Out of the Frying Pan and into the Firewall

Why the Kitchen and Enterprise IT Have More in Common Than it Seems. By Sharon Mandell is Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer at Juniper Networks.

At first glance, the art of food and the art of Information Technology (IT) do not have much in common. There is a stark difference between a bustling kitchen and a humming data center, but the truth is, they are far more similar than they appear. The same creative thinking and flair that makes a good dish a beautiful presentation applies to IT solutions. To properly enable businesses to run in today’s world, IT needs to fit the exact requirements of an organization, whilst preparing for any and all eventualities. In finding that balance, an IT professional resembles a chef trying to find the right balance of spices for their entrée.

As many Brits take solace in the culinary arts, whilst being more reliant than ever on a strong IT network during the work from home mandate, the timing seems opportune to discuss IT and cooking being two sides of the same coin. Several of the concepts that inform fine dining are the same as those that ensure high quality IT delivery – here are four key ways in which they most directly compare.

Seeing the Full Picture

True chefs de cuisine don’t form dishes as a variety of ingredients put on a plate – they foresee the dish as a whole and how each item plays into a dynamic flavor profile to delight and engage with a diner.

Enterprise IT is no different. It’s not about applying the latest or most expensive and expansive solution – it is crafting the perfect solution made up of technologies that fit together for the best result for the customer or employee journey. Each technology must have a role to play and a purpose to fulfill, with the primary goal of ensuring a superior experience for the users, regardless if it’s a small IT team deploying a software upgrade, a giant retailer looking to troubleshoot issues across thousands of locations or a cloud architect trying to scale and fine-tune its network to changing business requirements.

Whether it’s the specialty dish at your restaurant’s opening night or the solution that keeps your business operating at full capacity, each component has to work as a whole to ensure the best experience.

Understanding the Power of Simplicity

As in the kitchen, simplicity is key when it comes to IT. Historically, the IT industry has accepted complexity as a given, but a new trend is arising for the better. Today, the goal is to make enterprise IT as customer-friendly and user-driven as possible, without sacrificing efficacy.

A great chef knows the power of simplification and the same holds true in IT: the masters of simplicity will be the best providers.

The Goldilocks Question

For both cooking and enterprise IT, it’s all about finding what’s ‘just right’, whether that be a proper portion size or an IT solution. A good meal should leave diners full, happy, but not over-indulged. Similarly, IT solutions need to be scaled to fit the problem so they’re not too big and not too small.

Historically, many enterprise decision makers tend to gravitate towards grand, expensive solutions. When in reality, there are far more cost-optimal solutions that would be a better fit for their specific needs.

If you purchase a solution that doesn’t actually fit your problem, you’re going to ultimately waste budget and likely have a solution that is unnecessarily complex, which may present a number of unforeseen issues in the long run. Who would order a hearty, warming soup on a hot day, for example?

A Feast for the Eyes!

It is well-known that whenever you dine, you first “eat” with your eyes. Presentation can be the difference between a dish that is average and forgettable and a dish that evokes a distinct, memorable moment in your life.

In IT, if the user experience is painless and easily digestible, it helps to ensure positive outcomes and that any issues can be handled in an effective manner. A consistently good user experience enhances the value that the user perceives and increases the support system that informs the wider network. IT providers must always prioritize the user, from first engagement all the way to ongoing support – the user must be at the center of all of this to make any IT deployment a success, just as the diner is the driving force for any meal prepared by all great chefs.

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