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A playbook for IT heroes: How to unleash optimization superpowers

April 5, 2023
Lindsay Majane

Open Infrastructure contributing writer, Google Cloud

Balancing innovation and cost optimization requires heroic choices and skills--these tips will help organizations save the day.

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Today, IT leaders are doing more with less and facing greater demand for their ever-shrinking resources, all while being told to build for growth and scale. As technology plays a central role across all areas of an organization, leaders are being asked to innovate, optimize, secure, comply, track trends on a tight budget, and keep their team motivated. It's a Herculean task. 

In recent conversations with customers, we hear many of the same questions around how to succeed at a moment of immense innovation (hello, generative AI!) while IT budgets continue to be pressured (even when cutting back can be a mistake).

Seven questions in particular come up time and again, and we’ve outlined them below, along with possible solutions. (We’ll be covering even more at Google Cloud’s upcoming IT Heroes Summit coming up on April 19th — consider this a sneak peek).

1. With all of the focus on AI, how can I make progress with limited resources? 

Today, more decision-makers are investing in AI and machine learning to automate and optimize their workflows. Developing machine learning models remains complicated and resource-intensive, however, and efficiently running and scaling AI workloads demands optimized hardware and specific IT skills. 

Organizations are increasingly turning to cloud services to take advantage of both providers’ pre-built foundation models and their elastically scalable, AI-centric infrastructure options. Developer-centric AI cloud platforms, which help companies to build AI-enabled applications even if they lack significant machine learning expertise, are also emerging, further helping enterprises to adopt AI while avoiding budget or resource setbacks. 

2. How can I quickly find, train, and retain talent? 

With 64% of IT leaders saying that inadequate talent recruitment and retention make them less cyber-resilient, the skills gap is an issue that most IT leaders are concerned about. Time spent recruiting and training can cause delays and setbacks that cause missed market opportunities. 

At a basic level, opting for managed services instead of self-managing is a great first step. Companies like AirAsia addressed recruitment and training issues by adopting GKE Autopilot, which helped the airline keep containerized information organized, providing easier deployment, scaling, security, and other preconfigured settings. Shifting resources away from managing infrastructure helped AirAsia realize a 85% reduction in infrastructure costs and a 45% improvement in developer efficiency.

3. How can I rein in spending but still keep up momentum? 

Many businesses are feeling the current economic uncertainty in the form of reduced headcounts, reduced budgets, and reprioritized teams. Underscoring the challenges, Gartner recently adjusted their forecast for global IT spending to just 2.4% growth in 2023, leaving many IT leaders working with smaller budgets than they initially planned just a quarter ago.

With IT now balancing the administration of AI development, cybersecurity, and data management, leaders are forced to get creative to maintain momentum. The good news is that there are many clever ways IT leaders can reduce costs immediately, with minimal or no impact to their business. 

One way to save on cost is by choosing cloud infrastructure, which is autoscaling based on increases or decreases in load. Scale up or down based on demand, and only pay for what you need. We’ve also seen companies brainstorming ways to generate new revenue streams using APIs. In addition to technology changes, cultural changes are also critical. Many companies are working toward creating a FinOps practice, which establishes operational frameworks and a cost-conscious culture across departments.

With IT balancing AI development, cybersecurity, and data management, leaders are faced with getting creative to maintain momentum. There are many clever ways leaders can reduce costs immediately, with minimal or no business impact.

4. How can I accelerate developer velocity?

For the decision-makers responsible for budgets and resources, accelerating developer velocity can lead to a more innovative, dedicated team. Having that confidence and camaraderie is critical to team success and cybersecurity. Dedicating time to accelerating teams can also be a high-impact way of increasing output with existing resources. 

Some of the ways we see customers approaching this challenge are setting clear goals and expectations, and taking advantage of the cloud for easy access to scalable infrastructure and diverse developer tooling. While some activities may yield immediate results, and others may take longer to show impact, the good news is that any move you make to optimize your team is a step in the right direction.

5. Where does my organization start with security?

IT leaders are continuously asked to address threats to the business, including financial loss and data theft. With the security landscape shifting quickly, security and business leaders need to be more prepared than ever before. Implementing secure infrastructure, robust detection and response, a trusted software supply chain, and clear governance is no small feat. But where should you invest when resources are limited? How can you cover your bases effectively? 

One practice we see customers embracing is measuring security progress against the GCAT Security and Resilience Framework to learn about their security capabilities, gaps, maturity, and where to focus for improved resiliency. But cloud security starts with a  strong foundation designed to protect your workloads and data, and building from there.

6. How can I plan for data sovereignty rules and regulations? 

IT leaders around the world are facing new requirements for digital sovereignty, whether driven by their internal risk teams or external regulations. Achieving an organization’s desired sovereignty goals can be a challenge, but it’s also an opportunity to bring new workloads to the cloud and benefit even further from cloud innovation. 


A good starting point is determining which workloads are the most sensitive and may need sovereign controls. You don’t want to apply new controls if they’re not necessary. Next, think about data access. You can take charge of encryption key management, implement personnel controls, and supervise operator access for more sensitive workloads.

Since this area is complex and rapidly evolving, we also see many companies working closely with trusted partners who are dedicated to understanding data sovereignty rules and technical solutions. The right partners can provide local expertise and reduce operational complexity. Like many operational improvements, thinking ahead about data sovereignty requirements can help avoid future redesigns, rework, and expense.

7. How can I keep making progress toward my sustainability goals?

Today, sustainability isn't just a buzzword or a box that needs checking. It's a beneficial business practice that customers regularly demand from the brands they value. In fact, 23% of consumers say they will switch to buying products from an organization that shares their environmental interests. With these figures, it's no wonder 65% of IT executives want improved sustainability from both operations and capital; where to start remains the hard part. 

With fragmented and aging systems increasing an organization’s carbon footprint, many are looking to the cloud for solutions. Thanks to the optimized infrastructure of hyperscale cloud providers, companies who migrate to the cloud are reporting an energy saving of up to 80%.  

What many companies don’t know is that choosing to work with a cloud provider means you have some sustainability benefits built in that may help meet ESG goals. It’s possible to calculate cloud carbon emissions more easily, for instance, or even prioritize low-carbon regions for storing data.

Next steps for your organization

The cloud offers many possible journeys that you can quickly tailor according to the evolving needs of your organization. And, with the right strategy, you can keep refactoring work that’s already been done rather than having to start over.

It is a vital moment for IT and business leaders to continue innovating in spite of any economic uncertainty, and to come out stronger than ever on the other side. It’s why hundreds of executives will be joining the Google Cloud IT Heroes Summit on April 19 to share their experiences and advice in the hopes of figuring out the best way forward — together.

Register today, and take your first step to becoming the IT superhero your company needs.

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