Multicloud, I would rather call it Multiverse

You are a Microsoft house with Exchange and just moved to Office 365.  So Azure azureshould be your cloud option of choice.

If a IBM house with DB2, Cognos, Domino, and the venerable AS/400 (call you want you want IBM is a 400), well ibmIBM Bluemix infrastructure of course.

Mixed environment well AWS, Centurylink or Skytap are solid options to put all of your IT service load on.

Nah.

multicloud      Just as you would either leverage your commitment to one vendor with a large enough dollar spend to get their attention.  You would still have just enough of other vendors around to keep everyone on the proper edge for the best of your interests.

The problem for most SMB’s is they do not have that large spend to get and keep the attention of the Azure, AWS, IBM or frankly anyone outside of a regional player who might not offer the full continuity you should need.

Just as you did with your on-premise infrastructure which statistically is likely to be a mix of a storage, server, network and security vendors you should do the same with cloud.  leverage

But, instead of by segments of technology, think segments of the IT services to the business.

So, I would like to call it multiverse in my tip of the hat to Firefly.  fireflyAfter all, they were not smugglers and thieves, they provide a service for difficult items to transport and security penetration tests for anywhere there was money.

Okay, but why now is the perfect time.  Because you can do it with great visibility to cost and lots of options.  car options  Plus, the tools are available to manage it all and improve that visibility to IT, to finance and the rest of line of business.

We know that we should have a full proof disaster recovery and also a business continuity plan in place.   You may have that in a nice binder, a red one I bet.  redbinder

Do you do a FULL BLOWN test of it.  Or do  you execute a couple restores a month and run on the backup generator for half a day once a week?

I know my finance VP would never approve of me spending $10k once a year to rent equipment to do a full blown test.   So that disaster recover is more hope vs plan.hope vs plan

And more of a business cross my fingers continuity.

TODAY you have the cost effective, highly traceable by line of business option of actually getting it done.  sleepHow well would you, your CFO and CEO sleep at night if once a quarter you ran the full business for a week on the continuity solution.

If along with those facility fire drills several times a year (always in good weather though) you also have a disaster recovery drill that test your IT team, firedrillyour vendors, the end users and finds holes in your plan to continuously update and improve it.

 

Any C-Level executive should understand the critical components of keeping their business processes and customer facing systems up and running.  Furthermore, they should demand that solutions be fully in place to combat cyberattacks, in-house employee errors (have you read about the airline reservation system issues last month) and winwin leverage those same costs to improve agility of systems for speed to market and competitive reaction.

You do not drive your car without a spare do you?

Bet you even pay monthly for the full replacement of your phone on your plan, right?

Why would you not have the same or better with your business?

safetynet

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Digital Transformation, books to consider

In short digital is going to impact your business. distruption        I do not care if you are a diner, a bank, a doctor or a farmer.

There is right now more than one set of individuals building a business to steal your customers by showing them there is a NEW way to satisfy the need/want your business is currently satisfying.

thinking of customer    Thinking of your customer, why do they buy your product or service is key to digital.  You are not selling them a safe place to keep their money or to rid them of pain.  You are lowering their anxiety in a convenient manner to their individual perception of both.

I get this wrong all the time. I asked a question the other day of a very smart group of people.

What would they want the person to lead them to bring to the table?

I had surmised beforehand the answers would be either specific technology skills on cloud, analytics, security or devops and/or deep experience on implementing technologies in their niche industry.

Nope.

resolute-plaque-c2009   Stability.

They wanted to have someone who can come in an manage upwards to provide a path they could work to and deliver so they could feel successful.

What does your customer today need/want from you?  How can you find out?

What can you do/change to convince a brand new customer that you can satisfy their need/want that is NOT what you do today?

The books – 

Digital lipstick on a pig – Vaasa S. Gavarasana   lipstick

A quick read though too high level.  Key points are to –

  • focus on all the interactions with the customer/consumer  Cusomer-knows-what-he-wants
    • sales of course
    • customer service
    • account receivable
    • marketing
    • IT for EDI and compliance
    • operations for special orders/customizations

I would add if you are more distribution focused to add a vendor focus to reduce cost and increase agility.

To do this change you need –

  • A star trek bridge – aka a focused group – not just IT, like a startup business in the business
  • Good basic analytics, but add to it the digital/non-digital connections so everyone sees them
  • A Winston Churchill – well for any change you need Churchill – aka an evangelist.   churchill
    • Being a bit wacky cannot hurt in my opinion.

 

 

 

Digital Disruption – James McQuivey   d disruption

A longer read and focused on being controversial (scare the begegus out of you) versus a guide.

Key points –

  • The power of digital disruption is that it can disrupt any aspect of any product or service
  • Processes that are deep within companies or physical things that govern partnerships, data collection, pricing and management of resources
  • Even non-digital business will be disrupted
  • Digital disruption answers the question – what if it did not take money to make money?
  • digital disrupter default answer is yes – meaning yes, we can do that to whatever the questions is.  I truly believe this with technology today
  • How can we give customers something they really want?
  • To be successful test how ready you are with energy, skills and policies
  • Ask the question will my company’s relationship with our customers will be stronger in 5 years?
  • Again start with the customer, accept failures failure                 and look at the total customer experience

Digital Uncovered – Ian Cox      uncovered

The most guide like of the three, but uses OLD case studies of Blockbuster, Borders and so on.  Gets to more modern cases later in the book and likes to quote Forrester and the like which to me has always been like using The Farmer’s Almanac for planning your vacation.  forecast    If it is right great, but you don’t get to file a claim to recoup your vacation cost from Farmer’s if it rains all week.

Stated that most businesses surveyed state digital transformation will impact their industry in three years.  Three bloody years.  Makes you feel like you are already missing the bus.  bus           Relax – not yet.

Once again – start with the customer, move quickly, take risks and be prepared to fail.

The best definition I have read/heard so far – Digital is enabling people, devices and/or machines to connect and interact (transact business) with each other from any location and at any time.   anywhere

Seven truths, eh.

  1. Customers are in chargein charge
  2. Markets move quickly
  3. Data is a valuable asset
  4. Disruption can happen anywhere
  5. There are NO boundaries
  6. Ecosystems and platforms are key
  7. Technology is fundamental

Okay, 4 and 5, are the same as well as 6 and 7.  So let’s say 5 truths.  truth

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IBM rolls back remote working – does this mean collaboration solutions don’t work

Back in May it was reported how IBM chose to implement moving workers back to offices. Media reports had it due to IBM executives struggling to be agile and thus stay competitive. AWS is kicking their ass in the cloud.

IBM’s thinking that physical proximity will improve agility through collaboration.  Media pointed to the fact this did not work for Yahoo.

Hmph.

Collaboration is critical to agility, but collaboration was ‘improved’ by all the tools, many sold by IBM, right? 

For me collaboration tools requires 3 things.

  1. Combination of meeting, voice, visual, calendar, task and document sharing for scheduled activities
  2. Combination of voice, chat and presence capability for unscheduled activities
  3. Collaborative search – not just for the two combinations above, but all data sources

Clearly all of the above is readily available.    

So, IBM and pretty much everyone else has all the tools to have FANTASTIC collaboration regardless of whether you are in the next cube or country.

 

 

Like those not so good Fantastic 4 movies (don’t get me started) –

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

something is missing.   

Is it this ‘NEW’ work type that IBM states requires a higher degree of collaboration and thus “forcing” them to require workers back to offices so these teams would be more effective?   

Or is it that the tools DO NOT WORK.?  The tools are fine.  Though the missing component is how to lead and manage using the tools.  I see that as a failure of IBM and Yahoo amongst others versus any NEW type of work.

Challenging your workers to both reach and exceed their potential.  Manage the coordinated efforts of teams dealing with emotional ups and downs, unseen obstacles that come with working on tasks/projects over time.  These are fully possible with remote teams.

When a team is physically together the manager can observe body language, overhear conversations (tone, content and frequency of interaction) and get the ‘feel’ of how the team is performing.  A good manager knows when to push, pull or just let things be by seeing, hearing and feeling all of the team interaction.  

This is what IBM wants back.  I won’t go into whether they have ‘good’ managers.  IBM and other companies not effectively using collaboration tools are like pilots who can only fly during day light and in good weather.

Nothing wrong with that – I don’t like flying in storms.  But, REALLY good pilots can fly by instruments and today’s instruments are very good.      

 

Collaboration tools are just as good as a plane’s instruments.  They can easily show the content and frequency of interaction to give part of the feel needed.  Newer tools provide deeper analytics on tone, measure task effective/efficiency against collaboration metrics.  Is it the same as being physically all together, no.  Not better or worse, just not the same.

As a leader you need to adapt your management style and fully enable the power of the tools to maximize remote teams.  Blaming remote working for your failure is weak.

Cannot find or afford a data scientist – yes you can.

Mr. Vashishta’s is perfectly correct in his article for Fast Company “What If The Data Science “Skills Gap” Is Just A Hiring Hot Mess?”.

Specifically his formula, Platforms + Business Problems = Required Skills could unlock a pool of candidates.puzzle key

Hire that graduate out of university with mad math skills mad mathand they will crunch and crunch, build data sets, dashboards and what insights will be drawn.  Not much.

But like Vin states find a candidate solved the business problem on the same or a similar platform before?  You likely have a person like that if not in IT, then see who is solving business problems with data in accounting or marketing.  Customer Service is another hot area for those data technology savvy folks.

Ask those candidates whether internal who know your business and processes best or outside candidates from similar industries and ask them as Mr. Vashishta would to tell you the problems, their platforms, and their data.

dataoceanYour need deeper analytics to stay competitive to find new markets, strengthen customer retention and identify new opportunities. The heavy math you can rent, but the experience and knowledge of what questions to ask and provide the measure of confidence in the accuracy/quality of existing data.

You have to look past the hyped job description of the role you need and what candidates current titles are now to what their skills fully are capable of doing to uncover the talents that are already there or nearby.hidden talents.jpg

How you should create an IT Strategy

As anyone who started his or her own business, like I did, or have been in a senior leadership position with a business, yep I have that too to draw upon.

experience

You were likely asked to add to or develop a strategic plan.

Might have been 3, 5 or even 10 years.  Longer if you are in city planning or such.  There are plenty of templates along with courses on how to develop a strategic plan.  Thousands of consultants, myself included who would love to be hired to help you with that effort.

From the technology side you tie the strategy (new technology, upgrades, replacements, yada yada) with a technology roadmap.  Think of it like major house renovation.  Parts of the house will stay, but most of it will be replaced. house

 

In this case servers, switches, storage and so forth.

 

 

stopWell, you should stop doing that – now!

 

 

 

Instead, focus on capabilities.  capabilities  A capabilities strategy will not only improve alignment with business, but ensure you are working with the right partners.

If your organization says they want to know more about their customers. What capabilities are need to learn more about your customers?

Improve flexibility of getting to existing internal data, plus adding multiple external data sources from purchased structured data to unstructured social and other data sources.

Stop – don’t start listing the types of databases, servers and application integration points you will need.  That is later, like knowing what size refrigerator or TV screen you want for the house.  What you need to know is how you like to entertain.

Capabilities again.  Integration, analytics (cognitive and predictive), data cleansing, visualization and so forth to create the capability to deliver the business value will be needed with in house or consulting services.

Yes, there will be a point where you have to start talking about databases and infrastructure, but by focusing on capabilities you can start with learning your customer’s habits from the internal buying habits for insights as a start to capabilities.  The second part of the roadmap will add another data source and then another, integrating into CRM and Order Management application processes.

This works as I said not only to the benefit of ensuring the technology strategy is exactly aligned with the business strategy, but provides you the language you want to hear from your partner consultants either directly or from their customer references.

executives   It also gives you the language to explain the strategy to your fellow executives.

It works equally with growth and profit focused strategies.

Book Review: Building Internet of Things

So next up on book reviews is Building the Internet of Things by Maciej Kranz.  First anything that starts with ‘beyond the hype’ to me sounds like a person starting a sentence with ‘trust me, this will work’.

IoT has the same aura around it that the Internet did back in the nineties.  Lots of hype, tons of articles, events and the line of business people are asking –

Are we doing this?

When are we doing this?

Why are we NOT doing this?

Should we be doing this?do-this-not-that

As such, I would recommend skipping that first chapter and go right to chapter two as it hits upon the power of IoT to help you answer some of those questions or just jump to No, no we should not be doing this – yet.

Use the book as a reference to help you ask the right questions both of your line of business and for those 30 vendors calling you on a monthly basis offering to help you with IoT.  This Forbes article is a good brief and the language is more LOB focused talking about manufacturers managing maintenance downtime and expense related to that versus IoT devices, storage and analytics.

In that it provides a benefit.  But, it does not live up to its title.  This will not help you build the internet of things.  Because to leverage IoT the focus is on business process improvement and innovating new customer facing services.

As such, if your business is not ready to transform business processes or is eagerly open to leverage technology for new customer services you will be wasting your time.

This book will help you develop the questions around your business processes to either generate that eagerness bring awareness to the line of business that IoT is not a cure, but component that can optimize process steps that were considered impossible to remove inefficient profit robbing steps.

Beyond the Fitbit, the NEST thermostat their are real business solutions in manufacturing, healthcare, energy and retail industries.

Working it purely as a business problem solution design will help you find the REAL solutions and avoid the hyped.  

Aaargh – stop selling me technology

That constant barrage of sales calls, emails and even that occasional snail mail or Fedex package all wanting to talk about a growing set of technologies.  Whether it be the latest software package, servers, flash, converged, cognitive analytics and on and on and on.

finance-tech

Consider the above a list of just most of the accounting technologies out there.  Multiple this by 1,000 fold for all vendors who want you as a customer.  multiple

Now multiple that by the number of companies who are focused on calling directly into your accounting, operations, marketing and other department selling them services.

How do deal with this onslaught of activity is truly incomparable to any other function in the business.  business-function           Here is a process that helps me.

No, not the one where I never ever answer my work phone.

Categorize all activities, projects and strategies around simplify, business process optimize, customer satisfaction and compliance.

  • Simplify – removing complexity from your technology delivery whether it be infrastructure, applications, access… simplify
  • Business process optimizing – focusing on profit.  Removing costs aka waste from business processes optimize
  • Customer satisfaction – my way of saying generate revenue – new net or more per customercustomer_satisfaction-650x300

 

 

 

 

  • Compliance – the one you never have a choice to do or not to do and while you wish it was otherwise always becomes the top priority whether it be PCI, HIPPA, Sarbanes or othercompliance

Not just the IT projects, but I gather input from the finance, marketing and other functions and put them in the above categories.

Finance is easy – almost all Compliance or Business Optimization.  They they are attracted to Simplify.

Marketing yes Customer Satisfaction is their sweet spot, but again Simplify can work especially if it decreases time to delivery new services to Marketing.

Over all this pushes the complexity of cloud/public/private/hybrid, analytics, mobility, security, converged, hyperconverged, SaaS, PaaS, IaaS and so on off the table and focuses your attention, the functional areas and evidentially your key suppliers on talking about business outcomes.

open-for-business