Sheppard Narkier – InFocus Blog | Dell EMC Services https://infocus.dellemc.com DELL EMC Global Services Blog Tue, 09 Oct 2018 11:53:57 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.7 Prometheus Applied – Knowledge’s Lever https://infocus.dellemc.com/sheppard_narkier/prometheus-applied-knowledges-lever/ https://infocus.dellemc.com/sheppard_narkier/prometheus-applied-knowledges-lever/#respond Sat, 26 Dec 2015 12:00:54 +0000 https://infocus.dellemc.com/?p=25663 Transformational Leverage Archimedes once stated that with a big enough lever and a firm enough place to stand on, he could move the earth. Knowledge has that power, but much like Prometheus teaching man to use fire, that impact can be for good or ill. No one wants to share the fate of Prometheus be […]

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Transformational Leverage

Archimedes once stated that with a big enough lever and a firm enough place to stand on, he could move the earth. Knowledge has that power, but much like Prometheus teaching man to use fire, that impact can be for good or ill. No one wants to share the fate of Prometheus be it the one from Greek Mythology or the one from the Claymation video link above.  In last week’s blog, Knowledge was revealed as the key to driving successful IT transformations.  Applying knowledge requires a balanced set of tactics, starting with what knowledge is. So this IT mythos epic will conclude as a trilogy, exploring Knowledge’s Levers.

Deconstructing Knowledge

Pervasive and Evolving

The use of knowledge is very wide ranging and in today’s lightning fast world it ages rapidly turning yesterday’s knowledge into a liability. Some EMC colleagues have suggested very impactful approaches to manipulate data in order to enable better business decision making.

Interconnected with Unmanageable Velocity

In the case of IT transformations, we add the complexity of IT and business needing to collaborate across semantic barriers and knowledge domains in order to tackle the complexities of IT transformations involving ten thousand applications. For many executives, with both time and resource pressures this is endless abyss they face in their darkest nightmares. How can we move forward by reducing technical debt while keeping the lights on?

Massive Clustering Causing Decision Inertia as much as Lack of Data Does

Suppose the answer is to use key performance indicators (KPIs) such as agility, cost, operational effectiveness, reliability. Suppose you cannot legitimately focus on just one set.  Suppose as a previous blog explored, you just focus on agility. The reality is that each project has competing driving forces, but an application portfolio of thousands of applications in chaos will test every aspect of the IT organization to its limits. You need multiple experts working in conjunction, but how can this “Tower of Babel” properly communicate. Here is another knowledge framework to consider from Financial Services:

Figure1_dimensionsofknowledge

Notice how Knowledge dimensions align to purpose, seen at the end of the dimension arrows {Logical Forms, Scope and Control, Subject Matter, Operational Force}. Knowledge follows the dictates of form and function.

When evaluating Data, Information and Knowledge, the latter is the most stable for instance books and white papers are written about Knowledge, not data.  Data science has significantly shortened the cycle to test knowledge and often creates unusual perspectives on what was assumed unassailable.

One of the major aims of creating knowledge is that the incessant streaming of new data and information can be placed into an established context, namely patterns. Patterns combine ordering and classification along with a practical action framework.  I will show one such pattern deconstruction and how it can be used to streamline the analysis of thousands of applications in portfolio management.

Knowledge’s Lever- Pattern Analysis

Deconstructing a Business Value Chain

In 1985, Michael Porter realized that most businesses in every industry exhibit similar behavioural patterns and therefore tend to invent structure to optimize that behaviour. He titles it the business value chain.

Figure_2

In the Adaptivity platform, the power of this pattern-based thinking allows practitioners to meld business needs and IT imperatives in order to make better business driven decisions. We modified this model so that we could build knowledge bases and rules that characterize the nuances of business demand. This allowed us to combine technical and business knowledge methodically.

This diagram below focuses on direct business impact, with added structure.

Figure_3

Note that the five distinct value chain functions are depicted, which includes overlays for traditional thinking about front, middle and back offices. More importantly, we have mapped the behavioural characteristics of each major part of the business value chain.  These behavioural characteristics drive the business demand, and shape the way applications are designed. They are also the key to understanding how to best approach a massive portfolio of applications that need rationalization and transformation.

The Pattern Lever- Aligning Executive needs to sift the portfolio chaos

KPIs provide a powerful focus for executives:

  • If they are fixated on Time to Market Agility then the applications that operate on Market and Client facing activities, including service get top priority. The recent surge in cloud native application migration validates this. So does a move to big data.
  • If they are fixated on Business Process Agility, then Inbound and outbound logistics are a major focus along with some key applications in Operational Transaction processing.
  • If either Agility strategy is in play, most executives consider this existential and will provide leeway on cost
  • If either Operational or Capital cost pressures are top of mind then the middle office applications will receive the focus.
  • Reliability concerns typically affect process flows involving multiple applications, but those concerns can be partitioned into one of the depicted processing segments above.

Adaptivity’s Prometheus Reboot will make this mapping easier than it has ever been.

The Knowledge Lever and the Filter

Adaptivity now features Application Classification and Alignment Services, which currently enable our EMC practitioners to sort through hundreds of apps quickly to discern likely investment strategies. The Prometheus reboot will enhance that guidance by aligning KPIs and value chain tendencies; and value chain demand characteristics mapped to application types.  All of these services will be added to make it easier for practitioner and client alike to make relevant defensible and repeatable decisions. This knowledge has been collected from decades of experience, harvesting data and information from hundreds of projects. Prometheus won’t stop there, since we know that all manner of knowledge is changing fast as the world tends towards becoming a complex adaptive system.

In a virtual world a virtual lever needs to be bigger than ever because data has gravity and the wrong decision could cost 1000x to fix in maintenance.

For more thoughts on this and other transformation topics, consider reading the book I co-authored.

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Prometheus Unbound – Knowledge Unleashed https://infocus.dellemc.com/sheppard_narkier/prometheus-unbound-knowledge-unleashed/ https://infocus.dellemc.com/sheppard_narkier/prometheus-unbound-knowledge-unleashed/#respond Wed, 16 Dec 2015 13:00:57 +0000 https://infocus.dellemc.com/?p=25558 In my last blog, I covered the Mythos of IT Transformations; mapping the iconic figures of Greek Mythology: Sisyphus, Tantalus and Heracles to the never ending drama scenarios we experience in our daily work lives when trying to affect change. I ended with mentioning the role of Prometheus as the game changer supported by a […]

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In my last blog, I covered the Mythos of IT Transformations; mapping the iconic figures of Greek Mythology: Sisyphus, Tantalus and Heracles to the never ending drama scenarios we experience in our daily work lives when trying to affect change. I ended with mentioning the role of Prometheus as the game changer supported by a comprehensive multi-stakeholder decision support platform for the entire IT lifecycle. As we remember from Greek mythology Prometheus was chained to a rock while having his liver eaten as a punishment for giving mortals fire.

Now in our slightly more enlightened corporate political realities, that action would be deemed illegal, but any aspiring, “modern day Prometheus” will often see the key vision they promote have the same fate as Icarus, who flew too close to the sun. Why does that happen? Too often the introduction of a new technology is viewed as the magic potion to solve all ills but in reality the hopeful Prometheus is often faced with introducing that technology in an environment similar to the cartoon Prometheus and Bob. Please view the cartoon before proceeding and after you stop howling with laughter.

Does anyone have to deal with a host of Bob’s out there when planning for change? Technology is one of three types of capabilities that affect change in an organization. All three types of capabilities (technology, skills and process) must be advanced for an organization to have sustainable change that matters to that organization’s success. Technology is often a game changer, but the introduction of a technical capability without the appropriate supporting skill and processes often means limited impact, limiting the ROI and hampering key objectives. A comprehensive approach must be taken, and that means multiple stakeholders across different reporting lines and P&L centers need to cooperate to advance the capability maturity of an organization. This is the essence of sustainable IT maturity. The diagram below is a simple example. Notice how basic technology capabilities are combined with skills and process capabilities to provide higher value, higher impact compound capabilities. The big question in most people’s mind is how is that accomplished? Previously I addressed this dilemma focusing on what must be done, starting with culture.

s1

But even with a strong cultural line up, timely, fact based decisions still need to be across groups that don’t have the same semantics, or thought domains. We need a way to think about how we as humans interact with data, information and knowledge to make decisions that matter.

Data, Information and Knowledge- Overcoming Decision Inertia

In a previous blog I examined the killer app. The one I primarily focused on was the spread sheet for its simple modeling style, the resulting ubiquity of use and the significant unintended consequences of its massive proliferation. The spreadsheet, more than the PC itself, changed the world of IT by changing IT’s priorities.

  • The Fire Ignites then spreads– Anyone, with little to no programming background could gather data (e.g. point of sale data for a region), create some information from it (e.g. monthly sales trends by region) and then start the process of building knowledge (e.g. in certain states we are likely to see spikes in purchases of beer and diapers from the same store on Friday night). Business Intelligence greatly expanded the spread sheet apps capabilities to achieve that kind of analysis, and Data Science Analytics have greatly expanded that reach, with all of the expected questions.
  • Spreadsheets are intuitive– The structure of the data is clear based upon what is placed in cells. The relationships between data are expressed by the intersection of the cells and therefore all calculations are traceable. Meaning is easy to express and the derived knowledge can be understood.

But as we have seen spreadsheets are hard to maintain, harder to share and as the data sets grow, and don’t scale in performance very well as they become unwieldy 10 megabyte monsters with dozens of sheets. Tracing a calculation in such a sheet can be a nightmare, debugging even worse.

Too often the answer is to convert this treasure trove of knowledge to a programing paradigm where the programmers have no understanding of the problem domain.

What if the decision making we need to make better IT designs requires knowledge from 6 different domains, such as business analysis, application portfolio analysis, enterprise architecture, application forensics, engineering compatibility, operational feasibility? What if the knowledge we need to leverage is not just bottom up data (e.g. forensic performance analysis)? What if that knowledge is locked up in configuration guides, engineering checklists, and the heads of our consultants? In data science that knowledge is considered a priori, hard won knowledge that we already have assimilated and use and is of vital interest when applied to machine learning.

These questions remind of a 500 year old quote I saw posted in an EMC office building.

“ He who has not first laid down his foundations, may with great ability lay them afterwards, but they will be laid with trouble to the architect and a danger to the building” from the Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli 1515.

These knowledge sets need to be maintained by experts who will take care of their relevance cycle. But even more important than that is how the knowledge from different experts can be used systematically together to make informative decisions about application portfolio investment, application rationalization, cloud deployment, and infrastructure design. How do they enter knowledge that can be leveraged by other experts in any sequence they deem fit? How do we make knowledge trapped in configuration sheets and best practices documents come to life? How do we make well thought out business recovery policies into actionable rules that can be used to configure a platform for an adequate disaster scenario? And how does this all happen with simultaneous decision making threads across multiple stakeholders?

One vision of such a concept might look like this:

s2

Enter Prometheus – the evolution of knowledge modeling

Prometheus is the evolution of Adaptivity’s decision support platform, and in 2016, much will be heard about it. The mission is ambitious:

  • Create Sustainable Relevance for IT decision making by delivering workload-driven analytics that merges top-down and bottoms-up IT portfolio data across multiple dimensions of IT knowledge

The value

This platform enables experts to add knowledge and create new analytic processes that are repeatable and traceable in order to render decisions based upon facts and observed behaviors/patterns.

The results we expect:

This empowers IT to become a strategic enabler of the business and contribute to market relevant moves that are instrumental to the business’s strategic vitality.

We will change the trajectory of IT decision making by combining machine learning, crowd sourcing, inventive worflow collaboraiton, all while enabling the evolution of knowledge. Sysiphus, Tantalus and Hercles can finally get some rest.

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The Mythos of IT Transformations https://infocus.dellemc.com/sheppard_narkier/the-mythos-of-it-transformations/ https://infocus.dellemc.com/sheppard_narkier/the-mythos-of-it-transformations/#respond Thu, 10 Dec 2015 13:00:15 +0000 https://infocus.dellemc.com/?p=25487 Why the Mythos? IT transformation is a very hot topic this year. It spans everything from the acceleration towards Cloud Native Apps, to improving your internal processes with the fluid integration of development and operations, and of course the big push to make everything cloud enabled. But despite all the advances that make these new […]

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Why the Mythos?

IT transformation is a very hot topic this year. It spans everything from the acceleration towards Cloud Native Apps, to improving your internal processes with the fluid integration of development and operations, and of course the big push to make everything cloud enabled.

But despite all the advances that make these new capabilities possible, much of the IT and business world is struggling to make these IT transformations feasible, especially as they are confronted with current fixes such as bi-modal IT.

This blog is about the realities of inertia that impede progress in many complex or large organizations when it comes to IT transformations. I have looked at some of the obstacles that inhibit progress which paint a different reality, hence the difference between what is desired and the fundamental work required in achieving the following outcome:

Empower IT to become a strategic enabler of the business and contribute to market relevant moves that are instrumental to the business’s strategic vitality.

 

Meet the Players of IT Transformation

The key stakeholders in this IT transformation drama can be characterized according to the icons of Greek Mythology.

  • TantalusThe Business Executive who is thirsting for nimbleness, costs aligned with growth, the ability to have the right business strategy enacted by IT. The reality for most business executives is that much like Tantalus, they are chained to a rock while dying of endless thirst. No matter what they try to achieve, they get bogged down in fits and starts. They see some business units buy public cloud via credit cards, make some progress for a year and get locked down unable to move to a new vendor when their requirements change. They see one tactic after another tried only to watch as technical debt and chaos remain. All answers seem to take one extreme or the other, cut costs or increase agility, but where is the middle ground?
  • Sisyphus The CIO who is reacting to one fad or mission critical initiative after another. Rolling a new rock up the hill every quarter only to watch it roll down again. If the rock stays in place, will the next rock mesh with the one on the hill? This is the role of the order taker, “roll the rock, just make sure it’s big enough so it can be measured, but not too big that it can’t be rolled there by the end of the quarter.” The CIO is compelled to take the next order, while reacting to a burgeoning shadow IT movement that is almost completely under the radar until a glaring error is found that must be fixed OR a huge success happens. The latter is not always sustainable, but Tantalus is not always focused on the long term effect. The CIO is too often moving the next rock, but the CIO doesn’t often get to answer the questions about how the rocks fit together or what is being built.
  • HeraclesIT practitioners – The technical staff see their lives as the constant reenactment of the 12 labors of Heracles. One quarter it’s the Augean stables, the next it is slaying the Hydra, whose heads regrow after they are cut off. These labors are complex, involving changes in technology, process and skills, and often have unexpected consequences as they are changed. As changes of direction occur it can be frustrating, especially if it means loss of control, hence the tendency to become shadow IT. There is also the fear that supporting these initiatives could mean the loss of employment.

What the Stakeholders Face

Most IT transformations are initiated from a deep urgency, such as reduction of Capital or Operating Expenditures (CapEx) or (OpEx). A more common theme is the need for agility.  I deconstructed agility in a previous blog.

The executive leadership of most complex companies deal with these competing needs on a regular basis across their entire Business Value Chain. Often logistics, and an all market facing activities need an exponential increase in agility, but cost is never out of the equation and the history of change in these last 20 years since the internet has left a massive “wasteland of technical debt.” So our brave PS practitioners are constantly walking the line at these large clients where the pressures of moving to cloud native apps are being inhibited by legacy concerns that profoundly hurt the business’s ability to compete.

IT Transformations: The Hope Behind the Myth

Many of my colleagues have been writing blogs about IT Transformations that are both insightful and realistic. They mention lessons learned in large transformations, how to approach the tough questions of what should be invested in, and perhaps most important of late, how IT needs to view its operating models.

They show how taking the right approach to looking at these complex interdependent moves. Recognizing that complexity is the where the gap between success and failure lies. That difference gap can only be bridged by multi-faceted decision making: Taking in several seemingly divergent or disassociated knowledge sets and making intelligent decisions that affect multiple stakeholders.

This is neither easy nor comfortable; think of Tantalus; and in many cases the expedient road is taken (e.g. lift and shift to an outsourcer) because the root of most inertia is analysis paralysis, (i.e. not feeling comfortable enough with facts at hand). EMC has been addressing that head on with some unique services which my colleagues allude to in the above mentioned blogs. We are about to revolutionize that ability to make complex decisions, but first some perspective is in order.

Changing the Mythos

  • Picking the right investments. Not all applications are worth fixing or moving to the cloud, yet this decision making can get ugly really quick if objective Business and IT reasoning is not used.
  • Technology is not the silver bullet. It never has been, but it can be an enabler. Most technology that is impactful in an enterprise requires process support and skill upgrades. Capability improvement is a process in itself.
  • Capabilities. These need to be built to be successful and the organization benefits greatly if they are committed to building a sustainable capability improvement.
  • Moving from Pilot. With the proliferation of new technology, it is wise to consider pilots as long as it is understood that a pilot is not a scalable model for a large complex enterprise. Sustainable change can be started by one seed project, but most organizations must embrace the fact the one project will not suffice, even if it is a successful example. Change Agency has to be a fact of life to break the repeat of the IT transformation Mythos.

Enter Prometheus

EMC Professional Services can act as Prometheus for large organizations, without sharing his ultimate fate. There many reasons for this, including laser focus on client concerns. EMC PS is also armed with an IT decision support system that has been rebranded as Prometheus, using Adaptivity’s core knowledge and decision engine.

  • Adaptivity is designed to create Sustainable Relevance for IT decision making by delivering workload-driven analytics that merges top-down and bottoms-up IT portfolio data across multiple dimensions of IT knowledge.
  • This platform enables experts to add knowledge and create new analytic processes that are repeatable and traceable in order to render decisions based upon facts and observed behaviors/patterns.
  • This empowers IT to become astrategic enabler of the business and contribute to market relevant moves that are instrumental to the business’s strategic vitality.

The Journey and the Premise

As a cofounder and former Chief Scientist of Adaptivity, I co-authored a book on the approach to IT transformations. Many of the founding principles that we used to formulate the decision support platform can be found in this book. If you decide to buy it, I would love to hear your feedback.

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Is Balance Really an Issue? https://infocus.dellemc.com/sheppard_narkier/is-balance-really-an-issue/ https://infocus.dellemc.com/sheppard_narkier/is-balance-really-an-issue/#respond Tue, 07 Apr 2015 14:00:00 +0000 https://infocus.dellemc.com/?p=23233 Every time I sit at my desk to work or try to finish the book I have been writing, I stare at these three icons.They remind me of the diffuclt struggle that architects and designers face when making decisions that will affect systems for years to come. My belief is that the saber tooth tiger […]

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AEvery time I sit at my desk to work or try to finish the book I have been writing, I stare at these three icons.They remind me of the diffuclt struggle that architects and designers face when making decisions that will affect systems for years to come. My belief is that the saber tooth tiger on the left epitomozes the culmination of over-engineering. How did that view emerge ? When I was a child, I was deeply fascinated by paleontontology. I remembered seeing a depiction of a saber tooth tiger that sank its teeth into an elephant who was stuck in the tar pit. But the tiger’s teeth went in too deep and thus could not escape the elephant’s fate. Whether this was made up or not , it left an indeible impression upon me. An animal as imposing as a saber tooth tiger could easily misuse its greatest weapon.

On the opposite side of the tiger is the duck-billed platypus, a semiaquatic egg-laying mammal native to Australia and found in Tasmania. It is part of a genus that consists of 5 species of mammals that lay eggs. Upon discovery, Eurpoean naturalists were baffled by this almost blind, egg-laying, duck-billed, beaver-tailed, otter-footed mammal that has a poisionous hand spike to defend itself. This oddball also has the ability to find their prey via sensing electirc fields, simialr to dolphins, which explains why their eyesight isn’t as vital to them.

Evolutinary theorists have had a ball wih this animal and as a teen studying this mashup of forms, I was fascinated. I have this on my desk because to me it represents the classic joke of “design by committee,” which is no joke when it happens in real-life software projects. The laundry list of features, vestigal or otherwise, exempliflies the all-too-common practice of “kitchen sink design” found in many legacy platforms, some of which were rewrites to fix the “legacy” problems.

So what about the lion balancing on a crystal ball in the middle? Of course, that is how I view the task of balancing the needs for technical resilience, business flexibility, agility, cost, and realtime, social networking that is deeply integrated into the fabric of customer-facing applications. Analysts and consumers may not know what they want from an app until they see it. In that case, investing in pilots that could fail or take off exponentially causes all kinds of design stress.

Greenfield Application Designs Must Play in a Brown World

Freshly minted third-platform applications will incrementally take on new features and functions. As they become vital to the success of the business, they will be naturally integrated into the messy world they were formerly isolated from. This is where design meets sustainability across an enterprise. Playing nice with legacy systems that are vital part of the existing transaction and information flows often means accommodation and compromise. In my blog series over the last two years I have written about topics on design and constraints, and more importantly why applications degrade. Now as the idea of the third-platform takes off, we need to reinvestigate what truly makes a killer app in this brave new big data world. But an IT organization will not be considered a serious player at the table if it does not understand what it must do to become a strategic enabler of the business.

Why all the embedded links in this blog?

Business Demand Perspectives:

  • Business value is not just hard money, it is multifaceted, including brand value and strategic positioning
  • Business demand drives IT supply, not the other way around
  • The world is changing rapidly and the time from prototype to mainstream is shrinking
  • The business value chain that owns the app can have a positive effect on that app if it knows how to characterize what the drivers are
  • If the business cares enough about an app, it will wind up having many masters and will need to be agile and resilient in the face of constant change
  • Metrics are vital to understand the historical application consumption of infrastructure, but are not a substitute for understanding business demand in terms of growth and KPI’s

Design Perspectives:

  • Design and architecture are about meeting requirements not building an edifice to one’s ego
  • Constraints appear in every design problem
  • Qualities are not fuzzy, they are measurable and must be taken seriously

Execution Perspectives

  • Agility processes are embodied in a mind-set, aided by a tool set, not the reverse
  • Our infrastructure must be elastic to meet demand and that demand must be understood and conveyed as policies that the infrastructure can act upon

IT supply perspectives

  • Reference architecture stacks need to be based upon agnostic capabilities first, and then mapped to products as a second step. Why? Because products change to meet the changes in the IT supply market, and architectures are built to accommodate change in the business demand
  • Technology alone rarely solves major problems; in fact, left to its own devices, it causes new problems

Governance perspectives

  • Process and skill capabilities must support most technical capabilities. Any impactful capability change comprises all three types—a lesson is consistently ignored in the industry
  • Sustainability and agility are companion mind-sets, you need both and you need them to be supported by an active, empowering governance process that is not a rubber stamp

Operations Perspective

  • Software will run the data center employing elastic resource pools that will meet the consumption requirements of business demand as needed, in real time
  • This can only be done by articulating informed policies that are created with business intent

While some of these ideas seem either well-worn or too fanciful, they are where IT is going and this book reflects those thoughts.

I will keep you posted on its release.

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Deconstructing Agility: IT as a Sustainability Enabler https://infocus.dellemc.com/sheppard_narkier/sustainability-enabler-deconstructing-agility/ https://infocus.dellemc.com/sheppard_narkier/sustainability-enabler-deconstructing-agility/#respond Tue, 30 Sep 2014 17:00:35 +0000 https://infocus.dellemc.com/?p=20349 Reflecting on the Future As we reflect upon the trends that emerged out of VMworld, some enabling technology has clearly grabbed the imagination and headlines. Among the most intriguing are the software-defined data center and its flexible infrastructure, which can be used to develop relevant applications in a more agile manner. The linkage between the […]

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Reflecting on the Future

As we reflect upon the trends that emerged out of VMworld, some enabling technology has clearly grabbed the imagination and headlines. Among the most intriguing are the software-defined data center and its flexible infrastructure, which can be used to develop relevant applications in a more agile manner. The linkage between the more flexible infrastructure and the more agile approach requires some serious investment and rethinking in terms of internal processes and skills to take advantage of what the industry has termed DevOps.

Anyone who has had to develop software using archaic methods and tools—while fighting business analysts, compliance, procurement, operations and QA every step of the way—will easily embrace a new way of thinking. I have often referred to this type of exercise as running a marathon in a pool of Jell-O.

Many business executives feel their own version of frustration as well, not seeing the value of their investment as markets move and they are left in the dust, weighed down by legacy environments. Their constant cry is “I spent the money on the technology, why isn’t IT meeting my technology needs?”

Earlier this year I wrote a blog about IT’s role in fostering sustainable advantage including agility. The blog was prescriptive at a 10,000 foot level. What I will explore here is the meaning of agility as perceived by various stakeholders from two different cultures (IT and the business), who think in fundamentally different ways.

A Snapshot of Agility

When speaking to business executives, agility means reacting to all kinds of market and regulatory  changes by delivering new products and services faster; often by leveraging what has been done before, but organizing teams and processes in different ways. IT wants to “do things quicker” to please the business, but this is a challenge given the difficulty imposed by legacy environments. In either cultural view, these goals have to be supported by investment in technical products which is the easiest most transparent of efforts. The more difficult, less obvious, messy investment must be placed in changing various well-entrenched processes and augmenting people’s skill sets. And scariest of all, the culture that surrounds all of this activity must change.

The recurring problem with investments in agility-oriented programs is that people think of them as monolithic tasks. Instead “agility” is composed of many highly dependent factors that need to be balanced as they are implemented. Let’s look at two major agility drivers:  business performance agility and time-to-market agility. I have consistently advocated that effective use of IT starts with a business demand view, hence the order of the list below:

Business Performance Agility (BPA). In essence this is how business can predict, lead, or react to market changes that are consistent with their brand, client demographics, risk tolerance, and cost concerns.

    • How the business measures BPA. The business should realize better products and services, enhanced employee productivity, and sensible cost scaling (including IT) that can be correlated with business growth.
    • How the business measures IT support for BPA. IT’s ability to show a justifiable ROI for IT investment; effectively leveraging the organization’s collective information and services by providing cost-effective IT platforms that enhance the firm’s responsiveness, market understanding, and ultimately competitiveness.
    • How the business feels IT’s impact. Employees and consumers experience better usability, better accessibility and support, while enjoying increased information sharing and knowledge generation through a variety of collaboration tactics, all focused on unlocking hidden value.

Time-to-market Agility (TTMA). This metric characterizes IT’s ability to be flexible, responsive, and innovative in support of rapid business transformation necessitated by the business’s quest to maintain its competitive edge by being sensitive and reactive to fluid market conditions.

    • How the business and IT need to measure TTMA. There are two critical agility domains that need consideration:
        • IT is measured by faster integration of applications and information, speedier introductions of new applications, changes to existing ones, and rule updates
        • IT is measured by faster integration of applications and information, speedier introductions of new applications, changes to existing ones, and rule updates
        • IT needs to be able to meet rapidly changing business needs by applying new and/or innovative technology that keeps the firm competitive

Implementing Agility – The Myriad Tactics

The next natural question any CIO or CTO would ask is where to start since there is only so much budget, time, and risk that can be absorbed in a single year. At Adaptivity we encouraged our clients to dig deeper, so that we could help them understand the investment strategy required to enhance a relevant sense of agility per business unit.

Business Performance Agility Tactics. The tactics that can be used fall into several broad categories.  Each are important but will vary in need depending upon which part of the business value chain a business unit serves. The reason is simple:  other drivers such as risk and cost compete to varying degrees with agility. Since this comes down to investment, balanced choices must be made.

    • Use of IT. A significant “branding” issue by which IT is judged by the business and is often found lacking, making subsequent investment discussions more difficult.
        • Application Usability:  intuitive UI’s, flexible processes, sensible error handling
        • Environment/ Systems Usability:  investments in resiliency, seamless access across multiple systems
        • Accessibility / Use of External IT Resources:  includes comprehensive mobility and flexibility for partners and suppliers
        • Workflow Enablement:  turning batch processing and email intensive workflow into a distributed easy-to-use workflows
        • User Enablement:  user self-service in an enterprise application storefront
        • User Support:  proactive monitoring of potential or recurring problem areas for heavily used applications so that customer support is aware of these problems before the users start complaining; provides a seamless point of control, without cross-departmental finger pointing.
    • Information Leverage.  Comprehensive integrated search that includes structured and unstructured file search, along with seamless conference and workstream integration.
        • Information / Knowledge Sharing:  sharing and creation that minimizes redundancy and maximizes ease of use
        • Information Accessibility / Format Conversion:  with advent of big data analysis, the ability to push raw data and pull results becomes heightened
        • User Collaboration:  multiuser cross-region collaboration through numerous means, including agile project tracking
        • Information / Reference Data Changes:  a federated view of enterprise data that streamlines data stewardship and enhances the ability to find necessary data with semantic aids
    • Return on IT. This is a major bone of contention that is hard to quantify across two different cultures.
        • User Productivity:  employees, partners and consumers get work done right the first time with minimal errors
        • Business Process Efficiency:  process changes are aided, not impeded by technology
        • Delivery of Business Service / Product:  deliveries can be planned with confidence that the dates will be made
        • Quality of Business Service / Product:  the services and products that IT can control enhance the brand
        • IT Cost Scalability with Business:  modular, traceable costs lead to predictable cost projections for business growth and lulls

Time to Market Agility Tactics. Some of these tactics reinforce those that were used for BPA above. Therefore, some tactics cannot be employed in isolation, but need support, and thus a different level of investment.

    • Flexibility of IT. This is not just perception, but needs a rethinking of how IT processes should work in a modern connected world
        • Application Integration:  a move to micro services architecture which is  a specialization of service-oriented architecture (SOA)
        • Information Integration:  Holistic virtualization of data in a federated model, that allows for source, location, and format independence
    • Responsiveness of IT. An improved perception of IT as being more responsive to changing needs and more willing to enable better business goal alignment.
        • Speed of Application Change:  continuous integration supported by a commitment to DevOps
        • Speed of Application Introduction:  streamlined requirements processing and minimum viable product vetting
        • Speed of Change to Business Rules:  a conscious effort to externalize business logic into parameterized rules that can be easily tested before rollout
    • IT innovation. The fact that IT has gone beyond an “ivory tower” mentality of looking at technology with no goals in mind. A commitment to partnership with the business where it is understood that the innovation needs a business context to be valuable.
        • Ability to Meet Business Needs:  a conscious effort to envision a consequence-based strategy, where IT can be an enabler of strategic change through innovation
        • Ability to Apply New Technology:  IT’s ability to create a temporal, tiered landscape of technology adoption based upon clear business goals (that is, what does the innovation landscape look like 12, 18, 24, or 36 months out?)

Agility’s Bottom Line

There is only so much time, money, energy, and opportunity to expend in the pursuit of agility. So the confusion ends when the business and IT organizations can agree on what the most important goals are. EMC has proven services and a systematic decision support platform that enables executives to cut through noise and make clear decisions about the company’s future.

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Sustainable Advantage Impediments – Why Applications Degrade https://infocus.dellemc.com/sheppard_narkier/sustainable-advantage-impediments-why-applications-degrade/ https://infocus.dellemc.com/sheppard_narkier/sustainable-advantage-impediments-why-applications-degrade/#respond Wed, 26 Feb 2014 13:30:29 +0000 https://infocus.dellemc.com/?p=17412 In my last blog, I discussed the power and characteristics of the Killer Application.  Not every application needs to be a Killer App; in fact, most are not designed with that disruption in mind. Nonetheless, applications represent investments that were thought to be worthy of resource commitments at some point. Is it simply time’s passage […]

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In my last blog, I discussed the power and characteristics of the Killer Application.  Not every application needs to be a Killer App; in fact, most are not designed with that disruption in mind. Nonetheless, applications represent investments that were thought to be worthy of resource commitments at some point. Is it simply time’s passage that degrades applications? The answer is not a simple yes or no. For instance, every company needs a general ledger, and many other functions generally associated with ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning). The functions in these types of applications have been around for decades, are used every day and provide critical support for the organization. There is no question they need investment and support. Even so, these applications often degrade, and are marked for modernization, replacement or just plain retirement. If they were that important, were constantly invested in and were critical to the operations of the business how can they be marked for replacement? This question is so often asked and is so important to understanding sustainable advantage that I decided to take the issue head on.

Application Lifecycle Landscape

2.25.14_pic 1The diagram to the left has four quadrants with one value spectrum for each axis. Going from left to right is the perception of increasing Business Value, while going from bottom to top is the scale for increasing IT value. The upper right Strategic Quadrant is where a company would hope to find its killer apps, or at least applications that differentiate that company in the marketplace. The lower left quadrant is where apps that should be retired reside. The path is never straightforward as these next several diagrams will indicate. Finally there are 2 sub regions that are the source of both innovation and accelerated obsolescence, namely the Pilot and Restricted Zones. The bottom right is usually the starting point of Shadow IT generated apps that are often built to explore a new idea or market niche. Minimal investment is devoted to making the application robust and resilient, due to time to market pressures and the simple fact that no one knows if the market will be lucrative enough to justify the considerable investment to make it robust. The top left is often created or purchased by IT to solve specific development or operational problems, but over time is adopted in a viral way, often with mutations from the base tool. This proliferation has significant effects on operational complexity if the tools become embedded in the routine operational processes. It is not unusual for twenty or more simultaneous copies of such a tool to be active in a large organization creating skill, process and technical debt problems.

Application Lifecycle Journeys

All applications have a tendency to follow several potential paths across the quadrants in the application lifecycle landscape.  There are several scenarios to this progression and understanding these lifecycle paths is a key to understanding how business and IT managers need to think about their current applications and how they construct or buy new ones. Here are two of the several scenarios to consider:

Overlapping Functionality Scenario

When a company views an application as strategic, efforts will be made to continue investment so that it stays in the top right quadrant. Despite this intent, there are reasons that will cause the application to degrade from that state.

M&A activity can cause functional overlap between several applications because each pre-merger company had the same functionality. This causes confusion or conflict over investment direction, often creating a situation where multiple redundant applications vie for investment attention. Then the application tends to drift toward the limited impact area. Both Business and IT value is lost because it takes more money, effort and 2.25.14_pic 2complexity to get the same functionality. At this point a decision should be made about what to do because the market is still moving and time will not be kind to either application while management is on the fence. The grey diamond represents a choice; coming out of the right side is movement to add business value, likely by combining the best features of the overlapping applications, which can ultimately lead to resurgence into a strategic mode. Sadly, a more typical choice is to keep both applications and upgrade them technically. Over time their business value degrades as the cost of redundant investments prevent the applications from staying market-relevant. Eventually the technical debt becomes large as well until a final decision to retire the application is enforced.

Functional Additions Consistently Trump Technical Soundness Application Scenario

Business relevance is a two edged sword in an application’s destiny. Remaining market relevant for extended periods of time could cause a relevant application to become unstable, brittle and eventually force it into modernize stage. 2.25.14_pic 3This happens when changes are made without regard to the application’s architectural  underpinnings.

One journey to this dilemma is indicated by the black path on the lower right that emanates from the pilot box. This application was rushed into service to meet a market niche or need, and the design was brittle to begin with.  If the application becomes too brittle, the inherent business value can be obscured, relegating it to the retirement quadrant.  This is where the grey decision diamond needs to be invoked to see if the application can be salvaged. If not, it will head to the retirement quadrant. The red path depicts a strategic application where additional business value was so heavily emphasized that the application’s design became compromised. This scenario often happens because the first release is rushed and it could take the next several years to get it stabilized, especially if the application is released into a newly emerged market niche. This is particularly true if the application is client facing or revenue generating. The advancing degradation will force a decision point to determine whether the application can be saved from diving into irrelevance due to the burdens of technical debt.

The Technical Lessons Learned

There are several key takeaways to ponder from this analysis:

  • An application’s functional and technical architecture are critical to its long term success in being relevant to the business. An application portfolio will undergo all the changes mentioned above and there needs to a conscious effort to manage this investment based upon business value.
  • Architecture is often viewed as a long term bet, with payoffs that are hard to quantify. The advent of policy driven provisioning, elastic resources pools and other scaling techniques now associated with a movement to the cloud can change this perspective.  Leveraging these capabilities can help an early mover application become more robust without the traditional heavy upfront investment.
  • An application’s technical architecture would benefit from investing in a set of holistic virtualization capabilities that does not tie it to hardware, operating systems, data sources, or the mechanisms employed in distributed computing. This would allow the application to flex and change with demand. Early stage applications would benefit from these capabilities.
  • An application’s architecture would benefit from collaborations that use self-describing messages, to enable the loosest coupling possible. When those messages can be idempotent (essentially possessing all of the necessary state required in completing a transaction), the application will scale much better, leveraging a wealth of scaling tactics.
  • Finally, EMC’s professional services knows how to help any organization get started on evaluating their application portfolio and make recommendations to make an application portfolio more sustainable.

 

 

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What Makes a Killer App? https://infocus.dellemc.com/sheppard_narkier/what-makes-a-killer-app/ https://infocus.dellemc.com/sheppard_narkier/what-makes-a-killer-app/#respond Wed, 05 Feb 2014 20:01:43 +0000 https://infocus.dellemc.com/?p=17177 “The Killer App” is a phrase that resonates with millions of people outside the enterprise IT world. The phrase conjures up images of billion dollar IPO’s, and late night oil burning in an intense, frenzied startup environment.  Most recent stories about killer apps are associated with social media, so the real question is why am […]

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“The Killer App” is a phrase that resonates with millions of people outside the enterprise IT world. The phrase conjures up images of billion dollar IPO’s, and late night oil burning in an intense, frenzied startup environment.  Most recent stories about killer apps are associated with social media, so the real question is why am I all atwitter about a killer app linked to sustainable advantage for enterprise IT?

Killer App Origins

Wikipedia refers to a killer app as software that is so compelling to consumers that they would purchase whatever platform is required in order to use it. This killer app essentially validates the core value of some larger technology which could include a gaming platform, operating system, or even a programming language. This means that consumers would be willing to pay the price for something that they would normally consider expensive or frivolous just so that they could have the killer app. My bottom line take away from that assessment is that the killer app has reach and influence, and that is a consideration worth exploring.

Shep 2.5.14_1In my 36 years of experience, the first true killer app for the enterprise was the spreadsheet. It changed the way large global businesses operated. When I was a systems engineer for Data General in the early 1980’s, I was asked to install some DG PC’s for a large global financial services client in NYC. I was used to complex configuration assignments involving 16 networked mini-computers that might take 2 whole days, so I was unimpressed with the task at hand. That is until I tried to load the operating system, and then the spread sheet software onto the PC with dozens of floppy disks and almost no room on the hard drive. It took me 3 days to get the configuration right as I loaded and ran programs and then deleted them to make room for the next batch. It was an insane juggling act that was a maze of trial and error landmines. Meanwhile the client was waiting with baited breath for me to finish. I was completely embarrassed about how long I took to get the job done so I asked my colleagues about my experience and they were all undergoing similar problems. This was not an isolated incident, yet the “need” for these underpowered PC’s was growing more urgent.

Killer Apps Changed the World Long Before the Advent of Social Media

When my Herculean installation task was finally completed, the user, an executive in financial modeling sat me down and showed me why he was more than willing to wait. In effect, the spreadsheet could manifest any type of modeling that could be conceived by this user. That user said that the 3 arduous lost days was nothing in the scheme of things because he was now able to write several models and test them out in 1-2 days. IT, then known as MIS, would have taken 6 months and endless meetings, and would have gotten it wrong anyway. OUCH!

Other early killer apps were email and the word processor. Email was a killer app before the commercial use of the internet; instead various internal network strategies were used.  These three apps together forever changed IT and business, for both the good and bad.

The good was the effect it had on direct user involvement. The word processor enabled all roles in an organization to write down their thoughts, format them appropriately, instituting direct, continuous involvement in the creative process. The expansion of content creation apps (e.g. presentation and drawing tools) changed how people engaged in creating content, as groups of stakeholders could collaborate on content while storing reusable elements. Ideas could be iterated through; designs of all kinds could evolve through the direct involvement of all the stakeholders without specialized intermediaries (e.g. an art department or typing pool). Executives became more directly involved in the creation of a company’s messaging, especially as companies became more networked.

There was also the bad side, which included total loss of control over the deployment of applications, hardware, and data by a centralized body. Enterprise IT went through various boom and bust cycles leaving a large wasteland of apps and infrastructure in its wake. This wasteland continues to grow from a massive explosion of unstructured data since those gems of creativity age and never seem to get deleted. Finally, there are millions of once treasured spreadsheet apps without documentation or owners, and are as opaque as lead.

Nonetheless, Killer apps opened a door that will never be shut, so what does it take to become a killer app?

What makes an App a Killer?

The initial Killer Apps introduced into the Enterprise have enabled iterative modeling and creation, from the complex to the mundane, to come of age because the previous impediments to creation had been removed (e.g. typing and hand rendering skills). There are compelling features of killer apps that have remained true for the last 30 years:

Shep 2.5.14_2

  • These apps increase the speed of creation of ideas which could be socialized faster.
  • The upfront commitment of skills and time had been reduced; it was easier to be agile.
  • An idea could immediately be played with, errors and misconceptions could be vetted quicker, and the results of this process could be enacted “in the moment” because the idea’s originators and critics had total control over the resources to make the changes.
  • New ways of thinking and working were conceived once the barriers were lowered, small failures were part of the process that lead to a good end result.
  • The traditional power plays of holding onto information and other gating activities around decision making could be challenged and modified. This was still a cultural and style battle but the playing field had been leveled so upstart thinking not only gained a voice but hands as well.
  • Holistic Adjustment across organizations and industries became inevitable and urgent, with winners and losers more clearly marked than ever before.
  • Older roles and skills had to be deprecated while new roles were established. We don’t have typing pools anymore but we have new types of support roles have evolved.
  • Older processes were disrupted, ignored, or torn down because businesses were forced to change, with expectations that faster response and agility are assumed qualities.
  • Value was expected to be transparent early on with the use of a killer app
  • Older assumptions about how we work had to be redefined (e.g. the entire mental approach to writing a report differs when using a word processor instead of a type writer and pencil).

This new found ease caused considerable disruption across all businesses and IT.

The Next Generation of Killer Apps for IT

The current buzz around Enterprise IT’s rush to the cloud has the look and feel of a killer app pitch. As I mentioned in my last blog the movement to cloud is a deployment choice, not an instant cure for all ills. Enterprise IT needs to embrace the foundational ideas of the killer app, this movement is as much cultural as it is technical. My next blog will show how proper cloud enablement is the next killer app for IT.

 

 1. http://fc09.deviantart.net/fs70/i/2011/026/6/0/manticore_by_kikicianjur-d384nro.jpg

2. http://ec.l.thumbs.canstockphoto.com/canstock15885293.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

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What must IT do to become a strategic enabler of the business https://infocus.dellemc.com/sheppard_narkier/what-must-it-do-to-become-a-strategic-enabler-of-the-business/ https://infocus.dellemc.com/sheppard_narkier/what-must-it-do-to-become-a-strategic-enabler-of-the-business/#comments Mon, 20 Jan 2014 20:00:02 +0000 https://infocus.dellemc.com/?p=16969 The Cloudy Dilemma of Creating Sustainable Advantage My last blog dwelled on the woes of maintaining sustainable advantage. The last 7 years of technology disruption clearly demonstrates that sustainable advantage is fleeting. A quick review of the smart phone market, the ebb and flow of social networking, along with struggles that media and information giants […]

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The Cloudy Dilemma of Creating Sustainable Advantage

My last blog dwelled on the woes of maintaining sustainable advantage. The last 7 years of technology disruption clearly demonstrates that sustainable advantage is fleeting. A quick review of the smart phone market, the ebb and flow of social networking, along with struggles that media and information giants are undergoing, represents clear challenges to all. Keeping relevant is difficult, nerve wracking, yet mandatory for a company’s survival.

Many readers might conclude that the answer lies in IT organizations moving applications to the cloud. The myriad of emerging cloud offerings and the push towards greater investment by providers would certainly indicate that this is at least part of the solution, but is it enough to enable sustainable advantage?

  • To be fair, moving the right applications to the cloud has the distinct advantage of providing a utility pricing model option that enables a company to pay just for the resources it uses, much like an electric bill. Today most companies do not build their own power plant to get energy; instead they get it delivered from a provider that specializes in electricity production. Stephen Fry’s excellent and short cartoon on the true benefits of cloud computing provides an entertaining and informative overview.
  • The implicit message in that cartoon is simple, aggressively invest in what represents differentiation for your company’s brand and be prudent with investments that are not essential to your brand.

The cloud is a deployment choice for an application, and that choice should be influenced by the business drivers and the technical realities of the application. Today we see too many legacy applications moved to the cloud as is (lift and shift), with all of the ills and constraints that make them brittle and therefore hard to change. The movement of applications in that type of state will do little to enhance sustainable advantage.

Sustainable Advantage is Cultural

The movement to cloud will not make a company agile. Instead it could provide false confidence and the illusion of progress. The biggest trend I hope to see in 2014 is for the IT function to arrive at the realization that Mohandas Gandhi stated: “You must be the change you want to see in the world”.

To create sustainable advantage, companies need to meet the market place, react to it and influence it. To do so they need to be considered relevant, and on a global scale that often means being agile as the world changes. The IT function is the face of most global companies, and therefore sustainable advantage must come at least in part through IT. IT executives must build a culture of sustainable advantage if IT is to become a strategic enabler of the business.

IT as a Strategic Enabler- Creating Sustainable Advantage

Sustainable advantage occurs only when a company embraces the fact that change is inevitable and accepts that Demand drives Supply. This is true even when Demand is invented. Much of Apple’s mystique since 2000 had been that they seemed to create products nobody knew they needed or wanted. They created a vision, executed on it, and entwined a powerful business model into their revitalized brand. Nonetheless, Apple has stiff competition now.

So how will sustainable advantage work in general when the products and services might be less flashy?

Sustainable advantage requires an organization to be agile at its core. That means all stakeholders on the business side need relevant and timely market facing information, they need to be able to analyze data, hypothesize outcomes and try out ideas quickly.

The IT function’s role:
      • Trends in Big Data make it clear how important deep data analysis is becoming. IT needs to make it easier to access, aggregate, and create models that can be shared and visualized. The IT function must enhance the ability of employees to access this data in its various stages (raw, analyzed and historical).
      • Make it possible for the business to craft their findings into actionable directives that can eventually be used to guide or configure changes in the way that IT works.
      • The IT function must continue to enhance collaboration across time zones and boundaries. This is not just a matter of telecommunication, but of information and knowledge lifecycle management. Organizations are drowning in a digital morass of unstructured aging data. Outdated data can be very dangerous to an agile organization.

Business Agility occurs when processes and rules can be changed, added, and retired. Since IT is often the face of the company to the outside world, that currently means that process and rule changes need to be coded and carefully tested for very long periods of time. Radical changes might have to be parallel tested for an entire quarter.

The IT function’s role: 
  • Identify applications associated with key revenue and client facing responsibilities.
  • Collaborate with the business to externalize rules, making them editable by the business while remaining auditable. Allow the business to create configurable process flows which can be accepted by the IT application managers.
  • Revise the current requirements process to directly address business volatility

Sustainable advantage respects the fact that Demand fluctuates according to market dynamics. Sometimes those dynamics are seasonal (e.g. US retailers create product awareness that varies by season). Other times Demand is more of a gold rush experiment (e.g. ten competitors attack a market niche at once and 2 years later there are 2 survivors).

The IT function’s role: 
    • Provide robust, Purpose Built Infrastructure, that can be configured by defined business policy and run according to business needs.
    • Enable dynamic Demand based provisioning and repurposing so that infrastructure is not wasted.
    • Remove the overhead of building robust infrastructure for experimental applications.
    • Encourage IT and Business alignment through the proactive creation of a portfolio management discipline.

Sustainable Advantage occurs when businesses can make intelligent decisions about when to cut their losses and where to direct their investments, based upon current and expected revenue. When a business is running blind regarding their expenditures, and potential risks, they become conservative because they have legitimate fears about harming their brand.

The IT function’s role: 
    • Create a forensics task force chartered with creating an active current state inventory across all data centers for all business critical applications. This task force should be highly regarded, charted with advancing the forensic discipline across the company.
    • Make IT financial reporting meaningful to the business by relating IT expenditures to revenue, cost avoidance, agility, and support of new markets.
    • Recast the role of IT Governance, which is currently viewed as either an obstacle or a rubber stamp (often both with equal disdain). IT Governance should enhance the IT function’s ability to be a strategic enabler through the proactive education of application teams, the active involvement of reducing complexity and waste.

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Sustainable Advantage Gets Harder to Achieve Everyday https://infocus.dellemc.com/sheppard_narkier/sustainable-advantage-gets-harder-to-achieve-everyday/ https://infocus.dellemc.com/sheppard_narkier/sustainable-advantage-gets-harder-to-achieve-everyday/#respond Tue, 14 Jan 2014 13:52:25 +0000 https://infocus.dellemc.com/?p=16848 Creating a Sustainable Advantage is the Penultimate Goal of any Business When I first started in IT, back in 1978, companies were able to achieve sustainable advantage through advertising, floor and shelf space monopolies and the creation of a people intensive support structure for clients and customers. While product viability was still critical, these brand […]

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Creating a Sustainable Advantage is the Penultimate Goal of any Business

When I first started in IT, back in 1978, companies were able to achieve sustainable advantage through advertising, floor and shelf space monopolies and the creation of a people intensive support structure for clients and customers. While product viability was still critical, these brand enhancing tactics were used in various combinations to represent the product family to an increasingly diverse consumer demographic. Building a strong recognizable brand was as important as building the products and services that the brand represented. Once certain levels of brand saturation were reached in a market, it was very difficult for a competitor to break through those barriers to entry. In many markets such as the entertainment business, the barriers to entry were impenetrable walls, requiring massive cash inflows which could be used in very few ways to break through an entrenched barrier[i].  This reality drove at least some part of the reasoning to Jack Welch’s famous demand that any GE business had to be either first or second in its market, or it needed to be dropped.

Narkier Blog BrandedIn those “good old days”, very little was understood about what the consumer wanted, we were essentially told what we needed. In many ways it was a supply driven model that endeavored to create demand.  The pervasive influence of technology in every aspect of our lives has changed that forever, and with the advent of big data, consumers can be sliced and diced according to numerous demographic segments that we would be surprised to be identified with. Technology has destroyed long term barriers to effective competition. Nonetheless sustainable advantage is still a goal and a vision for most companies because it provides a stable base for long term strategic thinking.

Typically, IT is viewed as just another Investment for an Organization

business org line-up

A company’s IT organization is rarely thought of as an enabler of long term strategic advantage. As thrilling and disruptive as new technology is, as helpful as it can be to everyday work life, the bottom line is that every dollar of IT spend competes explicitly or implicitly with budget allocations for sales people, advertising, logistical upgrades or the purchasing of political influence. This makes sense when one wears a business lens.

The logistics of creating sustainable advantage is complex. This is an important consideration given the following Business realities:

  • Global Market Forces have a greater and faster influence than in any previous era, and they shift rapidly.
  • Business Demand is more complex to model for most industries, and can change rapidly, not just according to typical seasonal shifts. For instance demographic segmentation is not just a regional artifact since subcultural trends often transcend national and religious boundaries. A good example is the Harley Davidson brand where pockets of people all over the world relate to the messages of its lifestyle.

Technology has a vital role to play for most growing businesses, but there are technical realities that constrain this role:

  • For most companies, significant global presence and efficiency must be enabled by strategic investments in IT which must be robust and enable business process agility.
  • Making Business and Technology bets are crucial to remaining relevant, but timing is important because moving too early could lock a company down a wrong path, enabling slower moving companies to leapfrog any initial “early mover” gain. The conventional wisdom stating that later movers suffer market woes is not necessarily cast in stone anymore.
  • Some markets have a “gold rush” feel to them. There are great gains early, and so “no expense is too great” and then as the market matures the margins become more normal, requiring stricter cost control. When this happens the ‘early opportunity” applications hastily thrown together become “instant legacy systems” that need significant rewriting. A typical IT organization has a portfolio littered with such early opportunity applications.
  • Unlike a Financial Portfolio, an IT Portfolio cannot be readily cleansed of bad investments; instead they become legacy technology that can feel like a boat anchor around an executive’s neck. A legacy application can be deemed “off limits for retirement” if there is a great fear that its many interconnections can’t be “undone.”

These conditions lead to the uncomfortable reality that in most cases competitive advantages have short life spans, making them hard to sustain. The question for many executives now becomes “how do we consistently compete, and strive to be THE choice for our clients and customers?”

This question is particularly vexing given the business and technical realities stated above. Nonetheless the delicate balance between strategic vision and the harsh current state realities must be dealt with.

  • Vision- IT investment must become a strategic enabler of the business, so that when the business is ready to flex its muscles, IT moves in the direction specified, as opposed to slapping the business in the face.
  • As much as 90% of a company’s IT investment is bogged down by maintaining older, legacy equipment and applications[ii].

risk reward

[iii]

Is it any surprise that IT investment is often viewed with a jaundiced eye by many executives as they are bombarded with requests for more machines, more license fees and more staff, even as the ability to leverage business process agility from this investment is just a sad dream?

Now that I have exposed the ugly truth, the next blog will explore what can be done to position the IT function as the strategic enabler of the business.

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Architecture and the World of Cloud Computing https://infocus.dellemc.com/sheppard_narkier/architecture-and-the-world-of-cloud-computing/ https://infocus.dellemc.com/sheppard_narkier/architecture-and-the-world-of-cloud-computing/#comments Mon, 14 Oct 2013 20:34:20 +0000 https://infocus.dellemc.com/?p=15715 What do The Chrysler Building and a Shantytown in an under developed area have in common? Hard to believe but the construction of each  are built using architectural concepts. The Chrysler Building’s architectural aura is obvious, while the shanty town appears chaotic and devoid of all structure – but there are implicit principles guiding its […]

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chrysWhat do The Chrysler Building and a Shantytown in an under developed area have in common? Hard to believe but the construction of each  are built using architectural concepts. The Chrysler Building’s architectural aura is obvious, while the shanty town appears chaotic and devoid of all structure – but there are implicit principles guiding its creation. This dichotomy begs the question, what is architecture and how does it relate to how we build in general, and its relevance to the systems we design?

In a very influential paper  titled “Big Ball of Mud”, Brian Foote and Josef Yoder discussed the state of architecture, specifically mentioning shanty town architecture as a concept. Coincidentally, changes to IT caused by the internet revolution, the push towards Linux and commodity platforms, the decentralization of IT, social media adoption and  the “bring your own device to work” wave has left many IT organizations little time to step back and figure out how to fix a growing morass of systems.

Foote and Yoder emphasize that the tendency to create shanty towns and balls of mud is “dictated by expediency rather than design”, but “its enduring popularity cannot be just a disregard for architecture”, there are motives that are not obvious. In their description of shanty towns, the duo argues that “despite their distasteful appearance there are forces that conspire to promote their emergence anyway”. In particular they point out that Shanty Towns:

  • Are built from common inexpensive materials and simple tools, using shantyrelatively unskilled labor, with the construction and maintenance of each unit being  labor intensive
  • Each unit is primarily maintained by its “owners” and therefore, each owner must be a jack of all trades.
  • There is little concern for infrastructure because it requires coordination and capital along with specialized resources and skills. Nonetheless there are rules of thumb regarding sewage and egress, but these rules are stretched as the shanty town grows.
  • There is little emphasis on planning or the regulation of growth. Shanty Towns emerge when there is a need for housing, and a surplus of unskilled labor, along with a lack of capital investment. The bottom line is that they fulfill an immediate local need by bringing available resources to bear on the problem, quickly.

Foote and Yoder argued that most software systems are in fact architectural shanty towns. So here we are 14 years later. How does this relate to the concept of architectural principles which are more clearly evident in the Chrysler Building?

Many of the systems built after 1999 were subject to similar driving forces that built shanty towns; (e.g. expedience). The very real fear of being left behind during the initial internet rush caused many large organizations to throw money at the localized problem and build multiple platforms, often one for each department, just to ensure that a presence was established. When the bubble burst, the money dried up and the layoffs began, and many systems were left with little support. The subsequent cloudsconsolidation and cleanup happened, at best, in a piecemeal fashion while other driving forces took hold. These days everyone is trying to mitigate the pain by moving these legacy systems to the cloud. In general the practice of Systems Architecture has been kept in the shadows too long, maligned as a bureaucratic time waster or trivialized by a set of outmoded drawings. IT architecture is not an afterthought; it is the foundation for IT sanity.

What is Architecture and Why is it Important?

The Software Engineering Institute , a very influential thought leader throughout IT, has very strong opinions about architecture, based upon their field work with thousands of organizations. Here are some of their findings, extracted from book titled Software Architecture in Practice:

  • Architecture and purpose– there is no such thing as an inherently good or download (1)bad architecture, instead architectures are either more or less fit for some stated purpose.(e.g. a 3 tier application might work for an enterprise wide query based system, but is the wrong fit for embedded avionics control). The key message is that architectures can be evaluated but only in the context of the specific goals, these goals are often stated as qualities of the architecture. Note how the goals of a shanty town architecture, which emerges over time, can be considered purpose directed based upon its goals.
  • Architecture as intellectual property: An understandable architecture that is a basis for communication, evolution and decision making has more lasting value than any reusable code base in the systems it describes. The reason is simple, specific technology changes, rendering specific code less useful over time. A traceable set of architecture artifacts age better than code, if it is kept as a relevant communication device, with clear definitions and articulated decisions.

There are three fundamental reasons that Software Architecture is important and not a mere bureaucratic exercise.

  • Communication among stakeholders– Software Architecture represents a common abstraction of a system that most if not all of the systems stakeholders can use as a basis for communication
  • Early design decisions Software Architecture represents the earliest design decisions about a system (e.g. messaging , security, scalability), and these early decisions carry a greater weight on the outcome of the system than any subsequent micro design or coding efforts. Mistakes, tradeoffs and assumptions have a profound effect on the outcome when decided upon or caught in this stage. The cost of catching a mistake in later phases of development (e.g. coding, testing, rollout, migration) rise exponentially.
  • Transferable abstraction of a system– Software Architecture constitutes a relatively small, intellectually graspable model for how a system is structured and how its elements work together, and this model is transferable across systems and disparate stakeholders with different domains of expertise.

Architecture in the World of Cloud Computing

As we view the current landscape of cloud providers and consumers, there is a subtleimages (1) shift in the buying patterns in this new “gold rush” era. At first, cheap infrastructure was made available to those who could make their applications work in this model; this phase has often been called Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS).

Consumers now realize that IaaS is insufficient for all of their needs and Platform as a Service (PaaS) is beginning to take hold in the marketplace. A good example of a PaaS offering could be a specific printing platform that can be rented for 3 days a month to produce millions of client statements. Normally, client owned and dedicated hardware for that workload, would sit dormant for 27 days until needed, so this is a perfect value proposition for consumers and suppliers.

This kind of platform requires that consumers have increased responsibilities, as they must ensure that the data is ready to be shipped securely and their applications can be run remotely on virtualized commodity hardware through standard scripts and interfaces. If the application architecture is not well understood, then deployment and scaling options will be hard to configure. If the application needs to change, and its construction and behavior is not understood, it may be impossible to virtualize it, making a cloud deployment impossible.

Architecture and Cloud Trends

At VMworld Europe this week, some important themes will be discussed regarding IT transformation. Some of the most pertinent to this architecture blog include Software Defined Data Center, Software Defined Storage, along with Management and Orchestration of applications. As one thinks about some of these ideas, the true value of a well-defined architecture across systems becomes clearer. By contrast, without abstraction and a clear understanding of an application, how could any organization attempt to achieve a key goal, such as: Defining Performance-optimized, capacity-optimized platforms that address availability and scalability requirements for mission critical enterprise workloads and truly transform their IT?

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