Owning All Clouds

cloud-computing-multiple-clouds

By Doug Harr

As part of my career as an IT executive for the last dozen plus years, I’ve led several companies through a process of migrating their business application portfolio to the cloud.  At Portal Software, that meant deploying SuccessFactors for HR performance reviews, and OpenAir for Professional Services Automation.  At Ingres that meant deploying Intacct for Financials, Salesforce for CRM, and lots of other cloud solutions. The approach for me reached its zenith at Splunk, where we had a 100% cloud business application portfolio, and where 50% of our compute and store capacity was at Amazon. With so much functionality in the cloud the question of roles and responsibilities became a focus for the company. In this very cloud-friendly shop, what should IT’s focus be? What level of administration of these solutions could actually be owned and delivered by departmental owners, such as Sales Operations, Customer Support Operations or HR administration?

As one example, both at VMware, where I was program manager for their Salesforce implementation, and at Splunk, where I was the CIO, we had very strong sales operations teams, and fairly complex Salesforce environments. In those environments Sales Op’s began to take ownership of more functionality in the Salesforce suite. This included user administration, assignment of roles to users, territories to reps, and just about all reporting. This grew to include modifying page layouts, and other configuration capabilities normally owned and controlled by IT. In my view the idea of enabling the Sales Op’s team was attractive for several reasons: (1) they wanted the power to do these things (2) they were not waiting for IT on the things they felt were high priority (3) they were closer to the sales teams who actually worked inside the tool, and so they were good at interpreting issues and acting – as good certainly as an IT Business Analyst, or even someone with fairly good technical skills. In these scenarios it freed IT to work on deeper technical issues, level 3 incidents, environment management, integration, reliability, etc.

In another example, at Splunk we made wide use of Amazon EC2 for compute and storage capacity. In these cases, IT System Admins were not needed – environments were spun up and used directly by personnel in Engineering and Customer Support. This was an amazing success, and it freed IT to work on monitoring usage, working deals on cost, and managing the overall vendor relationship.

Not every department has a team or individual ready to own or take a major role in the management of a SaaS or IaaS platform. For every HR department that manages Workday, there’s a finance department that does not manage Netsuite. It depends on the tool, and the personnel. What I’ve found is it can also depend on the CFO and management of a business function – some execs are happy to have these resources placed in the business, some are more afraid of  “shadow IT spend” or they’re caught up suggesting that IT can’t deliver and granting this power is a cop-out. Actually, I had a moment like this at Splunk, where I had not adequately updated two peer execs on our intent to get more deep IT skills hired into Sales Op’s, and had to sort that one out, to make sure everyone understood this was not a shadow operation! So there can be bumps in the road, but in my view adopting this approach is inevitable really, as software platforms and micro apps are becoming widespread, and so is the ability and desire by departmental teams to be more involved in the direction of how those tools, platforms, and apps are rolled out and used.

All this speaks to the future role of IT, and I for one have lived that future, as least in part. It’s one where IT is more strategic, focused on vendor/portfolio management, integration and security. To be sure some functions that are broadly used across all departments, and some that are task specific, still accrue to IT in most cases, or to partners that offer elements of typical IT as a service (think Help Desk). But done well, each department owns more of its technology, feels more in charge of its future, its technology adoption, its responsible use, along with other benefits. And, IT focuses less on being everything to everybody, maintaining disparate queues of backlogged work, and more focused on higher level matters, transforming the business for the digital age, and accompanying delivery of more complex technical solutions.

Right where we should want to be.

@douglasharr

Big Data that Support Key Business Results

By Doug Harr

Word Cloud "Big Data"

CIOs have a tremendous opportunity to harness Big Data. But CIOs are also wary of buzz words and heavily marketed trends which often lead to pursuits that are secondary rather than those aligned to key results. And while it may not be clear to everyone in the executive ranks, CIOs are keenly aware that all systems (not just business systems) in an organization spew out data, much of which can be mined for useful information. When I was CIO at Splunk, we called this systems-generated data “machine data” and I had the chance to witness just how many brilliant things can be done by harnessing it. So when and where does it make sense for CIOs to embark on data driven projects? How can a CIO choose where to focus efforts?

In a typical corporation, CIOs look after everything from business applications, operations and infrastructure, security, and the infrastructure that supports their web presence. Looking across the vast portfolio of services they support, a CIO’s primary concern will be to properly implement capabilities, and then manage them in such a way that the business is effectively and efficiently supported. Taking on analytics becomes the next layer to tackle once each fundamental service is in place. Where the rubber meets the road is when you can use machine/big data to determine more than just the status of your infrastructure. That is, when you can see the opportunity to mine data for services that support the portfolio and ultimately the corporation’s key results.

Getting Started

Select a Use Case: Focus on high-value use cases first. External-customer facing use cases are particularly well suited as first forays into data mining programs. Making the customer experience as compelling as possible is key for all organizations. Developing deeper insights into this experience has enormous potential and will garner support from your marketing team and other internal customers.

Work with Your Internal Business Partners: Meet with your internal team, and departments such as marketing and engineering, to select a use case they care about. Choose a project that will impact their external customers—typically the customers of your company. While internally focused use cases for Finance, HR, Sales or other teams can be instructive, prioritize programs that address the company’s core product or service and customer experience.

Put the Technology in Place: Don’t place all your bets on one solution. Consider your approach and look at real-time products (such as Splunk), cloud offerings, and batch-oriented systems (such as Hadoop). Before you make any purchases, do a proof-of-concept. Ensure you have support staff from the vendor working with you and try a sample set of your data in their engine.

Review the Reports: Step back and review reports from the solutions you are considering. Analyze the insights, both qualitative and quantitative. For example, if you use a customer support system for your proof-of-concept, ask questions like these:

  • How long does it take a customer to get through the online sales cycle? How much time elapses from engagement to first customer support call?
  • How long are customers spending in our systems?
  • How many orders are placed per month? What’s the typical amount of time it takes to book an order? How long does it take to book an order at month end?
  • Does it appear anyone is trying to infiltrate our systems?

Demonstrate What You Can Produce: Share your proof-of-concept results with your internal team. There’s no greater fun than giving your sales and marketing customers something they didn’t have before, something that helps them make better decisions more quickly. Note that there are some use cases you will never be able to share widely. For example, security use cases can only be shared with security personnel and auditors.

Delivering Value

Bringing Big Data programs into your company is worth the effort. These data can tell you things about your business and systems you can’t learn any other way. Chosen and managed carefully, these programs can improve customer service (internal and external) provide a qualitative view into the customer experience, offer clearer insight into the products and services, and even enable a company to better understand its own employees.

Doug Harr is a partner at StrataFusion. He has more than 25 years of technology leadership experience both as an executive-level technology practitioner and in senior leadership roles for professional services organizations. Contact him at dharr@stratafusion.com; follow Doug at twitter.com/douglasharr.

How Mature Is Your IT Steering Committee? And Why You Should Care

Map

By Maureen Vavra

Information Technology (IT) Steering Committees ensure that IT maximizes the strategic value of your corporation’s information and technology. But how can you determine the operational level of your Steering Committee? And how can you guide it toward a higher level of maturity and make it more valuable?

New/Early-Stage Steering Committees (first six months)

The young IT Steering Committee takes on the role of enforcing review, performing impact analysis and fit, and acting as a gate keeper over uncontrolled change. This constraining role must evolve within six months for their governance role to be relevant; business leaders will opt out if all they see are roadblocks.

Characteristics of Young IT Steering Committees

  • Focus on immediate control
  • Help projects manage to priorities
  • Set standards and define governance
  • Give IT air cover in implementing critical policies and initiatives
  • Balance long- and short-term vision at about 30/70
  • Create a portfolio management approach to IT over time
  • Have trouble staying focused and out of issue management

Maturing Steering Committees

An active Steering Committee must become more proactive and future oriented. Guided by corporate strategic direction and needs, committees should sponsor the creation of an IT Roadmap for the next two to five years that defines core systems, interfaces and direction. This roadmap must be aligned with and communicated to the business allowing the business to know when to anticipate new capabilities and major system changes, and to assess the impact of new initiatives.

Characteristics of Mature IT Steering Committee

  • Govern via business strategy, IT roadmap and standards
  • Stay true to list of priorities
  • Enforce lean project management and milestones
  • Balance long- and short-term vision at 70/30
  • Guide IT portfolio and budget
  • Anticipate major change
  • Oversee process and data management initiatives

Make Your Steering Committee More Valuable

Start by performing an audit of your Steering Committee’s current operational level, asking the following questions:

  1. Is your IT Steering Committee responding to a budget, security or resource management crises? Should it be?
  2. What is your committee doing about your organization’s data—a hugely valuable asset?
  3. Who is on your committee? Can these committee members ensure business partnership and relevance? Are you missing any critical business functions?
  4. Is your IT Roadmap current and in use?
  5. What is your committee’s balance of long-term planning versus short-term reaction? Is it at least 70/30?
  6. Does your committee meet monthly and does the agenda include:
    • Pre-reading
    • Management to a strategic plan
    • Data-oriented initiatives
    • Monitoring of key measures, including project effectiveness
    • Time for discussion of future corporate direction

Commit to addressing each area that falls short:

  1. Review the IT spend quarterly at least, ensuring that you’re in control of how much resource is going into “Keep The Lights On” (KTLO) spend versus investment. KTLO can be your nemesis.
  2. State a Master Data Management vision and make incremental steps toward it. Data as it pertains to key processes/key performance indicators (KPIs) is a good place to start.
  3. Spend part of a Steering Committee Meeting discussing the membership representation and resolve duplicates and gaps, and who always misses. Be sure the people who come are decision makers.
  4. Review the IT Roadmap at least three times a year, especially in conjunction with the budget cycle.
  5. Talk about your Steering focus and balance and assess whether you are progressing to 70/30.
  6. Ensure monthly meetings are scheduled (not blown by) with the appropriate agenda.

The Best Steering Committees

Over time, the best IT Steering Committees handle the planning, prioritization and control functions with more ease, grouping them around business strategic planning outcomes and budget cycles. By that time, the members have built a deeper understanding of the role Information Technology plays in their business and can use the committee as a sounding board for exploring strategies to leverage core data and processes for innovation.

Maureen Vavra is a partner at StrataFusion. Contact her at mvavra@stratafusion.com; follow Maureen at twitter.com/MaureenVavra.

Why I Never Look at the Value Case or ROI

By Mark Tonnesen

iStock_000029072446Small

When evaluating potential IT initiatives, the most common approach is to focus on the numbers and look at the return on investment (ROI) or value case. For example, say your company is considering implementing a new Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system. Chances are the CEO and CFO will ask, “What’s the ROI?” Or, “If the new system will cost $10 million, can you show me how it will produce a much greater gain?”

As far as I’m concerned, though, if you’re asking about the value case or ROI when evaluating IT initiatives, you may be asking the wrong question and looking at the wrong things.

What You Should Be Asking when Evaluating IT Initiatives

What gets lost in the value case or ROI approach to evaluating IT initiatives are the bigger questions that are more important than the finance-driven calculations:

  • What problem(s) are we trying to solve?
  • What is the value to the business of solving this problem?
  • What objective/end state can we achieve with this initiative that we don’t have today?
  • What’s the best way to achieve our business objectives?
  • How important is solving this problem or achieving this objective for the business’ ability to reach its goals?
  • How will this help us make better decisions and run our business more efficiently?

Not Everything Can Be Measured (Using the Same Yardstick)

A problem with the ROI or value case approach is that you might be trying to quantify the unquantifiable. For example, say you are considering implementing wireless internet service throughout your office for $XX per month. How do you calculate the ROI on this? You can take a best guess at how this might improve productivity and come up with a number. But that would just be a guess. And it would ignore other factors, such as the positive impact this might have on employee satisfaction or addition benefits such as mobile applications. Once new capabilities are in place and available to the full team, they may lead to unexpected innovations and enhancements that further improve productivity. It is difficult to predict the benefits new capabilities unleash.

The Numbers Can Tell You Anything You Want to Hear

Your team’s best guess regarding the ROI of a proposed IT initiative is just that: a guess. As an example, I once worked with a large high-tech company that was big on ROI. The team worked on a series of technical support initiatives to develop self-service tools for customers. To justify these projects the team put together graphs showing a reduction in customer support cases and calls, and an increase in customer satisfaction.

Knowing what the cost of a support call, the team developed analyses that showed that the cost of each initiative was lower than the cost savings it would deliver and the projects were approved. Unfortunately, the projected savings never materialized. The team neglected to include factors such as growth, customer adoption rates, issue severity addressed by the tools, continuous improvement costs and operational support costs for the tools. An analysis that included all the right factors—beyond just cost—would have helped the company make a better business decision.

Where to Focus: Business Impact

When evaluating IT initiatives, I recommend steering clear of the value case and ROI approach. Rather than pulling numbers out of the air to justify (or kill!) a program, take a hard look at the business impact that the initiative will have. Ensure you are solving the right problem and include measurement points along the way to check whether the expected goals are being achieved.

Mark Tonnesen is a partner at StrataFusion. Contact him at mtonnesen@stratafusion.com; follow Mark at twitter.com/mtonnese.

Rapid M&A Integration

By Mark Egan

???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

  • Focus on the people
  • Take an aggressive approach to migrate the new business into existing systems
  • Plan to complete the work within 90 days of deal closing

Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A) are an important strategy for expanding business. Unfortunately, many times these actions do not meet their intended goals. Although considerable emphasis is placed on technology, products, and new markets, some fundamental issues are overlooked. After working on over 60 M&A transactions, I recommend that you focus on three areas: engaging your new employees, integrating the new business into existing systems, and completing all integration work within 90 days.

Engage Your Employees

First, focus on the people. Make sure that you answer their top three questions:

  1. Do I have a job?
  2. Who is my manager?
  3. What is my scope and responsibilities?

Until you answer these three questions, employees of the acquired company are not really listening and can’t focus on integration work. Be honest with employees, especially if you do not have a role for them, and provide assistance in finding a new role and incentives to work through transition period.

Migrate New Business into Existing Systems

Next, take a very aggressive approach to migrate the acquired company into your existing systems. With few exceptions, migrating acquired company systems over to your internal systems is much easier than investing a lot of time evaluating the acquired systems. Make sure that your existing systems have capacity to support increased volumes and additional businesses. This can be done as part of your IT readiness work well in advance of any M&A activities.

Have a 90-Day Plan

Finally, have a plan to complete all the integration work within 90 days of closing the deal.  Many IT tasks, such as e-mail, unified web site, and personnel systems can be completed on the first day of operation for the merged company. The remaining tasks should be aggressively planned for completion within 90 days. This approach positions your organization to take advantage of the newly merged company to develop new products and services and sell the expanded offering to your customers.

StrataFusion works with clients to develop their rapid M&A integration programs enabling them to improve the overall quality of their work as well as reduce costs.

Learn more about “Mergers and Acquisitions” in StrataFusion’s Knowledge Center and get to know our CIO/CTO Advisory practice.

 

Conquering “Big Hairy Audacious Goals”

An IT Transformation Starter Guide

By Mark Egan

Big Hairy Audacious Goals

  • Complete a “Big Hairy Audacious Goal” within 90 days
  • Clearly define the goal
  • Recruit your best staff to work on the project
  • Remove all barriers and set up the team to operate like a start-up

We all face “Big Hairy Audacious Goals (BHAG)” in our careers. However, many of them turn out to be crises we have to address rather than proactive initiatives that make significant positive impact on the organization. At StrataFusion, we believe in order to transform your IT organization successfully you need to set some BHAGs. At a former employer, we had a goal to set up the first private cloud and were asked to use company products. This was a big test of using all of the company products together for the first time and provided a showcase of this technology for our customers.

Step 1: Define the Goal (and Secure Support)

First, we started by clearly defining the goal: in 90 days, set up an operational private cloud that supports a mission-critical business application. We selected a business intelligence (BI) system supporting our marketing organization due to its critical requirement to understand our customers’ buying behaviors and design marketing programs to gain their attention. We then set up a regular cadence of meetings with our R&D organization to ensure we were using the products as designed. With R&D’s buy-in, we got support when we ran into issues, as many of these products had never been used together before.

Step 2: Recruit your Best Staff

Next we formed a BHAG team with the very best staff within our organization, recruiting them to the project full-time. Initially there was a lot of push-back as we pulled these key staff members out of their existing roles and key projects. We engaged the team and gave them a free hand in bringing in any staff from other organizations inside/outside the company.

Step 3: Remove Barriers

Finally, we removed all barriers for the team and allowed them to operate like a “start-up,” eliminating internal process constraints. The BHAG team did not have to follow change control processes, and was allowed to use non-standard hardware/software and bring in third-parties as required. We provided strategic management support for the BHAG team and held weekly meetings to remove any obstacles from completing their project.

Success

The private cloud project was completed on time, and the mission-critical applications continued to support key functions in marketing. We had developed a showcase for our customers demonstrating how to set up a private cloud in 90 days.

StrataFusion has worked with clients to develop big goals and transform their IT organizations so they can focus on key areas such as revenue growth, customer satisfaction and innovation. With the right team and the right strategy, conquering a “Big Hairy Audacious Goal” is achievable in 90 days.

Conquer your IT Transformation Project. Let StrataFusion show you how.

StrataFusion IT Transformation Practice