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4 Tips to Make Your IT Transformation a Success

By Gene Likins

Accelerate consultants are fortunate to work with a wide variety of IT organizations. Our clients vary by industry, global footprint, size, and competitive landscape. But one common theme among IT leaders has been that true IT transformation involves much more than just updating the technology. In fact, technology consistently ranks low for the challenges IT executives brace for as they push their organizations to modernize and shift toward ITaaS.

With ITaaS, the expectations and ground rules for IT are rapidly changing from “internal shared service” to “quality services at a competitive price.”  As IT, our customers are no longer captive; they can easily work directly with public clouds and SaaS vendors. This conjures up a new meaning to “rogue IT.”

With any trend or shift in an industry, there are always those companies that lead through innovation and/or necessity. Based on our experience with these ITaaS leaders, here are a few recurring themes worth considering for your IT transformation.

  1. Set up a governance structure
    This structure should empower service managers to prioritize and fund end-to-end services, rather than point projects. For example, an end-to-end IT service might focus on quarterly budgeting and planning. This is made up of infrastructure, ERP, BI, and dashboards. Strategically minimize IT point projects that are simply limited to deploying one particular technology or application.
  2. Deploy services incrementally
    Avoid the “big bang” approach to launching services—agility is the name of the game now. Two potential options are to quickly deploy a couple of simple services across a large number of businesses, thus maximizing the footprint of the impact. Another option is to focus many services on a single business unit to showcase deeper impact. Either way, the incremental approach will enable iterations, which will enable IT to monitor and refine the outcome.
  3. Avoid wholesale org changes
    First gain a sense for the services and service level agreements (SLAs) you will offer. Develop the IT operating model to deliver IaaS then ITaaS with a private cloud. Then use the operating model to gradually build a new organizational structure. There has been much discussion about cloud centers of excellence (COEs). One weakness I’ve observed with COEs has been accountability. An alternative may be to form a small greenfield team to start. This team could then generate some quick wins and slowly grow to eventually envelope the existing IT model over time.
  4. Market IT services –   Never forget, that as a services business, you must always market and promote your services. Put in the effort and invest in communication and marketing plans to ensure customers are seeing the value, and that you are advertising the successes right back to your customers. Being IT no longer gives you an excuse not to market yourself.

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Gene Likins leads the VMware Accelerate Advisory Services practice for North America and is based in Atlanta.

Is the SDDC a Reality Today?

With all the talk about the software-defined data center (SDDC) being the future of IT, it’s no surprise that organizations are eager to know more about what it looks like today. In this recent video, Accelerate chief technologist Eric Ledyard explains the key business values for SDDC—agility, efficiency, and choice—and speaks to specific, real-world applications for the infrastructure of the future.

Eric Ledyard is chief technologist for VMware Accelerate Advisory Services. Follow him on Twitter @ericledyard

Stop Starting With Technology

AUTHOR:  Arron Lock

I recently presented onstage at the Enterprise Mobility: BYOD event here in London with a couple of respected peers in the industry from Airwatch and Swivel as well as a VMware colleague. After taking questions from the audience around security for BYOD, my main takeaway from the event and in particular this session is that there is still a lot of confusion around mobility in general. In fact, mobility is becoming a catch-all phrase for end-user computing (EUC) transformation.

It’s amazing how quickly the line between BYOD and enterprise mobility (EM) became blurred. A number of people in the audience had deployed some form of BYOD (most for smartphones) to enable employees to get access to email and calendar. But others, typically with a higher level of risk associated with externalising email, were struggling with the business case.

But BYOD is only one aspect of mobility. The main benefit from enabling users to become more mobile is realised when you mobilise the business workflow that they are part of. This started off as email for executives—with their exec toys such as tablets or the latest smartphone—an obvious use case. But when a business is looking holistically at mobility, there are many other opportunities such as enabling field engineers or the sales force to be more productive. So, the important message that I stressed to my audience wasn’t about technology or security, but rather to ensure they establish the business justification for doing this work before jumping in with both feet.

It’s paramount to gather the business requirements first, by engaging the business stakeholders to understand their needs. I recently helped an IT director of a large multinational company interpret the corporate strategy to collaborate with industry partners. I took the IT team and line-of-business stakeholders through a defined process of the steps required to build out a highly agile externalisation platform. Now they have users accessing the platform from any device and any location—24/7—and they manage everything from the centre since the devices are unknown to them. It’s like BYOD to an extent, but tied to a major business initiative and nothing to do with smartphones.

As with this example, the most successful IT projects are those linked to business outcomes. The EUC space has long been at the unfortunate end of the IT spectrum in that it provides the general tools and services that employees expect to use on a day-to-day basis, yet the solutions do not appear to deliver direct value to the business.

So where did I begin with the before-mentioned IT organisation? First, I got my client to stop starting with technology, which in my experience is often the root cause of an IT project’s failure—deploying technology without considering the “why.” 
Here’s how I approached this project and others like it with my clients:

  1. Set a clear and simple mission statement with your business stakeholders.
  2. Kick off with a discovery workshop with the key stakeholders from IT and the business.
  3. Capture the business requirements in a clear and concise format, under the following headings:
    – User Experience
    – Security
    – Application Delivery
    – Performance, Availability and Scalability
    – Service Wrapper
  4. Use the MoSCoW model or similar to help set priorities.
  5. Review your findings regularly with key stakeholders.

Once this series of steps is complete, I find that my clients are in a good place to communicate internally to key stakeholders as well as externally to potential vendors of technology solutions—communication that paves the way to move forward to build out the business case and functional and technical designs for the solution.

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Arron Lock is an EUC business solutions architect with Accelerate Advisory Services and based in the UK. Follow him on Twitter @arron_lock

RELATED: To learn more about the trends in mobile adoption and how IT is adapting, read the Mobile Rebels research report. This VMware-commissioned study provides insight to the pressures European businesses are facing and reveals just how dependent employees have become on their mobile devices.

5 Ways to Make Your Big Data Strategy Reap Big Business Value

AUTHOR: Derek Lacks

How does the intersection of two huge opportunities—cloud computing and big data—impact data strategies, and how does the IT organization take advantage of them to create business value?

As an Accelerate strategist, I define actionable strategies within organizations aimed at accelerating the maturity and business impact of virtualization and cloud initiatives.  Many of the executives I work with are finding themselves at the intersection of two mega opportunities facing their organizations—cloud computing and big data.

To ensure common vernacular, “cloud computing” refers to an IT approach that allows the abstraction of computing workloads, so that they can be run across multiple environments based on organizational requirements (private, hybrid, or public clouds).  This is made possible by decoupling the data and software from the servers and storage systems running them, which enables IT resources to be dynamically allocated and delivered as services (as in infrastructure-as-a-service, platform-as-a-service, storage-as-a-service solutions, and so forth).

In the realm of data, cloud computing allows organizations to think outside the traditional data center constructs, which limit capabilities based upon finite capacity. Cloud computing provides the elasticity and flexibility to spin up or down compute capacity based upon the needs of the business. Now it’s possible to build applications that exceed the limits of existing compute power without worrying about significant CapEx investments to meet the demands of future applications.

But what about big data? Forrester Research defines big data as techniques and technologies that make capturing value from data at an extreme scale economical and estimates that we will exceed 2.7 zettabytes (equivalent of 27 million terrabytes) of global digital data this year.[1] The key difference between big data and our traditional analytics strategy is that the investments required to support the variety, volume, and velocity of today’s data available was previously prohibitive.

Big data strategies provide us with the means to collect and analyze this data in a way that is flexible and cost-effective. While many hear “big data” and think of the challenges of managing it, I prefer to focus on the opportunity to turn this growing data stream into business value.

The technologies—including applications and data platform—to leverage this new paradigm are still being created, but it’s inevitable that they will depend on integration with cloud computing.

The question is, how will these two topics impact your data strategy? Here are five best practices that I believe can help accelerate your journey:

  1. Build your application with tomorrow in mind – Big data offers significant benefits but is dependent on building applications that can leverage the key tenants of cloud computing.
  2. Strive to retain flexibility – Cloud and big data strategies need to be examined in concert with significant attention focused on maximizing elasticity and portability of workloads.
  3. All data is in scope – Big data is about extracting insight from the full body of organizational data versus the typical 10 percent that resides within your relational database management system (RDBMS).
  4. Staff for success  – Be aggressive in building data scientist capabilities, as this will be a critical requirement in driving your big data strategy.
  5. Don’t be afraid to start small – Leverage the expertise of early leaders such as Pivotal that can provide your efforts a jump-start by exposing you to the art of the possible.

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Derek Lacks is a strategist with VMware Accelerate Advisory Services based in Massachusetts.



[1] Forbes.com: Big Data Meets Cloud, Holger Kisker, Ph.D.

The 4 Components of a Service-Focused Culture


Author: Alex Salicrup

I have made bold observations in my recent blogs about the need for a cultural shift to that of a service-driven culture. This is a culture with a strong focus on customer needs, customer services, and meeting deadlines. This type of culture also allows the IT organization to scale and adapt to changing business needs rather than rigidly following old strategies. Although a cultural shift like this might seem an insurmountable task, I’ve seen it occur—and faster than you might think.

Here are the four components of a strong service-focused culture, according to my experience with today’s successful IT organizations:

  1. Strategic vision: IT must have a strong strategic vision that is anchored to the broader business goals. Short-, near- and long-term success criteria should be clearly defined and routinely reviewed by the full spectrum of stakeholders.
  2. Vision translation: The executive and director-level managers still need to disseminate the strategic vision to IT staff but should work hand-in-hand with service owners. Together they present a far more efficient method for evangelizing the strategic vision and leading a service lifecycle management process that keeps functional groups focused on internal deliverables as well as the interdependent needs of other groups.
  3. Strategic framework: The service owner is a key role, but he is like an orchestra conductor—he needs to have the sheet music from which to direct the many individual musicians. The strategic framework is that sheet music. This framework should outline the operational readiness of IT and prioritize the work streams necessary to deliver on the IT strategy and services. This is also an opportunity to establish a roadmap to the desired service capability maturity level.
  4. Risk: IT organizations tend to mitigate most risk within their sphere of control. They are uneasy asking other business groups to mitigate risks, even though these groups may be better positioned to do so. It is a wasted opportunity to have a great service-driven strategy if the business areas that IT depends on can’t catch up. This is where a strategic vision that is tied to a business-wide strategy can help, by clarifying which business functions are best suited to assess specific risks and giving them an outline for doing so.

Of course, no single plan will cover every IT organization’s needs, but this will present a good place to start a conversation. When I’m called in to help an organization with establishing a service-driven strategy, I start by establishing the end-state vision with the executive representatives for the organization, and then assess the operational capabilities of the business to deliver on that vision. The assessment then allows the IT organization to create a strategic framework by which the areas of improvement can be prioritized and remediation can be executed. This process has proven to expedite the journey of organizations in reaching service-driven capabilities.

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Alex Salicrup is a business solutions architect for VMware Accelerate Advisory Services
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Is Your Organization Ready for the New Wave of IT?

While most IT organizations have a high-level vision for their end-state cloud, and they have the people needed to implement the technology, many are missing the strategy to connect the two. What do you execute, at what stage, and how do the people and processes need to change to support that? The video below provides a strong starting point.

Don’t miss Accelerate Advisory Services strategist Padmaja Vrudhula’s great explanation of a service-based approach to change management. She provides tangible examples of how IT executives can shift the way they classify services and personnel roles to support the move to IT as a service.

Padmaja Vrudhula is a strategist with VMware Accelerate Advisory Services, based in Washington.

Handcrafted IT Infrastructure – Are You Still Relevant?

Author: Joe Chenevey

I’m a fan of George R.R. Martin’s best selling book series, A Song of Ice and Fire, as well as HBO’s television adaptation, A Game of Thrones. The first book in the series was published in 1996, and the current and fifth installment released in 2011. Five books in 15 years with two more planned! I imagine that when Martin started writing the first installment in the mid-90s, he used a desktop app on a PC, or perhaps he was still banging away on a Brother electronic typewriter—a relic even in those days.

Today, as he writes his sixth (and has hopefully started his seventh) book, I’m optimistic that he uses modern tools of the trade such as a razor-thin laptop, a smartphone, and productivity apps that can be sync’d between disparate devices through the cloud. Can you imagine if Martin was really old-school and wrote his manuscripts with a pen and paper? By the time the last two installments were completed and published, I might be older than Maester Aemon of the Night’s Watch (if you’ve read the books or watched the series, you know to whom I’m referring). And some friendly advice to sponsor network, HBO—please give George all the techie tools he needs to get those books written faster, so I can enjoy them and your wonderful TV series sooner rather than later.

Technology has transformed the publishing industry by enabling a much faster lifecycle from content creation to content publishing. Even considering physical books, the process to print, bind, package, and distribute a book is largely automated. In the world of IT, more so than in the world of publishing, both providers and consumers of IT services expect machine precision and speed.

So why is it that—even with widespread adoption of server virtualization—several large IT organizations I’ve been working with over the past weeks still primarily provision their IT infrastructure manually, component by component?

These IT organizations are finding that their consumers—the lines of business—are starting to look elsewhere for their infrastructure needs. The price for manually provisioned IT infrastructure as provided by their IT organization has become prohibitive both in terms of cost and time. And, as consumers, they are simply no longer willing to accept the long lifecycle to develop new services and provision workloads.

The explosive growth in the public IaaS market should indicate to all IT organizations struggling to keep up with demand that automating infrastructure provisioning has not only become a key competitive differentiator, but it will become a requirement for IT organizations to remain relevant to their business users. I see the market for handcrafted, highly customized IT services plummeting dramatically as consumers increasingly turn to service providers that can produce and offer the same infrastructure product faster and cheaper. For some companies, the path to maintaining relevance will not be a pure private model but actually involve a hybrid cloud service model in order to more quickly satisfy business demand while still maintaining overall control of workloads (and keeping infrastructure costs as low as possible).

The question for today’s CIO is: How long can you compete against third-party service providers and stay relevant to your enterprise? If the thought troubles you, it’s time you and your IT organization start defining a strategy on how to insert automation into your IT services. Automated provisioning and deployment—a vital cloud capability—addresses the needs of both your business users and your IT staff. The consumers of your IT services benefit from faster deployment of new infrastructure—in hours versus weeks—and more control over their workflow via self-service portals. By reducing the need for manual intervention, an automated system frees up your valuable IT resources for reassignment to strategic jobs that drive innovation. And most importantly, it enables IT and business users to work as partners—not adversaries.

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Joe Chenevey is a business solutions architect for VMware Accelerate Advisory Services. You can follow him on Twitter @VIJoe_Chenevey

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.

Would you like to continue this conversation with your C-level executive peers? Join our exclusive CxO Corner Facebook page for access to hundreds of verified CxOs sharing ideas around IT Transformation right now by going to CxO Corner and clicking “ask to join group.”

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.

Would you like to continue this conversation with your C-level executive peers? Join our exclusive CxO Corner Facebook page for access to hundreds of verified CxOs sharing ideas around IT Transformation right now by going to CxO Corner and clicking “ask to join group.”