The Next Big Thing
Posts about next generation technologies and their effect on business.

Energy awareness month -- IT's role

energy.GIFOctober is energy awareness month. One way to estimate your impact on energy consumption is to use a Carbon Footprint Calculator.

 

Another is to look at the applications in your business and estimate their watts consumed vs. value generated, as well as the infrastructure required to support those apps. That post focuses on the long lever an apps modernization effort can have whether the scarce resource is time, $$ or watts – you need to take a strategic view.

 

It is easy to forget that our systems build up layer-upon-layer – essentially turning into a monument to our success that can weigh us down. To be agile and efficient means that we need to throw off some deadweight on a regular basis, no matter how fond we are of it.

 

Maybe that is one of the reasons CIOs turn over so often, it allows the new person in the role to reassess the investments of budget impacts of past decisions. Afterall IT was brought into companies to make their business more efficient, transparent and effective.

Not much time to blog this week...

canada.jpgThis week I have been in Canada talking with a number of organizations about the changes taking place in computing and the implications on business. Universally, there was interest in the use of data visualization (3D?) and other techniques applied to facilitate decision making and possibly even automating some of these traditional knowledge worker activities.

 

Many organizations were focused on the balancing act needed between a private cloud approach and the access to short-term computing resources that a public cloud provides. Unfortunately, when we discussed the tools used, none of the software was ready for this burst out approach to computing. With some where the organization created the code, it may be possible to address their needs in the short term. Others were COTS solutions that are unlikely to go down that path anytime soon. Some techniques to segment data and move processing around can be tried but that definitely tactical and not strategic.

 

One item that came out during the discussions were the skills needed to move existing code to this more agile approach. Where can those skills be found? Are there methods that can be used? We described a range of options (from HP and others). Also can GPU processing approaches be applied to radically parallelize the effort – unfortunately, those skills remain pretty hard to come by but powerful and increasingly relevant.

 

HP has preannounced a whole series of high performance tablets that may also influence how these applications are consumed, since we’re finding more people who are working from non-traditional locations with 5 minutes to spare to address a situation.

 

We tried to describe the abundance of capabilities and possibilities available, and help them to think about what remains scarce for their own particular situation.  Like most IT organizations today, they are burdened by their legacy of successes and freeing up resources to tackle new things is one of the key activities for CIOs going forward.

Keeping its fans first is important to NASCAR

As we move into the fall here in Dallas, one of the events that comes to my mind is NASCAR at the Texas Motor Speedway. Recently some of us at HP had the chance to engage in a bit of Q&A with Steve Phelps, Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer of NASCAR, to find out how the new style of IT is making a difference.

 

Steve oversees all NASCAR efforts in corporate marketing, brand/consumer marketing, Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC), licensing, automotive group, business development, digital and social media, broadcast, entertainment, NASCAR Productions, information technology, corporate events and human resources. With over 75 million fans, that can be a big job and since NASCAR is so innovative about how they interact with this audience, the conversation is worth sharing.

 

Q. With the influx of Big Data throughout many industries, analysts are predicting that CMOs will become the new CIOs of the future. What role does Information Management and Analytics play in your daily activity?

A. The amount of data generated across both traditional and social media surrounding our sport is staggering. Fans connect with our sport digitally and share their experience with us more than ever before. Due to a shifting media landscape, news coverage of our sport is constant, coming from hundreds of print outlets, television broadcasts, and online publications. Candidly, before partnering with HP to develop the Fan and Media Engagement Center (FMEC) there was no easy way for us to make sense of all the noise. Thanks to HP’s cutting edge technology, the engagement center ingests huge amounts of data related to our sport and allows us to focus a lens on almost any topic that we want. We can now make informed decisions on just about every aspect of our business. We are just beginning to tap into its capabilities, but the value the FMEC has already provided through measurement and analytics can be felt on a daily basis.  

 

 

FMEC 2.jpg

 

Q. We’ve heard a lot about Big Data jamming the systems of many corporations and enterprise groups. NASCAR must have had massive data stores in place. How did process automation and HP Enterprise Services consulting view this challenge?

A. HP provided a true end-to-end solution for us. HP’s Enterprise Services team has helped us build this solution from Day One of our collaboration and has been a partner in the evolution and development of this process since launch.

 

In terms of hardware and software, our Fan and Media Engagement Center is HP-powered from front to back - from the back-end HP Blade servers and 3Par storage to help us store and manage all this “Big Data,” the middle software analytics layer powered by HP Autonomy, to our front-end display matrix with the latest in digital signage, it is all HP.

 

Q. Much of Information Management and Analytics has to do with gleaning the right information from the data to make it actionable. What were your goals when you started the project? Now that the engagement center has been implemented, how have these goals changed?

A. The idea of the Fan and Media Engagement Center came from our Chairman, Brian France. He wanted to create a resource that would benefit not only NASCAR, but the entire NASCAR industry by providing business-impacting insights tailored to specific audiences within the NASCAR ecosystem, including race teams, tracks, and partners.

 

In its first year of existence, the FMEC has already delivered value to each audience, yet we have only scratched the surface of the system’s capabilities. The FMEC is a “Version 1.0” platform, and we continue to learn, tweak, and refine the system. Our immediate goals have not changed, however, I envision that our goals will evolve as the system does.

 

Q. At HP, we talk quite a bit about information being the most valuable asset in the enterprise. How has the data you’ve been able to analyze proved beneficial to sponsors and partners? 

A. NASCAR is now able to provide insights to the many partners in our sport’s ecosystem. We can analyze fan levels of engagement around sponsor at-track activations, measure how a partner’s brand is perceived by our fan base, and learn more about what our fans like and dislike.

 

Additionally, we can hone in on specific topics – sentiment around broadcast partners, feedback on a sponsor contest, for example – and produce in-depth insights into fan behavior, so we can serve them the best content and provide the best experience.

 

Earlier this year, Chevy unveiled a new production model at a press event during the weekend of the Daytona 500. Within an hour after the event was over, our President Mike Helton was able to hand deliver a dashboard to our partner showing how fans and potential customers felt about the new car.

 

That kind of value can’t be measured.

 

Q. Have you seen an uptick in sales, or fan base growth? Are sponsors and partners more willing to make an investment when they are able to see data and know their return with more certainty? How has it enabled them to get ROI?

A. The FMEC wasn’t developed to be a direct revenue generator for NASCAR. However, I like to characterize ROI when speaking about the FMEC as a Return on Information. The FMEC is providing our entire eco-system with business impacting information. In certain circumstances, the impact can be felt in real-time, however a number of partners will use the information to help formulate the way they activate in our sport for years to come. That is truly when partners will be able to maximize on the value the FMEC provides. That said, the demand for FMEC information has been high this entire season and continues to grow. 

  

Q. What is one of the largest differences you’ve seen in the way your marketing organization works now that you have the Fan & Media Engagement Center?

A. One of the biggest benefits that the FMEC has provided us is the ability to market in real-time. For example at this year’s Talladega race, bad weather forced some pretty significant rain delays. Talladega is one of our largest tracks, over two miles. Rain delays can cause significant impact to fan interest, our broadcast partners, and our corporate partners.

 

During the rain delay, we were able to keep a real-time handle on levels of conversation about the race and delay, and take action to keep fans engaged via our social media channels, asking and answering questions, providing updates, sharing photos.

 

We were also able to zero in on sentiment about the track drying system, how many people were talking about it, noting how impressive it was in improving track drying time. We were able to analyze the public sentiment and provide a snapshot to track partners who are considering it for their own tracks.

 

This was a situation that could have been a negative - a significant weather delay - that we were able to turn into a positive by keeping fans engaged and showing the value of a new technology product to partners.

 

To learn more about how HP and NASCAR are working together, check out these videos:

 

 From one race fan to another, I hope to see you at the track soon!

 

Never waste an IT crisis too

IT crisis.pngI was reading MylesS post Don’t waste a good IT crisis! and it made me think about some of the issues I’ve been involved with recently. MylesS points out that the pressure of a crisis can cause red tape to be cut to resolve a situation – nearly every crisis is also an opportunity.

 

I mentioned that trouble shooters have a specific role to play in a crisis. One of those roles is to be a conscious that doesn’t allow an organization to fall back into “business as usual” too quickly. From my experience, even if there is a technical root cause identified there are usually political or process issues that contributed to the situation as well. These are usually much more difficult for the organization to change and keep changed.

 

It is all too easy to breathe a sigh of relief and be lulled into contentment once a crisis is over. Plans that seemed so important can shift to the back burner. Advisors need to ask for dates and follow-up to ensure that action takes place. Real leadership needs to be brought to bear to track down the organizational issues and shift behavior to ensure that similar situations don’t happen again – at least in the same way. Ideally this change needs to come from the local team, since the external impetus can’t be sustained for the long term. 

Tags: CIO| Crisis| future
Labels: CIO| crisis| Future

Pulling IT organizations together to meet objectives

Pull together.pngToday, I was talking with a consultant located in the Dallas area who works with small regional financial institutions, improving their performance. One situation he runs into continuously are IT organizations that don’t realize where their paycheck comes from. In the case of a recent organization, he had to tell them they are actually bankers, not really technologists – they need to understand what the bank's objectives are.

 

We joked about how you can tell when a project (or maybe even an IT organization) is in trouble when the project manager (or the CIO) spends a great deal of time behind a locked door by themselves. Both these roles need to get out and talk with others. In the case of the CIO, they need to talk with the business about where they are headed and how technology can help them get there. If the bank has a strategic focus on growth through acquisition, the IT organization needs to develop real skills in application portfolio management. They also need to understand the strengths of any systems that come in from the banks that get acquired before they pave over them with the parent banks systems. Let’s face it all applications portfolios have a few apps that can use improvement.

 

Most of the time when he (or I) gets involved with an organization that is having problems it turns into a coaching and mentoring session for the individuals. It is not that the people aren’t good or don’t have applicable skills. It is more that they need an external perspective to help them see things in a different light. Once they do see it though, they may need additional help both planning to address the changed perspective as well as continuing to maintain their epiphany. It can be as simple as talking with them about understanding the implications of being honest with their leadership about the status of a system or overcoming the factions within an organization and pulling them into a solution. These are all natural human tendencies that can develop.

 

All the mobility and big data efforts in the world can at best make the issues more visible. It is still up to people to perform the organizational change management that is needed to make change stick.

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About the Author(s)
  • Steve Simske is an HP Fellow and Director in the Printing and Content Delivery Lab in Hewlett-Packard Labs, and is the Director and Chief Technologist for the HP Labs Security Printing and Imaging program.
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