Monthly Archives: August 2013

If a few words could sum up the future of computing – then these aren’t too bad

man and his dog

I know I know I know I have posted these before but I just find them just so ‘appropriate’.

The compelling aspect of this quote is that there is ‘a long, long, long way to go’ before it becomes reality.

Brummie.

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Is I.T forgetting the Why? in favour of the What

My last post was a very raw comparison between how Apple approach their ‘IT Store’ and how the typical everyday IT organization should be thinking about their store.

The idea that Apple have nailed the ‘consumerization’ of their devices and services to their customer base is really ringing bells with me in the context of the IT organization as I experience their journeys to a better place through the use of the current wealth of opportunities and choice – Cloud, more cloud, BYOD, social networks, big data, small data and so on.

Of course in my high street analogy I made a claim that without question Apple have mastered the art of being successful. In turn this means they are at the far right of the Maturity curve out there.Their software and engineering lifecycle has such rigour and control that they cannot help produce good, better and best technology. Perhaps they go through blips as all successful organisations do when leading paradigm shifts but they seem to have the knack of being even more successful. Their mantra is simplistically and beautifully built on the fact that they understand Why they do things.

Take a look at this excellent and thought provoking TED video by Simon Stinek which captures why Apple succeeds more than other companies with the same capability to produce great computers and products. Simon totally captures the difference when you approach things with WHY first as opposed to WHAT. A lesson we can all remind ourselves I feel.

Now think about the IT organization in the context of WHY.

Apple  want to inspire their customers to be entertained, fulfilled and happy ( Why ) . They build amazing software and hardware products and offer great services ( How ) and they sell you what you need. ( What ). Apple have become successful because they understand Why they do things. They do this because they do not want to be another computer company. They want to inspire their customers.

The Apple store embraces the Why. From the logo of an Apple, to the clean slick white facade and the welcoming openess of their store you can almost touch the Why. As a result your experience of the How and What is almost rolled into the same experience. Apple knew this of course. Its WHY they do it this way. They are appealing to our limbic nodes and attracting our emotions, feelings and ultimately loyalty.

Great IT organizations are the ones with the ‘shop’ or more accurately the same thinking as Apple.  Or more importantly the Why. They know why the do things the way they do and build great IT services as a result.

These are the ones that understand that their IT service must be something their customers want to buy because they understand why the IT organization does how they do it and what they do.  Their leaders are in tune  with ( and drive ) the business agenda. They understand why their organization is in business and how they make money. They translate success into their IT model and how they deliver service. Decisions like mobile devices, tablets, cloud, BYOD etc are made against a backdrop of Why and are therefore consistent and mature.

On the flip the IT organization that is insulated and disjointed from the business or locked in a Back Office mentality of fixing fires and reacting to incidents are firmly a What How Why. They provide WHAT they think the organization needs, they do it HOW they think fit and they wonder WHY no one is happy and empowered. They firmly believe that their decisions on VDI, cloud, storage, networking, printing etc are correct and it is the ‘fault’ of the business that problems arise and service is not good enough. These are the guys who appear to have all the ingredients that everyone else has but consistently fail to deliver.

It is a sobering thought when considering all the nooks and crannies of technological change facing the IT organization today and in the future.

After all we all know WHAT we do. Run an IT service. Manage budgets. Design solutions. Sell services. Run datacenters. Build clouds. Virtualise servers. Deploy applications. Fix issues. We have job titles that clearly explain what we do – IT Director, Business Analysts, Security Officer, Service Desk Manager.

Some of us know HOW we do it. Processes, structures, value propositions, framwworks ( ITIL. TOGAF) and service catalogues.

Few of us ( in IT organizations ) appear to know WHY.

Brummie.

If the I.T organization opened a shop next door to an Apple store………..what would it look like?

apple store

Who hasn’t been to an Apple Store?

As you walk across the threshold what did you see?

At the front of the store you find all  the latest products available to you as the consumer. Smart phones and tablets.

As you move into the store you experience the sound experience and serious computing devices for those serious gamers, productivity geeks and for those who just marvel at the elegance of Apple’s engineering might.

Now you are well into the store and you will have swerved around the extremely helpful personnel only willing to explain the products, the benefits and to demonstrate how the technology can improve your ‘world of entertainment and productivity’.

Probably around this point the entertaining and productivity is at peak as you envisage how you can transform your world of ‘things’ or in true from to this, world of ‘devices’.

Towards the back of the store you confront the Genius Bar. What a stroke of innovation. To most of us in the IT world it’s the Support Desk. But Genius Bar. Brilliant! Here you will encounter the people who can put you back on the productivity trail. Oh and I forgot. At the entrance to the store you will have been asked if you needed help and if you did, you would have been given a ‘slot’ and given time to shop around, go grab a coffee and come back at the allotted time. Slick!

And as a final touch alongside the walls and near to the Genius Bar are wall to wall accessories, gadgets and gizmos to further enhance your experience ranging from sound, software, fashion and connectivity devices.

I don’t know the ratios of footfall customers to purchase click thoughts but I hazard a guess it is quite high and continuously improving.

In summary a persuasive and subliminal experience that delivers productivity par excellence.

Now let’s revert back to context of the IT organization.

Let’s imagine the store next door is vacant and the IT organization is setting up shop.

As you walk across the threshold what do you see?

At the front of the ( IT organization ) store you find all the corporate supported devices available to you as the business consumer. Smartphones, tablets, notebooks and PCs. All driven by what your ‘mobility’ requirements are – externally high mobile, internal high mobile, internal low mobile and so on.

As you move into the store you experience how corporate applications you use operate in the corporate world across different environments – work place, travelling and at home. But not only this ; you also get to see how social applications integrate into the corporate world of work, enabling you to collaborate securely with colleagues and customers.

Probably around this point the corporate ethos of freedom to operate in a modern world of work is reaching its peak as you envisage how you can transform your world of ‘devices’ into a productive working experience.

Towards the back of the store you confront the Service Desk. What a stroke of innovation. Service is integral to your experience. On hand are subject matter experts who are both physically standing in front of you but also available via web conferencing screens to advise and guide you on how to be more productive with the devices and applications you need to use. On and I forgot. At the entrance of the store you will have been given an opportunity to self-serve your immediate requirements using standard easily accessible tools and understand that these tools are available on all your devices anytime of the day to help you overcome basic issues. You marvel at how IT can still provide service while you are experiencing an issue because they offer alternative device connections, software services and resilience for your data access.

And as a final touch alongside the walls and near to the Service Desk are wall to wall accessories, gadgets and gizmos that are supported by the IT organization to enhance your experience ranging from presentation devices, multimedia devices, storage devices, software packages and digital services to make you even more productive.

I don’t know the ratios of footfall customers to satisfied, empowered and productive business users but I hazard a guess it is very high and continuously improving.

In summary a professional, slick and positive experience that delivers productivity in a world of work environment par excellence.

One is very real; the other is a dream – one day, one day – I.T will get there.

“(Older consumers) tend to use the new technology to do old things,” “Younger consumers use the new technology to do new things.” Ted Schadler

Brummie.

Now is a great time to rethink Maturity Models

The way an IT organization measures and drives traditional infrastructure change is now being challenged by external influences never experienced (nor predicted in IT strategy documents) before. The ‘corporate social’ influences introduced by devices we use, cloud services we collaborate with and applications our customers demand have created a momentum that is forcibly creating a way of working that leaves the IT guys behind.

The way organizations are changing the way they use buildings, office space, collaboration areas and underlying supporting technology is now driving a fresh look at how maturity models can be used to drive IT service improvement whist supporting these new ways of working. As we all know as end users the maturity of the ‘corporate social’ technology world is now challenging the immaturity of the internal IT organization.  We all experience daily examples where we have ‘if only IT allowed me to do this’. It is like two opposing forces coming together – or more accurately, moving apart as my picture portrays below.

maturity gap

This is the basis of this post today.

The idea that an organization ( or an individual ) has levels of maturity ( capability ) stretched back decades. For context today it has its origins in the software development world, rising primarily from US DoD military projects that were overrunning budgets and spitting out expensive failed projects. This whole aspect kicked into gear with the publication of the CMMI ( or Capability Maturity Model Integration project ) over at Carnegie Melon university and the Software Engineering Institute. Of course we are only talking about Quality management disciplines which have a bedrock around predictable and repeatable processes that reduce error and increases higher levels output. If engineers can build maturity into their processes and therefore their product output levels why can’t IT engineers? That’s the whole point.

A maturity model is a framework to help define the capability of supplier/consultant/engineer/developer/support person, and their ability to use tools and processes that conform to state best practices. These models consist of a number of levels to define this maturity state. Words describe these levels like ad hoc, basic, chaotic, repeatable, defined, rationalised, managed and dynamic.

Today there are dozens (probably more ) of maturity models available for a business ( and IT organization ) to develop, baseline and build a roadmap to drive efficiency and optimization around a particular facet of their operations. A simple Google search will suffice. Of course there are many frameworks like ISO 9001, Six Sigma, TOGAF and others that are aimed at providing guidance to an IT organization to improve efficiency and therefore capability. At the end of the day the IT organization is in existence to perform better through streamlining process and measurement to drive out errors, mistakes, time delay and non-delivery to ultimately give the customer a better experience. Anything else is not core.

For the technology industry these maturity models abound – all aimed at helping the IT organization establish their Current State (As Is) and their Desired State (to be ). It is said that an organization that has a more mature IT delivery capability will be a more successful organization in business terms against an organization that has less mature processes, people and technology.  The light bulb moment dawned a while back that technologies alone will not bring improvements in models, maturity or business operations; no, for this, the business process being powered by technology must also undergo change. This is always the hard bit for IT ‘sellers’ to appreciate however.

Now here’s the thing.

For at least a decade maturity models have been devoured by leading technology companies and consulting businesses as a way to demonstrate that by ‘upgrading or moving’ to the current platforms on offer ( desktop OS, productivity software, device, cloud platform ) the IT organization will in effect be moving along a well-defined maturity curve, from a less than standardised state to a more standards based state, and even one with examples of rationalised delivery of service to the end user.

Some practical examples include:

  • The annual running cost of managing a PC can dramatically reduce through the deployment of semi-automated task sequences to update and optimize the performance to the organization.  This is well documented however too many IT organizations continue to adopt ad hoc and unstructured processes to managing PCs and notebooks, and end up delivering an IT service that is not fit for purpose as people want to use their own devices, have 24 x7 access, expect seamless remote access and have simple ways of requesting new applications.
  • Running a datacentre is a complex operation. Through virtualization a lot of the issues around space, power and cooling should have been addressed but too often the lack of maturity in the IT organization has compromised the benefits by introducing inefficient processes for managing disaster recovery and business continuity scenarios plus the ability to cope with data storage volumes and provisioning line of business application change programmes. Meanwhile the business are off developing new business lines and initiatives that require much higher levels of IT service capacity, and turn  increasingly to external services when they see internal IT capability being immature to cope.
  • And what about providing business intelligence capability. IT will have the keys to much of the information held inside an organization and provide tools, devices and applications to access this information but too often the basics of the IT service present hurdles for a business stakeholder to get access to timely intelligence because of ad hoc issues with infrastructure. Business stakeholders look lovingly
  • And the killer compelling event. The ease of technology allowing people to roam around buildings, make smarter issue of interactive devices like whiteboards, the immersive nature of video conferencing and the need to allow heterogeneity of devices is really putting the pressure on the maturity drift. When financial people see the considerable savings in power, space and rent through the introduction of world of work initiatives, plus the staff retention levels increase by offering a better working day through technology services like BYOD, wireless, cloud storage. This matters more than most as talent is often hard to replace and costly and if offering new ways of working can retain talent then its compelling enough. So IT maturity is now even more important than before because new stakeholders are waiting outside the CIOs office – HR Directors and Estates Directors all with initiatives and programmes that need a mature IT service.

Now all that is really happening is that these ‘newer’ waves of requirement will eventually be subsumed in to the delivery capability of an IT organization. Won’t it? After all this is what has always happened.

Well perhaps we are at some form of crossroads where ‘choice’ will dictate the underlying infrastructure necessary to support the emergence of the ‘shadow IT’. Does an IT organization that clings to the ‘will do what we did last time’ life rift still be afloat? Will they have the direction to change and what compelling events are round the corner.

The IT organization now has to take its maturity plans for the core infrastructure and blend it with maturity around digitization strategies, maturity around document management and business process, the impact on paperless environments, maturity around security management and so on. Making sure capability is deep enough to deal with what the business really needs is massive and could potentially expose internal limitations with skills, processes and governance. But what are the alternatives? The risk of not taking this approach is one of marginalization as the time will not be there to go through the way you did it before. Being agile is no longer a cliché for the IT organization. They need it in abundance but perhaps don’t know it yet.

I envisage this because of the increasing release of more disruptive technologies into the social corporate world the discussions around how ‘mature’ each side of the delivery debate will accelerate as the IT organization makes more strategic decisions around cloud, outsource, out-task and blended architectures.

Brummie.