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

5 points CIOs must take action on now

1)   Understand the business strategyplanning.png

What are the organizations hot buttons and why are they there. To do this, you’ll need to reach out (if you don’t meet with people you can’t understand them). Once you’re there you need to actually pay attention. It is amazing what people will tell you when you actually listen to what they mean not just what they say. Look for conflict. Where there is conflict, there is an opportunity to innovate.

 

2)   Have a vision

Don’t just respond to the situations of the day. Set direction – yet be flexible. There are always situations that defy the rules. Look for anomalies, because unique is where the value is. Everything that is not unique, but normal -- strive to automate. It takes out variability and allows the people to focus on maximizing value from those unique situations.

 

3)   Understand architecture

There are many dimensions to architecture that can be easily assumed or overlooked. It is not just the technical side of architecture, but the business structures they need to support that need to be understood. For example security, whether it is cloud, BYOD or analytics. The security implications and pressures can be quite different so an architectural approach needs to be flexible. The same can be said about the data issues – especially when thinking about BYOD and similar approaches.

 

Closely related to the planning side of architecture is the portfolio of services used by the enterprise. The existing environment is a constraint on both the flexibility and spending to address the future. Make sure every system/service has an owner. Why be constrained by something that no one cares about any more. These things can build up overtime – like weeds. It’s good to thin them out on a regular basis, and that is where the governance side of architecture comes into play.

 

4)   Understand your options

CIO’s today have more options than they may realize. We live in a world of abundant IT capabilities and possibilities. There are new tools available like:

  • Mobility
  • Analytics
  • Social techniques
  • Service based approaches (XaaS) and outsourcing of whole business processes.

Just because you’ve never done it before doesn’t mean that now is not the time.

 

5)   With all this information be sure you make a plan

Once you have the plan, be sure to communicate it to the business and your teams. This will empower them to support the effort as well as reduce confusion and inertia. In order to be a leader, you must have followers and communications is key.

 

The CIO can help move the organization forward and increase value to whole new levels but only if they move away from the status quo. I recorded a video of these points and if I get my hands on it (and its good) I'll place it on the blog.

What is a cloud broker?

Cloudbroker.pngForrester recently released an analysis of the concept of a Cloud Broker. Although there was much to agree with, I actually view it a bit differently. They have a too hardware centric view for my taste. This is not something new and we (in HP) have been talking about it for years. My view is that the various components of a cloud approach build up on top of each other as I’ve described before.

 

The various market components can interact in different ways to provide value to the marketplace.

  • Cloud Infrastructure provider – Infrastructure operators have been around for decades. Organizations who specialize in this area focus on the automation, security and performance needed to take what has been a traditionally business by business approach into a multi-tenant solution that can be charged “by the pound”. This is the core of the IaaS space.
  • Software vendors – These players are critical to the cloud since their solutions are what actually add the business value on top of the lower cost solutions provided by the Cloud Infrastructure providers. Their software (and just as importantly their licensing) needs to change to enable the cloud shift for organizations. Taking advantage of the many cores that can be applied to the new leveraged environments and to have the solutions fail over gracefully when needed with no downtime is something the software vendors need to continue to address.
  • Industry consulting – As more of the infrastructure operations and management functions are provided by 3rd parties, the need to integrated it all together in a unified, business value generating solution still remain. Consultants still play a role by having the deep expertise that can be brought to bear on the strategic cloud move.

Businesses specialize at the intersection of these IT industry components:

  • SaaS – this is where the software intellectual property mentioned earlier meets the cloud infrastructure. Business application functionality is offered as a service by subscription. The consumer does not normally see the IaaS issues that may reside under the SaaS layer.
  • Cloud Integrator – This is where the IaaS capabilities are used by consultants to help modernize both the infrastructure and the application portfolio and make it operate effectively in this new environment. Since the value needs to be generated against the organizations business model, integrating the various components can be critical to effective use of the cloud.
  • BPO – Business process outsourcing has been around for decades and it usually involves access to both the software IP as well as the personnel with the industry (or at least process skills) required to take on specific business functions. It allows organizations to concentrate on areas where they want to focus and offload other business functions to experts in that area. Some organizations have relabeled this to BPaaS so it can align to the XaaS abbreviation model, but BPO has always been cloudlike.

Finally at the hub of these intersections is the cloud broker. This function may do all of the items previously mentioned or just perform 3rd party administration ensuring that a unified solution meets the needs of the business.

 

They need to have expertise in a wide range of hardware capabilities, ranging from the servers through the desktop and mobile platforms – after all the computer you have with you all the time is likely a smartphone.

 

They must also understand the analytics and user interface issues to weave together all these possibilities into a solution that is coherent and effective for the business. No one wants to be distracted by user interface or data inconsistencies. The elimination of latency through the use of automated workflow and techniques that allow people to focus on the anomalies and automate “normal” is key here as well.

 

There can be a range of capabilities in this cloud broker space ranging from the simple sourcing manager all the way though the business model integrator who deeply understands the business and technology objectives of the organization and is constantly on the lookout for technology solutions that disrupt the status quo. They need to be experts on the kinds of problems that usually hurt cloud deployments. Some of the descriptions of the cloud broker function that are out there make it seem like an IT management function, but to me its roots are deeper into the business needs and expectations than that.

 

What is common to this range of cloud broker is that the IT complexities of managing the workload and the vendors should be hidden from the end user – and to some extent the end business. After all if they wanted to know these details and manipulate the controls, they should have someone on staff that is performing the function, instead of purchasing it as a service. Many CIOs are going to spend much of their future effort in the cloud broker function, among other things.

 

Although these cloud broker function may seem like a vision, there are a few organization that HP supports today where this level of performance is expected and delivered.

 

There are some recommendations I can agree with though:

1)      Understand your window of opportunity – We can all see this happening. Know what is happening in the marketplace and if you retain your infrastructure what is the price point where you would change to a different model. If you don’t understand this point, you are passively deciding to stick with the status quo.

2)      Build trust with the right partners – I used the term partners here because I’m talking about a close relationship. Understand where they are headed. What are the lock-in issues? How does that make you feel? The farther out your headlights shine and the sooner the direction and issues are understood the less likely you’ll over-steer later.

3)      Plan to invest – There are many skills involved. You may not have them in-house. You will likely need to do some pilots to understand the implications financially, behaviorally and on the staff itself.

Another reason to focus on attention engineering – the aging workforce

j0234692.gifI’ve mentioned in the past the limitation human attention span has to play in user interface design. I’ve also mentioned how XaaS techniques are likely to make the user interface consistency issue even worse, if we’re not careful.

 

There is a study out of the University of Toronto that shows how as we age our ability to filter out distractions and irrelevant information declines. As the age of the workforce increases and people work well beyond the traditional retirement age and into their 70s, holistic, role based, user interface planning  will increase in importance, allowing individuals to focus on the problem at hand. Just assembling the raw UI pieces from various sources will be disrtacting and confusing.

HP’s shifting to a higher services gear

HP will increasingly focus on services. A trend we are seeing in the marketplace with HP's acquisition of EDS and Dell's acquisition of Perot Systems.... HP is definitely moving from "a printer company" to a focus on the entire spectrum of how business value is generated using technology. Service is becoming the largest revenue producer in HP. The HP portfolio now covers the entire IT market - network, storage, servers and software are blending together into a services world and someone needs to be able to provide integration. It will not be easy for companies to make that switch, since some foundational shifts in perspective will be required - for the providers as well as the consumers. HP is definitely, trying to perform that role and the heavy services focus helps make the case for an "everything as a service" model, within HP.

 

For the infrastructure space, HP has 'converged infrastructure' to address an organization's "private cloud" needs. HP's infrastructure cloud strategy is also starting to see the light. In the software area, more flexible approaches are being developed. IT outsourcing and BPO always had a cloudy aspect to them when done right, that's one of the reasons HP bought EDS.

 

One of the big questions is: Can product companies make the shift from a product perspective, where the people are considered overhead, to a services perspective, where the people's skills are what generate revenue. Naturally, one of those skills is the amount of automation that can be implemented. Taking people out of the normal activities and having them focus on turning the anomalies into opportunities is key to making a services approach cost effective.

 

This movement to everything as a service has numerous other implications as well:

 

 

It becomes less of a "you against the world" approach and more of a situation where the number of resources (from any source) that can be brought to bear on a problem, quickly, that makes a difference.

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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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