We have just about completed the Windows 7 Year of the Refresh Roadshows throughout North America. For those of you that I have had the pleasure to meet and chat, I thank you. The sessions and the follow on Q&A flagged several issues and concerns, and validated many of our beliefs about this upcoming refresh cycle. First the disclaimer.
The opinions and comments expressed on this blog are mine, and do not represent those of my employer.
One of the key points that we validated in the sessions, was that this refresh cycle will, for the most part, require a detailed business plan with concrete ROI and contribution calculations. Moreover, this refresh cycle wil require a definitive statement of benefits to the enterprise. We also validated that with Windows 7, new product features, new technologies (virtualization), practice improvements, security, (I could go on and on, but the point is made) suggests that this business case simply is compelling as any we have collectively seen in the industry.
Interestingly, when I asked the question if the business case would be the key mobilizer of the technology refresh cycle, the response was almost universal in its positioining - not without addressing the politics of the refresh.
We have known from previous research that a good (or even great business case) can be trumped by politics, social issues, cultural concerns, and emotional issues. In this refresh cycle it is clear that there are inhibitors to the refresh cycle. This may or may not be a "bad" thing.
In Closed Loop Lifecycle Planning (my research) we have concluded a number of findings in regards to the emotions of change:
1) You cannot overcome emotional argument with business logic
2) Even the best ROI and business cases need to address the emotional, political, and social aspects to succeed
3) The Great Recession is a game changer
Based upon this, the question is how to manage and address organizational behavior. To a high degree, we in IT are our own "worst enemies" in this respect. When we were asked to do more with less, we did a lot more with a lot less. When asked to make older technology work, we made the older technology work (and work well). Now we are at a point where client technologies need to be updated, but the political realities take over- cash is stil short, the economy is still uncertain ... so IT , "squeeze out another year". This tends to be played invariably in one form or another.
To some degree this is really a cause and effect that could be predicted. For many years, PC's and many technologies in general were viewed as "commodities". None of us would argue (or for that matter win the argument) that there is clearly a commodity aspect to PC's. But allowing the argument to go unchecked over time, leads us to the scenario that when we can innovate (such as virtualization, W7, etc) , the commodity perspective takes over. Quantifying the business case will not be enough in many cases since there will be a perspective that at the end of the day, how can you improve on a commodity? Politically, those who believe this may be likely less receptive to a technology refresh of scale since that would suggest that delaying the cycle could have had a less than positive impact to the enterprise.
In the blog we have discussed the potential of continuous process improvements (8% to 10%), the opportunities for step changes (>25%), energy management >$30 per seat, improved productivity >68%, and other amazing statistics that could accompany this refresh cycle. Much of the technology that is available now did not even exist pre-Great Recession.
Addressing the potential of this refresh cycle, requires IT to understand the organizational biases and ground that has already been staked out in terms of position. If once a commodity always a commodity exists, this is an inhibitor.
Perhaps a logical technique to engage is to focus on the economics, identify the perceptions, acknowledge them, and incorporate the objections up front into the dialog. Ignoring the objection will likely result in a sub-optimized IT refresh. Emotionally, convincing teammates that the refresh cycle is not about a commodity discussion will be decidedly different than other refresh cycles.
To some degree, this refresh cycle is about "green field"- a new playing field that is driven by a unique set of circumstances.
This is my perspective, I would like to hear yours!
Partially as a result of the recession and perhaps part of the business as usual model, optimization is once again a mantra in corporate America and IT. Cost reductions and cost avoidance have led us once again to the concepts of continuous process improvements. During the economic crisis, much of our planned optimizations were out paced by sheer constraints to our budgets. Now as the economy strengthens, is there a choice between optimizing and innovating?
As always, the opinions presented in this blog are mine, and not those of my employer.
I depart a bit from the ususal discussions about technology and lifecycle in this posting to chat about the continuous process improvement planning we are all going through. Windows 7 and this upcoming technology refresh cycle is having us plan at a more detailed level than previous cycles. Optimization plans, based upon my experience, seems to yield typcially a range of 10% to 15% year to year improvements. While this is not trivial by any stretch of the imagination, management today and our companies seem to want the "step" change that is derived from innovating.
Innovating in client computing suggests that not only will the end user experience change, but also the related economics. This is one of the challenges we in IT face today. We have been optimizing year to year for quite a while, not only have we been doing more with less, we have been doing more in many cases with much less. At some point the benefits of optimizing become the realm of diminishing returns. At that moment, innovation becomes the best alternative.
Many businesses in client computing seek "the next big thing", the "step change". In my opinion, one of the greatest challenges facing IT today is innovating while optimizing. The day to day rigor will simply not wait while we innovate.
In my working with many businesses recently, we have focused actually on two plans. The business as usual optimization, and a separate innovation plan. The assumption is that as we optimize in this refresh (as an example) IT will request funding from the savings to subsidize innovation. Pilots and proofs of concept do cost dollars whether it is products, services, or resources. In an earlier blog I commented that client lifecycle management works the best when it is delivering measureable savings that could impact the net IT spend.
Given the economy, it may seem to be expedient to continue optimizing and defer investing in innovation. Just as we have learned in technology refresh cycles, deferring decisions quite often result in a "big bang" or a more significant scope to address. That may be the case in terms of innovation.
For client lifecycle management, innovation could be represented by a myriad of considerations ranging from PC as a Service, virtualization, cloud computing, standardizations, user segmentation, consumerization, and so forth. Webster defines innovation very simply as "something new, a product or service". Perhaps we make innovation too complex to be aligned with our tactical requirements. By this definition, innovation is something that is new to your business (in other words, not necessarily the "bleeding" edge).
At some point as the diminishing returns are achieved, innovation becomes perhaps the only viable manner to address continuous process improvement. In a tug of war between optimizing and innovating, over the longer haul- innovation wins.
The simple answer is that businesses need to do both, but resources can only be stretched so far, hence the need for two plans (or at least one plan with two unique sections).
What is your strategy for dealing with both optimizing and innovation? Is there a budget for both? Are the resoruces the same? These are just a few of the questions that we would like to hear from you.
Thank you for your particpation in this dialog.