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

IT as outsiders, a luxury no one can afford

 

alone.pngRecently, Terry Bennett (someone from the Dallas area I’ve known for quite a while) wrote a post about Overcoming Your IT Department’s Outsider Reputation. I have finally gotten around to giving it a quick response. In his post he says:

“At a time when all companies need everyone on one team pulling together, IT professionals are often seen by others as ... well ... different.”

 

This seems like a luxury no one can afford. He mentions a number of approaches to shift IT personnel behavior:

  • Change the IT mindset
  • Align goals
  • Show your appreciation
  • Participate in company activities

It really gets down to being aware and involved in the business and its culture and not to look at your role (in IT) as part of a different industry.

 

I sometimes ask people: “If you win and the company doesn’t, did you actually win?”

 

As services becomes an ever increasing part of the economy and the revenue stream for companies, it needs to be sure not to fall into the same trap. This is also a concept those in the outsourcing space need to embrace with the customers – to the extent possible.

 

Enterprise architecture now more than ever…

Reach.pngI saw this post by Tim DeGennaro about Enterprise Architecture in 2014 it made me think about a discussion I had with a large analyst firms Enterprise Architecture specialist. I mentioned to him that HP’s EAs are not focused on “selling” HP products. They are not part of central organization but instead tied directly to client organizations. Naturally, they have some interest in the product’s being used appropriately, but their main interest is in generating value for the company, within their business, meeting their goals.

 

During our discussion, we kept going back to this topic over and over. It was clear there was a contextual mismatch, since my view is that that there is no way an EA can push product off the back of the wagon and fulfill their role as a trusted advisor. His view was that HP is a product company and therefore the EA must sell product – even though I don’t think he agreed that perspective was best. It was just an assumption he made.

 

The EA needs to be focused on the long term value generation – and the analyst just couldn’t understand that this was our approach. HP Enterprise Services wants to have long-term strategic relationships with organizations (most of the EAs are in HP ES). We view that Enterprise Architecture is at the center of these relationships, whether it is based on infrastructure, applications maintenance and development or business process outsourcing, to truly generate strategic value an enterprise architecture is needed. Often HP personnel perform this function, sometimes the customer’s team carry the load - in any case, we see Enterprise Architecture as foundational to what we do.

 

Transformation journey.png

We look at enterprise transformation as a journey, starting with assessing the current state of IT and its alignment to and support for the business, along a path to a defined “new state”. A state based on the business goals of the organization, not on some product list.

 

One of the important functions of Enterprise Architecture is to communicate the destination as well as the steps and the governance needed along the way. This allows for fact-based expectations, discussions and actions -- reducing confusion and rework. Organizational change management and communication skills are crucial to make this happen.

 

Since the EA deliverables need to be business driven – enterprise architect should strive to always tie back initiatives to business direction and metrics. Sometimes we all can lose sight of why we are here and this traceability helps keep everyone grounded in the needs of the business.

 

Once I was working at a large food manufacturing organization interacting directly with their Chief Technology office. We’d get into deep, esoteric discussions and I’d ask the question “How does this make more cheese?” to focus us back on the business goals.

 

Even though it may seem simple, the connections between the enterprise architecture and business goals allow EA’s try and maintain a practical approach. The architectural work products and the architects themselves need to be used effectively to deliver solutions and not be ivory tower shelf ware.

Cloud techniques are not limited to IT

animated_cloud_factory_22924.gifDo you see a narrow view of the application of cloud concepts by some individuals? Is it a case of not seeing the forest for the trees, or something else??

There is more to BPO automation than just replacing people expense

Human Automation.pngAutomation is one of the ways that businesses can use the abundance of computing capabilities to maximize value. The Horses for Sources blog had a post about the automation of BPO efforts titled: Greetings from Robotistan, outsourcing’s cheapest new destination.

 

The post made the case for replacing people in processes with automation – automation in services is something I’ve mentioned many times before.

 

What the HfS post didn’t cover is the role that people can and must play even in a highly automated environment. Automation is good at handling situations that are fairly well understood. What agent techniques are not good at is knowing what to do when there is not sufficient information or the patterns identified are not well understood. This is a role where humans excel.

 

When performing automation it can be as important identifying what is unusual and how to bring attention to the situation. Human augmentation of automation is as important as the automation itself. Effectively bringing people into the situation to make decisions is an example of scarce resource optimization that is so important in a world of IT abundance. The people involved will have to be knowledge workers who are ready for a dynamic environment that addresses anomalies and be able to describe how their involvement can be replaced by automation in the future.

Outsourcing, innovation and a changing services market

innovation unlock.pngLast week I posted on multi-sourcing and its implications on IT cost that got me thinking about a post in CIO titled: U.S. Beats India for IT Outsourcing Innovation and Understanding that reinforced my frustration with those who equate outsourcing with off-shoring. Yes, there is a geographic connection, but let’s not make it tighter than it actually is.

 

For over a decade the organization that is currently HP ES has been using the concept of best-shore to ensure that the right people with the right skills are applied to the problem at hand. The broad brush labels used in this CIO article just do everyone a disservice, in my opinion. The issue of innovation and outsourcing has been around for a long time.

 

People are not fungible – they bring a unique set of skills, resources and capabilities. The offerings in the services industry (beyond the most basic IaaS) are about selling people’s capabilities, especially to larger organizations that want solutions tailored to meet their needs. That is part of where the innovation in the services space comes from – doing custom work in a standard way. The relationship has to be structured to make innovation happen.

 

The use of other organizations to extend the enterprise is a strategic decision that needs to be treated as such. It is not just about cost cutting. It is about meeting the needs of the organization for quality, security… , as well as cost effectiveness, using whatever means are necessary. As organizations move their service needs up the value chain into more personalized/consumer focused services, these quality issues are paramount, since a confused or frustrated customer is typically not a return customer. The focus needs to be on quality. The geographic location is just a distraction, if the quality is the same.

 

Gartner recently put out a video describing some of the forces that are reshaping the fundamentals of how IT services providers deliver & sell and how buyers consume. Delivery models and methods are coming that will improve the quality, predictability and value of service offerings. It may be that greater physical "face time" improves the relationship more than just the cost benifits, regardless of where the work gets done.

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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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