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AC/CF? WTH?

Doug Theis
Published

One of my favorite CIOs once told me there are two kinds of work in corporate IT: AC work and CF work. He then explained the differences.

AC work are the business projects that have a material impact on increasing revenue, reducing costs, reducing time to market, and opening new lines of business. These projects typically enhance an organization’s ability to deliver services and serve clients, promote new sources of revenue, or differentiate the organization from the competition.

CF work may not be what you think. CF projects are the internal projects that every IT shop is responsible to manage. CF projects include infrastructure upgrades, OS patching, application revisions, backup, and disaster recovery maintenance and testing. CF projects are also commonly called “run” work or keep-the-lights-on (KTLO) work.

Successful AC projects almost always have measurable impact. They are mentioned in the boardroom and are strategic to the success of the business. When these projects go well, IT gets an A grade from the business. Even if the projects experience challenges, like missed deadlines or cost overruns, the business can still measure a positive impact and will give IT a grade of at least a C.

CF work, however often has little or no measurable impact to the business – unless it goes poorly. If running daily backups goes perfectly, nothing changes from an end-user perspective. The business can’t tell, and IT gets a solid C grade. If the work goes poorly, however, and those same backups fail and data is lost, the F will mean a failing grade for IT, or worse.

Most of the IT leaders with whom I discuss AC and CF work admit that CF work is the majority of their workload. Many say that keeping the lights on consumes between 75% and 80% of overall infrastructure team effort. That means their CF ratio – the percentage of time spent on strategic work versus keeping the lights on work – is up to 4:1. But, for an IT team to be considered a strategic part of their organizations’ business, it needs to achieve an AC/CF ration of at least 1:1 ratio, but ideally closer to 1:3. Only then is a company leveraging technology, and its IT team, to differentiate itself in the market.

So, how do you transition from CF work to AC work?

How much time is your organization spending on strategic versus non-strategic work? What is your AC/CF ratio? If you tracked and regularly communicated your decreasing CF ratio, would the business view IT as a more strategic partner?

The most successful CIOs start by determining which workloads can most easily be moved to a service provider or cloud platform. For many teams, choosing a VMware-based enterprise cloud for their existing applications means they can leverage current VMware skillsets and security policy expertise, and practically eliminate non-strategic CF work by shifting it to the cloud service provider, thus freeing up both time and money to focus on strategic differentiators such as applications, automations, and internal processes.

Other organizations focus on moving high-effort, low-value daily tasks such as backup and disaster recovery to an enterprise cloud provider in order to ease into their cloud strategy while simultaneously driving down their CF ratio. Moving data protection workloads to an enterprise cloud enables an IT team to reduce the time spent on these tasks while increasing testing capabilities and overall recoverability.

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