Business · Cloud · Data

Shifting the thinking of enterprise applications

Enterprise applications are not new and have been around for decades. Since their start, enterprise applications have increased in their level of sophistication and business automation. However, this sophistication comes with a significant degree of complexity too.

Historically, enterprises were in the position where they needed to build everything themselves. Much of this stemmed from the fact there were limited options to consider. Fast forward to today and there are a myriad of options of how an enterprise can consume an enterprise application.

However, getting from here to there is not trivial. Practically every enterprise application has a strong degree of complexity that is directly tied to the intricacies of their specific business operations. For decades, enterprises have taken the approach of customizing the application to match their existing business processes. Due to the degree of customization, every enterprise Information Technology (IT) organization essentially created their own enterprise application snowflake.

CHANGING THE ENTERPRISE APPLICATION PARADIGM

One of the challenges for enterprise applications in the cost to upgrade. All of the unique customizations significantly increase the cost and complexity to upgrade the system. The customizations, related programming, configuration and testing involved turn each upgrade into the equivalent of a new implementation.

For many enterprises, it is common practice to skip versions rather than maintain currency due to the cost and disruption associated with the complexity to upgrade. This also means that many enterprises delay their ability to leverage new functionality.

New opportunities from cloud computing and Artificial Intelligence (AI) present unique opportunities to enterprise applications. With cloud-based enterprise applications, no longer is the enterprise required to install, manage and operate the underlying enterprise application. As applications increase in their level of complexity, this takes an increasingly huge burden off the shoulders of the IT organization.

AI presents a different type of opportunity. Enterprises are increasingly their reliance on data to gain greater insights. The volume and types of data are adding increased pressure on the traditional methods to analyze data. AI presents a unique opportunity to automate the process and gain insights not previously possible. However, the more data available to the AI algorithm, the more supportive it can be. And that is where cloud comes in to provide additional resources in a meaningful way when needed without the need to build a fortress internally.

TRADITIONAL VERSUS TRANSFORMATIONAL

Of late, enterprise IT organizations are shifting their focus from a traditionalIT organization to that of a transformationalIT organization. That is to say that their focus is shifting from technology-centricto business-centric. As part of this shift, IT organizations are looking for ways to streamline their technical operations and focus more on data and insights.

The shift to transformational IT organizations is having an impact on the most sacred applications within the IT portfolio including the enterprise applications.

MATURING THE THINKING ABOUT ENTERPRISE APPLICATIONS

More mature enterprises are starting to shift their thinking about enterprise applications. This is due to a number of factors including 1) IT organizations are shifting their focus on business-centric outcomes, 2) Mature alternatives exist for even the largest of implementations 3) The pressure to implement advanced functions is increasing and 4) The speed in which IT organizations must respond with changes is increasing.

Each of these pose a significant challenge to the traditional approach of maintaining enterprise applications. The only real solution is to change the thinking around enterprise applications to avoid proliferating snowflakes.

 

This post was sponsored by:

SAP_Best_R_grad_blk

https://www.sap.com/intelligentdata

Business · Cloud · Data

Microsoft empowers the developer at Connect

iagGpMj8TOWl3Br86sxsgg

This week at Microsoft Connect in New York City, Microsoft announced a number of products geared toward bringing intelligence and the computing edge closer together. The tools continue Microsoft’s support of a varied and growing ecosystem of evolving solutions. At the same time, Microsoft demonstrated their insatiable drive to woo the developer with a number of tools geared toward modern development and advanced technology.

EMBRACING THE ECOSYSTEM DIVERSITY

Microsoft has tried hard in the past several years to shed their persona of Microsoft-centricity of a .NET Windows world. Similar to their very vocal support for inclusion and diversity in culture, Microsoft brings that same perspective to the tools, solutions and ecosystems they support. The reality is that the world is diverse and it is this very diversity that makes us stronger. Technology is no different.

At the Connect conference, similar to their recent Build & Ignite conferences, .NET almost became a footnote as much of the discussion was around other tools and frameworks. In many ways, PHP, Java, Node and Python appeared to get mentioned more than .NET. Does this mean that .NET is being deprecated in favor of newer solutions? No. But it does show that Microsoft is moving beyond just words in their drive toward inclusivity.

EXPANDING THE DEVELOPER TOOLS

At Connect, Microsoft announced a number of tools aimed squarely at supporting the modern developer. This is not the developer of years past. Today’s developer works in a variety of tools, with different methods and potentially in separate locations. Yet, they need the ability to collaborate in a meaningful way. Enter Visual Studio Live Share. What makes VS Live Share interesting is how it supports collaboration between developers in a more seamless way without the cumbersome screen sharing approach previously used. The level of sophistication that VS Live Share brings is impressive in that it allows each developer to walk through code in their own way while they debug and collaborate. While VS Live Share is only in preview, other recently-announced tools are already seeing significant adoption in a short period of time that ranges in the millions of downloads.

In the same vein of collaboration and integration, DevOps is of keen interest to most enterprise IT shops. Microsoft showed how Visual Studio Team Services embraces DevOps in a holistic way. While the demonstration was impressive, the question of scalability often comes into the picture for large, integrated teams. It was mentioned that VS Team Services is currently used by the Microsoft Windows development team and their whopping 25,000 developers.

Add to scale the ability to build ‘safe code’ pipelines with automation that creates triggers to evaluate code in-process and one can quickly see how Microsoft is taking the modern, sophisticated development process to heart.

POWERING DATA AND AI IN THE CLOUD

In addition to developer tools, time was spent talking about Azure, data and Databricks. I had the chance to sit down with Databricks CEO Ari Ghodsi to talk about how Azure Databricks is bringing the myriad of data sources together for the enterprise. The combination of Databricks on Azure provides the scale and ecosystem that highlights the power of Databricks to integrate the varied data sources that every enterprise is trying to tap into.

MIND THE DEVELOPER GAP

Developing applications that leverage analytics and AI is incredibly important, but not a trivial task. It often requires a combination of skills and experience to fully appreciate the value that comes from AI. Unfortunately, developers often do not have the data science skills nor business context needed in today’s world. I spoke with Microsoft’s Corey Sanders after his keynote about how Microsoft is bridging the gap for the developer. Both Sanders & Ghodsi agree that the gap is an issue. However, through the use of increasingly sophisticated tools such as Databricks and Visual Studio, Sanders & Ghodsi believe Microsoft is making a serious attempt at bridging this gap.

It is clear that Microsoft is getting back to its roots and considering the importance of the developer in an enterprise’s digital transformation journey. While there are still many gaps to fill, it is interesting to see how Microsoft is approaching the evolving landscape and complexity that is the enterprise reality.

CIO

The CIO: Thinking like a CEO

img_0665Over the past 30 years, now is the best time to be a CIO. The role of the CIO is in transition. At the same time, the CIO is increasingly more critical to businesses. The CIO role is moving from a Traditional CIO to a Transformational CIO. As technology becomes a necessity in defining business, the shift to a transformational CIO brings out a business focus and ultimately drives technology leadership. It is this same business focus that governs the priorities of the CEO and shared by the rest of the executive team including the CIO.

Historically, the connection between the CIO and the CEO spanned a dot or two. That doesn’t tell the true story as even roles two steps from the CEO were worlds apart. As a company progresses through their digital transformation journey, the role of the CIO increases in prominence and moves closer to the CEO. In turn, the CIO must change their thinking to that of the CEO…and the rest of the executive team. To be clear, the message is not for the CIO to run their IT organization like a CEO as that methodology brings a very different outcome.

A SHIFT IN THINKING

The role of the transformational CIO is very different from that of their predecessors. As discussed in ‘The difference between the Traditional CIO and the Transformational CIO’ the CIO, along with the rest of the organization experiences a dramatic shift in thinking. Speed and accuracy define the business decision making process. Executives rely on technology more than ever to make good business decisions. The CIO sits at the forefront by leading the technology organization.

The focus of the CIO is alignment with the CEO. In many ways, the CIO exhibits traits of the CEO while still identifying opportunities where technology becomes the differentiating strategic weapon to solving business problems. In organizations with close synergy between the CIO and CEO, the outcomes are incredibly positive.

LEARNING BY EXAMPLE

Aligning with the CEO’s thinking brings a unique clarity. However, for many CIOs, getting into a c-suite mentality is not a trivial task. It requires a change in language and perspective. In the process, the CIO adopts the conversations of the c-suite. Put another way, if the c-suite is not having the conversation, neither should the CIO. Technology conversations are replaced with business conversations. Technology becomes an enabler to business advantage, in business terms and not in technical jargon.

For years, the CIO has yearned for ‘a seat at the table’. Namely, to be considered an equal among fellow c-suite peers. Now, more than ever, it is vital for the CIO at the table. Like respect, a seat at the table is something earned, not an entitlement. Once there, one must continue to prove their ability to maintain the seat. Nor is a seat at the table the end state. The importance of technology to a company’s strategy is driving some organizations to consider putting CIOs on their Board of Directors further proving that the CIO’s role is not the end state of potential for the individual.

DRIVING TOWARD CIO EXCELLENCE

The vision of the leader proves paramount in driving toward success. Culture takes time to change and so does the role of the CIO. It starts first with leading by example. One of the first steps in the journey is Changing the language of IT: 3 things that start with the CIO. By changing the language, it telegraphs a clear message of inclusion and business focus. Second is a fundamental understanding of the business. Digital Transformation requires intimate knowledge of the business, lead by the CIO and through different perspectives. A third step is in building relationships with executives including the CEO. Until there is a relationship, it is hard to build trust and respect. These three steps are vital to the success of both the CIO and the company as it experiences the digital transformation journey.

For the CIO, the role could not be more vital nor exciting. Now is the time to seize the opportunity and capture the passion driving business advantage.

CIO

The difference between the Traditional CIO and the Transformational CIO

Over the past several years, the role of the Chief Information Office (CIO) has changed. If you are a CIO, do you know which type you most closely align with…or aspire to be? If you are working with a CIO, do you know the characteristics and why they are so important? The details are incredibly important regardless of your stakeholder status as a partner, customer, board member or fellow c-suite member.

The CIO’s job is hard and complicated. To gain a full appreciation of why, one needs to truly understand the anthropology of IT. That alone is worthy of a book. Suffice it to say that decades were spent creating the role of the CIO and IT culture. One cannot simply unwind decades of culture over the course of a couple of years. This is where my concept of the Three-Legged Race for transformation comes in. The CIO, IT organization and rest of the organization must work together for transformation to truly take shape.

THE TRADITIONAL CIO

When most of us think of a CIO, we are thinking of the traditional CIO. There are several characteristics that identify the traditional CIO. Many of the traditional CIO characteristics are centered around building an organization that supports technology. This makes sense, and fits well for organizations that have not started their digital transformation journey.

cio-characteristics-traditional

However, the role of the traditional CIO is in decline. As more organizations recognize the strategic value that technology plays, the demand for the CIO shifts from traditional to transformational.

THE TRANSFORMATIONAL CIO

The transformational CIO is a business leader first who happens to have responsibility for IT. To be clear, this does not mean a business leader that does not have experience leading IT. It means that the leader is highly experienced in leading business and IT, but focused on the business aspects as the driver for IT.

cio-characteristics-transformational

The characteristics of the transformational CIO are quite different from that of the traditional CIO. In general, they are business centric and less focused on technology. In many ways, unlike the traditional CIO, the transformational CIO is having the same conversations as the rest of the c-suite. Put a different way, if the conversation is not one that the CEO would have, neither would the CIO. Transformational CIOs are very much looking for business opportunities like that of the CEO or many of the other c-level executives. The transformational CIO is perceived by the other c-level executives as an equal. This is a dramatic shift from the traditional CIO. The key words here are ‘perceived by others’.

MAKING THE SHIFT FROM TRADITIONAL TO TRANSFORMATIONAL

At the risk of being over-inclusive, every enterprise will need to take the digital transformation journey. Technology is playing a more central role to every enterprise. Put a different way, technology is quickly becoming the strategic weapon for every enterprise. Think of companies that have disrupted different industries. In most cases, technology was central to their ability to disrupt their industry.

As part of that journey, every enterprise will need to rely more on a transformational CIO. However, that transition does not happen overnight. Recall that it is not just the CIO that must transition (read: Transforming IT Requires a Three-Legged Race). Transformation, much like culture changes, is a journey. There is no specific end-point or finish line.

cio-characteristics-full

One could ask, how does a CIO make the transition. For each CIO, the journey is incredibly personal and transformational in their own way. Shifting paradigms of thinking from traditional characteristics to transformational characteristics is not trivial. It requires re-learning much of what we have learned over several decades. Essentially, we are learning a new role. A new job. A new way of thinking. For those that do make the transition, the change is incredibly rewarding not just for the CIO, but the team they lead, the larger company they work for and ultimately the customers they serve.

DOES THE CMO OR CDO REPLACE THE CIO?

The transformational journey takes time, yet customers and executives want immediate change. How is this gap addressed? Speculation suggests that the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) or Chief Digital Officer (CDO) will replace the CIO and fill the proverbial gap (read: The CMO is not replacing the CIO and here’s why.). There is value in the CMO or CDO filling some or part of the gap in the interim. However, over time, the transformational CIO is well equipped and best suited to address these changes. The gap, while significant, is only a temporary phenomenon.

CIO CMO Transforming IT

The time to start the transformational journey is now. Time is not your friend. With any organizational change, it is a team effort. It may start with the CIO, but will require the support and understanding of the entire c-level leadership team and IT organization. For many traditional CIOs, that is easier said than done. The best place to start is to establish a vision that sets the tone and cadence. From there, examples and success will quickly change the perspectives of those that may have been skeptical in the past. In addition, those that lead the transformation journey will find the process rewarding on many levels.

CIO · Cloud

Eight ways enterprises struggle with public cloud

img_5313

The move to public cloud is not new yet many enterprises still struggle to successfully leverage public cloud services. Public cloud services have existed for more than a decade. So, why is it that companies still struggle to effectively…and successfully leverage public cloud? And, more importantly, what can be done, if anything, to address those challenges?

There is plenty of evidence showing the value of public cloud and its allure for the average enterprise. For most CIOs and IT leaders, they understand that there is potential with public cloud. That is not the fundamental problem. The issue is in how you get from here to there. Or, in IT parlance, how you migrate from current state to future state. For many CIOs, cloud plays a critical role in their digital transformation journey.

The steps in which you take as a CIO are not as trivial as many make it out to be. The level of complexity and process is palpable and must be respected. Simply put, it is not a mindset, but rather reality. This is the very context missing from many conversations about how enterprises, and their CIO, should leverage public cloud. Understanding and addressing the challenges provides for greater resolution to a successful path.

THE LIST OF CHALLENGES

Looking across a large cross-section of enterprises, several patterns start to appear. It seems that there are six core reasons why enterprises struggle to successfully adopt and leverage public cloud.

  1. FUD: Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt still ranks high among the list of issues with public cloud…and cloud in general. For the enterprise, there is value, but also risk with public cloud. Industry-wide, there is plenty of noise and fluff that further confuses the issues and opportunities.
  2. % of Shovel Ready Apps: In the average enterprise, only 10-20% of an IT organization’s budget (and effort) is put toward new development. There are many reasons for this. However, it further limits the initial opportunity for public cloud experimentation.
  3. Cost: There is plenty of talk about how public cloud is less costly than traditional corporate data center infrastructure. However, the truth is that public cloud is 4x the cost of running the same application within the corporate data center. Yes, 4x…and that considers a fully-loaded corporate data center cost. Even so, the reasons in this list contribute to the 4x factor and therefore can be mitigated.
  4. Automation & Orchestration: Corporate enterprise applications were never designed to accommodate automation and orchestration. In many cases, the effort to change an application may range from requiring significant changes to a wholesale re-write of the application.
  5. Architectural Differences: In addition to a lack of automation & orchestration support, corporate enterprise applications are architected where redundancy lies in the infrastructure tiers, not the application. The application assumes that the infrastructure is available 24×7 regardless if it is needed for 24 hours or 5 minutes. This model flies in the face of how public cloud works.
  6. Cultural impact: Culturally, many corporate IT folks work under an assumption that the application (and infrastructure it runs on) is just down the hall in the corporate data center. For infrastructure teams, they are accustomed to managing the corporate data center and infrastructure that supports the corporate enterprise applications. Moving to a public cloud infrastructure requires changes in how the CIO leads and how IT teams operate.
  7. Competing Priorities: Even if there is good reason and ROI to move an application or service to public cloud, it still must run the gauntlet of competing priorities. Many times, those priorities are set by others outside of the CIOs organization. Remember that there is only a finite amount of budget and resources to go around.
  8. Directives: Probably one of the scariest things I have heard is board of directors dictating that a CIO must move to cloud. Think about this for a minute. You have an executive board dictating technology direction. Even if it is the right direction to take, it highlights other issues in the executive leadership ranks.

Overall, one can see how each of these eight items are intertwined with each other. Start to work on one issue and it may address another issue.

UNDERSTANDING THE RAMIFICATIONS

The bottom line is that, as CIO, even if I agree that public cloud provides significant value, there are many challenges that must be addressed. Aside from FUD and the few IT leaders that still think cloud is a fad that will pass, most CIOs I know support leveraging cloud. Again, that is not the issue. The issue is how to connect the dots to get from current state to future state.

However, not addressing the issues up front from a proactive perspective can lead to several outcomes. These outcomes are already visible in the industry today and further hinder enterprise public cloud adoption.

  1. Public Cloud Yo-Yo: Enterprises move an application to public cloud only to run into issues and then pull it back out to a corporate data center. Most often, this is due to the very issues outlined above.
  2. Public Cloud Stigma: Due to the yo-yo effect, it creates a chilling effect where corporate enterprise organizations slow or stop public cloud adoption. The reasons range from hesitation to flat out lack of understanding.

Neither of these two issues are good for enterprise public cloud adoption. Regardless, the damage is done and considering the other issues, pushes public cloud adoption further down the priority list. Yet, both are addressable with a bit of forethought and planning.

GETTING ENTERPRISES STARTED WITH PUBLIC CLOUD

One must understand that the devil is in the details here. While this short list of things ‘to-do’ may seem straight forward, how they are done and addressed is where the key is.

  1. Experiment: Experiment, experiment, experiment. The corporate IT organization needs a culture of experimentation. Experiments are mean to fail…and learned from. Too many times, the expectation is that experiments will succeed and when they don’t, the effort is abandoned.
  2. Understand: Take some time to fully understand public cloud and how it works. Bottom line: Public cloud does not work like corporate data center infrastructure. It is often best to try and forget what you know about your internal environment to avoid preconceived assumptions.
  3. Plan: Create a plan to experiment, test, observe, learn and feed that back into the process to improve. This statement goes beyond just technology. Consider the organizational, process and cultural impacts.

WRAPPING IT UP

There is a strong pull for CIOs to get out of the data center business and reduce their corporate data center footprint. Public cloud presents a significant opportunity for corporate enterprise organizations. But before jumping into the deep end, take some time to understand the issues and plan accordingly. The difference will impact the success of the organization, speed of adoption and opportunities to the larger business.

Further Reading…

The enterprise view of cloud, specifically public cloud, is confusing

The enterprise CIO is moving to a consumption-first paradigm

The three modes of enterprise cloud applications

Business · CIO · Cloud · IoT

The five most popular posts of 2016

img_5311

While 2016 is quickly coming to a close, it offers plenty to reflect on. For the CIO, IT organizations and leaders who work with technology, 2016 offered a glimpse into the future and the cadence in which it takes. We learned how different industries, behaviors and technologies are impacting business decisions, societal norms and economic drivers.

Looking back on 2016, here is a list of the top-5 posts on AVOA.com.

#5: Understanding the five tiers of IoT core architecture

In this July post, I suggest an architecture to model IoT design and thinking.

#4: Changing the language of IT: 3 things that start with the CIO

This May post attracted a ton of attention from CIOs (and non-CIOs) as part of their transformation journey.

#3: IT transformation is difficult, if not impossible, without cloud

Another May post on the importance of the intersection between transformation and cloud.

#2: Microsoft Azure Stack fills a major gap for enterprise hybrid cloud

Only one of two top-five vendor-related posts digs into the importance of Microsoft’s hybrid cloud play.

And the #1 post…

#1: Is HPE headed toward extinction

This provocative post looks at business decisions by HPE and how they impact the enterprise buyer.

2017 is already shaping up nicely with plenty of change coming. And with that, I close out 2016 wishing you a very Happy New Year and an even better 2017!

CIO

Digital Transformation requires intimate knowledge of the business

 

IMG_3398Moving to a digital enterprise is not a trivial task. It is neither a journey nor a destination. The shift for an enterprise to embrace digital requires a cohesive effort on multiple levels. Technology plays a role, but only as a tool without context. And it is this very context or knowledge that provides the significance in value that comes from the digital enterprise.

SHIFTING TO THE DIGITAL ENTERPRISE

The digital enterprise is no longer an option for enterprises. The digital enterprise is a reality in today’s business climate. Technology plays a central role in business in so many ways. However, it is not only the technology choices we make within the enterprise that shift us to become a ‘digital enterprise’.

Shifting to the digital enterprise requires a shift in paradigm across the entire organization, not just Information Technology (IT). The technology itself only serves as a tool. How will you use this tool to further your business in terms of economic growth or business agility? And technology is not the only component. The business insights truly come from the data. Technology enables greater access to data and insights. But it does something else. Technology provides greater accuracy and faster business decisions which can lead to automation in business decision processing and responses.

Leveraging technology to enable businesses to do things no previously possible is part of the shift to the digital enterprise. Engaging the customer and providing significant insights requires technology in order to remain competitive in the global business landscape.

KNOWING THE BUSINESS…IN MULTIPLE DIMENSIONS

Shifting to the digital enterprise is not possible without an intimate knowledge of the business. To know the business, one must look from multiple dimensions. Those include the customer, the marketplace, the value chain, and the company operations. Each of these provide a unique perspective that when combined provide greater insights as to how best to engage and operate to increase business value.

In the end, the business exists to serve a customer. Yes, I said ‘a’ customer. We live in a world where industries are built by markets of one. Any given customer is a market of one. How does one get to know this customer of one?

As a company supports the needs of a customer, what does the value chain look like? The value chain may be a foreign concept to many. However, it is incredibly important to consider when looking at how to best provide business value. And, how specific changes will impact the overall value chain.

Understating how the company makes and spends money is a good start to better understand the business operations. It is surprising how little many in IT know about a company, their customer, value chain and business operations. One could argue that IT folks do not need to know these components. However, I would argue that unintended disruptions in one section of the value chain can have catastrophic consequences. Again, it comes back to context. In the digital enterprise, we can no longer work in a vacuum of silos.

LEADING FROM THE CIO

The Chief Information Officer (CIO) is uniquely positioned to lead the drive to the digital enterprise. Ironically, many CIOs are not well prepared to make this change today. Some may suggest this is the very reason that the CIO should not lead the effort. But before you start to throw kerosene onto that fire, I strongly believe there are good people in the CIO role today that can rise to the occasion with the right leadership.

Once you start to consider the silos of data across the enterprise, a leader needs to emerge to engage the different departments and their expertise. If you consider what is required to have a holistic view of the business and then marry that with digital technology, there is only one role that sits in that intersection; the CIO.

Shifting to the digital enterprise is an enterprise effort that requires cross-functional engagement across a number of disciplines. The shift requires intimate and a holistic view of the business. That very engagement, led by the CIO, will provide a significant differentiation for enterprises in any industry.