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Business Units to IT: Change speed and course, FAST!

Author: Alex Salicrup

I loved my military career and still tend to use this nautical analogy with many of my IT customers. At sea, small frigates are designed to be agile, maneuverable, and nimble. They can effectively change course, increase speed, or stop very quickly. The aircraft carrier, however, carries great momentum and displaces such a massive amount of water tonnage that it requires five miles to stop. Because of that substantial weight, changes in speed and course take time and a lot of effort from both crew and machinery to execute. So, when frigates and carriers navigate as part of a group, the carrier actually holds the frigates back.

Today, IT organizations can be compared to the carrier, and the new breed of business units and users that IT serves are the nimble frigates. Business units are relying more and more on their IT organization to get things done and have a perception that if IT is not fast enough, they’ll seek a public service provider to get what they need, when they need it. In their view, they have options and no longer have to wait on IT.

In the last year alone, the Accelerate team has received many an SOS from executives of Fortune 100 corporations who need help transitioning their IT organization to act like a competitive service provider.  When I do meet with the CIOs and executives of these organizations, I find that they do not have technology impediments to act as a service provider, rather that they lack the culture, processes, and structure to do so.

IT has tried to fend off the influx of external services from vendors such as Dropbox for storage, and infrastructure and application offerings from AWS or Google, but also acknowledges those services are widely available, easy to access, and require little to no customization. Facing sluggish sales to IT groups during The Great Recession, IT service providers got smart and shifted their attention to cater to the emotions of the new breed of users who want and need connectivity right now.  These users now lead marketing, engineering, and sales departments across the nation and have expense accounts. They are using IT services from third-party providers of IaaS, SaaS, and other services that appear to be more cost-effective, readily available, and perceptively easy to provision compared to what IT can provide.

We can’t deny it—internal business customers are getting impatient with the way services are provisioned to them. Today’s business user is significantly more technology savvy than ever before. They know enough or even more about services available to them than their internal IT gurus—or at least they think they do. And, they’re getting better at justifying these services every day, armed with a credit card and the URL for your least-liked IaaS or SaaS provider.

This rattles the CIOs I meet regularly with for so many reasons. In the most extreme cases, IT can’t control what workloads their users are sending out to the public cloud or how they access it—which could violate every governance security policy and best practice IT has spent years developing.

So who are we really dealing with? This new talent is forging the future of corporations worldwide—a new breed of decision-making business users who grew up with ubiquitous access to a computer. Most had access to the Internet for much their life, if not all their adult life. They had a high-tech environment at school and could access content and applications anytime, anyplace.

In my first year in the Navy, the most radical technological advancement in modern nautical warfare was the NAVSTAR Global Positioning Systems satellite network. Today—20 years later—a typical business user has about 10 times more power in their smartphone than we had during the Gulf War, and it has a more accurate GPS chip, too! Technology moves fast but IT often doesn’t. Sometimes IT simply can’t keep up with the value offered by the technology they keep.

The business world is driven by technology. We use applications for most tasks, and we access most of our personal services via several devices and with consistent experiences on each device. Most users are expecting the same from their business services, and business units want to give it to them. The response from IT organizations in many cases is similar to a 12-step program—refusal, fear, denial, fear, aggression, fear—and so on.

IT organizations are recognizing that they must act like a service provider in order to satisfy today’s business needs. Although their efforts seem to be focused and well motivated, many find it very challenging to transform their business model. The cultural mindset of a service provider drives methods to address risk mitigation that are very different from those IT organizations subscribe to. Simply put, service providers want their customers to allow them, as the provider, to assume much of the risk—for a fee, that is! It’s a value proposition that they can and do charge for.

IT organizations spend a lot of time and effort fending off risks in a variety of ways, and many incur significant internal costs to implement or manage risk mitigation practices. Third-party service providers may not be able to justify the same level of risk mitigation that enterprise IT organizations deploy—it would add cost to the solutions they offer and interfere with price points. Nevertheless, the service provider is able to provide a lucrative solution and still publish a lucrative price point to its customers.

Stay tuned for part two in this series—I’ll share my tips on how to move from a vintage IT organization to one that’s service-driven.

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Alex Salicrup is a business solutions architect for VMware Accelerate Advisory Services.

VMware AccelerateTM Advisory Services can help you and your key stakeholders understand the IT as a service value proposition—our consultants quantify the potential benefits, develop architectural designs, recommend organizational and process changes, create a migration plan and advise during implementation. Visit our Web site to learn more about our offerings, or reach out to us today at: accelerate@vmware.com for more information.

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  1. Pingback: CIOs, Lead the Cultural Change! | VMware Accelerate - VMware Blogs

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