As a VMware champion for the Mid Market & Small Business market, I want to continually present you with points of view that I hope are relevant to your IT business strategy. For today's post, I'd like to present a guest blog by our customer George Reed, CIO of Seven Corners. As a small-midsize company, George knows too well about the IT challenges faced by SMBs and is one of the growing number of rapidly growing businesses who have moved their organization forward by adopting server virtualization as a first step on their journey to the cloud. In fact, a 68% of SMB organizations expect to increase spending on cloud computing this year.* Whether you’re just starting to explore your virtualization and cloud options, or have already ventured aggressively forward, please read George’s blog post below. Perhaps it is time to implement some of the tools he discusses to really simplify your infrastructure and enable IT to focus on driving their top and bottomline impact in your business. As my good friend Mike Clayville, VP of Product Marketing at VMware, often says, 'Think Big, Be Big'….
I welcome your stories or comments and look forward to your thoughts.
Until next time,
If You Want to be Big, You Have to Stop Thinking Small - A Blog Post by George Reed, Chief Information Officer at Seven Corners
It may seem like a reading from the Book of Obvious, but the truth is most small
companies dream of doing big things but never stop behaving like a small company. There are some very basic steps to changing that culture and it requires improvements in the way the company approaches People, Process, and Tools. For this blog post we’ll focus on the tools aspect, but do bear in mind that Seven Corners changed its people and processes to accommodate more-effective technology to enable aggressive business growth. Some folks have heard me talk about transforming the technology base of Seven Corners from a small-minded set up with an infrastructure that had become impossible to support, let alone grow with the company to a scalable and agile infrastructure which paved our way to the cloud. If I had continued in the steps of the past, thinking one small problem, one short day at a time, we’d still have a dusty server room full of outdated desk-tops playing the role of servers.
Growth begins with having a Master Plan. My master plan began with the phrase, “Don’t compromise, Virtualize.” It continued with a thorough assessment that looked at:
- Stop The Bleeding – What do I need to do to stabilize the environment?
- I needed to wade in and replace end-of-life equipment, stop system outages, improve performance, and control costs.
- Meet business needs of the Day–What did I need to do to meet unmet needs and expectations coming from the business?
- I needed to make critical business applications stable, efficient, and capable of performing at high speeds with twice the transactions a day than when the old applications were installed.
- Meet Strategic goals of the next 3-5 years as provided by the Executives of the company—What did I need to have in place to allow yearly double-digit revenue growth in the company?
- I needed to be able to expand user base efficiently and cheaply
- I needed to support a remote work-force
- I needed processing times for new business, reports, and insurance transactions to be faster
- I needed the cost impacts of the changes to be a one-time project, with much smaller costs for continued growth.
- The above needs drove me to a virtual solution, using Cisco UCS, VMware virtualization and cloud management solutions, and a NetApp Flexpod storage solution. All three of these key elements allow for a quick project delivery and easily expanded compute and storage as time passed. It was easy to implement better storage, a private cloud and the ability to add building blocks as needs arose. It also meant not having to keep coming back to the business for seven figure capital dollars. Nothing we added since late 2010 has been re-work or lost dollars when a new need arose. We just keep expanding capacity and compute to support the 100% virtualization of our servers and our users. VMware Operations Center, vCloud-Director and vShield come together to form a strong solution. Adding VMware Site Recovery Manager and a live mirror is this year’s project, re-using everything we already paid for and only adding missing components.
What are the results of this methodology?
- We use half the staff to support servers and desktops than we did two years ago. The 50% we did not need were trained and promoted into other aspects of technology delivery at Seven Corners.
- We support 33% more employees and 100% more business transactions than we did two years ago.
- We went from a company afraid to use robust physical servers—let alone a virtual presence, into a company using cutting edge technologies to change the way insurance services are delivered.
Parting shots: When selling the idea of a major infrastructure change to the business, remember a few keys tips that help you to build a better customer.
- Know the pain points and be sure your solution answers them all.
- Plan to solve today’s need and expected needs of the future by talking to executives about the strategic plan for the business.
- Use strong process to document the need, the plan, the solution, and the results.
- Communicate the results to your business counterparts.
- Do not treat a virtualization project like it is a science project you dabble in.
- Make a good plan, pick the right technology partners and then go all in.
Large companies did not get that way by tip-toeing around a problem. Turn the problem into a win—that is what winners do.
Listen to this podcast to learn more about how Seven Corners implemented an agile and revenue-generating approach to cloud services.
George L. Reed II is the CIO of Seven Corners, a Travel Insurance, Travel Medical, and Travel Assistance company in Carmel, Indiana. Seven Corners was named a Computerworld 2012 Honors Laureate and a CIO100 winner by CIO Magazine. George was the 2011 NetApp Innovation Awardee in the Visionary Leadership Category and a 2012 v-Expert.
*"ESG White Paper Executive Summary – Virtualization and Cloud Computing Move the SMB Market Forward,” commissioned by VMware, by Mark Bowker, Senior Analyst, ESG, June 2012.