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:

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https://www.sap.com/intelligentdata

Business · Cloud · Data

How cloud is changing the business and IT landscape

 

Enterprises around the globe are facing disruption from a number of different directions. To combat this disruption, they increasingly turn to cloud computing.

Cloud computing is the single biggest opportunity for organizations to dramatically change how their business operates through changes in their Information Technology (IT) landscape. Organizations are evaluating ways to leverage cloud-based solutions in differentiated ways. As these organizations evaluate how best to leverage cloud, there are a number of factors to consider when moving into a cloud-based world.

SHIFTING HOW WE THINK ABOUT ORGANIZATIONS

The move for enterprises leveraging cloud-based technology causes more than just a shift in technology. It also causes a shift in how we think about strategy, organization and culture. In the past, enterprises were required to build their strategy, organization and support around the entire technology platform. There were few to no other reasonable options.

In the cloud-based era, those aspects change. Today, there are mature, viable solutions that allow the enterprise to leverage alternatives. By shifting functions that are important but not strategic nor differentiated, it allows organizations to shift their focus as well.

By making this shift, organizations are able to up-level conversations and focus on business outcomes rather than technology features. These changes open the door to other shifts as well.

CHANGING THE WAY WE WORK

Two of those shifts directly impact the advantage to a business and their customers. The first shift is leverage. Cloud computing provides leverage in ways not previously feasible. IT organizations now have access to a bevy of solutions and virtually unlimited resources. Prior to cloud computing, organizations were limited in their ability to quickly scale resources and leverage new technology. For many, cost constraints were a significant limitation to potential growth.

Beyond technology, cloud provides the organization with the ability to leverage the expertise of others. As mentioned, previous methods required IT organizations to be an expert across a myriad of strategic and non-strategic areas. With cloud, organizations can focus on those aspects strategic and differentiated for their business and customers. This shifts the organization and culture to focus more directly on solutions that provide business advantage.

The second shift is speed. Unlike past options that may take weeks or months for the availability of applications and resources, cloud shortens the time to a matter of minutes. As businesses are looking for ways to respond quickly to ever-changing customer requirements, this rapid flexibility provides the organization with the ability to respond in a timely fashion.

OPENING UP NEW OPPORTUNITES

Aside from speed, cloud opens up a whole new world of opportunity for organizations. Historically, there was a minimum cost of entry for many of the more advanced systems. Unfortunately, these costs were far outside the realm of possibility for Small and Medium Businesses (SMB). With cloud, SMB organizations now have access to the same solutions as the largest of enterprises. Essentially, this levels the playing field by lowering the barriers to entry of these advanced systems.

As organizations shift toward a greater focus on customers through quicker and more accurate business decisions, so does their reliance on data. At the same time, organizations are facing an explosion of data. Traditional reporting and analytics are collapsing under the weight of this new influx of data.

To combat the data deluge, organizations are increasing their reliance on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) to automate the insights gleaned from the data. While AI & ML require large quantities of data, traditional solutions are simply unable to provide the resources that AI & ML algorithms require. Again, cloud computing opens the door to organizations, large and small, to leverage these advanced functions.

BRINGING IT TOGETHER

The combination of cloud-based resources with advanced functions provide organizations with new opportunities to glean greater insights much quicker than previously possible. Cloud’s leverage provides organizations the ability to shift the IT landscape to focus on business outcomes and strategic initiatives rather than deep technical expertise.

In summary, cloud computing presents not only an alternative option for technology consumption, but a required pillar for tomorrow’s business.

 

This post is sponsored by:

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https://www.sap.com/intelligentdata

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.

Business · Social

Three keys to building a successful community

As someone whom is part of several communities, and now being asked by companies to help build their communities, this is a topic I see firsthand. Having been invited to join so many communities, I have had to ask what the value is. This leads to being more selective on which communities I ultimately participate in.

It is important to note that there is a difference between the value to a community member and the community organizer. The value equation must factor both and be bi-directional. In sum, all parties to the community must see value in their participation.

THE IMPORTANCE OF COMMUNITY

In personal terms, a sense of community plays a key role in our societal interests and overall well-being. A community of individuals with similar interests is quite powerful in many ways. There is a saying that “It takes a village…(to raise a child)”. If said ‘child’ were a product, interest or company, the value comes from not just the product itself, but from the community built around the child. It is this very community that brings the true value to any product, interest or company today.

In a business context, the community may include buyers, consumers and influencers. Today, there is quite a bit of discussion about “Influencer Marketing”. Understanding the authentic influencer and therefore their true value is much more complicated than just looking at some social media stats. Unfortunately, social media has provided a megaphone for anyone to use. Providing value to a community, like raising a child, takes more than just reading a book, showing up on a list or having an opinion.

In my experience, there are three core components that drive the criteria: Relevance, Relationships and Respect. Communities are complex to understand. Communities are hard to build. Communities require constant care and feeding.

Community Three Rs

THE FOUNDATION OF RELEVANCE

The very definition of community ties back to sharing a common interest. The interest ultimately becomes the relevance to each individual’s specific situation along with that of the organizer. Relevance provides the common bond and interest between the parties. It provides a central rally cry that addresses a common, shared need or desire.

Individual interest is not enough. An individual may be interested in a specific topic, but if is not something they are passionate about, it may be hard to keep their interest over time. Even if someone is passionate about a specific interest, do they have the capability to provide a significant impact. Interest does not equal expertise. Just because you have an opinion, does not make you an expert. Not-so-subtle message here: Reach does not equal Relevance. And like value, relevance goes both ways. What is in it for me and for them?

RELATIONSHIPS PROVIDE THE GLUE

Identifying individuals with a common interest provides a certain level of value. However, the true value is in knowing (and maintaining) the level of interest and influence of the individuals over time. What are the nuances that an individual brings to the community? These nuances often do not show up in a profile, post or list. How have those changed over time? Remember that we are talking about humans here..which are complex.

The relationships span both community members and organizers. In addition, these very relationships will evolve over time. The relationship itself is not a binary thing. It will exist on many levels and take many forms.

NOTHING WITHOUT RESPECT

One would be remiss to talk about relationships and leave out mutual respect. Rather than talk about what respect brings, let us talk about the inverse. Simply put, without respect, a community does not work. During the course of conversation, opinions will differ. There needs to be a level of respect among the participants. Otherwise, there is a high likelihood the community will either disintegrate or worse, implode.

Respect is not something that is freely given. It is something that is earned over time. It, like relationships, must be cared for. Respect is something that takes time to build and can be torn down in an instant.

COMMUNITY, COLLECTIVE OR ORGANIZATION?

Each of these three core components directly tie back to the participants whether discussing relevance, relationships or respect. All three are essential to success. A community is not a one-time activity. The value of a community is the sum of the parts…over time. It has a lifecycle that goes through different stages of maturity.

If you have reached this point asking how this differs from the complexities of building an organization…you’re spot on! But how does one go about building a community? And how does one ensure that the community will help the child…er…business flourish? Ahh… that is for another post.

CIO

Shadow IT is a Good Thing for IT Organizations

Shadow IT is a good thing for IT organizations…and here’s why…

It is important to first understand what Shadow IT is and why it happens. Shadow IT is commonly referred to when non-IT organizations delve into the delivery of technology solutions…without IT’s involvement. It happens for a number of reasons. But the most common is when there is demand for a technology solution and it is believed (right or wrong) that IT is not able to assist or deliver the solution. This could be due to timing, availability, experience, bureaucracy, or a number of other factors. The bottom line is that the non-IT organization believes they can address a need better than the IT organization can.

In general, is Shadow IT a bad thing? Yes, but has the opportunity to evolve into a very good thing. Shadow IT (as it is often implemented today) is a reaction to a problem with a solution that is not ideal. The solution is a non-IT or trying to provide IT services. Unfortunately, this is often not their core competency and furthermore distracts from their core mission.

So, why is this new? In the past, it was hard for non-IT organizations to leverage technology without the assistance of IT. People were also not as familiar with technology. In the cloud-based world, leveraging technology is far easier. In addition, knowledge workers today are more familiar with technology than in past generations. For those that build shadow IT organizations, the believe is that it is the path of least resistance; build yourself or leverage IT. While not an ideal situation, it is often the only choice.

At the Forrester CIO Forum yesterday, 79% of business decision makers say they rely on technology to innovate in the business. 42% say IT is too bureaucratic and 11% of those business decision makers are bypassing IT.

The move to shadow IT is a good thing for IT. Why? It is a wake-up call. It provides a clear message that IT is not meeting the requirements of the business. IT leaders need to rethink how to transform the IT organization to better serve the business and get ahead of the requirements. There is a significant opportunity for IT play a leading role in business today. However, it goes beyond just the nuts and bolts of support and technology. It requires IT to get more involved in understanding how business units operate and proactively seek opportunities to advance their objectives. It requires IT to reach beyond the cultural norms that have been built over the past 10, 20, 30 years.

A new type of IT organization is required. A fresh coat of paint won’t cut it. Change is hard, but the opportunities are significant. This is more of a story about moving from a reactive state to a proactive state for IT. It does require a significant change in the way IT operates for many. That includes both internally within the IT organization and externally in the non-IT organizations. The opportunities can radically transform the value IT brings to driving the business forward.

Shadow IT is a turning point for IT. Embrace it and leverage the best that it can deliver while transforming how technology solutions are delivered. Look for ways to embrace the amplitude in change of technology, process and organization. Embrace change and look for ways to transform IT to better serve the business. Cloud is a significant opportunity to leverage for this change. Shed the ways of old and adopt the new. Opportunity awaits.