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Monthly Archives: January 2015

5 Reference Architecture “Resolutions” for 2015

Barton KaplanBy Bart Kaplan

Corporate IT departments find themselves in a paradoxical position entering 2015. On one hand, the outlook for IT budgets hasn’t been brighter in a long time. According to advisory firm CEB, IT spend is expected to rise 3.3 percent this year, the most since before The Great Recession.[1]

On the other hand, the expectations of IT organizations have never been greater. Some three-quarters of company initiatives depend on technology to one degree or another. If central IT can’t meet demands for greater speed, agility, and cost-effectiveness, business partners will procure their own solutions, spurred on in part by the falling prices and increasing maturity of cloud and Everything-as-a-Service (XaaS) offerings from third-party vendors. According to Gartner, 35 percent of technology spending is expected to occur outside the central IT organization this year,[2] led by Finance, Human Resources and Marketing departments.

The challenge faced by IT is that in addition to myriad new business projects, they must also attend to legacy technology systems and environments. These uninteresting yet critical “keep the lights on” activities suck up close to 60 percent of IT budgets.[3] That number is coming down, but not fast enough to accommodate for all the technology requests from various parts of the business.

One way IT can square this circle is by making better use of reference architectures (RAs), some of the most scalable and cost-effective tools in the IT toolbox. Among developers, however, RAs don’t have the most stellar reputation. Commonly heard complaints are that they are difficult to understand, hard to adopt, and often out of date.

What exactly are reference architectures? They are much more than pretty pictures. It’s easier to think of RAs as a kind of ecosystem of resources rather than any one thing (see figure below). Their ultimate purpose is to help solution delivery teams make better design and technology choices. At a time of exploding “shadow IT” and changing IT paradigms, the need for effective RAs is more important than ever.

Figure: Reference Architecture Toolkit

reference architecture toolkit
Source: CEB – Enterprise Architecture Leadership Council

If done right, RAs can deliver substantial benefits to both IT and the business. One large financial services organization I worked with saw infrastructure standardization increase from 30 percent to 70 percent, and delivery times decrease by 75 percent, over a two-year period. By some estimates, RAs can reduce IT budgets anywhere from two percent to upwards of 15 percent.

The most mature practitioners take the following five steps to ensure their RAs are successful.

  1. Manage reference architectures across their entire lifecycle. Most of the focus typically falls on the build phase. But the ongoing maintenance of RAs, and eventual decommissioning, are critical to their usefulness, especially in fast-changing areas like mobility and cloud.
  2. Evaluate reference architectures as a portfolio. Many RAs are developed in a reactive, one-off fashion. In order to make the best use of limited resources and maximize benefits, reference architectures should be viewed holistically, using formal criteria to evaluate and prioritize them. Those criteria should be revisited over time, as capabilities grow and business needs evolve.
  3. View reference architectures as brands. To achieve greater RA adoption, it’s essential to consider reference architectures from the customer’s perspective. They should be easy to find, understand, and use―which in most cases they are not. By putting a consumer lens on RAs and viewing them more as individual brands, some of the most common adoption barriers can be avoided.
  4. Include implementation advice. RAs are most frequently owned by enterprise architecture (EA) groups, whose focus tends to be on higher order elements such as principles, standards and patterns. But without decision guides, prototypes and reusable source code―all of which make these higher order resources easier to implement―the chance that RAs get instantiated in actual solutions is low.
  5. Federate RA ownership. One of the reasons why EA groups fail to develop prototypes and provide source code is that their resources are limited. But responsibility for RAs need not―nor should not―reside in EA groups alone. Rather, ownership should be distributed out to subject matter experts across the organization. This will increase buy in, and substantially expand the capacity of the organization to build and maintain a full RA ecosystem.

[2] Gartner, Inc. “Predicts 2014: Application Development.” Brian Prentice, David Mitchell Smith, Andy Kyte, Nathan Wilson, Gordon Van Huizen, and Van L. Baker, November 19, 2013.

[3] Ibid, Footnote #1

Bart Kaplan is a business solution strategist with VMware Accelerate Advisory Services and is based in Maryland.

3 New Year’s Resolutions to Make “IT Relevance” a Reality

Sue Holly-RodwayBy Sue Holly-Rodway

It’s that time again―the dawn of a new year, and its accompanying surge of post-holiday, re-energised intention and commitment to improvement.

My team and I work in the shape-shifting world of technology, helping customers drive business transformation through IT transformation. And that can be challenging simply because today, technology is the business. As Jeff Immelt, CEO of GE Corporation, said, “If you went to bed last night as an industrial company, you’re going to wake up today as a software and analytics company.”

That makes the CIO and IT team central to shaping business strategy, including planning and execution. And of course, you still need to optimise the operation of core systems while reducing operational budgets as well. Based on our experiences over the past year, I wanted to suggest three resolutions to help you meet these goals.

Resolution 1: Put IT in the Driver’s seat

In order to shape successful business transformation, the CIO must be in the driver’s seat. By the end of 2015, act as the “Chief Innovation Officer,” and play a central, creative role in shaping business strategy where technology is the accelerator for growth.

We believe that many businesses still have a long way to go in recognising the central, critical roles of the CIO and IT team in guiding business strategy through expert understanding of how technology can drive growth. So what gets in the way? Often IT is seen by the rest of the organisation as old-fashioned and a roadblock to innovation and agility. All too frequently IT itself is stuck in the mindset that their job is just to keep the systems up and running—and let “the business” worry about the rest. For real transformation to happen, both of those mindsets have to change.

To be in the driver’s seat, the CIO must first be heard in the boardroom, proactively advocating IT-driven business transformation. In addition, the IT organisation needs to change focus from traditional, operational, project-based thinking to innovative, cross-organisational business growth initiatives where technology is central.

In 2015, the transformational CIO will be working to put more focus on innovation. That means sponsoring initiatives that assess the gaps between the current and desired state, and plotting incremental steps toward improvements that don’t disrupt the whole IT organisation. External advisory partners are really helpful in this area, where the challenge isn’t purely the capabilities of the technology, but people and processes as well.

Resolution 2: Drive the journey to the cloud

Nearly every organisation is at some stage of exploring cloud services, especially in terms of enabling innovative new business initiatives to fly―or fail―quickly. Cloud-enabled IT-as-a-Service (ITaaS) should be the natural domain of the CIO and IT, based on their years of experience putting technologies such as security, integration and connectivity at the centre of their strategies. Cloud strategies should be no different.

But this past year, our team has seen multiple examples of organisations lurching toward using so-called “open” or “free” cloud-based services, rather than having a well-thought-out strategy with an execution plan for robust, secure, cloud-based services to support the business as part of a wider technology capability, delivered or brokered through the IT organisation.

As the CIO, make a resolution to create and own the “travel plan” for your organisation’s journey to ITaaS through the cloud. This is a journey that can involve a number of potential potholes along the way – and like all successful journeys, it requires a well-thought-out plan, informed by experience, expertise and appropriate risk management.

An important part of preparing for the journey involves encouraging closer working relationships between the operations and development teams. In a recent VMware Europe CIO event in Barcelona, Spain, IT leaders agreed upon the importance of bringing these teams closer together to build more collaborative ways of working to deliver better outcomes for the business.

Resolution 3: Protect the business with proactive security investments

Today, almost every user in your organisation has one or more mobile devices, which they use—or would like to use—to access business-critical information and applications. The process of closing the gap between IT’s capabilities and end-users’ expectations creates serious cyber security implications that warrant the full attention of the business.

This has typically been regarded as the domain of risk managers, and has not been seen as central to business success. However, the speed of change in technology and the blurring of lines between external and internal IT requires the insight and leadership of the CIO and their technology experts and security teams to address it.

As CIO, resolve to convince the business that cyber security is a business-critical topic and one that merits proactive investment. My team and I have had many conversations on this topic with CIOs and IT leaders in EMEA this year. Elan Yanovsky, ex-CIO of Israel Post, and now part of the EMEA Accelerate Advisory Team, shares this view:

“Though much has been said and written regarding cyber security, this is still the largest threat for the CIO. Many organisations still believe this will only happen to others. Mobile, Cloud and Social push us―IT―toward interesting times but also closer to the hands of evil players. What happened to Sony recently can―and actually does on a daily basis―happen to others.   See this infographic from Business Insider on the world’s biggest data breaches.  The CIO needs to be allowed to invest more on understanding the threats, exposing the vulnerabilities, and preventing the usage of them. The technology capabilities, such a micro-segmentation in the network, which VMware offers through NSX technology, or managing mobile email through Airwatch mobile management technology, are now available. Now it’s not just an option, it is all about survival.”

In Europe, specifically, IDC predicts the passage of recent EU Data Protection Legislation will also require incremental investment in IT governance and security. The CIO has a critical role to play in guiding the business in the best ways to apply the time and money required to complete a full assessment of the organisation’s security vulnerabilities and take action to eradicate them.

These are just three ideas around goals which might help to reinforce your focus for 2015 – and whatever they are, all the best for a successful and exciting year!

Sue Holly-Rodway is VMware’s Senior Director for Advisory and Professional Services Business Development in EMEA. Sue has held this role since January 2014 and is responsible for driving the deployment of the skills and capabilities in VMware’s Advisory and Professional Services teams.

3 Key Trends for 2015: How to Keep Pace with the Rapidly Changing IT Landscape

craig dobsonBy Craig Dobson

So much happened in 2014, and as the New Year begins, I’m looking forward to finding out what 2015 holds—both from a market and an industry perspective. One thing is for certain: the rapid changes we have seen in our industry will continue into the New Year. In fact, the pace of change is likely to accelerate.

I believe the following key trends will be shaping the IT landscape of 2015:

  • Increased application focus
  • Continued movement from CapEx to OpEx models (embracing “x-as-a-Service”)
  • Heightened focus on accurate measurement of the cost-of-IT

Let’s explore these trends in a little more detail.

Application Focus

All throughout 2014 I have been hearing clients say: “it’s all about the application.” In the face of global competition and with the rise of disruptive startups testing the old school business models, the lines of business are seeking innovation, market differentiation, and quick response to changing market dynamics. They are driving IT—and all too frequently looking outside, to cloud-based solutions— to enable quick response to these dynamic changes, often at a lower entry cost.

In 2015, lines of business will prioritize and focus on the business applications that will support the goal of serving, winning, and retaining customers. Application portfolios will change to hybrid architectures that increasingly leverage x-as-a-service models. Supporting platform decisions (such as infrastructure and cloud) will be made based on application decisions. IT professionals will need to stay on top of evolving business applications in order to more effectively support the demands of the lines of business.

Moving from CapEx to OpEx

The appetite to consume anything-as-a-service from external providers has grown throughout 2014, and is now significantly shifting the IT funding model from three- to five-year CapEx investments to OpEx-based consumption models. This shift will accelerate in 2015, and will often be tied to shorter contract periods, with an increased focus on cost and an expectation of a continued improvement on cost-to-serve.

What is driving this change is a general acceptance by mainstream enterprise businesses and different levels of government (through policy changes) that cloud-based services make economic sense, combined with the fact that the business risk of consuming these services has decreased.

Accurate Measurement of the Cost-of-IT

With the shift from CapEx to OpEx models and the focus on the business value of the application lifecycle, the CIO will be under even more pressure to show value back to the lines of business. In 2015, with these new dynamics, and with IT moving to become a full broker of services or portfolio manager (for both internal and external services) delivering x-as-a-service capabilities, this change will demand a greater level of granular and real-time financial reporting at a service level for the consuming lines of business.

This increased financial awareness will provide the ability for IT to show value, offer apples-to-apples comparison between internal IT and external services, as well as comparison between suppliers.

In addition to the cost transparency measures, I believe we will also see an aggressive focus on driving down operational costs to allow the savings to be targeted at next-generation business applications.

Ready for 2015

Let’s face it — change is a given, and 2015 will be no exception for IT. Forward-thinking IT leaders will get ready to deliver applications that meet the dynamic demands of the business; x-as-a-service offerings that meet or exceed end-user requirements; and financial reporting capabilities that not only show end users what they’re paying for but also enable IT to quantify its value.

Craig Dobson is Senior Director of VMware Technical Services for the Asia Pacific region and is based in Sydney.