Keeping the lights on in a competitive world

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Given that the festive season is upon us, it is fortunate that my discussion this time fits neatly into the Christmas Carol model of the past, present and the “yet to come.” Not that I’m saying I’m Mr. Scrooge, you understand—though my daughters may have a different view on that from time to time.

 

The transformation of IT in business has been rapid and dramatic. This process has enabled business to become more efficient, productive and customer-oriented, while external technology advances have impacted on how organisations deal with their customers, partners and advisors.

 

And at the same time, the IT manager has developed from the chap with a screwdriver through to becoming the CIO holding a senior position in the business. Indeed, things will go seriously wrong if the CIO is not near the top of the organisation.

 

The ghost of IT past

IT of the past focused on technology and “tin.” The IT manager dealt with the procurement and deployment of ever-increasing arrays of processors, storage, desktop computers and the like. We were—and are still—looking to streamline business processes in order to increase efficiency, lower costs and facilitate new business services.

 

In recent times, there has been considerable focus on handling the proliferation of devices—both outside and within the organisation. Questions revolved around subjects such as:

  • Capitalising on consumer demand for always-on access to services
  • Gaining new business through new services for mobile customers
  • Rapid delivery of apps
  • Business systems interconnectivity
  • Security

The ghost of IT present

We’re now in an environment where financial margins on business are very thin, meaning that every ounce of productivity, efficiency and paying no more than you need to are all of paramount importance. The consumerisation of IT and easy availability of seemingly endless compute capacity online in principle should make meeting business imperatives much easier. However, a number of challenges present themselves:

  • How do we ensure data and process security?
  • What happens if a cloud service provider goes out of business?
  • How will cloud services be integrated with internal systems?

Hybrid and Shadow IT

The driving forces behind this “hybrid IT”—the use of both internal and cloud services—are compelling:

  • The cost-effectiveness of cloud services
  • The ability to react quickly to changing business needs
  • Requirements to manage, analyse and control business data

When used without the knowledge of the IT manager, this “shadow IT” highlights the need for the CIO to be close to the top of the business.

 

While the line of business manager may see that it’s easy to sign up to a cloud service to perform the specific task he needs right now, is he in the right position to ensure that this is a cost-effective decision for the company as a whole? No—he just doesn’t have visibility across the entirety of the organisation.

 

By the very nature of the IT job, the CIO has more knowledge of the business as a whole than any other LOB manager. This places them in the ideal position to provide advice on how the entire organisation can benefit from a coherent approach to the acquisition and use of IT resources, wherever they are located.

 

Transformation for the future

For these reasons, the CIO of today must move beyond technology and tin, and focus on process and governance. And it is this position that drives the transformation of IT for the future so that:

  • The core IT platform is adapted for the future
  • Cloud services are integrated where appropriate as part of the platform
  • Automated tools are used for integration, application and systems monitoring

Within this transformation, the resilience of the IT platform is of the greatest importance. While businesses have long recognised the alarming loss of money when IT systems go down internally, it is now a much more public affair.

 

In February, the Bank of America had problems with their online banking system causing disruption to their customers. With social media, this problem rapidly hit the news.

 

BMW’s path to IT transformation sees the imminent launch of a private cloud environment. The firm’s Vice President for IT Infrastructure, Mario Müller, in recognising the need for resilience, chose the cloud approach to offer flexibility and an implementation that shows no downtime to users.

 

“The traditional forms of IT won’t be alive for many more years as they do not fulfil our requirements. They do not have the necessary flexibility, agility and resilience, and these are the main reasons for our implementation,” he said. (Read the full story on V3 here.)

 

The ghost of IT yet to come

There is no doubt that the technology world will continue to present us with shiny new toys and better, faster, cheaper ways of doing existing and new things.

 

McDonald’s recognises the need to keep the customer coming back and has been looking at 3D printing in-store (print your own Big Mac perhaps?!) to this end. While this is a possible tech-toy to entertain the customer, they’re also recognising the need to capitalise on information which they gather about customers.

 

Big Data

Companies like McDonald’s are good at collecting huge amounts of data, but getting to know their customers better through data analysis is more of a challenge.

 

Dealing with Big Data is increasingly consuming the time of senior IT managers. It is so important that some organisations are starting to think about employing chief analytical officers whose role will be to make sense of data and how it can be used to benefit the organisation.

 

Once we’ve made sense of the data we hold, the organisation must be able to capitalise on the information drawn out. Waiting weeks or months for new software just won’t be an option. And it is the ability to react quickly to data-based conclusions that will represent core differentiators for the company. If my company can spot a trend more quickly that the competition, then we’re going to be in the best position to capitalise on the opportunity.

 

How’s your transformation?

  • Are you able to focus on process and governance rather than tin?
  • Will you be the first to deploy new tech-toys like 3D printing?
  • What are your challenges with Big Data?

Next time, I’m going to be considering what should be on the first page of the agenda for 2014.

 

Related links:

Big Data goes big in 2014: Analytics for everyone

“I’m on the train”: How mobile technologies impact business

 

Alastair Corbett leads HP’s UK&I Software Business Unit and has responsibility for its strategy, the promotion and selling of the IT Performance Suite and related services. Prior to this role, Alastair was responsible for defining the new sales strategy and go-to Market models for Worldwide Software Sales, and before that, he successfully led the Worldwide Services Operations team for HP Software. Alastair joined HP from Peregrine as a result of the acquisition in 2005, where he held the role of VP International Operations and was responsible for all Finance and Operations activities in EMEA and APJ. He also led the integration activity for EMEA, as well as leading the Sales Operations function.

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