Monthly Archives: March 2013

Can we afford Good Better or Best?


We all do it. We all make a judgement on the value of things we buy. We take a number of influences- wallet size, recommendations from others, gut feeling, desire, greed and often randomness – when we decide on whether we are looking for Good, Better and Best.

Take our food choices. We may consciously purchase only the best food stuffs from the finest retailers. We may decide that good and better is not enough. Often we may however chose food on economic matters and we may go looking for bargains where we can get ( in our opinion which is all that matters right? ) ‘best value’. So we may be shopping on the high street and make decisions on specific food items from those stores that offer value in terms of food quality but perhaps not on the highest cost. We make choices. Personal choices. It is an open market place and the customer is king. We apply the same approach to buying clothes, holidays, entertainment. Every day our brains are making Good, Better and Best decisions. Often without even thinking.

In our personal technology world we do the same. A good smartphone is OK but one that offers all the bells and whistles in terms of capacity, function and brand name is best, and so we crave for the best smartphone. Of course the best smartphone has the biggest price. To some of us though we may decide Good is good enough. We may want basic functions like voice and SMS and therefore pay a fair price but not extortinate prices. A fair price is good enough. We are not swoon by the manufacturers claims of wonderful features and neither do we succomb to peer pressure.

Then we go to work.

At work we are surrounded by Tech. Tech is the word that sums up all the stuff we use ( and is working for us ) that allows us to communicate, collaborate, transact, acquire, resolve business matters. But the problem is that truly we dont. Evidence is now mainstream that suggests many enterprises realise less than 20% of the value from Tech. A sobering outcome from this sentence is that for the last 30 years of investment has realized only 20% of potential. Can you imagine buying the best car on the forecourt and only realise 20% of its potential. Or a first class flight to Hong Kong and not maximising the drinks, food, entertainment on offer. Or a top notch hotel and not maximising the room and hotel facilities. Of course when its our own money we demand an extremely high return on our investment. Of course if all we are doing is buying Good then we may have lower expectations. The problem for the Tech world is that our organizations has spent billions and billions in the pursuit of best. The COO and CEO demand best from all the other elements of their business so why not Tech? They expect BEST and to be told all you have is GOOD ( and sometimes POOR ) is not a pleasant experience for the person telling the COO and CEO. Usually the poor CIO.

Well it is not so easy. We all know that. Decades of technology meshed together to deliver more service orientated value to our organizations is a tad harder than a decision over the latest smartphone. We all know this. we live this every day and it is not easy. We often cry that ‘if only our organizations could use the technology at their fingertips to be more competitive’. Agile is often thrown in at this stage. Ouch.

But this is the dilemma. Decades ago we didnt need to have Tech at our fingertips. It was easy ( relatively ) for an organization to maximise value from investments. Mainframes really were the engine room crunching ERP and CRM data to produce reports and information. We were Ok in this world. We were ready. Good was possible but Best was realistic. IBM became the defacto Best in fact. Ok there were others 🙂

Now however the digitization of our worlds through the devices and platforms available to us has actually meant we are less ready. We cannot cope with the rush of opportunity to consume information. We struggle. What actually happens is that we cannot cope with managing the infrastructure and services necessary to allow us to use these new tools and opportunities to there fullest extent.

Look at my picture below.Good better best

As we strive to move up from Poor tech through to Good and Better tech through to Best tech we end up spending even more billions and billions. You see the market place has got very good at pricing Best. It isnt cheap.Oh and cloud doesnt necessarily mean cheap nor does it mean Best. There isnt any technology out there ( now or never ) that will allow an organization to click their fingers and get best. Best is a tough tough gig – probably like the Holy Grail that is like a mirage in a desert 🙂

In the real world cost increases as we move along the Poor, Good, Better and Best line. We need better people to behave maturely. Skills and experience dont come out of classrooms and books. We need better infrastructure and not tired, ageing, legacy tin. Reliable and performant applications and tools to manage them are mandatory. We need better processes that spot for issues and service degradation. We need a Service mindset.

It is hard – bloody hard to get here.

But as we do the Potential for the business through faster and easier experiences drives up the benefit of Tech to the business and makes a real difference. And quite often we stick ( or get stuck ) in the Good and Better box as we make incremental jumps i.e. we hire a new person, we introduce some new tech kit or software, we improve a process. Because the smart people realise we cannot make big jumps without considering all elements of the jump.

The desire for Best comes at a price. The price of service quality, capability, performance and ultimately end user expectation. Best may cost the most but it too often doesnt deliver the equal amount of ‘best’. This is why now many IT organizations are realizing that IT service may just need to be GOOD ENOUGH. measured by simple indicators these organizations are now matching their capability with their cost expectations and arriving at conclusions that GOOD ENOUGH is still adequate to allow the organization to compete and be successful.

Identifying the step change from Poor to Good is often very easy. Many service departments have gone by the by as they were replaced with outsourcing outfits set SLAs to deliver Good Service. However the jump from Good to Better is an interesting one and is often not achieved by simply setting higher SLAs or imposing stiffer penalties on the suppliers. And the jump to Best is now being seen as impossible or impractical given the resources at hand. Cloud does not equal Best BTW. Need to keep saying this. In fact Cloud can often be JUST GOOD ENOUGH now in reality the IT service can deliver a mix of Good Better and Best ( sometimes Poor as well. ) Humans can easily slide up and down this scale in the same day, week or year. Often certain aspects of the IT service can be Best ( imagine an individual application or person that delivers the Best possible information to the end user ). Equally an IT service can be let down by Poor customer support from a supplier whilst all the other services available to the user community are Good or Better. Customer Satisfaction Surveys are of course the barometer of the Good, Better, Best discovery.

Is there a message. yes there bloody well is.

Just good enough may be all you can get so you better well just get on do it.



Old IT equipment – I wonder how it was used?

I had the fortune recently to spend a couple of hours recently walking around a building that literally blew me away. The building in question was a facility that bluntly contained the most raw computing power I have ever seen. No it wasnt a Google DataCenter. Nor was it an Amazon cloud facility. No Microsoft people anywhere either. It was a series of warehouses that contained IT equipment – PCs, servers, racks, notebooks, switches, routers, printers, copiers – that had effectively come to the end of the road and were in the process of being ‘remarketed’ for future use.

Thousands and thousands and thousands of items. Assets more accurately. Tons and tons of phones, cables, monitors. A veritable treasure trove of IT infrastructure. All of it switched off and waiting for the ‘next phase’ of the process.  A neat well controlled and efficient operation. For the first time in my career I was witnessing the ‘disposal’ end of the IT lifecycle journey and I was gobsmacked. My mind wandered as I considered the journey of each item to this place. Had it been part of a bank’s IT infrastructure. Or a university. Perhaps a government department has replaced all these devices as part of a massive infrastrucure refresh project.

I joked to someone walking round with me that with sufficient power all of these assets if powered up could make a fairly impressive ‘cloud computing’ facility. After all isnt this how Google started by connecting low cost computers together to create their exponential mesh of raw compute power?

I then began to let my mind wander as I considered how much of all the software installed on all these devices had ever been used when in the hands of the previous owner. Hundreds of thousands of PCs and notebooks sat there. All makes and models. All different versions of software. All about to be erased and reissued to a new user somewhere in the world – probably South America and Africa.

We all know we rarely use most of the software we have on our devices but when you consider this rolled up to a large organisation that have bought, deployed and supported hundreds of thousands of devices the percentage of usage is what? Do you know? I dont but I did fix on something I read recently that suggested that CIOs believe that their organization realizes only 43% of technology’s potential. Is this true? Hard to prove one way or the other but pretty relevant to me.

Lets consider this.

There I was surrounded by a mountain of raw IT power. The processing capability could have run a cloud. A grid. The memory could have stored boundless energy. Disk capacity would probably rival NASA. Hadoop would have been a great option with all this compute power lying around,. But if we  had  have been able to power all this power ‘on’ would we be realising technologys’ potential.  ( ignore the impact on the local electricity impact 🙂 Of course not. Whether you use your device 100% of its capability the real deal is how the organization you work for realises the potential of the technology it has invested in.

My recurring theme of Back Office and Front Office is part of what comes next – see and

In this warehouse was the ultimate Back Office. The stuff that runs the software and stores the information. None of the items in the warehouse had any Front Office though. The ideas, intelligence, collaboration and knowledge was not there.  It had moved to the Front Office. Sure there may have been documents and information stored on individal hard drives but the true potential for the organization that had purchased these devices from new was where? Had it moved from one device to another as the organization transformed their IT infrastructure? Or was this truly just bits and pieces and the real value from the investments gone somewhere else.

My visit triggered questions as I observed a sea raw and magnificent computing power .

  1. How much of this compute power was used to provide operational support to its user? Authenticating to resources.Creating and editing documents. Accessing databases. Communicating to people. Printing documents. Scanning documents. Recording history. Storing thoughts.
  2. How much of this compute power actually helped an individual create a new product? Create innovative thought? Develop new propositions and opportunities for themselves and their businesses? And more importantly IMAGINING NEW BUSINESS IDEAS.
  3. How much of this stuff changed business process, increased the value of a service, ensured best practice was fostered and raised business performance?
  4. Had the organization that had ‘given up’  all this compute power simply gone out and replaced them with newer versions of the same or had they done something else? Cloud? Deployed BYOD? Virtualised their assets? I also wondered if they had they reduced the capital costs of IT by sending their stuff to this place? Was all the kit part of a major outsourcing deal? Had skills been enhanced because of this stuff? Had people lost their jobs?  Had organizations gone bump? God I wish I knew. What fantastic data for an infographic if nothing else.

Bottom line however was this question. How much of this compute power delivered strategic change?   Was it indeed nothing to do with all the compute power I was looking at but more about the intellectual skill of the user. Of course this would be it but if so then isnt making Nicholas Carr right? ( the author ‘Does IT Matter’ )

Was I witnessing the part of the problem that wasnt actually the problem. After all if we only get 43% of technology potential from our investments ( and the hardware and software is big slice of the cake ) then doesnt this call into question a lot of the Front Office and Back Office activity? Which organizations get more from technology potential? Ones with a lean Back Office and an agile Front Office ( probably ).

You see the harsh reality of an organisations’ IT strategy is that one of the components it provides and supports – the back office infrastructure – is further and further marginalised when discussed in the context of exploiting the potential promised. I suspect that as always it comes down to the people who operated all the IT stuff in the back office and how their individual organization supported them to think innovatively and creatively. Core infrastructure plumbing is where the CIO is struggling as they need to deliver a much higher realization of technology potential and the answer certainly felt like it exists somewhere a long way away from a warehouse full of thousands of IT bits and pieces. I was sort of reassured that the costs of managing the back office is getting harder and harder ( Carr again ) and that whilst you spend time looking at this the front office ( and the shadow ) go speeding past.

BTW If you have seen the end scene in the original Harrison Ford film – Raiders of the Lost Ark – you will associate with what I saw that day.  Instead of crates of arks, imagine crates  and crates and creates of computers. Priceless.