2014 Business Priorities: What the Customer Wants

on Jan 28th, 2014 in BI, Analytics, & Performance Management, Cloud, Enterprise Integration & IT Strategy, Mobility, | Comments Off on 2014 Business Priorities: What the Customer Wants

There’s a lot of conversation at this time of year about technology and business priorities. And there is agreement in the discussion, especially about IT priorities:

  • Mobility – have all capabilities and functionalities for easier access
  • Cloud – focus on the business and increase delivery speed and scalability
  • Information Management – store everything for better customer support and decision management
  • Security – protect based on value and business classification and include compliance, recovery and retention capabilities for all services 

What is the Customer Thinking About?

I’ve been working with a lot of professionals in the hospitality industry lately and they are under a great deal of competitive pressure to provide the best possible experience throughout the buying cycle. If business and IT leaders really want to hone in on priorities, then they need only look at what their customers are thinking about:

“How can I get the information on your services myself?”

“Why do you keep asking me for my information again? Don’t you know me?”

“Is my data secure? Who is looking at it? What are you doing with it?”

“If you do not have an app I will not do business with you”

“Do I need to call the call center?”

“How can I be sure that I am getting the best price?”

Acting on the Priorities

As I work with both business and IT stakeholders, there is urgency to hear what the business is asking for and acting on requests with initiatives that will impact the business:

I work with clients every day to take on challenges and help business with initiatives such as cloud readiness.  I’ll be at the ITEXPO in Miami this week appearing on a Case Study University panel entitled:  “2014: IT Priorities, Realities and Fictions” and we’ll be discussing these very challenges.

Picking the Right Cloud Partner

on Jun 11th, 2013 in Enterprise Integration & IT Strategy, | Comments Off on Picking the Right Cloud Partner

So your CEO says, “I want you to reduce IT costs and I heard at a conference last week that using the cloud is the way to go. When can we start? Can we get rid of the data center? How much can we save?”

These conversations are becoming more common as organizations start to tackle the use of the cloud. The biggest challenge is the education and selection stages of the cloud decision. There are so many solutions in the market and like all new technologies there are many misunderstandings regarding the usage, selection and application to your plans. Navigating the waves of technology requires a partner that can be agnostic and be knowledgeable on what works and why, to help you determine the best route toward the cloud.

Many companies will go to their infrastructure partner or hardware vendor and solicit their input – this is not the best place to start since you really need the business rationale to drive the investment. In some companies, the business users themselves are procuring cloud services without IT, so the technology landscape grows without influence or guidance of a plan.

Consulting best practices recommend an impartial Cloud Services Broker as the best path to the cloud.  A Broker is different from an Integrator in that they are focused on all aspects and stages of the cloud services introduction and will work from the top down, the business, and the bottom up, the data center.

So the keys for a good partner will be the ability to help across the business with ensuring that the decisions made are understood, communicated and leveraged across the organizations. Just considering a single application in the cloud or changing an infrastructure service to cloud based is tactical and sometimes not the best way to introduce the benefits. Looking at the business cases and creating a roadmap with justification to allow for fast deployment at the right places for the right level of change is key for any technological change but is more critical with the cloud. A partner must be agnostic in terms of the solutions and very focused on client integration and adoption.

In short, the first step to the cloud is choosing a knowledgeable partner who know not just how the cloud works, but how to make the change and ensure the real value of the cloud is implemented with the solution.

Clouds Ahead: Picking the Right Model

on Mar 20th, 2013 in BI, Analytics, & Performance Management, Enterprise Integration & IT Strategy, Servers, Storage, and Software, | 2 comments

We talk about “the cloud”, but in actuality, there’s more than one. For starters, there are many different clouds out there, but they usually can be grouped into three different categories: private, public and hybrid. And when you’re thinking of deploying a cloud computing solution for your organization, you first need to determine which type of cloud you want to use.

Private clouds are just that—they’re private. The good news is that a private cloud is all in “your own facility” and you can do what you want with it. You can set it up the way you want, limit access as you see fit and maintain more control over it. Typically, a private cloud provides very tight integration with applications and data, making you feel like you’re hosting the components right within your own four walls even if it’s at a data center halfway across the country.

Then there’s the bad news: Private clouds cost a lot more than other types of clouds to deploy and support. But for companies with very large-scale solutions with high security and data demands, it can be the way to go.

Public clouds are open for business to everyone (like a car rental service). And because the service provider is sharing the bill for energy, special software, equipment and support, the value can be excellent, especially for smaller businesses that get to lease/rent rich functionality on a pay-as-you-go basis. For example, with the software as a service (SaaS) model, you can use applications only as you need them, without having to install, manage or maintain the software and hardware. And more applications are being made available in this form, from email to ERP.

Almost any business solution is becoming available as a SaaS offering, these solutions are becoming commonplace, particularly for services that are pretty mature or well-defined and repeatable across multiple industries, segments or geographies. These capabilities are scaled to high transaction and user volumes to provide extremely low prices for users in a way not possible with stand-alone solutions. In addition, platforms like Windows Azure offer building blocks for applications that can be moved to the cloud as long as they adhere to the platform standards within the stack. In the future, there may be companies with no data center of their own and all IT services will be “in the cloud”.

Of course, with public clouds you do face some drawbacks, chief among them a lack of control over reliability or inability to get solid guarantees on uptime. When Amazon Web Services went down in different instances in late 2012, so did companies like Netflix, Foursquare, Reddit and Pinterest. For organizations with mission-critical applications, this can be a key decision factor.

Finally, there’s the hybrid cloud. Basically, with the hybrid model, you split your IT portfolio between public and private clouds on on-premise and off-premise. While hybrid clouds can be somewhat complex to deploy for some solutions, they can provide the best balance between security and migration risk for many users of core legacy applications where all services cannot be supported in a cloud environment or need to be localized due to a high network transaction volume, which would in turn increase costs. These configurations can scale and be adjusted over time to move the load to the cloud as business functionality and technology can be balanced to best serve the use of cloud technology.

In many cases, choosing the right cloud solution can be simple but if not we recommend that doing the research on the providers, creating the business case and evaluating the migration risk and long term business value are critical to you decision. Ultimately, we will all be using the cloud it will just be a matter of picking the right model to suit your business.

 

Visit our cloud resource page.

 

Organizations are Still Asking About Cloud Computing Benefits

on Mar 12th, 2013 in BI, Analytics, & Performance Management, Enterprise Integration & IT Strategy, | Comments Off on Organizations are Still Asking About Cloud Computing Benefits

Everywhere you turn, you hear about the cloud. So much so that you’d be excused for thinking that a) the cloud is an over-hyped passing fad, or b) everyone is in the cloud.

The truth can be found somewhere between these two viewpoints. While people may already be tired of hearing about the cloud, cloud computing is no mere fad. It is being embraced by businesses and consumers alike. Yet there are still plenty of companies out there who have not jumped on the cloud computing bandwagon.

That’s too bad, because cloud computing can help reinvent the traditional IT organization. Instead of being a place known for generating costs, IT can become a place known for creating value. And instead of being known for needing long lead times for projects, IT organizations can become known for their flexibility. All of this is possible with cloud computing.

How? Consider the tension often found between business units and IT. Many business users almost dread requesting changes from a traditional IT department, simply because they know what they’ll hear: “This will take months to change” or “I am not sure how much this will cost or if we have the guys who know how to do this” or “Can we schedule this for the next release, sometime next year?” Meanwhile, IT, which is under constant pressure to cut costs while ensuring reliability, isn’t just making excuses. IT really doesn’t know where it will get the headcount or budget to respond to each business user’s request.

With cloud computing possibilities like Applications as a Service or Information as a Service, IT departments can provide the type of flexibility business users want. They will be able to build new solutions more quickly and provide access to information on demand. At the same time, they can cut costs — not just operating costs, but also those associated with lost opportunities. After all, time-to-operational-sufficiency is the new measuring stick by which IT is measured these days.

For more reasons why organizations are adopting cloud computing, read The Value of Cloud: Building the Case for Adoption and Transformation.

Why run my ERP in the Cloud?

on Feb 13th, 2012 in Enterprise Integration & IT Strategy, Lawson/Infor, | 1 comment

The introduction of cloud computing has provided an additional dimension to IT service delivery and radical concepts that challenge the view of the value of on-premise systems. The question of cost is changing the dynamic and rules that govern financial systems. These rules were:

#1 – my business critical data must sit in my data center
#2 – no one can touch my data or my systems or my machines other than my personnel
#3 – nobody can run my financial systems better than I can
#4 – if you disobey any of the 3 you will not be in business very long.

In reality, 10 years ago we had the same rules for email, and now 1 in 5 companies are putting email in the hands of service providers.

The decisions being made about ERP are usually totally driven by the CFO, including the technological choices simply because of the critical nature to the operations of the corporation. However, as the changes in technology are driving the costs of IT higher it is becoming more important to seriously evaluate the options for processing, managing, hosting, maintaining and even application choice.  Also understanding the new data center services for virtualization of processing and storage, big data management and mobility is creating more complex decisions around application purchases. The investment required is significant to reap the benefits of the new technologies and truly provide the ROI to a business.

So as a CIO, how do you provide the latest technology for the lowest cost and in the shortest timeframe? Here in lies the new set of rules:

#1 A Data center is not my strategic asset; data from the enterprise is the most important asset to manage
#2 Service Delivery is not just the responsibility of my staff but combined with partners I can extend my capabilities in an unlimited fashion
#3 Business services for the enterprise is where my team should focus not the basic underlying infrastructure or development or maintenance
#4 Applications critical to the business should be refreshed with the speed of business and technology not become anchors to old models and business

We therefore must consider the value of a solid cloud service provider, with a mature application with highly proficient managed services to comply with the new demands of enterprise performance. The older rules just cannot co-exist in a realistic environment of high competition, lowered capital and even lower margins with an increasing appetite for detailed analysis of information to drive fast moving revenue targets.

The future of the Data Center as a CIO Asset

on Sep 12th, 2011 in BI, Analytics, & Performance Management, Enterprise Integration & IT Strategy, | Comments Off on The future of the Data Center as a CIO Asset

Today’s IT department is seeing the presence of a data center disappearing in more ways than one. Most desktops, laptops and smart phones are providing the services the IT user traditionally requested from IT. Almost 40% of a company’s computing power now resides outside of the data center. Data is now delivered in many more formats (remember the green bar paper that was delivered in the mornings from the IT print shop…oops, I am showing my age!). In reality, IT infrastructure does not sit in a single location anymore, or we may not even know where it lives. Computing power is distributed, more  business user information resides in personal computers, USBs and attached to emails, so how does a CIO manage (and secure) all of this?

The magic word that is used and not fully understood is virtualization. The advent of virtualization or variable allocation of resources means that services are not bound by an unchangeable location or limited parameters, they can be intelligently configured to the best needs of the process. The concepts of server virtualization which allow computing resources to be allocated as needed, based on processing demand are now being applied to the overall IT services portfolio. The boundaries of a room do not define the data center. So looking for an organization’s IT processing capability in a single room is no longer realistic.

Today, the presence of computing power outside of the traditional data center does not mean the demise of the IT department but the creation of a new frontier for managing, monitoring, securing and analyzing the information resources of a company. The increasing demand for more power and capabilities in shorter timeframe mandates that CIOs look to a different schema for delivering IT services. Just like the transition from building all of you applications to buying software to now renting it on demand, the same transformation is occurring with hardware.

We will use more computing power from centers we may never see or control in the next few years. The wide range of mobile applications now pushes the presence of IT services to a model that says information must be available in various formats, any time it is needed and with the least delay possible. These are the fundamental business drivers of cloud computing concepts that are creating Virtual Data Centers. These computing resources are sourced from multiple providers in locations that are not under your IT department’s direct control  and are usually less expensive and more reliable than before.

In short, we have to adapt to a world where computing resources will not be in places where we can see, touch and control. We simply cannot afford to build the data center big enough to meet the needs of our customers. Tomorrow we will use resources that we will have to secure, monitor, manage and configure without knowing physically where they reside or what brand of machine is used and not even worry about the temperature of the room that occupies the equipment.

This is a first in a series of commentaries on the impact of Cloud Computing.

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