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Tag Archives: IT roadmap

5 Tactics Leading IT Organizations Use to Realize the Promise of Business Capabilities

by Barton Kaplan

Almost every IT executive I speak to these days is actively working toward becoming a service provider, and for good reason. VMware survey data[1] indicate that the benefits can be powerful. IT as a service organizations are 37 percent more responsive to requests, invest 50 percent of their budgets in innovation and realize operational cost savings of 30 percent, among other benefits.

But a necessary prerequisite to achieve this status is good IT-business alignment. In order for business partners to feel confident having their service requests brokered through IT, they have to believe that IT understands their needs, that IT strategy reflects business priorities, and that IT will ultimately choose a service provider that best meets their specific requirements.

Unfortunately, this is where many IT organizations fall short. CEB data[2] shows that only 18 percent of business leaders believe IT prioritizes the investments that are most important to them. To align to the business, IT has typically focused either on business strategy or business processes. But business strategy is often too high-level and changes too frequently. Business processes, meanwhile, are too granular and function-specific to be meaningful at the enterprise level.

So how do IT organizations overcome this impasse? Many IT executives I’ve worked with have embraced business capabilities to bridge the divide between IT and the business. Simply put, business capabilities are activities an enterprise performs to achieve specific business outcomes. They are more stable than business strategy, but at a high enough altitude that they can be understood across the enterprise.

Despite their promise, business capabilities are no panacea. IT groups that have embarked on business capability initiatives struggle to realize a return on their investment. Their issues usually fall into one of the following areas:

  • Hard to define: Attempts to create business capability models can quickly become theoretical exercises and use language with which business partners are unfamiliar.
  • Hard to engage: Frequently when these efforts initiate out of IT, business partners become skeptical of the value and are unwilling to take ownership.
  • Hard to execute: Once a business capability model is in place, it should actually inform IT investment decisions. Most often, it does not.

To address these challenges and realize the true promise of business capabilities, leading IT organizations are adopting the following five best practices:

  1. Build business capabilities collaboratively. Successful capability models cannot be built in isolation. If business partners are expected to own the business capabilities, then they have to be involved in the effort to define those capabilities from the outset.
  2. Recognize that capabilities go beyond technology. Without a holistic understanding of what enables a business capability, it’s easy for an IT organization to default to a technology solution when the problem may lie elsewhere. One utility company I worked with that adopted a business capability-based approach went into the exercise thinking that 70 percent of its business issues were technology-related. It came out realizing that in fact only 30 percent were. The other 70 percent revolved around people and process issues.
  3. Prioritize capabilities. Putting together a capability model is a necessary but insufficient step. In order for business capabilities to become meaningful for planning purposes, they must be prioritized. A large government agency I worked with heatmapped its capability model by looking at the strategic importance of a capability and its maturity.
  4. Tie business capabilities to IT services. To ensure the services that IT creates will actually be consumed by end users, those services need to be defined in business terms. Instead of building services from the bottom up based on technology, they should be built top down based on the business capabilities they are designed to enable.
  5. Include business capabilities in IT roadmaps. To raise business confidence that IT investments will be directed to the most important business priorities, all IT programs should be mapped to business capabilities. At one financial services organization, this resulted in 2.5 times more IT spend on strategic initiatives.

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


[1] VMware “VMware IT Evolution: Today and Tomorrow – Insight from the VMware 2013 Journey to IT as a Service Study.” August 2013
[2] CEB 2013 Business Engagement Assessment Survey

Navigating Your Approach to an SDDC

By Enrico Boverino

In my last post, I introduced a banking scenario where my customer was focusing far too much on running at status quo and not enough on evolving the business – and by extension, IT — for continued success. Read on for two software-defined data center (SDDC) approaches that will help the CIO and IT set sail toward supporting innovation and meeting business goals.    

Roman philosopher Lucius Annaeus Seneca once said, “If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favorable.” This quote doesn’t just apply to sailors. It extends to IT organizations and data center strategies as well and underscores just how important it is to set the destination, navigate there, adapt to changing conditions, mitigate risks, and continuously measure improvements to recalculate the ideal route.

Let the software-defined data center (SDDC) be your favorable wind.

 

A typical software-defined data center (SDDC) architecture

A typical software-defined data center (SDDC) architecture

When identifying which SDDC approach should fill your sails, different priorities require setting appropriate strategic approaches to meet the objectives. I usually facilitate the conversation with questions like:

  • Is your priority as IT to RUN the bank and above all cut costs?
  • Is there a strong demand for innovation that can no longer be ignored?
  • Do you require a sign of discontinuity to accelerate collaboration of people and consolidation initiatives?
  • Is agility, now enabled also by new technologies and cloud services, your main priority to support the bank direction?

Two approaches commonly identified by the outcomes of these questions are:

1. SDDC New Platform (Greenfield)

Create a brand new SDDC platform for new and existing services, built on x86 infrastructure. This means implementing a converged virtualized architecture, which includes compute, network, and storage, and automated through predefined policies, operated proactively with analytics to meet SLAs and managed with granular cost allocation by usage to support budget and investment processes.

Applications can be decoupled from the underlying infrastDownload white paper for more information on optimizing the IT operations organization for cloudructure and deployed with greater flexibility by using hybrid cloud resources.

This approach also requires the definition and adoption of new processes that go beyond established best practices, which may not be sufficient to operate a completely new environment. Therefore, an optimized organization[1] will be shaped with fewer dedicated silos and more service-oriented tenants that can support business demands at new speeds and generate differentiation in the services delivered. Implementing cloud infrastructure operations centers of excellence and cloud tenant operations is both a transformative and disruptive process. However, there are a few key factors that can help a company achieve a successful outcome and avoid pitfalls. (Download white paper for more information on optimizing the IT operations organization for cloud.)

Recommended steps for a Greenfield strategy:

  • Address business urgency with pre-integrated frameworks and simplified business models.
  • Introduce innovative technologies that mitigate the risks of pioneering new delivery models.
  • Manage changes that the new platform creates on existing processes and organization.
  • Establish cloud centers of excellence and tenant operations for convergence.
  • Partner with the lines of business (LOB) in co-funding initiatives as driven by business demand.

2. SDDC Build and Replace (Brownfield)

Define a multi-phased approach based on SDDC use cases and management planes (infrastructure, operations, automation, and financials) to develop an actionable roadmap. Within this option, you respect relevant current investments and leverage existing skills to clear current bottlenecks while introducing new SDDC structural elements and functions.

Operations processes will be updated gradually in relation to the SDDC structural elements introduced, which will also deliver efficiencies and quick wins to support the long-term roadmap and goals. Once these are in place, you will continuously improve to reach the complete SDDC model as well as the modernization of all management planes.

Recommended steps for a Brownfield strategy:

  • Address platforms and data complexity with a multi-phased value approach via SDDC use cases and management planes.
  • Build on top of current systems, mitigating the risks of data migration and decommissioning.
  • Establish cloud centers of excellence and tenant operations for convergence (as with Greenfield).
  • Gain LoB commitment by sharing transformation plan to pursue swap of current modules.

After clarifying both SDDC models, I work collaboratively with my customers to start to design an actionable roadmap and business justification to pursue one of the two options (or both at the same time). With a plan in place, this actionable roadmap can help you reach your desired destination and achieve results for both IT and the business.

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Enrico Boverino is a senior business solution strategist for VMware Accelerate Advisory Services based in Italy. You can follow him on Twitter @eboverino


[1] VMware white paper: “Organizing for the Cloud.” Kevin Lees, Principal Architect, August 2012.

4 Ways to Build Better Roadmaps

By Barton Kaplan

BART K-filterRoadmaps are uniquely leverageable tools for IT leaders. They can be used to drive consensus among stakeholders, bridge strategic and operating plans, and provide a framework for multiyear investment decisions.

But the current state of practice leaves a lot to be desired. According to a recent poll from best practices firm CEB[1], 70 percent of IT professionals are either ‘somewhat’ or ‘highly dissatisfied’ with their roadmaps; only 3 percent are highly satisfied.

In my engagements with IT organizations, I typically encounter one of the following root causes:

  • Relevance: Roadmapping can easily become more of an academic exercise, with no tangible connection to the outcomes business partners care about.
  • Accuracy: A lot of effort usually goes into the creation of a roadmap, but much less to its ongoing maintenance. Once out of date, roadmaps quickly lose their usefulness and become shelfware.
  • Actionability: Although they contain valuable information, many roadmaps aren’t being used to inform IT investment decisions. They often use technical language and are poorly visualized, causing them to confuse rather than educate decision makers.

But getting roadmapping right can make a big difference. At one utility organization I worked with, unplanned IT spend fell from 30 percent of the total IT budget to 13 percent as a result of the improvements made to its roadmaps. And at a large pharmaceutical company, roadmaps helped it rationalize its applications portfolio by 20 percent over two years.

So what are these organizations doing differently than your average practitioners? In my experience, they have adopted the following four tactics:

  1. Expand the use of capability roadmaps. Capability roadmaps align IT spending to business objectives by identifying the technologies needed to enable specific business capabilities. Capabilities are accessible to business partners but also stable and detailed enough for IT to effectively plan around.
  2. Make the creation and maintenance of roadmaps more efficient. Leading organizations focus on resolving underlying data quality issues to improve roadmapping process efficiency. Poor data quality undermines roadmap credibility and requires time-consuming validation steps. Exemplars set data quality standards that have to be met before roadmaps are created.
  3. Measure and monitor roadmap usability. Progressive organizations establish standards for content completeness and visual quality. These two dimensions, which are relatively easy to measure and monitor, most influence end-user perceptions.
  4. Integrate roadmaps into strategic and annual-planning processes. Roadmaps are only as powerful as the decisions they inform. If not incorporated into the appropriate planning processes, their impact will be limited.

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


[1] Corporate Executive Board (CEB) Whitepaper : Six IT Roadmaps for Better Business Outcomes, 2013