Simplifying the IT Infrastructure Management Framework

the five aspects (1)Having a clear framework can make a big difference in the success of your infrastructure services.  As a part of my career at companies like Netflix, Sun Microsystems, Complete Genomics and recently as a Partner of StrataFusion Group, I developed a toolkit to help get my head around all the aspects of IT infrastructure management to enable successful change for growth and higher efficiencies. The framework’s innovation is primarily around how to look at the ever-changing technology landscape but is complemented with organizational and process points of view.

To help others who may be struggling with this topic, I wanted to provide this overview.

The Layers:

To start, I define IT infrastructure by layer:

  • Services: Think of identity (active directory), databases and common services like email and collaboration. Out of scope for this discussion would be the actual business apps like ERP and CRM, etc.
  • Compute: All server and Operating Systems (e.g. Linux, Windows) components.
  • Storage: Anything that holds data like Hadoop, SAN, NAS and is often shared between servers and applications.
  • Network: All Wide Area and Local Area network components, including load balancers and firewalls.
  • Data Center: Power, cooling and space to hold it all.

The Aspects:

To make sure you manage all key aspects of each layer, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Availability: What is the availability profile? MTBF and MTTR for hardware or a service, for example.
  • Security: How do I ensure only authorized people and processes can affect the device or service?
  • Performance: What are the latency requirements for any response from any device or service?
  • Economics: What are the key cost metrics and how does that impact how I deploy new devices and services? Think of reserved instances vs. on demand in AWS terms.
  • Change: What changes do I need to plan for: Operational (patching) and business (how long will the device or service exist? 1 hour or 5 years?).

Simplifying is always helpful when dealing with complexity and for the keen observer, you might have noticed that if you take the first letter of each aspect I get: ASPEC. Both the layers and ASPECs can be used in many different contexts. For example, when writing a project definition document, you can use these to describe all key and relevant requirements.  From an operational management perspective, you can use this to define KPIs. From an organizational perspective, you can use it to find gaps in capability or focus.

To leave you with some examples below is a matrix that illustrates the types of considerations per layer and aspect.

ASPECs

I hope this framework can help you and your teams improve your infrastructure services and assist in driving the right decisions as you implement new Infrastructure paradigms, like cloud computing, during your transformation projects. Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions or comments.

Edward Wustenhoff

Igniting Animal Welfare through Technology

Celebrating National Adopt a Shelter Pet Day

In today’s digital world we see every day how technology is transforming lives – and for me, that also means helping animals in need.  April 30 is National Adopt a Shelter Pet Day, and to ensure success, we need to employ technology to improve lifesaving efforts, whether assisting in search engine results, boosting social media, running shelters, or helping shelters and support organizations collaborate.

Animals are an important part of my life, and at one point my family included 17 indoor cats!  That may be hard for some people to imagine, but it was our way of making a difference.  Since 2003, I’ve served on the Board of the Humane Society Silicon Valley and now also serve as CIO of Maddie’s Fund, a national family foundation established by Dave and Cheryl Duffield to revolutionize the status and well-being of companion animals.  I have been able to merge two important themes in my life: serving animal welfare by using technology to make a purpose-driven difference.

How Technology is Transforming Animal Welfare

Technology is helping create a new level of interoperability between funding organizations, shelters and technology partners.  Technology helps stakeholders more effectively work toward the same goal of saving lives by sharing knowledge, resources and information.

Here are five ways technology is making an immediate impact:

  1. PROMOTING ADOPTION: The Shelter Pet Project connects various organizations with a goal of emptying shelters through adoption.
  2. PROVIDING EDUCATION: sites like Maddie’s Pet Forum and Maddie’s Pet Assistant help people interact with others or learn how to introduce a new pet into the home. Maddie’s University, a free learning management system for animal shelters to train staff and volunteers, as well as providing online certifications and continuing education for veterinarians.
  3. DEVELOPING APPS: apps like Adopt-a-Pet and Paws Like Me make it easier than ever to connect people to animals in need. These types of technology solutions pull data from shelter systems into apps, including animal background, microchips and medical records.
  4. SEARCH: Ensure search engines are working seamlessly with tools and apps to connect pets to people.
  5. CONNECTING NETWORKS: Systems like Maddie’s Pet Forum are helping connect emerging networks of people, especially during times of crisis, to coordinate where people can volunteer and animals can be taken for assistance when areas are overwhelmed, or transfer based on demand.

Since my first board member role with the Human Society Silicon Valley16 years ago, I’ve been able to focus on influencing and educating others around technology applications to help drive success and awareness for animal welfare. Today my role as a consulting Partner with StrataFusion, allows me to be part of a group of community-minded technology executives.

In this age of digital intelligence, resources are a big challenge when it comes to non-profits and community organizations. And let’s face it, technology solutions are expensive, especially when it comes to staffing and talent. It is crucial for people with deep technology experience to get involved —  because the world needs the help.

Maddie's-Fund-25-Years_Social-Media-Posts_1

You Can Help

While animal welfare was the natural choice for me, there are so many organizations that need volunteers and board members who can help guide operations and enable success.  You don’t have to share your home with 17 cats to make a meaningful difference — you can share your expertise as a volunteer or a board member to help others.

The bottom line is that passionate people are change agents, and we all have something special to offer – especially a home to a shelter pet.

Lars Rabbe, StrataFusion Partner and CIO at Maddie’s Fund

 

CIOs and the Board

Earlier this week I moderated a lively panel of CEOs at the HMG Strategy CIO Executive Leadership Summit in San Francisco, exploring what Boards need from CIOs and c-suite technology executives.Mark Egan, StrataFusion

Are you exploring what it takes to join a Board of Directors? Here are a few tips from our panel.

  • Most boards have two major reasons for seeking an IT professional on their board. They want strategic and operational risk assessment and mitigation, including cybersecurity. They also want business strategy, including technology and business model disruption across the enterprise/industry.
  • Focus on the three Cs: Credentials, Communications, and Contacts. Having business-related credentials (MBA/Ph.D.) to denote more than a technical background.  Write books, seek out public speaking engagements, make strategic contacts and develop relationships.
  • Boards are looking to optimize stewardship of a strategy to leverage technology in two frames: internal transformation (modernize, understand, protect and enable the business) and external transformation (innovate products, services, customer engagement).
  • Boards are charged with balancing the intrinsically competing priorities of minimizing risk while maximizing long term opportunity and profitability.  The most useful and insightful contributions that anyone can make to a board discussion around technology are those that zero right in on the fulcrum issues between those competing priorities.
  • All businesses, whether established operations or start-up potential disruptors, face repeated build vs buy decisions.  A CIO that has a clear vision of where a company’s real and valuable innovation is likely to occur, and who marshals resources (time, focus, money) to prioritize internal development in those areas, while guiding the efficient acquisition of everything else, is a CIO that can help a Board crystalize strategy.
  • Tech leaders with a broad knowledge of business and technology trends, who can speak in an easy to understand and compelling way, have a unique opportunity to help boards understand the issues and opportunities for companies in technology-related businesses. They can help anticipate and lead disruptive change, which typically requires a fairly deep understanding of multiple technical disciplines and a good sense of business fundamentals and strategy.

Good advice.

Mark Egan, StrataFusion Partner

Transformation in Our Communities

Community TransformationWe are living in an era of transformation where technology is changing not only how we do business and go about our daily lives, but also how we connect to each other.

It’s an exciting time to be part of driving this evolution. But there is another area of transformation that inspires: the transformation that takes place in our communities any time we get directly involved to help others.

At the heart of any transformation is the ability to make change happen. Here at StrataFusion, our partners have built successful careers across industry helping business grow, primarily in technology-related areas. Now, having established a partnership of trusted advisors to serve a spectrum of clients, it’s especially gratifying to contribute our expertise to the organizations doing great things in our communities. This is where our collective experience and know-how is put to use to help create change in the lives of others.

The organizations our partnership works with are diverse, from youth-focused STEM programs and university level education to mentoring, assisting with domestic violence intervention and raising funds and awareness for animal welfare. A snapshot of organizations and institutions includes: Year Up, Fresh Lifelines for Youth(Youth Intervention), Wonderfest(Youth STEM), Merritt College Security Program(Education), Women Unlimited, Inc.(Mentoring), Maddie’s Fund(Animal Welfare)and First Robotics(STEM).

On a personal note, it is gratifying to work with colleagues who are so passionately dedicated to helping others succeed by sharing time and professional expertise to serve on boards, mentor, support, educate and support in many other ways.

From our clients to our communities, I think this dedication captures the core of StrataFusion’s purpose: a passion to help others succeed.

Ken Crafford, Founding Partner

A Tale of Two Transformations

StrataFusion partners frequently meet and speak with business leaders across industries. This network of clients, colleagues and peers provides valuable insights into how companies view digital transformation, culture, operational and organizational challenges in the digital age.

Digital signals flying over highway. Digital transformation. Internet of Things.

“It was the best of times it was the worst of times …” Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

Digital Transformation has been a revolutionizing force for business for more than a decade. It’s an exciting time for companies, but also brings many challenges that can test leaders and cultures.

While there are things common to business that every CIO should consider, the journey is different for everyone.  We recently spoke to two heads of technology at mid-size companies to understand their views on Digital Transformation and how it fits with their strategy. Both are fairly young companies in similar industries with less than 20 years in operation.  Given the age of these companies, you might assume they would not face much need for digital transformation, that they already have the underlying technology, skills and processes ready to evolve in step with the market demands and new entrants.  Here is what they had to say.

Company A:  Focusing on Big Themes

The first company in our comparison is all about solving for complexity:   complexity of systems, technologies, decision-making, methodologies and all the interrelatedness that needs to be addressed. The questions they ask center around the following:

  • Value Model: what is the value proposition to launch a large system replacement? What is the value proposition to simplify and eliminate so many in-place vendors and products – and add new different ones?
  • Change Management: why do all business units need to standardize IT? Won’t it delay a lot of more important things and take money away from their initiatives? With global business diversity (when operating in many regions and countries), is it best to standardize or differentiate?
  • Scalability: it’s easy to go overboard with digital. How much is enough and how is cost structure impacted?

Company B:  Drilling Down on Tactical Planning:

The other company in our comparison is focused more on starting with results and less on starting with strategy.  It is about looking at some of the “quick wins” to move the case for transformation forward.  The questions they ask center around:

  • Metrics: how exactly will they measure success?
  • The Test Drive: can they try before they buy? While they believe an overall approach is needed, they want the experience as a proof-point.
  • Customer: when operating in a commercial space, how do you execute transformation activity to align with customers and their business outcomes in every step of planning?

It’s clear that even younger companies and start-ups have digital transformation challenges.  The size of the problem may be different, but the legacy (and the potential for legacy) issues can be very similar to larger, more mature organizations.

Is there a right answer to what approach is best for transformation success?  Even if in the same industry, every company is different:  from the communications of their leadership teams to their workforce and their culture; what works for one may not work for the other.  This is the value a trusted advisor delivers: experience that understands the unique facets every company brings to the equation of any digital change in the business model.  That’s our approach.

Now it’s your turn to weigh in! We love feedback, so share your thoughts in the comments.

Future installments on this topic will dive into StrataFusions’s point of view on various approaches to transformation.  We will provide deeper consideration around the successful starting points, the questions and data needed for successful digital transformation.

 

A Decade of Digital Transformation

Digital Transformation (DX) has been underway for more than a decade now. With a significant amount of time under our collective belt, it feels like a good time to evaluate a couple things.

Maybe not so surprisingly, many companies are stuck in their DX or struggling to make sense of the opportunity it presents.  I’ve spoken to plenty of CIOs and business leaders in this situation and offer a few observations:

  1. Many companies remain skeptical of DX and will miss out on the rewards.
  2. Other companies are either taking a short-sighted approach or they are trapped by the digital hype cycle. Neither are winning.
  3. Some business leaders see DX as a technical problem leaving CIOs without a method to strategically partner with the business, where DX can make the most impact.

dx measureStill Skeptical of DX?

Here at StrataFusion, we’re more than a little allergic to consulting hype. But the “big hairy beast” that DX represents is clearly making history and is much more than simply moving your data centers to the cloud. It’s also about embracing technology to:

  • Create new business models and growth trajectories
  • Shape customer-obsessed companies
  • Build products that have a relationship with their users
  • Move at faster and more agile speeds
  • Win the talent war

It’s been said that every company is now a technology company – like it or not. While IDC reports that 75 percent of companies are in a DX deadlock (2), it’s crucial to operate as if your competitive threats are not deadlocked. Consider Kroger CEO McMullen who recently justified a $2.5B acquisition to accelerate the company’s digital technology position saying, “We assumed that, at some point, Amazon was going to do something in the physical world.”

If Amazon isn’t on your radar, then start-ups likely are. Are you ready?  Here are two questions you should be asking:

Do you have a clear understanding of your strategic digital opportunities and threats?

We’ve seen an industry leader wish to become the “Amazon of Information” when it was struggling to deliver basic services. We’ve seen another leader squeeze technology spend to less than a percent of revenue while largely missing out on the biggest product leap in a century. Another leader has been in the process of transformation for an entire decade but created more re-orgs than business results.

In many ways, industry-leading CIOs have a greater challenge to face:  the business. Your executive partners often lack a way to focus and almost never a mechanism to measure progress and work together.  And DX is more than a series of initiatives. You can’t simply keep up, playing like a football team moving the chains when the game is becoming more like soccer. Your strategy may rely on leadership off-sites and benefit from strategic roadmaps, but alignment and executive teaming must be supported continually along the way.

Is your DX strategy both focused and truly transformational?

You’ve got to measure to see the progress. Companies are awash in data but still not yet measuring their Digital Transformation. Most are managing operational KPIs and some are measuring their DX strategy or strategic initiatives. Who is measuring the company’s transformation? Yes, there is a difference.

Consider fitness goals. Let’s say you’ve signed up for a race to serve as a motivation for getting in better shape. You’re going to measure your practice split and completion times, but those are like operational KPIs – lagging indicators. You hit a plateau, so you get a trainer. They’ll probably ask how much sleep you get, grill you about your diet and want details on past injuries. Those are the leading indicators that measure your fitness transformation and eventual success.

Business results are the outcome of your transformation, but that’s not how companies are measuring. According to IDG, only 15 percent of companies are measuring DX success, and virtually none are measuring the transformation of the company (1). To address this problem, StrataFusion developed a simple DX measurement system that elevates the leadership conversation, focuses on partner alignment and helps regain forward momentum.

Do you have an easy way to talk with your executive business partners and CEO about Digital Transformation? StrataFusion partners have led companies through Digital Transformation and the technology waves that came before; in other words, sat in your seat and walked many a mile in your shoes. I invite you to learn how you can use DX measures to build momentum, alignment and stronger relationships with your senior executive partners.

Byron Kaufman

Sources:

(1) 2018 IDG State of Digital Business Transformation
(2) IDC Using IT Metrics and KPIs to Fast Forward Digital Transformation, 2018

 

Career Day Outcomes:  Trends in IT, IoT and Privacy Mean More Complexity, Opportunity for IT Professionals

With increasing prognostication around the looming IT talent shortage, it’s refreshing to engage with the students at Merritt College. As this next generation prepares to enter the IT workforce, Cybersecurity Career Day events not only help connect them to industry and business leaders but also create engagement opportunities for learning and collaboration.

MerrittCISEAt the event Nov. 2, about 100 attendees had the pleasure of hearing from three panels that included Instructors, leading CISOs from a number of industries, and students. During the day’s interactions, we clearly saw that the proverbial pendulum is swinging back toward privacy. In fact, discussion about GDPR and California’s Consumer Privacy Act explored what it will mean to students – from IoT expansion and an exploding attack surface to the increasing friction between IT and OT (Operating Technology).

As privacy discussions elevated, it was particularly rewarding to have Michelle Dennedy, Cisco’s Chief Privacy Officer, as the keynote speaker. She provided students and peers alike with a unique perspective of current trends, insight into the evolving landscape of privacy and IT, and shared the personal journey of her own career path.

An important outcome of the day is the awareness that cybersecurity and IT professions are not only needed but increasingly require more complex and greater ‘political’ skillsets inside organizations. Technical acuity and collaborative agility are professional strengths that are not only highly valued today but will be an absolute necessity in the future.

Thank you to all who participated!

Mark Egan