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Forensic IT: Discover Issues Before Your End Users Do

 (This is a repost of original from the VMware CloudOps blog)

by Paul Chapman, VMware Vice President Global Infrastructure and Cloud Operations

Paul Chapman-cropIf you’ve ever watched five-year-olds playing a soccer game, there is very little strategy: all the kids swarm the field and chase the ball trying to score a goal.

Most IT departments take a similar sort of “swarming” approach to service incidents and problems when they occur.

For most of my career, IT has been a reactive business: we waited until there was a problem and then scrambled very well to solve it. We were tactical in terms of problem solving in a reactive mode, yet monitoring was focused on availability and capturing degradation in services, versus being proactive and predictive, analyzing patterns to stay ahead of problems. In the new world of IT as a service, where expectations are very different, that model no longer works.

New and emerging forensics tools and capabilities give IT the tools to be proactive and predictive—to focus on quality of service and end-user satisfaction, which is a must in the cloud era.

Forensics: A new role for IT
As an example, with new network forensics tools to monitor and analyze network traffic, it may seem a natural fit for network engineers to use them, but at VMware we found the skillsets to be quite different. We need people who have an inquisitive mindset — a sort of “network detective” who thinks like a data analyst and can look at different patterns and diagnostics to find problems before they’re reported or exposed into user impact.

Those in newly created IT forensic roles may have a different set of skills than a typical IT technologist. They may not even be technology subject matter experts, but they may be more like data scientists, who can find patterns and string together clues to find the root of potential problems.

Adding this new type of role in the IT organization most definitely presents challenges as it goes against the way IT has typically been done.  But this shift to a new way of delivering service, moving from the traditional swarm model to a more predictive and forensics-driven model, means a new way of thinking about problem solving. Most importantly, forensics has the potential to create a significant reduction in service impact and maintain high level of service availability and quality.

Quality of service and reducing end user friction
Every time an end user has to stop and depend on another human to fix an IT problem, it’s a friction point. Consumers have come to expect always on, 100 percent uptime, and they don’t want to take the time open a ticket or pause and create a dependency on another human to solve their need. As IT organizations, we need to focus more on the user experience and quality of service—today’s norm of being available 100 percent of the time is table stakes.

With everything connected to the “cloud,” it’s even more important for IT to be proactive and predictive about potential service issues. Applications pull from different systems and processes across the enterprise and across clouds. Without the right analysis tools, IT can’t understand the global user experience and where potential friction points may be occurring. In most experiences, IT finds out about a poor quality of service experience when users complain — perhaps even publicly on their social networks. Unless we get in front of the possible issues and take an outside-in, customer-oriented view, we’re headed for lots of complaints around quality of service.

At VMware, we have seen a significant reduction in overall service impact since using network forensics, and we’re keeping our internal customers productive. Focusing on quality of service and finding people with the right skillsets to fill the associated roles has us unearthing problems long before our end users experience so much as a glitch.

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Follow @PaulChapmanVM on Twitter.

Reflections on IDC’s Worldwide CIO Agenda 2014 Top 10 Predictions

 (This is a repost of original from the VMware Accelerate blog)

By Paul Chapman, VMware Vice President Global Infrastructure and Cloud Operations

Paul Chapman-cropAs I read through IDC’s Worldwide CIO Agenda 2014 Top 10 Predictions, I was reminded that in the world of IT, one thing is certain: change. The roles of the CIO and the IT organization overall continue to evolve and increase in complexity at the rapid pace of technology evolution. The IDC report tackles this complexity, presenting areas of focus and solid guidance around critical topics. Here are a few key topics that caught my eye.

Addressing the Skills Gap
While IDC’s first prediction regarding a need for CIOs to focus on innovation and business strategy isn’t news, it reinforces a truth we as IT executives know all too well. The difficulty in shifting from technology services to business strategy and services stems directly from the skills gap. In my organization, I see us trying to move people from deep technical roles into data analytics roles, and it’s not something they gravitate towards. For example, a network engineer is not necessarily the best person to do network forensics. The focus on business services will happen gradually, as new skills are recruited or trained into mature organizations.

The skills gap shows up as an important theme in the report, which says, not surprisingly, that new skills are required for these new cloud-related jobs. I equate the situation today to placing an ad for an Oracle database administrator 25 years ago. You wouldn’t be able to find one because they didn’t exist. We need to create new roles, like cloud services administrators. At VMware, we are developing a college grad program where we immediately put new hires into new types of roles to help seed the acceleration.

A Need for Mobile Services
That leads directly into the report’s call for a rapid shift to ensure support for the “ubiquitous mobile and socially connected lifestyle.” IDC suggests that within the next 12 months organizations “create a portfolio of mobile services for inclusion in the IT service catalog.” This is bigger and broader than mobile. It’s imperative that every organization builds a holistic strategy around end-user computing. IT may place more heavy emphasis on technology but this is really about organizational change management. New generations of employees embrace change much faster then previous digital transients; they adapt much faster, they consume technology differently, and their expectations are different.

New Cloud Security Concerns
IDC also predicts increased exposure to risk through cloud adoption in an attempt to reduce IT costs. Of course, security is always a major concern, but we have to keep in mind the distinction between private and public cloud options. On the public side, cloud services companies’ reputations depend on their ability to provide the best security available. Many organizations worry too much about doubling-down on security when the service provider has it covered more fully than most companies could do themselves internally.

On the flip side, some companies will never move to public cloud because of security and IP protection concerns. That doesn’t prevent them from taking a similar internal private cloud approach. You can take the same kinds of capabilities, flexibility, and agility from a public cloud and build your own internal private cloud. This way you can control the security.

Outsourced Enterprise Architecture?
On the topic of employing consultants to support enterprise architecture, I’m not necessarily sold. I think enterprise architecture will change drastically in the coming years, and what we build today may be obsolete fairly quickly. I see enterprise architecture shifting to a central focus around the network and the data center. We’re moving so much compute into massive data centers and they all have to be connected together; performance and quality of service have to be the focus. Architecture will need to have a heavy focus on networking and physical location. You can’t just push everything out to the cloud and expect them to perform—you need to know where things are and have the right tools and forensics is place to proactively manage quality of service.

Budgets Shift to LOB
When it comes to shifting budget to the lines of business (LOB) for third-platform investments, this typically means the IT organization processes do not get the LOB what they need fast enough. This shift isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Investments in some business processes are better off using an external provider. IT should manage the crown jewels: the cash register, the strategic things that differentiate you in the market place, and the things that need strong protection. Finance has to play a bigger role to say it’s okay for people outside of IT to buy services independently. I think it’s a good thing as long as IT embraces it and partners to deliver, instead of resisting and trying to control it. At the end of the day, the company is paying for all of it. At VMware we embrace this model and partner with our LOB leaders and come up with the right decisions together.

I highly recommend reviewing the IDC paper—there are interesting new insights alongside some core points that bear repeating.

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Paul Chapman is Vice President, Global Infrastructure & Cloud Operations at VMware. You can follow him on Twitter @PaulChapmanVM

To Succeed in the Cloud, CIOs Must Look Beyond Technology

(This is a repost of original from the VMware CloudOps blog)

By Paul Chapman, VMware Vice President Global Infrastructure and Cloud Operations

Paul Chapman-cropI’ve watched with interest as cloud solutions and services have matured in recent years to offer more agility, cost optimization, security, and quality of service for the full range of enterprise needs.

Yet I continue to see many businesses adopt cloud services in an ad hoc—rather than holistic—fashion. This is often driven by business leaders who feel the systems they need can not be delivered fast enough by corporate IT, if at all.

CIOs and IT leaders can’t wait any longer—now is the time to lead development of an enterprise cloud strategy that strikes the right balance between agility, efficiency, security, and compliance. I found Forrester’s “Achieve Cloud Economics for Operations and Services” provided some great guidance for how to do just that.

As the paper points out, IT organizations tend to focus on the part of a cloud transformation that comes naturally to them—the technology. It’s easy to see why. But success equally depends on transforming how IT operates, factoring in people resources, processes, financial management, governance, service delivery, communication, and more.

A cloud strategy that doesn’t include these elements will never reach its full potential for business transformation. CIOs can avoid that fate by developing or enhancing the following key competencies. You can further explore these elements of a successful cloud transformation in this interactive infographic.

  • Service Delivery:  The business demands agility and finance demands efficiency. Virtualization up and down the stack, combined with automation of standard repeatable tasks, is an essential first step. These advancements enable IT to meet service-level agreements independently of hardware, and to deliver innovative approaches to service delivery, such as on-demand and self-service models.
  • Talent Acquisition and Development: IT’s transition to the cloud demands new talents and skills. Leaders should ask themselves: Do I have the right people, competencies, and expertise in my organization to enable next-generation IT and business innovation? Strategies to address these needs include:

– Hiring new talent with the right skills
– Retraining and educating current team members
– Building a culture that encourages team members to embrace new responsibilities
– Working with sourcing and vendor management professionals to build up cloud skills

  • Financial Management: By investing strategically in the right technologies, IT leaders can help fund future IT transformation. To take advantage of the cloud’s pay-as-you-use cost advantages, procurement and budgeting will need to be updated for “elastic” resources. Financial transparency will also be key to positioning IT as a business driver, not a cost center.
  • Governance: Traditional IT policies and procedures will not be adequate in governing cloud solutions. Although it may prove challenging, designing combined roles, responsibilities, and accountabilities for combined marketing and IT teams, for example, is critical.
  • Sales/Marketing/Communication: IT Leaders traditional approach of “pitching” ROI, cost-benefit analysis, and business cases is no longer sufficient to develop relationships with executive management and elevate IT to a more strategic, consultative role. Professional “trusted partner”-level selling needs to be an iterative process of developing IT capabilities, marketing those capabilities, managing stakeholders, generating demand, and presenting line-of-business leaders with resonating and often proactive proposals.
  • Business Strategy: IT leaders will need to strengthen their business acumen and develop a deeper understanding of the company’s business, as well as the operations of each line of business. By researching and proposing technology innovation that is business-driven, and by designing solutions around corporate priorities and business outcomes, IT can become an active participant in business strategy development.

To be clear, I’m not recommending you tackle all these initiatives at once. I suggest building a tiered change management strategy and transformation roadmap that identifies top priorities, then sequencing broader changes over time to avoid chaos and facilitate adoption to ensure success.

Are you focusing on operational transformation to support a successful cloud strategy? Which areas are proving the most challenging? I welcome your thoughts and experiences with this set of challenges.

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You can follow @PaulChapmanVM on Twitter.