a thumb drive in 2023. That makes it easier to spot and address shadow IT as it occurs, allowing you to keep your stack unified long term.
Ultimately, a strategically unified infrastructure allows you to both build a better defense and mount a quick offensive, should the moment arise.
Be Ready for Anything.
When we talk about planning for the future, we often mean planning for the foreseeable future. It involves answering questions like, What will our process be for onboarding a department’s worth of new hires next year? How are we planning for upcoming EOL dates? How will we handle identities when this merger goes through?
Planning for future events is hard enough — addressing any of the above questions can take months of planning and cross-departmental collaboration. But planning for curveballs you can’t anticipate is another exercise entirely.
This became apparent for many IT admins and business leaders over the last few years as they lived the consequences of unforeseen change. A global pandemic that no one could have planned for plunged them into new territories that their technology wasn’t built to support. Businesses suddenly found themselves tied to tech that was hard to manage remotely and even harder to retrofit to their environments, which seemed to have changed completely overnight.
How can you be prepared if you don’t know what to prepare for? Ultimately, planning for the unforeseen comes down to investing in flexibility and the power of choice. The million-dollar question becomes, How do we ensure that we can always adapt our tech to our needs and goals, regardless of what they are or how we plan to achieve them?
IT unification is the answer.
Unifying your stack both improves your flexibility and your freedom to choose what works best for your organization. Here’s why:
- A manageable stack is an adaptable stack. Making changes to a sprawled stack is like herding cats — it takes all your energy to get everything moving in the right direction, and a few stragglers always get left behind (queue more sprawl). By contrast, a manageable stack goes where you tell it to. When you can see and control all the pieces, you can strategically plan your move and count on executing it successfully. IT unification provides you with a stack that’s easy to see, manage, and change.
- Cleaning up legacy sprawl makes you more nimble. IT unification is great for organizations with legacy equipment that’s gotten away from them. It provides a framework for wrangling and developing a solution for old and outdated tech. Because cloud-based tech is much more nimble and adaptable than legacy, unifying your environment in the cloud sets you up to move in any direction you wish.
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?
Like many IT admins, you’re probably not starting with a clean slate, which can make the idea of unification feel a bit daunting. However, the prospect of never unifying infrastructure is even more daunting. Sprawl only leads to more sprawl, which snowballs until you’ve got a completely unmanageable stack on your hands. It makes every task more burdensome under layers of brittle integrations, making it harder to support your organization’s plans for continued growth or change.
Fortunately, unification can be boiled down to three steps, which are designed to account for the stubborn, the complex, and the weird that you encounter in real IT environments. These steps will take you from your current setup to your dream future state: one where everything just works.
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.
Your core may be solutions you already have in your infrastructure, new solutions, or a combination of the two. Instead of defaulting to the core solutions you currently have in place, consider shopping around for others that may be a better fit for your organization. Switching solutions doesn’t necessarily mean a momentous rip-and-replace; you may be able to integrate the tool with your current core and offload excess solutions slowly. Charting a long-term rollout plan that allows you to integrate new technology slowly helps keep a project realistic and palatable to both your team and leadership.
Note: It’s important to consider solution compatibility at this stage. Smooth intercommunication among 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.
Integrate your core into your stack. Smooth (preferably native) integrations are key. That means that, in step one, 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.
Carve away the excess. Now that you’ve solidly implemented and configured your infrastructure’s core, you can start to consolidate. 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.
Over the coming months, we’ll go deeper into these steps to help you plan your unification efforts for your IT environment.
Worried Your Boss Won’t Go for It?
If you can quantify and communicate the benefits of unification, you might be pleasantly surprised. After all, it’s hard to argue with more savings and IT that drives business forward — to businesses, that roughly translates to “money” and “more money.”
Learn how to quantify and communicate the benefits of IT unification effectively in our IT Professional’s Complete Guide to Calculating TCO. It even comes with a spreadsheet that allows you to project cost savings and configures them into graphs and visual aids you can insert directly into your proposal.