Enterprise Technology, Information, and Infrastructure

Definition: Enterprise technology, information, and infrastructure refers to the concept of information technology (IT) resources and data that are shared across an enterprise. (The term "enterprise" minimally means across a sponsor's entire organization, i.e., corporate versus department level, but it can just as easily be cross-organizational such as multi-agency or Joint/DoD level.) Embodied in this concept are technical efforts such as infrastructure engineering for building, managing, and evolving shared IT; IT or infrastructure operations for administering and monitoring the performance of the IT service being provided to the enterprise; IT services management; and information services management. Efforts like IT strategy and portfolio management and IT governance enable this concept to function effectively.

Keywords: information and data management, IT infrastructure, IT service management, service management


Former U.S. Chief Information Officer (CIO) Vivek Kundra's February 2011 paper on Federal Cloud Computing [1] states: "Cloud computing describes a broad movement to treat IT services as a commodity with the ability to dynamically increase or decrease capacity to match usage needs. By leveraging shared infrastructure and economies of scale, cloud computing presents federal leadership with a compelling business model. It allows users to control the computing services they access, while sharing the investment in the underlying IT resources among consumers. When the computing resources are provided by another organization over a wide-area network, cloud computing is similar to an electric power utility. The providers benefit from economies of scale, which in turn enables them to lower individual usage costs and centralize infrastructure costs. Users pay for what they consume, can increase or decrease their usage, and leverage the shared underlying resources. With a cloud computing approach, a cloud customer can spend less time managing complex IT resources and more time investing in core mission work."

Despite this endorsement, the IT management and the associated shift toward common, shared resources are large concerns for many of our sponsors. MITRE system engineers (SEs) are increasingly supporting sponsors who are in the process of procuring new IT systems, migrating existing IT-based systems to a common or shared infrastructure, or upgrading their own internal business systems. Although most aspects of this shift are technical, we are recognizing that many are nontechnical, and our systems engineering skills need to expand to address those aspects (i.e., governance, increased complexity of sharing resources across organizations, data ownership, service management, and life cycle).

In addition, at the center of this shift are data (or information) and the need to share it appropriately. Data is the "life blood" of an organization—as it flows among systems, databases, processes, and people, it carries with it the ability to make the organization smarter and more effective. The migration toward shared IT resources needs to accommodate the intended business operations being supported as well as the data usage, including appropriate access control and protection.

MITRE SE Roles and Expectations: MITRE SEs are expected to understand the systems engineering principles to be applied to the enterprise-level IT programs they support. They are also expected to understand the larger enterprise context in which the programs operate. For a particular enterprise-level program, MITRE may be asked to play a role in helping the sponsor define or refine business processes, such as technical or systems engineering aspects of portfolio management, or operational constructs for shared infrastructure. For mid- and senior-level MITRE staff, the role often involves recommending how to apply engineering analysis, advice, processes, and resources to achieve desired portfolio-level outcomes. Understanding the interconnections and dynamics across the different levels of an organization or multi-agency governance structure is important to providing thoughtful, balanced recommendations.

Enterprise-level efforts require many skills. MITRE SEs may be expected to support enterprise architecture; technical evolution; preliminary design of data centers or infrastructure components; implementation, monitoring, and operations of infrastructure; and technical governance. Critical areas of focus normally include information assurance, data strategy, interoperability, application integration, information exchange, networks, and communications services (voice, video, and data). MITRE SEs may assist sponsors with initiatives for application migrations, infrastructure upgrades, and consolidation of computing infrastructure. Other skills involve quantifying the performance across enterprise resources and enabling service level agreements. In cases where deep, focused technical knowledge is required, MITRE SEs must to be able to identify the need and bring in the required skills to match the challenge at hand.

Best Practices and Lessons Learned

In complex environments such as enterprise-level IT programs, three important factors should be taken into consideration: the stakeholders, the technology, and the mission the IT supports. Failure in even one of these factors can cause total program failure.

Know the stakeholders. An "enterprise" usually involves a set of constituents with various goals, requirements, and resources. Sometimes these constituents' considerations are at odds with one another. Vital elements of the nontechnical aspects of enterprise IT are understanding the various stakeholders and being able to articulate needs from their perspective. Several methods exist for analyzing stakeholders. For instance, a simple POET (Political, Operational, Economic, Technical) analysis can be used to clearly articulate issues associated with stakeholders (see the Stakeholder Assessment and Management article). Understanding the kind of governance required to make an enterprise function is also necessary (see the IT Governance article). Governance is what enables the stakeholders to communicate their needs and participate in the enterprise definition, evolution, and operation. The need for strong governance cannot be overstated.

Know the technology. A wide array of technology is associated with enterprise IT programs, from networking details to cloud computing and data centers. Keeping abreast of the current trends in the appropriate areas of your IT program allows you to address disruptive technology concerns and apply sound technical practice to the job. Because computing is so prevalent in today's society and it takes many forms from desktop PCs to handheld mobile devices, everyone touches technology and has expectations from it—often unrealistic. Our sponsors and other program stakeholders are no different. The key to managing technical expectations is knowing the technology and its applicability and having the trust of the sponsor so you can help them recognize when something is too immature for implementation and not a shrink-wrapped, off-the-shelf bargain.

In addition to knowing the technology itself is knowing how to apply good IT management techniques. IT service efforts have frameworks and best practices to leverage. A fairly complete and commonly referenced framework is the Information Technology Service Management and Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL), owned and licensed by AXELOS Ltd. since July 2013 [2]. The IT Service Management article details this further. In addition, NIST [3] provides many useful references for IT, cloud computing, security, and the Federal Information Security Management Act.

Know the mission being supported. It is very important to understand the mission(s) that the infrastructure support(s). The ability to articulate the technical implications of mission needs is arguably the most valuable systems engineering talent to bring to bear on sponsor programs. Enterprise technology succeeds by anticipating end-user needs and proactively addressing them, not waiting for breakage or unhappy users to complain that they are not being supported. This is complex and difficult to do for an enterprise, but it is necessary as computing and infrastructure become more commoditized. The Engineering Information-Intensive Enterprises section addresses ways to support the mission through enterprise systems engineering.

Articles Under This Topic

IT Infrastructure Engineering provides insight into the complexities of developing, managing, and operating IT infrastructure (networks and communications equipment, data centers, shared computing platforms, etc.) within an enterprise environment.

IT Service Management (ITSM) describes frameworks, processes, and models that address best practices in managing, supporting, and delivering IT services.

Information and Data Management includes best practices and lessons learned for engineering enterprise data and information.

Radio Frequency Spectrum Management discusses the analytical, procedural, and policy approaches to planning and managing the use of the electromagnetic spectrum.

References and Resources

  1. Kundra, V., U.S. Chief Information Officer, February 8, 2011, Federal Cloud Computing Strategy.
  2. AXELOS, ITIL, accessed October 15, 2015.
  3. National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST), accessed October 15, 2015.


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