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Longtime IT industry analyst Dana Gardner is a creative thought leader on enterprise software, SOA, cloud-based strategies, and IT architecture strategies. He is a prolific blogger, podcaster and Twitterer. Follow him at http://twitter.com/Dana_Gardner.

 

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Kony Visualizer puts mobile apps design control in hands of those closest to the business

Posted By Dana L Gardner, 13 hours ago

The next BriefingsDirect enterprise mobile strategy discussion comes to you directly from last month's the Kony World 2015 Conference in Orlando.

This five-part series of penetrating discussions on the latest in enterprise mobility explores advancements in applications design and deployment technologies across the full spectrum of edge devices and operating environments.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Read a full transcript or download a copy.

For our next innovation interview, we welcome Ed Gross, Kony Vice President of Product Management. Ed is focused on the Kony Visualizer Product, including requirements prototyping, development oversight, release planning, and lifecycle management. The discussion is moderated by me, Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions.

Here are some excerpts:

Ed Gross: Here at Kony World, we're educating our customers on our latest releases in our product portfolio. One that I'm most excited about is the 2.0 release of our Visualizer product, which brings a number of next-generation capabilities with it.

Visualizer is a tool by which you can create engaging and dynamic user experiences on all platforms for mobility, including tablet and desktop as well. What it does is present an opportunity for designers to take back control of the development process of both designing applications and creating rich next-generation user experiences.

Gross

If you look at how applications are designed typically, it's a very rigid process of creating wireframes and mockups and then throwing those materials over the wall to developers. Designers today, prior to the Visualizer, didn't really have a suite of tools that they could  use to create these applications directly using the technology.

Right now, designers create sort of mockups and proxies of that design to hand over to a developer to implement. We thought it would be great if designers had a tool by which they can directly create that user experience in the native and Web channels using the underlying Kony framework.

With Visualizer you can go in with this what-you-see-is-what-you-get (WYSIWYG) environment. It’s actually called WYSIWYM (what you see is what you mobilize). It’s a term that we coined because it’s a unique approach and something we believe to be a new paradigm in designing applications.

What I can do as a designer is just drag and drop widgets onto my forms. I can create dynamic interactions that really showcase the native capabilities that we have with Visualizer. I can then take that design and publish the actual app to the Kony cloud. Then,  using an app on my phone or tablet, I can then download that design directly, look at all the native interactions, review them, and get a feel for the actual application without having to write any code.

This is a true native experience, not some sort of web-based proxy, mockup, or set of wireframes. I'm actually creating the app product itself within Visualizer with this WYSIWYG canvas.

Native capabilities

We provide access to all the native capabilities. For example, I can use a cover flow widget, a page widget, a calendar, or a camera. I get access to all those rich native capabilities, using what we call actions, without having to go down and write code for all these different platforms.

Fundamentally, what this also represents is a collaboration opportunity with business and IT. If I'm a designer working under the marketing arm of an organization or I'm a designer or a developer in the IT organization, by using what we call app preview, I can take this design, publish it to the Kony cloud, and bring it into the shell application that you could download from any of the app stores.

Then, I can review and  write notes on this design. I can send those notes back to the cloud. Ultimately, the Visualizer user can see those comments that I've left across the entire application. They can act upon them and iterate through that design process by republishing that app back to the cloud so that the business user or the developer, the designer, whoever is actually reviewing this application, can annotate on it.

The fundamental principle here is that you are not just creating a set of assets to hand over to a developer. You’re actually creating the app itself. What’s really fundamental is that we're essentially giving all of the power and all of the control back to the designer, so that the designer can finalize this application and then simply hand it over to the developer using Kony Studio.

The developer can take it from there without having to rewrite any of the front end of the application. The developer doesn't need to be concerned with creating all of the user experience components by writing code or creating views. They focus on what they do best, which is hooking that application into back-end services and systems, such as SAP, Siebel, or any enterprise service bus connectors.

What we saw before Visualizer was that most development projects had very large numbers of defects associated with the user experience.

If you want to integrate with a Web service like an XML, SOAP, or JSON service, you do all that in the studio. You don’t worry about writing all the front-end code. You make it production ready, you wire it, and you do the fundamental business logic of the application and the integration with other products.

Because what the designer has given you is already complete, and so it cuts down all those cycles. It also cuts down on defects. What we saw before Visualizer was that most development projects had very large numbers of defects associated with the user experience.

What I mean when I say is that if today you take an application that was developed using other technology and you break down all the defects according to what category they belong in, such as, integration defects or user experience defects, or performance defects, we find that 70 percent to 80 percent of the defects categorically are associated with poor implementation of the user experience.

In that typical waterfall process that I mentioned earlier, there are a lot of gaps We hand those assets over to a developer, and the developer has to make a lot of assumptions in that process. They have to fill in a lot of the holes that the designer may have left, because the designer is not going to make sure that they design and spec out every single tiny component of that application.

What winds up happening is that a developer somewhere in that lifecycle will make assumptions and implement something in a way that doesn't satisfy the requirements of the business. So you have to go through that whole process of designing and developing over and over again.

Rapid iteration

With Visualizer, you have the capability to quickly iterate. You publish that app design, you get feedback from the business, as I had mentioned earlier, and even during the development process, reiterate through that design process. That integration between Visualizer and our studio project is completely bidirectional.

At any point in that development process, you can transfer that application design back in Visualizer, make any adjustments, and then reimport it back into Studio. So your product suite is very well-integrated. At Kony, it’s something that we believe is a true differentiator.

Our core focus is mobility. So we ensure that the developer and designer experience is world class by tightly integrating the entire design and development process and making sure that those two processes are as close as possible to what we call the metal, the underlying channel, and that they can occur in parallel streams. You no longer have to go through sort of a tradition paper-based design process to move forward with implementing your app design.

Gardner: What is specifically new in Visualizer 2.0 as well as Framework 6.0?

Gross: Historically at Kony, we have supported a broad swath of devices. From 2008, look at all Symbian devices, BlackBerry devices, all the way up through iOS, Android, Mobile Web, and even Desktop Web, Windows, etc. What we did is look at our layout model where we had previously recognized that we're going to push forward to the next generation of application design.

It's focusing on those devices, those smartphones, that can provide that next-generation level of experience that we’ve become used to.

By doing so we introduce the different paradigm to layout your application using what we call flex layout that’s supported on the next generation of what we call Hero devices. It's focusing on those devices, those smartphones, that can provide that next-generation level of experience that we’ve become used to.

If you look at Android, iOS, and Windows devices, that’s our core focus as well as Web and Mobile Web. We really up-leveled the entire experience so you can design very engaging experiences using flex layout. We've also introduced a number of capabilities around animation, so that you can get those advanced animation and dynamic interactions that you become used to in consumer grade applications with Kony.

We've also introduced a suite of APIs around this as well. The developer can create very dynamic experiences, or the designer in Visualizer can create these wonderful experiences using what we call Action Editor to access all of those animation components and a bunch of native components, such as the ability to advanced device level actions like invoke a camera or map widget or send an SMS or an e-mail, all without having to write code.

Gardner: A recurring theme here and in the industry at large is the need for speed, closing the gap between the demand for mobile apps and what the IT organization and the developer core can produce. Is there anything about Visualizer and Framework that helps the DevOps process along. Perhaps it's being able to target a cloud or platform-as-a-service (PaaS) type of affair, where you can get that into production rapidly. How does what you brought to the market now help in terms of speed?

Reducing time

Gross: There are number of things. The first principle here is that we're significantly and seriously reducing the time it takes to get from design to development through this process. We're seeing a 15x or higher improvement in the time it takes to develop the front-end of an application, which is significant, and we believe in that very much. That's probably the most important thing.

There are tools underneath the hood that support that, including the app preview that I’d mentioned that lets you get on the device native without having to go through any of the development cycles. So it’s a drastic improvement.

There's also, a huge reduction in the amount of errors in the process. It also increases your capability to iterate. That is really core. You can create multiple designs and use those designs to socialize your idea, your business process, or what impact that will have on your users upfront.

The first principle here is that we're significantly and seriously reducing the time it takes to get from design to development through this process.

So I don't have to go through an entire waterfall process to discover that my user experience may not be right and may not be an effective use of my information architecture, for example. I'm able to do all that up front. And all this is supported with the underlying cloud infrastructure at Kony. When I publish my app preview, or if I publish this to a developer, it’s all supported within our cloud infrastructure.

To get down to brass tacks, I as a designer can publish my project to the Kony cloud and share it with a developer, what we call our functional previews of that application. That app preview that I’d mentioned is all supported with the underlying cloud platform.

Then, when you look at Studio, our Studio product is highly integrated with our MobileFabric solution, and we’re working in our next release to increase that integration even more. You can invoke our mobile cloud services from our development environment. We're going to be working to merge that entire Studio environment with our Visualizer design components, drastically improving the design and design or develop an integration experience.

Gardner: And to tie this into some of the other news and announcements here at Kony World, this is targeted at many of your partners and independent software vendors (ISVs), new ones that were brought in and the burgeoning cloud of supporters. Is this also what you expected, for ISVs to use to create those ready-to-deploy apps like Kony Sales, or are these for custom apps, or all of the above?

Custom app support

Gross: All of the above. Visualizer, if you look at the lowest level, is really built to support custom app design and development. That’s the traditional core of the Kony technology, the Kony platform stack. We're introducing a new product, Kony Modeler, this month, and that product is actually built on the foundation of Visualizer and our underlying developer framework.

When you design a Visualizer, you're essentially designing either custom applications or our model-driven business applications such as Kony Sales. The configuration of those applications inside of Modeler as a business analyst or business user does is also built on the Visualizer stack. So everything you do is highly visual, and this speaks to the user-centered development methodology that we see now.

User experience-driven applications are the future, and we recognize that at Kony. We put the user experience first, not the data model, not writing other kinds of models. We really focus on driving user expectations, increased performance for B2E applications, increased productivity, and it all relates back to user experience.

Gardner: Give me more insight as to why an ISV should think about Kony when going to mobile markets.

We put the user experience first, not the data model, not writing other kinds of models. We really focus on driving user expectations.

Gross: The first reason is that you’re greatly reducing the time it takes to get from design to the end product, which is key. Number two, you're able to reduce man-hours in the development process of the front-end experience.

I'd also like to reiterate that, because of our fundamental underlying JavaScript platform, you're able to write once for all these different channels. A fourth point that I'd like to bring up on top of these is our service-level agreement (SLA), which is unique in the industry.

At Kony, we have a unique SLA that says that within 30 days of a new operating system release, we will provide support within the Kony platform. Nobody else does that. We guarantee that support across our ISV channels and our direct customers, so that they don’t have to worry about revving up to the next version of the given channel. We really take care of that. We mask our customers from that, so that they can focus on innovation.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Read a full transcript or download a copy. Sponsor: Kony, Inc.

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Tags:  BriefingsDirect  Dana Gardner  Ed Gross  Interarbor Solutions  Kony  Kony Vializer  Kony World  Mobile apps 

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Explore synergies among major Enterprise Architecture frameworks with The Open Group

Posted By Dana L Gardner, Wednesday, March 04, 2015
Updated: Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Welcome to a special BriefingsDirect presentation and panel discussion from The Open Group San Diego 2015, which ran Feb. 2 through Feb. 5.

The following discussion, which examines the synergy among the major enterprise architecture frameworks, consists of moderator Allen Brown, President and Chief Executive Officer, The Open Group; Iver Band, an Enterprise Architect at Cambia Health Solutions; Dr. Beryl Bellman, Academic Director, FEAC Institute; John Zachman, Chairman and CEO of Zachman International, and originator of the Zachman Framework; and Chris Forde, General Manager, Asia and Pacific Region and Vice President, Enterprise Architecture, The Open Group. [Disclosure: The Open Group is a sponsor of BriefingsDirect podcasts.]

Here are some excepts:

Iver Band: As an enterprise architect at Cambia Health Solutions, I have been working with the ArchiMate Language for over four years now, both working with and on it in the ArchiMate Forum. As soon as I discovered it in late 2010, I could immediately see, as an enterprise architect, how it filled an important gap.

Band

What is the ArchiMate Language? Well, it's a language we use for building understanding across disciplines in an organization and communicating and managing change.  It’s a graphical notation with formal semantics. It’s a language.

It’s a framework that describes and relates the business, application, and technology layers of an enterprise, and it has extensions for modelling motivation, which includes business strategy, external factors affecting the organization, requirements for putting them altogether and for showing them from different stakeholder perspectives.

You can show conflicting stakeholder perspectives, and even politics. I've used it to model organizational politics that were preventing a project from going forward.

It has a rich set of techniques in its viewpoint mechanism for visualizing and analyzing what’s going on in your enterprise. Those viewpoints are tailored to different stakeholders.  And, of course, ArchiMate, like TOGAF, is an open standard managed by The Open Group.

Taste of Archimate

This is just a taste of ArchiMate for people who haven’t seen it before. This is actually excerpted from the presentation my colleague Chris McCurdy and I are doing at this conference on Guiding Agile Solution Delivery with the ArchiMate Language.

Zachman

What this shows is the Business and Application Layers of ArchiMate. It shows a business process at the top. Each process is represented by a symbol. It shows a data model of business objects, then, at the next layer, in yellow.

Below that, it shows a data model actually realized by the application, the actual data that’s being processed.

Below that, it shows an application collaboration, a set of applications working together, that reads and writes that data and realizes the business data model that our business processes use.

All in all, it presents a vision of an integrated project management toolset for a particular SDLC that uses the phases that you see across the top.

We are going to dissect this model, how you would build it, and how you would develop it in an agile environment in our presentation tomorrow.

I have done some analysis of The Zachman Framework, comparing it to the ArchiMate Language. What’s really clear is that ArchiMate supports enterprise architecture with The Zachman Framework. You see a rendering of The Zachman Framework and then you see a rendering of the components of the ArchiMate Language. You see the Business Layer, the Application Layer, the Technology Layer, its ability to express information, behavior, and structure, and then the Motivation and Implementation and Migration extensions.

So how does it support it? Well, there are two key things here. The first is that ArchiMate models answer the questions that are posed by The Zachman Framework columns.

For what: for Inventory. We are basically talking about what is in the organization. There are Business and Data Objects, Products, Contracts, Value, and Meaning.

For how: for process. We can model Business Processes and Functions. We can model Flow and Triggering Relationships between them.

Where: for the Distribution of our assets. We can model Locations, we can model Devices, and we can model Networks, depending on how you define Location within a network or within a geography.

For who: We can model Responsibility, with Business Actors, Collaborations, and Roles.

When: for Timing. We have Business Events, Plateaus of System Evolution, relatively stable systems states, and we have Triggering Relationships.

Why: We have a rich Motivation extension, Stakeholders, Drivers, Assessments, Principles, Goals, Requirements, etc., and we show how those different components influence and realize each other.

Zachman perspectives

Finally, ArchiMate models express The Zachman Row Perspectives. For the contextual or boundary perspective, where Scope Lists are required, we can make catalogs of ArchiMate Concepts. ArchiMate has broad tool support, and in a repository-based tool, while ArchiMate is a graphical language, you can very easily take list of concepts, as I do regularly, and put them in catalog or metrics form. So it’s easy to come up with those Scope Lists.

Bellman

Secondly, for the Conceptual area, the Business Model, we have a rich set of Business Layer Viewpoints. Like the top of the -- that focus on the top of the diagram that I showed you; Business Processes, Actors, Collaborations, Interfaces, Business Services that are brought to market.

Then at the Logical Layer we have System. We have a rich set of Application Layer Viewpoints and Viewpoints that show how Applications use Infrastructure.

For Physical, we have an Infrastructure Layer, which can be used to model any type of Infrastructure: Hosting, Network, Storage, Virtualization, Distribution, and Failover. All those types of things can be modeled.

And for Configuration and Instantiation, the Application and Technology Layer Viewpoints are available, particularly more detailed ones, but are also important is the Mappings to standard design languages such as BPMN, UML and ERD. Those are straightforward for experienced modelers. We also have a white paper on using the ArchiMate language with UML. Thank you.

Dr. Beryl Bellman: I have been doing enterprise architecture for quite a long time, for what you call pre-enterprise architecture work, probably about 30 years, and I first met John Zachman well over 20 years ago.

Brown

In addition to being an enterprise architect I am also a University Professor at California State University, Los Angeles. My focus there is on Organizational Communications. While being a professor, I always have been involved in doing contract consulting for companies like Digital Equipment Corporation, ASK, AT and T, NCR, then Ptech.

About 15 years ago, a colleague of mine and I founded the FEAC Institute. The initial name for that was the Federal Enterprise Architecture Certification Institute, and then we changed it to Federated. It actually goes by both names.

The business driver of that was the Clinger–Cohen Bill in 1996 when it was mandated by government that all federal agencies must have an enterprise architecture.

And then around 2000, they began to enforce that regulation. My business partner at that time, Felix Rausch, and I felt that we need some certification in how to go about doing and meeting those requirements, both for the federal agencies and the Department of Defense. And so that's when we created the FEAC Institute.
Beginning of FEAC

In our first course, we had the Executive Office of the President, US Department of Fed, which I believe was the first Department of the Federal Government that was hit by OMB which held up their budget for not having an enterprise architecture on file. So they were pretty desperate, and that began the first of the beginning of the FEAC.

Forde

Since that time, a lot of people have come in from the commercial world and from international areas. And the idea of FEAC was that you start off with learning how to do enterprise architecture. In a lot of programs, including TOGAF, you sort of have to already know a little bit about enterprise architecture, the hermeneutical circle. You have to know what it is to know.

In FEAC we had a position that you want to provide training and educating in how to do enterprise architecture that will get you from a beginning state to be able to take full responsibility for work doing enterprise architecture in a matter of three months. It’s associated with the California State University System, and you can get, if you so desire, 12 graduate academic units in Engineering Management that can be applied toward a degree or you can get continuing education units.

So that’s how we began that. Then, a couple of years ago, my business partner decided he wanted to retire, and fortunately there was this guy named John Zachman, who will never retire. He's a lot younger than all of us in this room, right? So he purchased the FEAC Institute.

I still maintain a relationship with it as Academic Director, in which primarily my responsibilities are as a liaison to the universities. My colleague, Cort Coghill, is sort of the Academic Coordinator of the FEAC Institute.

You're just getting a snapshot in time and you're really not having an enterprise architecture that is able to adapt and change. You might be able to have a picture of it, but that’s all you really have.

FEAC is an organization that also incorporates a lot of the training and education programs of Zachman International, which includes managing the FEAC TOGAF courses, as well as the Zachman certified courses, which we will tell you more about.

I'm just a little bit surprised by this idea, the panel, the way we are constructed here, because I didn’t have a presentation. I'm doing it off the top, as you can see. I was told we are supposed to have a panel discussion about the synergies of enterprise architecture. So I prepared in my mind the synergies between the different enterprise architectures that are out there.

For that, I just wanted to make a strong point. I wanted to talk about synergy like a bifurcation between on the one hand, "TOGAF and Zachman" as being standing on one side, whereas the statement has been made earlier this morning and throughout the meeting is "TOGAF and."

Likewise, we have Zachman, and it’s not "Zachman or, but it’s "Zachman and." Zachman provides that ontology, as John talks about it in his periodic table of basic elements of primitives through which we can constitute any enterprise architecture. To attempt to build an architecture out of composites and then venting composites and just modeling you're just getting a snapshot in time and you're really not having an enterprise architecture that is able to adapt and change. You might be able to have a picture of it, but that’s all you really have.

That’s the power of The Zachman Framework. Hopefully, most of you will attend our demonstration this afternoon and a workshop where we are actually going to have people work with building primitives and looking at the relationship of primitives, the composites with a case study.

Getting lost

On the other side of that, Schekkerman wrote something about the forest of architectural frameworks and getting lost in that. There are a lot of enterprise architectural frameworks out there.

I'm not counting TOGAF, because TOGAF has its own architectural content metamodel, with its own artifacts, but those does not require one to use the artifacts in the architectural content metamodel. They suggest that you can use DoDAF. You can use MODAF. You can use commercial ones like NCR’s GITP. You can use any one.

Those are basically the competing models. Some of them are commercial-based, where organizations have their own proprietary stamps and the names of the artifacts, and the wrong names for it, and others want to give it its own take.

I'm more familiar nowadays with the governmental sectors. For example, FEAF, Federal Enterprise Architecture Framework Version 2. Are you familiar with that? Just go on the Internet, type in FEAF v2. Since Scott Bernard has been the head, he is the Chief Architect for the US Government at the OMB, he has developed a model of enterprise architecture, what he calls the Architecture Cube Model, which is an iteration off of John's, but he is pursuing a cube form rather than a triangle form.

I'm not counting TOGAF, because TOGAF has its own architectural content metamodel, with its own artifacts.

Also, for him the FEAF-II, as enterprise architecture, fits into his FEAF-II, because at the top level he has the strategic plans of an organization.

It goes down to different layers, but then, at one point, it drops off and becomes not only a solution, but it gets into the manufacturing of the solution. He has these whole series of artifacts that pertain to these different layers, but at the lower levels, you have a computer wiring closet diagram model, which is a little bit more detailed than what we would consider to be at a level of enterprise architecture.

Then you have the MODAF, the DoDAF, and all of these other ones, where a lot of those compete with each other more on the basis of political choices.

With the MODAF, the British obviously don’t want to use DoDAF, they have their own, but they are very similar to each other. One view, the acquisition view, differs from the project view, but they do the same things. You can define them in terms of each other.

Then there is the Canadian, NAF, and all that, and they are very similar. Now, we're trying to develop the unified MODAF, DoDAF, and NAF architecture, UPDM, which is still in its planning stages. So we are moving toward a more integrated system.

Allen Brown: Let’s move on to some of the questions that folks are interested in. Moving away from what the frameworks are, there is a question here. How does enterprise architecture take advantage of the impact of new emerging technologies like social, mobile, analytics, cloud, and so on?

Bidirectional change

John A. Zachman: The change can take place in the enterprise either from the top, where we change the context of the enterprise, or from the bottom, where we change the technologies.

So technology is expressed in the context of the enterprise, what I would call Rule 4, and that’s the physical domain. And it’s the same way in any other -- the building architecture, the airplane architecture, or anything. You can implement the logic, the as-designed logic, in different technologies.

Whatever the technology is, I made an observation that you want to engineer for flexibility. You separate the independent variables. So you separate the logic at Rule 3 from the physics of Rule 4, and then you can change Rule 4 without changing Rule 3. Basically that’s the idea, so you can accommodate whatever the emerging technologies are.

Bellman: I would just continue with that. I agree with John. Thinking about the synergy between the different architectures, basically every enterprise architecture contains, or should contain, considerations of those primitives. Then, it’s a matter of which a customer wants, which a customer feels comfortable with? Basically as long as you have those primitives defined, then you essentially can use any architecture. That constitute the synergy between the architectures.

One of the jobs of an enterprise architect is to establish a view of the organization that can be used to promote understanding and communicate and manage change.

Band: I agree with what's been said. It’s also true that I think that one of the jobs of an enterprise architect is to establish a view of the organization that can be used to promote understanding and communicate and manage change. With cloud-based systems, they are generally based on metadata, and the major platforms, like Salesforce.com as an example. They publish their data models and their APIs.

So I think that there’s going to be a new generation of systems that provide a continuously synchronized, real-time view of what's going on in the enterprise. So the architectural model will model this in the future, where things need to go, and they will do analyses, but we will be using cloud, big data, and even sensor technologies to understand the state of the enterprise.

Bellman: In the DoDaF 2.0, when that initially came out, I think it was six years ago or so, they have services architecture, a services view, and a systems view. And one of the points they make within the context, not as a footnote, is that they expect the systems view to sort of disappear and there will be a cloud view that will take its place. So I think you are right on that.

Chris Forde: The way I interpreted the question was, how does EA or architecture approach the things help you manage disruptive things? And if you accept the idea that enterprise architecture actually is a management discipline, it’s going to help you ask the right questions to understand what you are dealing with, where it should be positioned, what the risks and value proposition is around those particular things, whether that’s the Internet of Things, cloud computing, or all of these types of activities.

So going back to the core of what Terry’s presentation was about is a decision making framework with informed questions to help you understand what you should be doing to either mitigate the risk, take advantage of the innovation, and deploy the particular thing in a way that's useful to your business. That’s the way I read the question.

Impact of sensors

Band: Just to reinforce what Chris says, as an enterprise architect in healthcare, one of the things that I am looking at very closely is the evaluation of the impact of health sensor technology. Gartner Group says that by 2020, the average lifespan in a developed country will be increased by six months due to mobile health monitoring.

And so there are vast changes in the whole healthcare delivery system, of which my company is at the center as a major healthcare payer and investor in all sorts of healthcare companies. I use enterprise architecture techniques to begin to understand the impact of that and show the opportunities to our health insurance business.

Brown: If you think about social and mobile and you look at the entire enterprise architecture, now you are starting to expand that beyond the limits of the organization, aren’t you? You're starting to look at, not just the organization and the ecosystem, your business partners, but you are also looking at the impact of bringing mobile devices into the organization, of managers doing things on their own with cloud that wasn't part of the architecture. You have got the relationship with consumers out there that are using social and mobile. How do you capture all of that in enterprise architecture?

An architecture can help you within your enterprise understand those things and it can help you connect to other enterprises or other information sources to allow you to make sense of all those things.

Forde: Allen, if I had the answer to that question I would form my own business and I would go sell it.

Back in the day, when I was working in large organizations, we were talking about the extended enterprise, that kind of ecosystem view of things. And at that time the issue was more problematic. We knew we were in an extended ecosystem, but we didn't really have the technologies that effectively supported it.

The types of technologies that are available today, the ones that The Open Group has white papers about -- cloud computing, the Internet of Things, this sort of stuff -- architectures can help you classify those things. And the technologies that are being deployed can help you track them, and they can help you track them not as documents of the instance, but of the thing in real time that is talking to you about what its state is, and what its future state will be, and then you have to manage that information in vast quantities.

So an architecture can help you within your enterprise understand those things and it can help you connect to other enterprises or other information sources to allow you to make sense of all those things. But again, it's a question of scoping, filtering, making sense, and abstracting -- that key phrase that John pointed out earlier, of abstracting this stuff up to a level that is comprehensible and not overwhelming.

Brown: So Iver, at Cambia Health, you must have this kind of problem now, mustn’t you?

Provide value

Band: That's exactly what I am doing. I am figuring out what will be the impact of certain technologies and how our businesses can use them to differentiate and provide value.

In fact, I was just on a call this morning with JeffSTAT, because the whole ecosystem is changing, and we know that healthcare is really changing. The current model is not financially sustainable, and there is also tremendous amount of waste in our healthcare system today. The executives of our company say that about a third of the $2.7 trillion and rising spent on healthcare in the US doesn't do anyone any good.

There's a tremendous amount of IT investment in that, and that requires architecture to tie it altogether. It has to do with all the things ranging from the logic with which we edit claims, to the follow-up we provide people with particularly dangerous and consequently expensive diseases. So there is just a tremendous amount going through an enterprise architecture. It’s necessary to have a coherent narrative of what the organization needs to do.

The way we deal with complexity is through classification. I suggest that there is more than one way to classify things.

Bellman: One thing we all need to keep in mind is even more dynamic than that, if you believe even a little bit of Kurzweil's possibilities is that -- are people familiar with Ray Kurzweil's 'The Singularity Is Near' -- 2037 will be around the singularly between computers and human beings.

So I think that the wrap where he argues that the amount of change is not linear but exponential, and so in a sense you will never catch up, but you need an architecture to manage that.

Zachman: The way we deal with complexity is through classification. I suggest that there is more than one way to classify things. One is one-dimensional classification, taxonomy, or hierarchy, in effect, decompositions, one-dimensional classification, and that's really helpful for manufacturing. From an engineering standpoint of a two-dimensional classification, where we have classified things so that they are normalized, one effect in one place.

Then if you have the problems identified, you can postulate several technology changes or several changes and simulate the various implications of it.

The whole reason why I do architecture has to do with change. You deal with extreme complexity and then you have to accommodate extreme change. There is no other way to deal with it. Humanity, for thousands of years, has not been able to figure out a better way to deal with complexity and change other than architecture.

Forde: Maybe we shouldn't apply architecture to some things.

For example, maybe the technologies or the opportunity is so new, we need to have the decision-making framework that says, you know what, let's not try and figure out all this, just to self-control their stuff in advance, okay? Let's let it run and see what happens, and then when it’s at the appropriate point for architecture, let's apply it, this is a more organic view of the way nature and life works than the enterprise view of it.

So what I am saying is that architecture is not irrelevant in that context. It's actually there is a part of the decision-making framework to not architect something at this point in time because it's inappropriate to do so.

Funding and budgeting

Band: Yeah, I agree that wholeheartedly. If it can't be health solutions, we are a completely agile shop. All the technology development is on the same sprint cycle, and we have three-week sprints, but we also have certain things that are still annual and wonderful like funding and budgeting.

We live in a tension. People say, well, what are you going to do, what budget do you need, but at the same time, I haven't figured everything out. So I am constantly living in that gap of what do I need to meet a certain milestone to get my project funded, and what do I need to do to go forward? Obviously, in a fully agile organization, all those things would be fluid. But then there's financial reporting, and we would also have to be fluid too. So there are barriers to that.

For instance, the Scaled Agile Framework, which I think is a fascinating thing, has a very clear place for enterprise architecture. As Chris said, you don't want to do too much of it in advance.  I am constantly getting the gap between how can I visualize what's going to happen a year out and how can I give the development teams what they need for the sprint. So I am always living in that paradox.

“The effective organization is garrulous, clumsy, superstitious, hypocritical, mostrous, octopoid, wandering, and grouchy."

Bellman: The Gartner Group, not too long ago, came up with the concept of emerging enterprise architecture and what we are dealing with. Enterprises don't exist like buildings. A building is an object, but an enterprise is a group of human beings communicating with one another.

As a very famous organizational psychologist Karl Weick once pointed out, “The effective organization is garrulous, clumsy, superstitious, hypocritical, mostrous, octopoid, wandering, and grouchy." Why? Because an organization is continually adapting, continually changing, and continually adapting to the changing business and technological landscape.

To expect anything other than that is not having a realistic view of the enterprise. It is emerging and it is a continually emerging phenomena. So in a sense, having an architecture concept I would not contest, but architecting is always worthwhile. It's like it's an organic phenomena, and that in order to deal with that what we can also understand and have an architecture for organic phenomena that change and rapidly adapt.

Brown: Chris, where you were going follows the lines of what great companies do, right?

There is a great book published about 30 years ago called ‘In Search of Excellence.’ If you haven’t read it, I suggest that people do. Written by Peters and Waterman, and Tom Peters has tried for ever since to try and recreate something with that magic, but one of the lessons learned was what great companies do, is something that goes simultaneous loose-tight properties. So you let somethings be very tightly controlled, and other things as are suggesting, let them flourish and see where they go before I actually box them in. So that’s a good thought.

So what do we think, as a panel, about evolving TOGAF to become an engineering methodology as well as a manufacturing methodology?

Zachman: I really think it’s a good idea.

Brown: Chris, do you have any thoughts on that?

Interesting proposal

Forde: I think it’s an interesting proposal and I think we need to look at it fairly seriously. The Open Group approach to things is, don’t lock people into a specific way of thinking, but we also advocate disciplined approach to doing things. So I would susspect that we are going to be exploring John’s proposal pretty seriously.

Brown: You mentioned in your talk that decision-making process is a precondition, the decision-making process to govern IT investments, and the question that comes in is how about other types of investments including facilities, inventory and acquisitions?

Forde: The wording of the presentation was very specific. Most organizations have a process or decision-making framework on an annual basis or quarterly whatever the cycles are for allocation of funding to do X, Y or Z. So the implication wasn’t that IT was the only space that it would be applied.

In many organizations, or in a lot of organizations, the IT function is essentially an enterprise-wide activity that’s supporting the financial activities, the plant activities, these sorts of things.

However, the question is how effective is that decision-making framework? In many organizations, or in a lot of organizations, the IT function is essentially an enterprise-wide activity that’s supporting the financial activities, the plant activities, these sorts of things. So you have the P and Ls from those things flowing in some way into the funding that comes to the IT organization.

The question is, when there are multiple complexities in an organization, multiple departments with independent P and Ls, they are funding IT activities in a way that may not be optimized, may or may not be optimized. For the architects, in my view, one of the avenues for success is in inserting yourself into that planning cycle and influencing,  because normally the architecture team does not have direct control over the spend, but influencing how that spend goes.

Over time gradually improving the enterprise’s ability to optimize and make effective the funding it applies for IT to support the rest of the business.

Zachman: Yeah, I was just wondering, you’ve got to make observation.

Band: I agree, I think that the battle to control shadow IT has been permanently lost. We are in a technology obsessed society. Every department wants to control some technology and even develop it to their needs. There are some controls that you do have, and we do have some, but we have core health insurance businesses that are nearly a 100 years old.

Cambia is constantly investing and acquiring new companies that are transforming healthcare. Cambia has over a 100 million customers all across the country even though our original business was a set of regional health plans.

Build relationships

You can't possibly rationalize all of everything I want you to pay for on that thing. It is incumbent upon the architects, especially the senior ones, to build relationships with the people in these organizations and make sure everything is synergetic.

Many years ago, there was a senior architect. I asked him what he did, and he said, "Well, I'm just the glue. I go to a lot of meetings." There are deliverables and deadlines too, but there is a part of consistently building the relationships and noticing things, so that when there is time to make a decision or someone needs something, it gets done right.

Zachman: I was in London when Bank of America got bought by NationsBank, and it was touted as the biggest banking merger in the history of the banking industry.

If I was the CEO and my strategy was to grow by acquisition, I would get really interested in enterprise architecture.

Actually it wasn’t a merger, it was an acquisition NationsBank acquired Bank of America and then changed the name to Bank of America. There was a London paper that was  observing that the headline you always see is, “The biggest merger in the history of the industry.” The headline you never see is, “This merger didn't work.”

The cost of integrating the two enterprises exceeded the value of the acquisition. Therefore, we’re going to have to break this thing up in pieces and sell off the pieces as surreptitiously as possible, so nobody will notice that we buried any accounting notes someplace or other. You never see that article. You’ll only see the one about the biggest merger.

If I was the CEO and my strategy was to grow by acquisition, I would get really interested in enterprise architecture. Because you have to be able to anticipate the integration of the cost, if you want to merge two enterprises. In fact, you’re changing the scope of the enterprise. I have talked a little bit about the role on models, but you are changing the scope. As soon as you change a scope, you’re now going to be faced with an integration issue.

Therefore you have to make a choice, scrap and rework. There is no way, after the fact, to integrate parts that don’t fit together. So you’re gong to be faced a decision whether you want to scrap and rework or not. I would get really interested in enterprise architecture, because that's what you really want to know before you make the expenditure. You acquire and obviously you've already blown out all the money. So now you’ve got a problem.

Once again, if I was the CEO and I want to grow by acquisition or merger acquisition, I would get really interested in enterprise architecture.

Cultural issues

Beryl Bellman: One of the big problems we are addressing here is also the cultural and political problems of organizations or enterprises. You could have the best design type of system, and if people and politics don't agree, there are going to be these kind of conflicts.

I was involved in my favorite projects at consulting. I was involved in consulting with NCR, who was dealing with Hyundai and Samsung and trying to get them together at a conjoint project. They kept fighting with each other in terms of knowledge management, technology transfer, and knowledge transfer. My role of it was to do an architecture of that whole process.

It was called RIAC Research Institute in Computer Technology. On one side of the table, you had Hyundai and Samsung. On the other side of the table, you had NCR. They were throwing PowerPoint slides back and forth at each other. I brought up that the software we used at that time was METIS, and METIS modeled all the processes, everything that was involved.

The frameworks are about creating shared understanding of what we have and where are we going to go, and the frameworks are just a set of tools that you have in your toolbox that most people don't understand.

Samsung said you just hit it with a 2×4. I used to be demonstrating it, rather than tossing out slides, here are the relationships, and be able to show that it really works. To me that was a real demonstration that I can even overcome some of the politics and cultural differences within enterprises.

Brown: I want to give one more question. I think this is more of a concern that we have raised in some people's minds today, which is, we are talking about all these different frameworks and ontologies, and so there is a first question.

The second one is probably the key one that we are looking at, but it asks what does each of the frameworks lack, what are the key elements that are missing, because that leads on to the second question that says, isn't needing to understand old enterprise architecture frameworks is not a complex exercise for a practitioner?

Band: My job is not about understanding frameworks. I have been doing enterprises solution architecture in HP at a standard and diversified financial services company and now at health insurance and health solutions company out for quite a while, and it’s really about communicating and understanding in a way that's useful to your stakeholders.

The frameworks are about creating shared understanding of what we have and where are we going to go, and the frameworks are just a set of tools that you have in your toolbox that most people don't understand.

So the idea is not to understand everything but to get a set of tools, just like a mechanic would, that you carry around that you use all the time. For instance, there are certain types of ArchiMate views that I use when I am in a group. I will draw an ArchiMate business process view with application service use of the same. What are the business processes you need to be and what are the exposed application behaviors that they need to consume?

I had that discussion with people on the business who are in IT, and we drove those diagrams. That's a useful tool, it works for me, it works for the people around me, it works in my culture, but there is no understanding over frameworks unless that's your field of study. They are all missing the exact thing you need for a particular interaction, but most likely there is something in there that you can base the next critical interaction on.

Six questions

Zachman: I spent most of my life thinking about my frameworks. There are six questions you have to answer to have a complete description of whatever it is, what I will describe, what, how, where, who, and why. So that’s complete.

The philosophers have established six transformations interestingly enough, the transfer of idea into an instantiation, so that's a complete set, and I did not invent either one of these, so the six interrogatives. They have the six stages of transformation and that framework has to, by definition, accommodate any factor that’s relevant to the existence of the object of the enterprise.  Therefore any fact has to be classifiable in that structure.

My framework is complete in that regard. For many years, I would have been reluctant to make a categorical statement, but we exercised this, and there is no anomaly. I can’t find an anomaly. Therefore I have a high level of confidence that you can classify any fact in that context.

There is one periodic table. There are n different compound manufacturing processes. You can manufacture anything out of the periodic table. That metaphor is really helpful. There's one enterprise architecture framework ontology. I happened to stumble across, by accident, the ontology for classifying all of the facts relevant to an enterprise.

In terms of completeness I think my framework is complete. I can find no anomalies and you can classify anything relative to that framework.

I wish I could tell you that I was so smart and understood all of these things at the beginning, but I knew nothing about this, I just happened to stumble across it. The framework fell on my desk one day and I saw the pattern. All I did was I put enterprise names on the same pattern for descriptive representation of anything. You’ve heard me tell quite a bit of the story this afternoon. In terms of completeness I think my framework is complete. I can find no anomalies and you can classify anything relative to that framework.

And I agree with Iver, that there are n different tools you might want to use. You don’t have to know everything about every framework. One thing is, whatever the tool is that you need to deal with and out of the context of the periodic table metaphor, the ontological construct of The Zachman Framework, you can accommodate whatever artifacts the tool creates.

You don’t have to analyze every tool, whatever tool is necessary, if you want to do with business architecture, you can create whatever the business architecture manifestation is. If you want to know what DoDAF is, you can create the DoDAF artifacts. You can create any composite, and you can create any compound from the periodic table. It’s the same idea.

I wouldn't spend my life trying to understand all these frameworks. You have to operate the enterprise, you have to manage the enterprise and whatever the tool is, it’s required to do whatever it is that you need to do and there is something good about everything and nothing necessarily does everything.

So use the tool that's appropriate and then you can create whatever the composite constructs are required by that tool out of the primitive components of the framework. I wouldn’t try to understand all the frameworks.

What's missing

Forde: On a daily basis there is a line of people at these conferences coming to tell me what’s missing from TOGAF. Recently we conducted a survey through the Association of Enterprise Architects about what people needed to see. Basically the stuff came back pretty much, please give us more guidance that’s specific to my situation, a recipe for how to solve world hunger, or something like that. We are not in the role of providing that level of prescriptive detail.

The value side of the equation is the flexibility of the framework to a certain degree to allow many different industries and many different practitioners drive value for their business out of using that particular tool.

So some people will find value in the content metamodel in the TOGAF Framework and the other components of it, but if you are not happy with that, if it doesn't meet your need, flip over to The Zachman Framework or vice versa.

John made it very clear earlier that the value in the framework that he has built throughout his career and has been used repeatedly around the world is its rigor, it’s comprehensiveness, but he made very clear, it’s not a method. There is nothing in there to tell you how to go do it.

The value side of the equation is the flexibility of the framework to a certain degree to allow many different industries and many different practitioners drive value for their business out of using that particular tool.

So you could criticize The Zachman Framework for a lack of method or you could spend your time talking about the value of it as a very useful tool to get X, Y, and Z done.

From a practitioner’s standpoint, what one practitioner does is interesting in a value, but if you have a practice between 200 and 400 architects, you don't want everybody running around like a loose cannon doing it their way, in my opinion. As a practice manager or leader you need something that makes those resources very, very effective. And when you are in a practice of that size, you probably have a handful of people trying to figure out how the frameworks come together, but most of the practitioners are tasked with taking what the organization says is their best practice and executing on it.

We are looking at improving the level of guidance provided by the TOGAF material, the standard and guidance about how to do specific scenarios.

For example, how to jumpstart an architecture practice, how to build a secure architecture, how to do business architecture well? Those are the kinds of things that we have had feedback on and we are working on around that particular specification.

Brown: So if you are employed by the US Department of Defense you would be required to use DoDAF, if you are an enterprise architect, because of the views it provides. But people like Terri Blevins that did work in the DoD many years, used TOGAF to populate DoDAF. It’s a method, and the method is the great strength.

If you want to have more information on that, there are a number of white papers on our website about using TOGAF with DoDAF, TOGAF with COBIT, TOGAF with Zachman, TOGAF with everything else.

Forde: TOGAF with frameworks, TOGAF with buy in, the thing to look at is the ecosystem of information around these frameworks is where the value proposition really is. If you are trying to bootstrap your standards practice inside, the framework is of interest, but applied use, driving to the value proposition for your business function is the critical area to focus on.

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Tags:  BriefingsDirect  Dana Gardner  enterprise architect  enterprise architecture  Interarbor Solutions  The Open Group  The Open Group Conference  TOGAF  Zachman Framework 

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Mobility moves from 'nice to have' to 'must have' for large US healthcare insurer

Posted By Dana L Gardner, Friday, February 27, 2015

The next BriefingsDirect enterprise mobile strategy discussion comes to you directly from the Kony World 2015 Conference on Feb. 4 in Orlando.

This five-part series of penetrating discussions on the latest in enterprise mobility explores advancements in applications design and deployment technologies across the full spectrum of edge devices and operating environments.

Our next innovation interview focuses on how a large US insurance carrier, based in the Midwest, has improved its applications’ lifecycle to make enterprise mobility a must-have business strength.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Read a full transcript or download a copy.

To learn how, we welcome our guest mobility leader, Scott Jessee, Vice President of IT for this Illinois health insurance provider. The discussion is moderated by me, Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions.

Here are some excerpts:

Gardner: Where is your organization in regard to mobility? Where do you stand?

Jessee: It’s important to think about where we came from. When we started off in mobile, it was not an imperative. It was not something where we had to get in. It was a nice-to-have that was in the forefront, but there wasn’t enough return on investment (ROI) in people’s minds. That shifted quickly in our business model when -- from a sales’ perspective -- it became an absolute requirement that we needed to have mobile in order for us to complete our sales.

Jessee

So fast-forward to where we are now. We've been running with this for a little bit and we're primarily focusing on the consumer market, which is also exciting for us. We're in healthcare, and with the Affordable Care Act, and with lot of shifts and distribution channels, there has been a stronger need for us to have to focus on the consumer.

From a mobile perspective, most of our feedback and requests are driven in that fashion. We had to ask, "What could we do to engage through mobility? What could we do to give them more value as a product through mobility? And, how could we give it to them in a fast manner?" All those dimensions are hitting us pretty heavy right now in terms of what we are trying to think ahead for.

Gardner: Are you delivering mobility on an application-by-application basis? Or can you create a significant platform or reuse benefit in how you produce mobile applications?

Focus on multichannel

Jessee: For us, one of the biggest things from that point of view is getting a mobile application at the consumer level where we permanently focus on multichannel. That's huge for us, because the market is demanding you to have multiple devices, and there are more-and-more devices each and every year.

You have Samsung for the Android side, you have your iOS Apple on your Apple side, and then you have the tablets and smartphones and soon-to-be wearable devices. There is a plethora of different demands that people want to consume the information transaction that you get them in order to have the experience that they want.

From our perspective, we try to be as savvy as we can with that, and we leverage the Kony Platform to help us achieve that. We wouldn't be able to have as lean of a staff as we do to help support and drive that forward. And it’s primarily because the fact we can do some level of "develop once" and then deliver out through these different devices over a period of time. So it’s been big gains for us.

Gardner: What are the business benefits of going with mobile apps?

When they come to us with new pieces that they want, we can typically do it in six to eight weeks, compared to a three- or four-month cycle on the website.

Jessee: We get feedback on from our business folks that it's different than the web. We're able to deliver faster than we can in the web apps space. They're more satisfied on delivery time and cycle time. When they come to us with new pieces that they want, we can typically do it in six to eight weeks, compared to a three- or four-month cycle on the website. That’s just the nature of what we are doing. So they smile with us a little more in the mobile space, which is good.

You hit on metrics. We have good analytics we could provide in terms of page-views that they see. If they're trying to deliver a new content or something to that effect, we could show them that this worked, and this didn't work. We also have individual plans/states that own their marketing efforts. Based on their individual campaigns, we are able to provide them metrics of a particular state is seeing an uptake in downloads or usage of the mobile app.

So those are the two key things I think that they like about what we are able to deliver with them as relates to those two concepts.

Gardner: We're here at Kony World 2015 and one of the things we're hearing about is the importance of the user experience. Now that you're dealing with the Affordable Care Act, you're in more of a marketplace. The way in which your application comes across to a prospective insurance client compares to the other insurance organizations that they might be perusing. So how does the user experience factor into your development and deployment strategy, and how is Kony helping you with that?

Jessee: The big thing this week here at Kony World that was exciting to us is seeing the further enhancements of their Visualizer 2.0 product. Visualizer 2.0 allows marketing and communication leaders to sit up front and design the look/feel of a mobile application using an Adobe Photoshop-type experience. Our marketing communication teams demand this, because user experience is king.

The new imperative is consumer experience. You need to have something that people can use easily.

The new imperative is consumer experience. You need to have something that people can use easily, efficiently, and meet the demands that they're looking for as it relates to the functions they need to accomplish, and then beyond that what's your other value opportunities.

Kony does a great job of setting us up for success in that regard. In addition to the productivity gains we get out of this, they have good tools that will help us provide this customer experience in ways that we could show marketing communications to ask, "What do you think. Let's tweak it. Let’s alter it."

We could leverage agency input in a more efficient streamlined manner for the user interfaces that we create. So all those things are really going to springboard us forward, so we are not spending as much time doing it. From the visual consuming perspective, it should be a better experience, and that’s what we are hoping to get out of it, and showcasing the future opportunities there, too.

Gardner: The thing that’s been intriguing for me here at Kony World is I see their application marketplace and the new application, Kony Sales. This might not be an exact fit for you and your vertical industry, but it seems to me that they're taking a step toward having a packaged application targeted at a specific industry that takes you maybe 80 percent of the way you need to be with a lot of the back-end integration in place, with a lot of the ability to customize, but still governed by the IT department.

So, as the IT person, you're going to get a control over who can do what, but you're also going to have your end users, your line-of-business customers, getting a say as to what their app can do and can't do. It strikes me that another important part of user experience is having more say in an app and being part of the development process.

A step forward

Jessee: That's a big jump. I talked to [Kony CEO] Tom Hogan yesterday and he explained it really well, and he relates well to business users, too. Think of what’s going on with Salesforce, and how those constituencies and stakeholders that leverage that are used to configuring an application base or micro-applications. This is really taking Kony a step forward in meeting that marketplace and even extend it beyond that with the release of the both the marketplace and the two ready-to-go applications.

That's the opportunity at hand for potential business folks, as they've already been doing some of this today in some of the other venues, and now they have an opportunity to do this with Kony.

As an IT person, where we could really take advantage of it, is to reduce our workload with some of the configuration components, so it’s little off our hands. We could focus more on the marketplace, which would allow us to create these micro apps, these core functional areas, that we could then showcase, drop in, share, etc. That really puts us in a good position in terms of facilitating innovation, which obviously is hot in healthcare and all industries, but helps you further move that ball forward.

Gardner: What about the issue of security? Because you're in healthcare and regulatory compliance is so important, how do you see the security with the mobile application developing, and how again does that integrated platform -- write once, run everywhere -- benefit you?

That's the opportunity at hand for potential business folks, as they've already been doing some of this today in some of the other venues, and now they have an opportunity to do this with Kony.

Jessee: That’s a really hard part, especially in mobile. If you think back 10 years ago on the web space, security was probably where mobile is now. In 2013, there were no publicized or known mobile risks that were made, but in 2014 I think there were 9 or 10. So that was a big jump from 0 to 9 or 10 of big named companies.

What’s ahead in 2015 is even scarier, but that relates to what Kony offers. Tom Hogan showed today what they're trying to drive toward, and he used the acronym S-A-U-C-E to describe the value they are driving with their solutions: Security, Agility, Usability, Certainty, and Efficiency. The first one being security in priority order, which puts me at ease.

One of the things that has helped is through some of the security components in Kony. They've been pretty up-to-date with some of the trends that we pull from our third-party auditors that are looking at our mobile applications. It showcases things like SSL pinning, including that in your code, and helping you facilitate the transactions the right way. So that’s a good thing for us.

I think an opportunity for Kony is to continue to showcase those specifics to not just the customer base but the non-customer base. Mobile is going to continue to get exponentially more challenging when it comes to security, because the threats out there are just starting to hit it and they are just getting fresh into it.

Internet of Things

Gardner: Looking forward now to what’s going to come down the highway. We hear about the Internet of Things. We're seeing more and more, in healthcare, data being derived from sensors and devices, and we are seeing closer partnership between payers and providers when it comes to data sharing in the healthcare sector. So where does healthcare and mobility go for you over the next three to five years?

There was another interesting tidbit here at the show, where they said IDC is projecting that by 2017, 25 percent of IT budgets will be devoted in some way to mobility. Does that strike you as a low ball, and how important is mobility going to be to your IT budget?

Jessee: From a budgetary perspective that’s probably a fair guess, because mobility is also being redefined over time. A few years ago, it was just a smartphone, but now it’s people moving around, doing activities, transacting against a multitude of different devices, and I think wearable is a great example of that.

Mobile is going to continue to get exponentially more challenging when it comes to security, because the threats out there are just starting to hit it and they are just getting fresh into it.

What do wearables mean to us? It’s an unknown for us, and it’s on our radar that we need to identify some potential use cases, but we haven’t seen enough of it yet. We've got the Fitbits that are out there that are pretty hot, but now you have got the watches that are coming out. Samsung had theirs last year; Apple is doing theirs this year. What is that going to look like? We are not a 100 percent sure yet.

From our perspective, it’s making sure we have a flag against it for us to see what we could potentially do. It’s a little abstract for us to actually activate against, but we're not leaving it to rest either.

Gardner: And the issue about the sensors and the Internet of Things. Do you consider that mobility or is that a separate area, big data perhaps? How do you see the mobile drive for user experience and life cycle benefits now, and how does that compare to that Internet of Things and sensors and data in healthcare?

Jessee: It’s both. When you say mobility and big data, it goes two ways. One, it’s the consuming of these different sensors across mobile devices and mobile transactions that take place.

The other thing that happens is on the big data front is that it’s an opportunity to collect data and understand your consumer base, to understand your providers, to make better decisions, to help add value along the chain. But it’s two-way information that you have to collect in order to really activate both sides of the house, but they play together. They both have to.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Read a full transcript or download a copy. Sponsor: Kony, Inc.

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Tags:  BriefingsDirect  Dana Gardner  Interarbor Solutions  Kony  Kony Marketplace  Kony Sales App  Kony World  Mobility  Scott Jessee 

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RealTime Medicare Data delivers caregiver trends insights by taming its healthcare data

Posted By Dana L Gardner, Thursday, February 26, 2015

The next edition of the HP Discover Podcast Series highlights how RealTime Medicare Data analyzes huge volumes of Medicare data and provides analysis to their many customers on the caregiver side of the healthcare sector.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Read a full transcript or download a copy.

Here to explain how they manage such large data requirements for quality, speed, and volume, we're joined by Scott Hannon, CIO of RealTime Medicare Data and he's based in Birmingham, Alabama. The discussion is moderated by me, Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions.

Here are some excerpts:

Gardner: Tell us about your organization and some of the major requirements you have from an IT perspective.

Hannon: RealTime Medicare Data has full census Medicare, which includes Part A and Part B, and we do analysis on this data. We provide reports that are in a web-based tool to our customers who are typically acute care organizations, such as hospitals. We also do have a product that provides analysis specific to physicians and their billing practices.

Gardner:  And, of course, Medicare is a very large US government program to provide health insurance to the elderly and other qualifying individuals.

Hannon: Yes, that’s true.

Gardner: So what sorts of data requirements have you had? Is this a volume, a velocity, a variety type of the problem, all the above?

Volume problem

Hannon: It’s been mostly a volume problem, because we're actually a very small company. There are only three of us in the IT department, but it was just me as the IT department, back when I started in 2007.

Hannon

At that time, we had one state, Alabama and then, we began to grow. We grew to seven states which was the South region: Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Mississippi. We found that Microsoft SQL Server was not really going to handle the type of queries that we did with the volume of data.

Currently we have 18 states. We're loading about a terabyte of data per year, which is about 630 million claims and our database currently houses about 3.7 billion claims.

Gardner: That is some serious volume of data. From the analytics side, what sort of reporting do you do on that data, who gets it, and what are some of their requirements in terms of how they like to get strategic benefit from this analysis.

Hannon: Currently, most of our customers are general acute-care hospitals. We have a web-based tool that has reports in it. We provide reports that start at the physician level. We have reports that start at the provider level. We have reports that you can look at by state.

This allows them to look not only at themselves, but to compare themselves to other places, like their market, the region, and the state.

The other great thing about our product is that typically providers have data on themselves, but they can't really compare themselves to the providers in their market or state or region. So this allows them to look not only at themselves, but to compare themselves to other places, like their market, the region, and the state.

Gardner: I should think that’s hugely important, given that Medicare is a very large portion of funding for many of these organizations in terms of their revenue. Knowing what the market does and how they compare to it is essential.

Hannon: Typically, for a hospital, about 40 to 45 percent of their revenue depends on Medicare. The other thing that we've found is that most physicians don't change how they practice medicine based on whether it’s a Medicare patient, a Blue Cross patient, or whoever their private insurance is.

So the insights that they gain by looking at our reports are pretty much 90 to 95 percent of how their business is going to be running.

Gardner: It's definitely mission-critical data then. So you started with a relational database, using standard off-the-shelf products. You grew rapidly, and your volume issues grew. Tell us what the problems were and what requirements you had that led you to seek an alternative.

Exponential increase

Hannon: There were a couple of problems. One, obviously, was the volume. We found that we had to increase the indexes exponentially, because we're talking about 95 percent reads here on the database. As I said, the Microsoft SQL Server really was not able to handle that volume as we expanded.

The first thing we tried was to move to an analysis services back end. For that project, we got an outside party to help us because we would need to redesign our front end completely to be able to query analysis services.

It just so happened that that project was taking way too long to implement. I started looking at other alternatives and, just by pure research, I happened to find Vertica. I was reading about it and thought "I'm not sure how this is even possible." It didn’t even seem possible to be able to do this with this amount of data.

So we got a trial of it. I started using it and was impressed that it actually could do what it said it could do.

and gain access to the

FREE HP Vertica Community Edition

Gardner: As I understand it, Vertica has the column store architecture. Was that something understood? What is it about the difference of the Vertica approach to data -- one that perhaps caught your attention at first, and how has that worked out for you?

Hannon: To me the biggest advantages were the fact that it uses the standard SQL query language, so I wouldn't have to learn the MDX, which is required with the analysis services. I don’t understand the complete technical details about column storage, but I understand that it's much faster and that it doesn't have to look at every single row. It can build the actual data set much faster, which gives you much better performance on the front end.

Gardner: And what sort of performance have you had?

Hannon: Typically we have seen about a tenfold decrease in actual query performance time. Before, when we would run reports, it would take about 20 minutes. Now, they take roughly two minutes. We're very happy about that.

Gardner: How long has it been since you implemented HP Vertica and what are some of supporting infrastructures that you've relied on?

Hannon: We implemented Vertica back in 2010. We ended up still utilizing the Microsoft SQL Server as a querying agent, because it was much easier to continue to interface the SQL reporting services, which is what our web-based product uses. And the stored procedure functionality that was in there and also the open query feature.

So we just pull the data directly from Vertica and then send it through Microsoft SQL Server to the reporting services engine.

New tools

Gardner: I've heard from many organizations that not only has this been a speed and volume issue, but there's been an ability to bring new tools to the process. Have you changed any of the tooling that you've used for analysis? How have you gone about creating your custom reports?

Hannon: We really haven't changed the reports themselves. It's just that I know when I design a query to pull a specific set of data that I don’t have to worry that it's going to take me 20 minutes to get some data back. I'm not saying that in Vertica every query is 30 seconds, but the majority of the queries that I do use don’t take that long to bring the data back. It’s much improved over the previous solution that we were using.

Gardner: Are there any other quality issues, other than just raw speeds and feeds issues, that you've encountered? What are some of the paybacks you've gotten as a result of this architecture?

But I will tell people to not be afraid of Linux, because Vertica runs on Linux and it’s easy.

Hannon: First of all, I want to say that I didn’t have a lot of experience with Unix or Linux on the back end and I was a little bit rusty on what experience I did have. But I will tell people to not be afraid of Linux, because Vertica runs on Linux and it’s easy. Most of the time, I don’t even have to mess with it.

So now that that's out of the way, some of the biggest advantages of Vertica is the fact that you can expand to multiple nodes to handle the load if you've got a larger client base. It’s very simple. You basically just install commodity hardware, but whatever flavor of Unix or Linux that you prefer, as long as it’s compatible, the installation does all the rest for you, as long as you tell it you're doing multiple nodes.

The other thing is the fact that you have multiple nodes that allow for fault tolerance. That was something that we really didn't have with our previous solution. Now we have fault tolerance and load balancing.

Gardner: Any lessons learned, as you made this transition from a SQL database to a Vertica columnar store database? You even moved the platform from Windows to Linux. What might you tell others who are pursuing a shift in their data strategy because they're heading somewhere else?

Jump right in

Hannon: As I said before, don’t be afraid of Linux. If you're a Microsoft or a Mac shop, just don’t be afraid to jump in. Go get the free community edition or talk to a salesperson and try it out. You won't be disappointed. Since the time we started using it, they have made multiple improvements to the product.

The other thing that I learned was that with OPENQUERY, there are specific ways that you have to write the store procedures. I like to call it "single-quote hell," because when you write OPENQUERY and you have to quote something, there are a lot of other additional single quotes that you have put in there. I learned that there was a second way of doing it that lessened that impact.

Gardner: Okay, good. And we're here at HP Discover. What's interesting for you to learn here at the show and how does that align with what your next steps are in your evolution?

Hannon:  I'm definitely interested in seeing all the other capabilities that Vertica has and seeing how other people are using it in their industry and for their customers.

I'm definitely interested in seeing all the other capabilities that Vertica has and seeing how other people are using it in their industry and for their customers.

Gardner: In terms of your deployment, are you strictly on-premises for the foreseeable future? Do you have any interest in pursuing a hybrid or cloud-based deployments for any of your data services?

Hannon: We actually use a private cloud, which is hosted at TekLinks in Birmingham. We've been that way ever since we started, and that seems to work well for us, because we basically just rent rack space and provide our own equipment. They have the battery backup, power backup generators, and cooling.

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Tags:  BriefingsDirect  Dana Gardner  HP  HP Vertica  HPDiscover  Interarbor Solutions  RealTime Medicare  Scott Hannon  SQL 

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Columbia Sportswear sets torrid pace for reaping global business benefits from software-defined data center

Posted By Dana L Gardner, Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The next BriefingsDirect innovator case study interview shines a light on how on Columbia Sportswear has made a successful journey to software-defined data center (SDDC).

Through our panel discussion at the recent VMworld 2014 Conference in San Francisco, we explore how retailer Columbia Sportswear has made great strides in improving their business results through modernized IT, and where they expect to go next with their software-defined strategy.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Read a full transcript or download a copy.

To learn more about the new wave of IT, we sat down with Suzan Pickett, Manager of Global Infrastructure Services at Columbia Sportswear in Portland, Oregon; Tim Melvin, Director of Global Technology Infrastructure at Columbia, and Carlos Tronco, Lead Systems Engineer at Columbia Sportswear. The discussion is moderated by me, Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions.

Here are some excerpts:

Gardner: People are familiar with your brand, but they might not be familiar with your global breadth. Tell us a little bit about the company, so we appreciate the task ahead of you as IT practitioners.

Pickett: Columbia Sportswear is in its 75th year. We're a leader in global manufacturing of apparel, outdoor accessories, and equipment. We're distributed worldwide and we have infrastructure in 46 locations around the world that we manage today. We're very happy to say that we're 100 percent virtualized on VMware products.

Pickett

Gardner: And those 46 locations, those aren't your retail outlets. That's just the infrastructure that supports your retail. Is that correct?

Pickett: Exactly, our retail footprint in North America is around 110 retail stores today. We're looking to expand that with our joint venture in China over the next few years with Swire, distributor of Columbia Sportswear products.

Gardner: You're clearly a fast-growing organization, and retail itself is a fast-changing industry. There’s lots going on, lots of data to crunch -- gaining more inference about buyer preferences --  and bringing that back into a feedback loop. It’s a very exciting time.

Tell me about the business requirements that you've had that have led you to reinvest and re-energize IT. What are the business issues that are behind that?

Global transformation

Pickett: Columbia Sportswear has been going through a global business transformation. We've been refreshing our enterprise resource planning (ERP). We had a green-field implementation of SAP. We just went live with North America in April of this year, and it was a very successful go-live. We're 100 percent virtualized on VMware products and we're looking to expand that into Asia and Europe as well.

So, with our global business transformation, also comes our consumer experience, on the retail side as well as wholesale. IT is looking to deliver service to the business, so they can become more agile and focused on engineering better products and better design and get that out to the consumer.

Gardner: To be clear, your retail efforts are not just brick and mortar. You're also doing it online and perhaps even now extending into the mobile tier. Any business requirements there that have changed your challenges?

Pickett: Absolutely. We're really pleased to announce, as of summer 2014, that Columbia Sportswear is an AirWatch customer as well. So we get to expand our end-user computing and our VMWare Horizon footprint as well as some of our SDDC strategies.

We're looking at expanding not only our e-commerce and brick-and-mortar, but being able to deliver more mobile platform-agnostic solutions for Columbia Sportswear, and extend that out to not only Columbia employees, but our consumer experience.

Gardner: Let’s hear from Tim about your data center requirements. How does what Suzan told us about your business challenges translate into IT challenges?

https://www.linkedin.com/pub/tim-melvin/1/654/609

Melvin

Melvin: With our business changing and growing as quickly as it is, and with us doing business and selling directly to consumers in more than 100 countries around the world, our data centers have to be adaptable. Our data and our applications have to be secure and available, no matter where we are in the world, whether you're on network or off-premises.

The SDDC has been a game-changer for us. It’s allowed to take those technologies, host them where we need them, and with whatever cost configuration makes sense, whether it’s in the cloud or on-premises, and deliver the solutions that our business needs.

Gardner: Let's do a quick fact-check in terms of where you are in this journey to SDDC. It includes a lot. There are management aspects, network aspects, software-defined storage, and then of course mobile. Does anybody want to give me the report card on where you are in terms of this journey?

100 percent virtualized

Pickett: We're 100 percent virtualized with our compute workloads today. We also have our storage well-defined with virtualized storage. We're working on an early adoption proof of concept (POC) with VMware's NSX for software-defined networking.

It really fills our next step into defining our SDDC, being able to leverage all of our virtual workloads, being able to extend that into the vCloud Air hybrid cloud, and being able to burst our workloads to expand our data centers our toolsets. So we're looking forward to our next step of our journey, which is software-defined networking via NSX.

Gardner: Taking that network plunge, what about the public-cloud options for your hybrid cloud? Do you use multiple public clouds, and what's behind your choice on which public clouds to use?

Melvin: When you look at infrastructure and the choice between on-premise solutions, hybrid clouds, public and private clouds, I don't think it's a choice necessarily of which answer you choose. There isn't one right answer. What’s important for infrastructure professionals is to understand the whole portfolio and understand where to apply your high-power, on-premises equipment and where to use your lower-cost public cloud, because there are trade-offs in each case.

What’s important for infrastructure professionals is to understand the whole portfolio and understand where to apply your high-power, on-premises equipment and where to use your lower-cost public cloud.

When we look at our workloads, we try to present the correct tool for the correct job. For instance, for our completely virtualized SAP environment we run that on internal, on-premises equipment. We start to talk about development in a sandbox, and those cases are probably best served in a public cloud, as long as we can secure and automate, just like we can on-site.

Gardner: As you're progressing through SDDC and you're exploring these different options and what works best both technically and economically in a hybrid cloud environment, what are you doing in terms of your data lifecycle. Is there a disaster recovery (DR) element to this? Are you doing warehousing in a different way and disturbing that, or are you centralizing it? I know that analysis of data is super important for retail organizations. Any thoughts about that data component on this overall architecture?

Pickett: Data is really becoming a primary concern for Columbia Sportswear, especially as we get into more analytical situations. Today, we have our two primary data centers in North America, which we do protect with VMWare’s vCenter Site Recovery Manager (SRM), a very robust DR solution.

We're very excited to work with an enterprise-class cloud like vCloud Air that has not only the services that we need to host our systems, but also DR as a service, which we're very interested in pursuing, especially around our remote branch office scenarios. In some of those remote countries, we don't have that protection today, and it will give a little more business continuity or disaster avoidance, as needed.

As we look at data in our data centers, our primary data centers with big data, if you will, and/or enterprise data warehouse strategies, we've started looking at how we're replicating the data where that data lives. We've started getting into active data center scenarios -- active, active.

We're really excited around some of the announcements we've heard recently at VMworld around virtual volumes (VVOLs) and where that’s going to take us in the next couple of years, specifically around vMotion over long-distance. Hopefully, we'll follow the sun, and maybe five years from now, we'll able to move our workloads from North America to Asia and be able to take those workloads and have them follow where the people are using them.

Geographic element

Gardner: That’s really interesting about that geographic element if you're a global company. I haven't heard that from too many other organizations. That’s an interesting concept about moving data and workloads around the world throughout the day.

We've seen some recent VMware news around different types of cloud data offerings, Cloud Object Store for example, and moving to a virtual private cloud on demand. Where do you see the next challenge is in terms of your organization and how do you feel that VMware is setting a goal post for you?

vCloud Air, being an enterprise-class offering, gives us the management capability and allows us to use the same tools that we would use on site.

Tronco: The vCloud Air offerings that we've heard so much about are an exciting innovation.

Public clouds have been available for a long time. There are a lot of places where they make sense, but vCloud Air, being an enterprise-class offering, gives us the management capability and allows us to use the same tools that we would use on-site.

It gives us the control that we need in order to provide a consistent experience to our end-users. I think there is a lot of power there, a lot of capability, and I'm really excited to see where that goes.

Gardner: How about some of the automation issues with the vRealize Suite, such Air Automation. Where do you see the component of managing all this? It becomes more complex when you go hybrid. It becomes, in one sense, more standardized and automated when you go software-defined, but you also have to have your hands on the dials and be able to move things.

https://www.linkedin.com/in/ctronco

Tronco

Tronco: One of the things that we really like about vCloud Air is the fact that we'll be able to use the same tools on-premises and off-premises, and won't have to switch between tools or dashboards. We can manage that infrastructure, whether it's on-premise or in the public cloud, will be able to leverage the efficiencies we have on-premise in vCloud Air as well.

We also can take advantage of some of those new services, like ObjectStore, that might be coming down the road, or even continuous integration (CI) as a service for some of our development teams as we start to get more into a DevOps world.

Customer reactions

Gardner: Let’s tie this back to the business. It's one thing to have a smooth-running, agile IT infrastructure machine. It's great to have an architecture that you feel is ready to take on your tasks, but how do you translate that back to the business? What does it get for you in business terms, and how are you seeing reactions from your business customers?

Pickett: We're really excited to be partnering with the business today. As IT comes out from underground a little bit and starts working more with the business and understanding their requirements -- especially with tools like VMware vRealize Automation, part of the vCloud Suite -- we're now partnering with our development teams to become more agile and help them deliver faster services to the business.

We're working on one of our e-commerce order confirmation toolsets with vRealize Automation, part of the vCloud Suite, and their ability to now package and replicate the work that they're doing rather than reinventing the wheel every time we build out an environment or they need to do a test or a development script.

By partnering with them and enabling them to be more agile, IT wins. We become more services-oriented. Our development teams are winning, because they're delivering faster to the business and the business wins, because now they're able to focus more on the core strategies for Columbia Sportswear.

Gardner: Do you have any examples that you can point to where there's been a time-to-market benefit, a time-to-value faster upgrade of an application, or even a data service that illustrates what you've been able to deliver as a result of your modernization?

Our development teams are winning, because they're delivering faster to the business and the business wins, because now they're able to focus more on the core strategies.

Pickett: Just going back to the toolset that I just mentioned. That was an upgrade process, and we took that opportunity to sit down with our development team and start socializing some of the ideas around VMware vRealize Automation and vCloud Air and being able to extend some of our services to them.

At the same time, our e-commerce teams are going through an upgrade process. So rather than taking weeks or months to deliver this technology to them, we were able to sit down, start working through the process, automate some of those services that they're doing, and start delivering. So, we started with development, worked through the process, and now we have quality assurance and staging and we're delivering product. All this is happening within a week.

So we're really delivering and we're being more agile and more flexible. That’s a very good use case for us internally from an IT standpoint. It's a big win for us, and now we're going to take it the next time we go through an upgrade process.

We've had this big win and now we're going to be looking at other technologies -- Java, .NET, or other solutions -- so that we can deliver and continue the success story that we're having with the business. This is the start of something pretty amazing, bringing development and infrastructure together and mobilizing what Columbia Sportswear is doing internally.

Gardner: Of course, we call it SDDC, but it leads to a much more comprehensive integrated IT function, as you say, extending from development, test, build, operations, cloud, and then sourcing things as required for a data warehouse and applications sets. So finally, in IT, after 30 or 40 years, we really have a unified vision, if you will.

Any thoughts, Tim, on where that unification will lead to even more benefits? Are there ancillary benefits from a virtuous adoption cycle that come to mind from that more holistic whole-greater-than-the-sum-of-the-parts IT approach?

Flexibility and power

Melvin: The closer we get to a complete software-defined infrastructure, the more flexibility and power we have to remove the manual components, the things that we all do a little differently and we can't do consistently.

We have a chance to automate more. We have the chance to provide integrations into other tools, which is actually a big part of why we chose VMware as our platform. They allow such open integration with partners that, as we start to move our workloads more actively into the cloud, we know that we won't get stuck with a particular product or a particular configuration.

The openness will allow us to adapt and change, and that’s just something you don't get with hardware. If it's software-defined, it means that you can control it and you can morph your infrastructure in order to meet your needs, rather than needing to re-buy every time something changes with the business.

Gardner: Of course, we think about not just technology, but people and process. How has all of this impacted your internal IT organization? Are you, in effect, moving people around, changing organizational charts, perhaps getting people doing things that they enjoy more than those manual tasks? Carlos, any thought about the internal impact of this on your human resources issues?

Tronco: Organizationally, we haven’t changed much, but the use of some thing like vRealize Automation allows us to let development teams do some of those tasks that they used to require us to do.

Now, we can do it in an automated fashion. We get consistency. We get the security that we need. We get the audit trail. But we don’t have to have somebody around on a Saturday for two minutes of work spread across eight hours. It also lets those application teams be more agile and do things when they're ready to do them.

We can all leverage the tools and configurations. That's really powerful.

Having that time free lets us do a better job with engineering, look down the road better with a little more clarity, maybe try some other things, and have more time to look at different options for the next thing down the road.

Melvin: Another point there is that, in a fully software-defined infrastructure, while it may not directly translate into organizational changes, it allows you to break down silos. Today, we have operations, system storage, and database teams working together on a common platform that they're all familiar with and they all understand.

We can all leverage the tools and configurations. That's really powerful. When you don't have the network guys sitting off doing things different from what the server guys are doing, you can focus more on comprehensive solutions, and that extends right into the development space, as Carlos mentioned. The next step is to work just as closely with our developers as we do with our peers and infrastructure.

Gardner: It sounds as if you're now also in a position to be more fleet. We all have higher expectations as consumers. When I go to a website or use an application, I expect that I'll see the product that I want, that I can order it, that it gets paid for, and then track it. There is a higher expectation from consumers now.

Is that part of your business payback that you tie into IT? Is there some way that we can define the relationship between that user experience for speed and what you're able to do from a software-defined perspective?

Preventing 'black ops'

Pickett: As an internal service provider for Columbia Sportswear, we can do it better, faster, and cheaper on-premise and with our toolsets from our partners at VMware. This helps prevent black ops situations, for example, where someone is going out to another cloud provider outside the parameters and guidelines from IT.

Today, we're partnering with the business. We're delivering that service. We're doing it at the speed of thought. We're not in a position where we're saying "no," "not yet," or "maybe in a couple of weeks," but "Yes, we can do that for you." So it's a very exciting position to be in that if someone comes to us or if we're reaching out, having conversations about tools, features, or functionality, we're getting a lot of momentum around utilizing those toolsets and then being able to expand our services to the business.

Tronco: Using those tools also allows us to turn around things faster within our development teams, to iterate faster, or to try and experiment on things without a lot of work on our part. They can try some of it, and if it doesn’t work, they can just tear it down.

Today, we're partnering with the business. We're delivering that service. We're doing it at the speed of thought.

Gardner: So you've gone through this journey and you're going to be plunging in deeper with software-defined networking. You have some early-adopter chops here. You guys have been bold and brave.

What advice might you offer to some other organizations that are looking at their data-center architecture and strategy, thinking about the benefits of hybrid cloud, software-defined, and maybe trying to figure out in which order to go about it?

Pickett: I'd recommend that, if you haven’t virtualized your workloads -- to get them virtualized. We're in that no-limit situation. There are no longer restrictions or boundaries around virtualizing your mission-critical or your tier-one workloads. Get it done, so you can start leveraging the portability and the flexibility of that.

Start looking at the next steps, which will be automation, orchestration, provisioning, service catalogs, and extending that into a hybrid-cloud situation, so that you can focus more on what your core offerings are going to be your core strategies. And not necessarily offload, but take advantage of some of those capabilities that you can get in VMware vCloud Air for example, so that you can focus on really more of what’s core to your business.

Gardner: Tim, any words of advice from your perspective?

Melvin: When it comes to solutions in IT, the important thing is to find the value and tie it back to the business. So look for those problems that your business has today, whether it's reducing capital expense through heavy virtualization, whether it's improving security within the data center through NSX and micro-segmentation, or whether it's just providing more flexible infrastructure for your temporary environments like SAN and software development through the cloud.

Find those opportunities and tie it back to a value that the business understands. It’s important to do something with software-defined data centers. It's not a trend and it's not really even a question anymore. It's where we're going. So get moving down that path in whatever way you need to in order to get started. And find those partners, like VMware, that will support you and build those relationships and just get moving.

20/20 hindsight

Gardner: Carlos, advice, thoughts about 20/20 hindsight?

Tronco: As Suzan said, it's focusing on virtualizing the workloads and then being able to leverage some of those other tools like vRealize Automation. Then you're able to free staff up to pursue activities and add more value to the environment and the business, because you're not doing repeatable things manually. You'll get more consistency now that people have time. They're not down because they're doing all these day two, day three operations and things that wear and grate on you.

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Tags:  BriefingsDirect  cloud computing  Dana Gardner  ERP  Interarbor Solutions  SDDC  Software-defined data center  vCloud AIr  vCloud Suite  virtualization  VMWare  VMWorld 

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How Tunisian IT service provider Tunisie uses cloud for improved IT service management capabilities

Posted By Dana L Gardner, Monday, February 23, 2015

The next edition of the HP Discover Podcast Series explores how a Tunisian IT services provider improves their IT service management (ITSM) offerings and capabilities leveraging cloud-based services.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Read a full transcript or download a copy.

To learn more about better IT control and efficiency using the latest ITSM tools and services, we are joined by Fadoua Ouerdiane, IT Projects Director at SMS and Tunisie Electronique in Tunis, Tunisia. The discussion is moderated by me, Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions.

Here are some excerpts:

Gardner: Tell us a little bit about Tunisie Electronique.

Ouerdiane: Tunisie Electronique is a systems integrator for multiple vendors, including HP, for more than 40 years. We serve customers of different sizes covering almost all possible sectors. 

Gardner: Tell us a little bit about the challenges that you're facing. What problems are you trying to solve for your customers?

Continuous development

Ouerdiane: Support activity is the pillar of our company. We're in a continuous development process to fulfill our customer expectations. As a solution integrator for HP and others, we are the first interface toward our end customers.

Ouerdiane

We're asked to be as reactive as possible to all kind of customer requests: incidents, claims, and services support. The number of such requests is getting higher on a daily basis.

Gardner: There are an awful lot of IT challenges nowadays. People are doing more on mobile devices. They're doing more services from the cloud. Things are changing very rapidly. Therefore, they also have higher expectations about speed for solutions. Tell us about what you're putting in place in order to better serve these very complex needs.

Ouerdiane: Knowing how to manage those requests, consolidating, delegating to relevant resources, escalating, following up, and making sure that service-level agreements (SLAs) are respected are all crucial for our support department.

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In the past, we have tried to manage those needs using in-house development tools and then open-source solutions. However, in each case, we were first confronted by different limitations. Finally, we decided to use the Service Anywhere solution from HP in the software-as-a-service (SaaS) mode and install it in a cloud environment.

Gardner: Why has the cloud environment delivery model been so important? What are the benefits for you in going to cloud rather than on-premises?

Ouerdiane: Our motivation to make the choice was that Service Anywhere is not only offering functionality that perfectly matches our needs, but it has more advantages. The first is easy deployment. My team made the solution available in less than one month. No extra infrastructure is needed. That means no administration efforts, especially with high availability. This will help us to reduce costs effectively.

It's bringing a lot of added value for the support team as well as our end customers.

Gardner: Do you have any sense of what this brings? What do you get in return for this in terms of metrics of success and business benefits? How have you been able to measure how well this is performing for you?

Ouerdiane: Today, using HP Service Anywhere, the support department is much better managed. It's bringing a lot of added value for the support team as well as our end customers.

Information is systematically shared with the relevant persons, thanks to the Service Anywhere notification functionality. There's better access using any device, at anytime, from anywhere; better tracking of each incident or support request. The main benefit is the improved customer satisfaction that we felt and experienced.

Customer reaction

Gardner: Have you gotten any feedback? Do you have examples of what people tell you they like about it? How are your customers actually reacting to this new approach?

Ouerdiane: The customer no longer needs to send emails, to make calls, to get updated about the status and progress of its requests. Reports and dashboards are provided on a regular basis. Customer satisfaction is our main target and daily concern. Service Anywhere is bringing us closer.

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Gardner: What do you think you will be doing in the future to provide even better IT services and support?

Ouerdiane: The next HP ITSM cloud release will be available soon with very important features, such as a multi-tenant feature, which we need. We'll work on the platform to add more content, to add all our customers’ content and support contacts.

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Kony executive Burley Kawasaki on best tips for attaining speed in enterprise mobile apps delivery

Posted By Dana L Gardner, Thursday, February 19, 2015

The next BriefingsDirect enterprise mobile strategy discussion comes to you directly from the Kony World 2015 Conference on Feb. 4 in Orlando.

This five-part series of penetrating discussions on the latest in enterprise mobility explores advancements in applications design and deployment technologies across the full spectrum of edge devices and operating environments.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Read a full transcript or download a copy.

For our next interview we welcome Burley Kawasaki, Senior Vice President of Products at Kony, Inc. The discussion is moderated by me, Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions.

Here are some excerpts:

Gardner: Before we explore the Kony World news, what's going on in the enterprise mobility marketplace? What are enterprises looking for in their mobility strategy?

Kawasaki: Obviously, mobility has proven that it’s not just a passing fad. It's really evolved over the last four or five-plus years. Initially, most companies were just trying to get one or two apps out in the public app store.

Kawasaki

Many started with some type of branded consumer apps, what are called business-to-consumer (B2C) applications, and they were willing to make the investments to make it have a fantastic user experience. They would try to make this a way for customers to experience and engage the brand. A lot of times you saw this being built and launched by the marketing organization inside an enterprise.

Now, what we're seeing is a shift. As people are looking for the next set of ways to exploit mobility, they're looking internal, inside their enterprise. They're looking at what I refer to as or business-to-employee (B2E) applications.

But instead of one or two apps, there are literally dozens or hundreds of mobilized processes and applications that most larger enterprises are looking to build as they start looking at all the internal processes. It could be mobilizing sales or employees, looking at support out in the field with field technicians, or providing self-service access to vacation requests.

There are a number of challenges this creates. One is lack of skills. If you're building one or two, you can probably muster the technical expertise or you can outsource and hire an agency or someone to build it. If you're looking to supply dozens -- some larger enterprises are looking at hundreds of internal-facing mobile apps -- that really highlights the imbalance between the demand from the business stakeholders and the supply of IT skills, resources, and technical talent.

Build applications quickly

Kony, since day one, has focused on how to drive faster and faster acceleration of the full development process. That's part of our core value proposition of rapidly delivering great mobile apps by providing tools and platforms to help build applications more quickly.

When we talk about building anything custom, there is a certain amount of time, typically three to six months that you spend, not just for the development, but to map out the requirements to do all the testing and final deployment. And with any custom software development, you can only compress it so far, and there's a certain amount of skills and expertise that you need.

To answer your question, we think that there needs to be other types of models for ultimately creating these internal mobile applications. The trend that you're starting to see, and that we believe is really going to take off, is a move away from custom, bespoke development of each and every app, to much more of an assembly and configuration model.

If you look at building a home, for example, there was a time where you had to custom build all of the parts to your home. You would go out, cut down the trees, and do everything from scratch, but that was a hugely inefficient process.

Now, essentially, homes are componentized. You can find standard sizes lumber parts. Large parts of your home may be prefabricated and it's just a matter of assembling and configuring them to meet your needs.

Many industries have realized the benefits of moving to assembly and configuration, as opposed to custom built.

We've seen the same assembly across a number of industries, like the auto industry. Many industries have realized the benefits of moving to assembly and configuration, as opposed to custom built.

We're seeing this in software as well. There was a day where everyone used to build their own enterprise resource planning (ERP) system or their own sales automation system. Now, people have moved to the configuration of packaged software. Mobile applications are now at the tipping point where they need to have a different way that will address the explosion in demand that I was describing.

There are a couple of things that we think are required to create this new model. One is that you need to have an ecosystem that provides pre-built components. Obviously, you can't assemble things if there is nothing to assemble from. So there needs to be an ecosystem of components.

Then, there needs to be some type of tooling that allows you to assemble the components without having to be a developer, but more of a visual drag and drop type of composition experience.

And then once you have done that, it can't just be a pretty picture. It needs to actually somehow run and make its way down to your phone or to your device. So there has to be some type of execution or dynamic run capability behind the description of what you have created.

Those are the three requirements. Of course, we have just announced this week some software that addresses each of those categories.

Major announcements

Gardner: Well, let's delve into them a little bit. There were three major announcements around your Marketplace, your Modeler, and also an example of how these come together in your first prepackaged application called the Kony Sales App.

Kawasaki: I'll talk about each of these. I'll start with the Marketplace. As I said, to make this practical and useful for our customers, we need to be able to create a way to find and discover pre-built components. Some of these components Kony may build ourselves, but we're also working with a number of very talented leading edge partners of ours -- independent software vendors (ISVs) and systems integrators (SI’s), who are also contributing prebuilt components.

This week, Feb. 4, we launched Marketplace. If you go out to community.kony.com/marketplace, you can browse. We're adding partners on an ongoing basis, but you'll see some of the early solutions that are available in the Marketplace. That’s the first part of the announcement.

The second piece is around how to assemble these into an actual application, a new product called Kony Modeler. Unlike some of our prior products, our developer tools, these do not require development backgrounds.

The typical profile of a user of Kony Modeler would be either a business analyst or someone closer to the business who knows how to drag and drop, to define what the end-user experience should be for your mobile app, knows how to describe the process or the workflow that has to occur, knows how to take those forms that they've painted, and be able to map it to some backend business data, coming from a system like SAP or Salesforce.

Unlike some of our prior products, our developer tools, these do not require development backgrounds.

As long as you can do that, you don’t have to be a developer and drop into code. You can describe this visually. You can drag and drop. Then, when you're done, the important thing is that it’s not just a picture that you print out and you throw over the wall to your developer. This description of your application then gets pushed out instantaneously to our cloud run time.

We've extended our backend-as-a-service, what we call Kony MobileFabric, so that it takes this model, this description of the mobile app, and will download it to your device and run it. Then, the next time as an end-user, if you are using one of these apps, you just automatically get whatever changes or updates have been made. You don’t have to go out to an app store and find a new app. It just automatically is part of your app.

As an analogy, in the same way if I use any software-as-a-service (SaaS) software, I won't have to install a new app on my laptop. I just go out to my web browser, and next time I log in, it's always up-to-date.

Gardner: It sounds as if this has some of the greater elements of platform-as-a-service (PaaS), but the tooling is designed for that business-analyst level. It also gives you some of those benefits of rapid iterations. You can change and adjust. You can customize to different types of user within the group that you're targeting. And all of this, I assume, is at also low cost, given that it's a SaaS based approach. Tell us a little bit about why this is like PaaS, but PaaS-plus.

Non-developer experience

Kawasaki: PaaS typically has been targeted primarily toward developers. And it’s maybe a higher level productivity for developers, but you still have to write code against software development kits (SDKs) or other application programming interfaces (APIs). Kony Modeler provides a non-developer experience.

The other big thing, and you pointed it out, is that it really does lower all of the infrastructure, hardware, and software costs that are required, because it’s purely cloud-based. It makes it not only lower cost from a total cost of ownership (TCO) standpoint, but it also accelerates the whole development cycle.

I think about this as a shift away from a classic waterfall-type model, to much more of an agile model. In the old model, you spend three to six months trying to go through and nail the requirements and hand it off to your dev team. Then, they go off, and you find out, only when it's in final QA, that it doesn't look right on the device, or it comes back and the business has changed their mind. That never happens, right?

It makes it not only lower cost from a total cost of ownership (TCO) standpoint, but it also accelerates the whole development cycle.

Modeler allows you to very quickly iterate a working application to release in a matter of days and be able to do testing with your end-users. Based on their feedback, I can make updates on an agile basis and continuously iterate on functionality or enhancements to the application.

Gardner: Burley, it also sounds like you're able to bring A/B testing type activities to a different class of user, where you don't always know what your requirements are precisely, but you can throw things on the wall, try them out, see what works, and iterate on that. I don’t recall too much of that capability being available to a business analyst type of user.

Kawasaki: You're correct. Usually, there is this very extended process, where a business analyst has to document everything in some thick specification, and even if you have it wrong or you are uncertain, whatever you communicate out to the dev team is what they go off and build.

So it’s not that this does away with requirements, but it does allow more flexibility to change or to test. And I'd agree. I think the responsiveness will allow much more experimentation and innovation. It's better to fail fast. If you have tried something out and it's not delivering the results, you haven't invested a huge amount of time and cost to learn that.

Gardner: And another appealing aspect of this for IT and operations is that this isn't shadow IT. This is under the auspices of IT. They can bring in governance. They can audit as necessary and make sure the right backend sources are being accessed in the right way, with the right privilege and access controls. They can monitor security. We talked about how it's better than PaaS, but it's also better than shadow IT for a lot of reasons.

Lack of skills

Kawasaki: It is. We were talking earlier about the skills shortage, and if you look at the stats or the data, most industry analysts predict that up to 60 percent or 70 percent or more of mobile development is outsourced today, to either an interactive agency, a systems integrator, or someone else, because of lack of skills.

So it has been outsourced to some third party, and who knows what technologies they are using to build the app. It's outside the typical controls or governance of IT. So it's not only shadow; it's dark matter. You don't even know it exists; it’s completely hidden.

Yet, at some point, inevitably, those apps that you may have outsourced for your first version, it’s not just a first version release. You want to update it sometimes monthly. So it has to come back into IT at some point, for no other reason than it's connecting and talking to enterprise data in the back end. It's connecting to other IT controlled systems, and so there is a huge amount of risk and costs associated if these things are completely hidden off the grid.

Gardner: Let's take this from the abstract to the concrete. We actually have an application now in play called the Kony Sales App. Who is that targeted to, how does it work, and what do you expect to be some of the proof point metrics of this in usage compared to how organizations conduct themselves with customer relationship management (CRM), especially if there is multiple CRMs in play in an organization?

Kawasaki: That's a great point. First of all, this is the first of a series of what we call ready-to-run applications. And the reason we call it ready-to-run is that it's a packaged app. This isn't a custom or bespoke app, but it's pre-connected and pre-integrated to the common back end, in case of CRM what most companies are using, something like Salesforce or SAP on the back end.

So we've taken a task-oriented approach and created a modular micro app approach that really is meant to be very easy and engaging for the end-user.

So it comes ready to run, but like packaged software or SaaS software, it allows you the ability to configure and customize it, because everyone’s sales processes or their user base is going to be different. That's where the Modeler tool allows you to configure it.

So when you purchase Kony Sales, you get not only the application, but the use of Kony Modeler to be able to customize and configure it. And then, as you make changes, you push it live, and again, it deploys using the SaaS model you were describing.

To talk a little bit more about Kony Sales, we think it's a new style of mobile apps, what I will refer to as a micro app. Historically, people thought of CRM software, and I am overgeneralizing, but as big, somewhat monolithic, applications.

One of the historical challenges with CRM usage is that you had to bring your laptop with you, and sales reps are notorious at not completing data in a timely fashion. It takes a lot of mandates, top-down from the sales leadership, to get data into the system so you can get accurate reporting. It's one of the age-old problems.

We believe that if instead of trying to get the whole CRM application crammed down onto a four-inch screen, with all the complexity that it requires, you target very specific action-oriented micro apps that a sales rep can do very quickly on the go, that doesn't take a lot of training, and doesn't take a lot of thought. They can very quickly look up and see their accounts, or they can very quickly log a call they have made.

So we've taken a task-oriented approach and created a modular micro app approach that really is meant to be very easy and engaging for the end-user, which in this case is a sales rep.

User experience

Gardner: And again, for the understanding of how this all works across multiple endpoints, regardless of what your sales force is using for their mobile device, this is going to come down. They are going to get that user experience and that interface that the craftsmen behind the app demanded and designed.

Kawasaki: That's right. Kony Sales is multi-channel. It works across phones, tablets, iOS, Android, and importantly, it does not replace your existing CRM data. It extends the CRM systems you already have, but makes them much, much easier to very quickly get access to.

Also using Mobile First types of approaches, and by that I mean if you are a sales rep, very likely you are on the road or in an airplane. How many people have tried to use whatever CRM client, even some of the web mobile experiences, to get data into Salesforce or SAP? It's all web-based, HTML5-based, and it doesn’t work if you're not online.

One of the things we designed in from day one was that you have to be able to operate in an "occasionally connected" mode. So if you are offline, either because you're out in the field talking to your customer, or you're in an airplane you can still have the same easy access. Then, when you're connected again, it will synchronize and handle updating SAP or Salesforce in the background.

Gardner: Now that we have the model of the Modeler, the Marketplace and these ready-to-run apps, what comes next -- more apps, bigger marketplace, or is there another technology shoe to drop?

Kawasaki: It's more apps certainly, and not just from Kony, but from our partners. When we did some of our initial planning and research, the most commonly mobilized processes were ones that were customer facing or customer impacting, just because of the benefits and the ROI.

So we started with sales. We're going to release our next one, which will be around field service. It really helps engage at the point that you're supporting and serving your customer.

It really helps engage at the point that you're supporting and serving your customer.

There are a set of these that we are working on, but I think also importantly, we're working on really making our partner ecosystem trained, ready to use Modeler, and to build very unique and differentiated applications to publish to the marketplace.

We have a couple of examples of these ready-to-run apps that are compelling from our partners that you will hear more about, and that list will continue to grow over the coming weeks and months.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Read a full transcript or download a copy. 

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Tags:  app store  BriefingsDirect  Burley Kawasaki  Dana Gardner  Interarbor Solutions  Kony  Kony Marketplace  Kony Modeler  Kony Sales App  Kony World  mobile app development  Mobile apps 

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Mexican ISP Telum gains operational advantages via better monitoring vast network elements

Posted By Dana L Gardner, Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The next edition of the HP Discover Podcast Series delves into how Telum in Northeast Mexico improves their ISP services delivery reliability through quality assurance and higher availability using advanced monitoring software.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Read a full transcript or download a copy.

To learn more about how they have matured their process, technology and IT culture, we are joined by Max Garza O'Ward, Head of IT Operations at Telum, an ISP based in Monterrey, Mexico. The discussion is moderated by me, Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions.

Here are some excerpts:

Gardner: Why are reliability and high performance are so important to your business?

O'Ward

O'Ward: It’s a very competitive business for the telecommunications industry. We're not the top dog in Mexico or Northeast Mexico. Everything that we put into our customer effort is to bring in customers that we need to keep. So reliability is a key part of our commitment to our customers.

Gardner: And you're not just using technology. You're delivering technology. So it seems essential to have a handle on what you have, what it's doing, and maybe even get out in front and have predictive capabilities when problems might arise.

O'Ward: That’s very true. Prediction is where we need to focus. To ensure good services we need to make sure that all those systems are up and running, and we use software to precisely do that.

Gardner: For our listeners who might not be familiar with your organization, tell us about your size, how many subscribers, how many services. Just give us a description of your organization, both in terms of the breadth of services and the size of your audience?

O'Ward: We're part of the Northeast Mexico market, basically Monterrey, which is the biggest city up north. We have three different customer markets. The residential market is roughly over 500,000 customers. We have small business or SOHO businesses, with between 3,000 and 6,000 customers. And we also have a large enterprise market, around 1,500 large enterprises.

Unwieldy network

Gardner: Let’s dig a little bit into the problems that you face. Several years ago, you were looking at a network that was perhaps a bit unwieldy, maybe not well-defined. You had some difficulties predicting how certain things that you did on your network would impact your customers. Perhaps you can walk us through your problem set, your challenges, and then how you started to solve them.

O'Ward: That’s a very good approach. In terms of network, we basically started noticing that we were committing a lot of unplanned outages, or unplanned downtimes. So we started to reinforce our monitoring solutions based on HP software. We came in and provided better solutions to what we were looking into as a network element point of view.

Based on that, we refurbished our inventory and made sure that all of our network elements were replaced promptly, based on events. So prediction was key to our better service-level agreement (SLA) offerings.

Gardner: Max, was this a function of changing just the software or was there a cultural component to this? Did you have to change the way you were thinking about monitoring and quality assurance in addition to employing some new technology?

O'Ward: Yes, it was a cultural change. As a matter of fact, just two years ago, we revamped the way the operations department is composed. So a big gap that was closed because of culture. Culture needed to be changed.

What secrets will your data tell you?

In the HP Toolkit for Operations Analytics

Previously, we had all these disparate teams working on only their solution. Once we came under one head of operations, we decided that service was the only thing that matters. So we bridged that gap and now we have all these cross-functional teams working for the same response, which is service offerings.

Now, it's a combination of culture, teamwork, and understanding where the failures are.

Gardner: So IT service management (ITSM) has led to the ability to maintain your quality and performance. Are there any indicators of how much -- perhaps the number of failures from one period to more recent failures?

O'Ward: There are a lot of numbers. I will give you top figures. IT is the department that I head, and most of these departments are based on different engineering groups.

When we started working toward service and focusing only on services, on video services, for example, we had over 10 percent failures globally, not every month, but throughout the year. Once we got under this new management and using our new HP tools, we have been bringing that number down consistently.

Now, it's a combination of culture, teamwork, and understanding where the failures are. Sometimes software tells us where the problem is and sometimes software is needed to understand where the problem is.

In this particular case, we soon understood what the problem was and we decided to change out equipment that was failing via either obsolescence or just a defective part.

Transparency and visibility

Gardner: In addition to changing culture, putting in some better processes and better tools, it seems to me that for a lot of companies that I speak to, a lot of the process involves getting to know yourself better, providing transparency and visibility.

Then, it's dashboarding that information so that people can access it, regardless of whether it’s firefighting or just ongoing maintenance. Tell me about this journey from having a lot of elements, perhaps not always visible, to getting this new-found ability to have greater inventory control.

O'Ward: To start off, transparency is key. Once you have an approach of letting the upper management know where your failures are, that creates concern. And in order for us to create business, we need to have a reputation to uphold.

We started with monitoring basic monitoring elements. We created awareness of where our failures were, and at the same time, we asked for more budget to focus on all these defective parts.

What secrets will your data tell you?

In the HP Toolkit for Operations Analytics

That, in turn, made management very aware of what the engineering departments were actually doing -- either as an IT department or as engineering by itself, which is basically hardware.

Once we had all these components, and they were publicly scrutinized or they were publicly shown in a quarterly meeting, that helped create a dashboard. Now, dashboards are really fun if you really know what you're talking about, but if you give upper management the wrong information, wrong decisions are going to be made. So that’s key.

We're working on creating a huge dashboard. Maybe this year is going to be the year. We have the elements and we're providing that information for the dashboard to be built, but we are waiting to do the next step.

Right now, we're focused on getting the elements straightened out, monitoring all of our key systems, and we have done just that in the last year. So we've upheld our end of the bargain, which is service, quality, and capacity. The next step is going to be providing automatic dashboards. Right now, dashboards are manual.

Gardner: So the good news is that you're getting much more reliable information about what's going on. The bad news is, is you have got a whole lot of information coming in.

O'Ward: That's correct.

Aligning data

Gardner: Big data is a big topic here at HP Discover. What are your thoughts about how to get that data, be it structured or unstructured, into an alignment so that you can improve on your situation, know more about it, get better predictions, and better analysis? I suppose the capstone for this is how important will big data become for you to maintain and improve on your reliability over time.

O'Ward: Big data is a big name, it’s a big trend, and everybody is talking about it. A lot of people, especially people who aren't technology-oriented, talk about it as if if they know it. The way big data is coming into our shop is focused more on customers.

If we're talking about big data, unstructured data, that’s coming in from our traps or alerts and stuff like that. Yes, we need to go into that particular scenario. We're looking at two different projects.

We're going to look into a big-data project that actually brings capacity and quality for our services. At the same time, there's going to be another effort from big data that is a customer-facing effort. So yes, it’s going to be a reality in the next year.

The software is awesome, just great software, and if you have the right people and the right potential, that software can bring you very good benefits.

Gardner: So it’s safe to say that big data is going to have an impact on your IT operations, but perhaps also in your marketing, to understand what’s going on in the field very quickly and then be able to react to it. Big data sort of ties together business and technology.

O'Ward: That's correct. That’s the way we're looking at it. As I said, there are two different teams of people working on it. We're going to be working on the operations part first and then at the marketing part as well.

Gardner: We're here at the beginning of HP Discover. Are there any things in particular that you're going to be out there looking for in terms of how to accomplish your goals over the next several years. What would you like to see HP doing?

O’Ward: Very much what they have been doing in the past. The software is awesome, just great software, and if you have the right people and the right potential, that software can bring you very good benefits.

Our head of operations for the whole company is here with us this week. I'm going to make sure he attends all these meeting in which we can talk about big data and how we can mold out all of the strengths and all of the key performance indicators (KPIs) that he needs. I hope that HP continues to be an innovative software company. I have really enjoyed working with them for the last five or six years.

What secrets will your data tell you?

In the HP Toolkit for Operations Analytics

Gardner: Okay, last question. Going from a failure rate of 5-10 percent down to less than 1 percent is enviable. A lot of people want to make those kinds of strides. Now that you have had experience in doing this, do you have any 20/20 hindsight? What would you suggest to other organizations that are also trying to get a better handle on their systems and their network, get to know their inventory, and gain visibility? What have you learned that you might share now that you have been through it?

O'Ward: It doesn't matter how much we monitor things or how many green lights or red lights we see on any given dashboard. If we're not focused on business processes and business outcomes, this isn't going to work.

My take would be to focus on a business process that you actually know it's critical and start from that. Go top-down from that. That would be the best approach. It's worked for us. It actually bridges a gap between management and the engineering departments. It also provided us with sound budgeting information. Once you understand what the problem really is, it gets approved easier.

So look at business processes first, get to know your business outcomes, and work on that toward your infrastructure.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Read a full transcript or download a copy. Sponsor: HP.

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Tags:  big data  BriefingsDirect  Dana Gardner  HP  HPDiscover  Interarbor Solutions  ITSM  Max Garza O'Ward  Telum 

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California Natural Resources Agency gains agility through Software-Defined Data Center strategy

Posted By Dana L Gardner, Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The next BriefingsDirect innovator case study interview explores how the California Natural Resources Agency (CNRA) in Sacramento gains agility from a software-defined data center (SDDC) strategy.

Learn how this large and diverse agency of state agencies uses the best of centralized and de-centralized IT resources, largely built on a common VMware-powered SDDC strategy.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Read a full transcript or download a copy.

 At the recent VMworld 2014 Conference in San Francisco, our moderator, Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions, interviewed Tony Morshed, Chief Technology Officer for the California Resources Data Center in the California Department of Water Resources, and Michael Hom, Data Center Chief in the IT Infrastructure Services Branch for the California Department of Water Resources.

Here are some excerpts:

Gardner: You’re from the largest US state. You have a large government, probably the size of what many countries have. Is there something different about the public sector in terms of accountability or response? How do you have a different set of requirements as a public organization and perhaps enterprises, too?

Morshed: We do have a difference. Our procurement is much harder. Getting people is much harder. We live within a lot of constraints that the private sector doesn’t realize. We have a hard time adjusting our work levels. Can we get more people now? No. It takes forever to get more people, if you can ever get them.

We live within a lot of constraints that the private sector doesn’t realize.

Gardner: So it’s doing more with less over and over again?

Morshed: Constantly doing more with less. Part of this virtualization is survivability. We would never be able to survive or give our business the tools they need to do their business without this. We would just be a sinking ship.

Gardner: So the whole philosophy, Michael, of SDDC and virtualization, is of doing more with less, of automating, of boiling out the manual processes and going to more real-time responsive technology driven infrastructure makes total sense for your organization?

Hom: Definitely. To go with what Tony says, we really don’t have much overhead when we need to respond to future projects. When there's an uptick in activity, there is no way to have more resources available. So we need to build that into our infrastructure to allow for that dynamic bandwidth to happen from a personal level.

 Gardner: Help us understand the size of your organization. This is a large state government department, but you're really a department of departments.

http://www.cold.ca.gov/agency_display.asp?ATRID=WTRRSC

Morshed

Morshed: Our department, Water Resources, consists of 3,500 people that are part of the agency that comprises many departments. The bigger ones are Parks and Rec, Cal Fire, and Fish and Wildlife. There are about 28 agencies and conservancies and 25,000 people.

Gardner: So in order to support all these people and all these different agencies, a common infrastructure is important, but also it sounds like you need to have differentiation and customization for their specific needs. How do you accomplish both the goal of a common infrastructure for efficiency, but also still be able to meet all your requirements for all those different people?

Morshed: When we started our consolidation effort, we decided to transform ourselves more to an ISP-style setup. We know that most departments have their own IT shops, and you know there is still that trust thing. So we just built the common infrastructure. We let them share the infrastructure, but they have their own security posture. We segregate all their traffic, so each department can still feel like they're autonomous, but yet we all share the infrastructure, in which case we all share the savings.

Mandate to consolidate

Hom: With that, we had a mandate to also consolidate. First, the State of California is really about cost savings. Each of the 25-plus organizations mostly had their own IT shops. By combining the infrastructure as a service (IaaS) in our multitenancy data center, they're able to reap the benefits of cost savings for infrastructure, but also concentrate each department's specific needs and applications.

Gardner: What are some of the challenges you have in terms of getting closer to a full SDDC? Are these technology, culture, process, or all of the above?

Morshed: At first it was technology, but the culture and the organizational mindset are the bigger challenge. You can find solutions and work through technology. We're IT people, and we’re used to the technology problems. For me, the greater organizational problems -- and the structure of your processes -- become the harder things, because we’re not as used to dealing with those things.

Gardner: Now, Michael, part of the adoption of a complex, long-term journey on IT is to show results early and get buy-in. Are there instances where you look at that? Maybe, it's the DR, where you can have a sense of better dependability on your resources? Any way to describe what you’ve done early on that has lead to a greater emphasis to adopt more aggressively?

Better service levels

Hom

Hom: Definitely. One of the key things with early wins is providing a better service level for provisioning, and that’s something that everybody has been struggling with. With the cloud infrastructure, we've been able to provision within days, if not a day. And that typically beats most of the service tools that each of the organizations have had. So that was an early win.

It’s things like that where we decrease overhead and make IT more accessible for business. That makes it a win, and starts to have the ball rolling as far as other features, such as DR, greater capacity, and things that would be tough for each individual organization to do on their own.

Gardner: Are you exploring software-defined storage, software-defined networking?

Morshed: When the software-defined stuff came out, for me, one of the big things was disaster recovery (DR). If I could stretch my data center into another facility, DR becomes a non-issue, because those workloads can shift between sites without any trouble with automation.

That was the next piece for us -- automation. We realize that we’re part-way there, but to get all the way there, we need to do fuller automation. This means that we need to quit tinkering with the network and storage every time we want to do something new.

Those were big driving factors for going to SDDC. To us, it means that we’re obfuscating the hardware. The hardware’s there. It’s just running. We’re working and tweaking everything at the software layer -- so we could be a lot more agile.

Separating the physical

Hom: For the SDDC we really wanted to provide a logical data center to each of our organizations. We wanted to separate the physical, which allows our folks to support more of a logical infrastructure, where they still have autonomy, but the physical layer is basically one and the same.

Today, from a functional point of view, they get what they’ve had before, but without the overhead of physical support. We've used the VMware vSphere and vCloud Suite to provide that software-defined queuing. Right now, we're embarking on a software-defined networking, using VMware NSX and third-party vendors to support that.

We’re looking to use automation soon to help us decrease overhead, and pass those savings on to each of the organizations.

Gardner: We’re here of course at VMworld 2014. There’s lot of news going on. Anything in particular piquing your interest, perhaps with the OpenStack support in the EVO Hyper-Converged Infrastructure? What is now on your agenda after hearing some news to reach those goals as you describe them?

EVO looks pretty nice

Morshed: There are a couple of things. EVO looks pretty nice. I was out on the floor and looking at it yesterday and talking with the CIO and I see it as something that we might be able to use for some of our outlying offices, where we have around 100 to 150 people. We can drop something like that in, put virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) on it, and deliver VDI services to them locally, so they don't have to worry about that traffic going over the wide area network (WAN).

The other piece is the acquisition made recently with CloudVolumes and looking at how we can use that to leverage our VDI structure. We're using another product right now in that space, but again with CloudVolumes it’s been a part of VMworld. It’s more interesting, because we know that the chances of all the software being upgraded and updated in at the same time in interoperability is greater if it’s a VMware product.

For us, it’s been a real struggle to make sure that all the products that we use, interact and as there’s an upgrade, everything upgrades at the same time. To me, those are the two biggest things that I'm getting out of the announcements.

The business could come up with more dollars, but to be able to be more agile and more flexible is where it really pays off.

Gardner: Do you have any metrics of success that you can point to from your SDDC effort so far?

Morshed: We do have some tangible benefits. We have reduced our CAPEX by somewhere around 40 percent and our OPEX around 32 percent. I don’t have the numbers, but we have deployed VDI in the Department of Water Resources and we already virtualized about 600 to 800 desktops. Not only is it helping us save costs there; it’s also used as a strategy for a remote access as a strategy to help protect our server infrastructure by using VDI for admins.

So there are those tangible things that you can reach out and measure and those intangible things, where it’s allowing us to do something easier and more flexible. That, for me, is the bigger win. The business could come up with more dollars, but to be able to be more agile and more flexible is where it really pays off.

Gardner: So we get productivity, we have better DR, which reduces your risk, and we've got some hard savings and economics. It's pretty compelling. Michael, any thoughts about how those fit together, and which ones are more important to you?

More flexible

Hom: Definitely, this allows us to be more flexible, and there are some things that we're trying to do that we would never imagine without a SDDC. So they increased security, greater capacity, capabilities to our business.

Gardner: How about VMware specifically? Is there some differentiator in terms of how they produce this products that has allowed you to follow this journey? Is this more of a partnership than a procurement relationship? It sounds like the track that VMware takes in its strategy very much aligns with yours.

Morshed: It’s very much a partnership. In fact, we basically only want to work with business partners. We don’t want to work with vendors, because we don’t need someone to sell us something and walk away. VMware has been hand-in-hand with us for this whole journey.

When we look at other products for the mix, we look for the deep partners with VMware because we know virtual machines (VMs) are core. So, when we look in the storage partners and we’re looking at networking partner, we’re making sure that those partners are partners of VMware.

We don’t want to work with vendors, because we don’t need someone to sell us something and walk away. VMware has been hand-in-hand with us for this whole journey.

One of the things that we find is the inoperability once everything has been virtualized. Everything has to connect, and it’s not a single stack. So if one thing gets upgraded, we need to make sure that everything across a stack can accept that upgrade. Otherwise, we lose the ability to take the advantage of the upgrade until everybody else catches up.

Early on, we were in that position and we’re doing everything we can to remove ourselves from that position.

Hom: We consider VMware a strategic partner. A couple of things that illustrate that is that we’ve been involved with the VMware’s Excellware and Velocity program and that's been two-fold. For the velocity side, we have marked up a fully working SDDC with SX, with virtualized automation, operations in business as a stack.

Gardner: One of the things we've heard here at VMworld is be bold, be brave, be a little bit aggressive. Go out there and do these things. Any thoughts for other organizations that are just dipping their toes into the water? Is it higher risk than reward to be bold and brave in getting early? Or is it perhaps something that allows you to then be a differentiator and be better in your own environment, whether it’s a public or private sector?

Set in stone

Morshed: The first thing is always question what you’ve got that's set in stone, because most of it is not set in stone. We've all heard a lot of things that you can't do. You can’t virtualize Oracle, but you can. You can't do this, you can't do that, you can't get the network focused at the top of the storage. That's all that stuff that you actually can do.

You have to really look at it, peel it back, make sure that "you can't" is an actual thing, and then figure out how to get around it. The way I see it is that, as the world turns, things morph, and if you don’t move into this virtualization space, you're going to be left behind. You're going to be the guy making buggy whips. There are no buggy whips running around. There’s no use for them.

We’re all being asked to do so much more with the same resources or fewer resources. We're all being pushed to keep up with how the demand is going out there. Technology is just jumping, and this is the only way on the infrastructure side to keep up with that.

We’re all being asked to do so much more with the same resources or fewer resources. We're all being pushed to keep up with how the demand is going out there.

Gardner: Michael, any other thoughts in terms of 20/20 hindsight on your experience and why being aggressive and being bold has paid off?

Hom: Virtualization is definitely up and running, at least in state organizations. It’s probably something that we might do that or we might use as a toolset, but from looking at VMware this week, virtualization is the industry standard.

If you don’t take it on, then you really won’t be able to respond to business needs. What happens is that when the official IT organization becomes obsolete, there are going to be ad-hoc IT organizations and those would become the norm. If you want to be relevant, you have to use every tool set that you can to provide the business needs.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Download the transcript. Sponsor: VMware.

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Tags:  California Natural Resources Agency  Dana Gardner  Interarbor Solutions  Michael Hom  Post settings Labels BriefingsDirect  SDDC  Software-defined data center  Tony Morshed  vdi  VMWare  VMWorld 

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Networks: The new model for B2B business, a panel discussion

Posted By Dana L Gardner, Thursday, February 12, 2015

New business networks are unlocking the ability for companies to extend processes and insights broadly and affordably to customers, suppliers, and other partners. As a result, data-savvy B2B participants in these networks are better able to engage with their communities in new and innovative ways.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Read a full transcript or download a copy.

The latest BriefingsDirect discussion therefore explores the role and impact of business networks, the often virtual assemblages of interrelated business services, processes, and data that are transforming how companies and consumers conduct commerce.

We examine the ways that open markets and communities are rapidly becoming business platforms. And we'll see how today's consumer business models -- exemplified by Amazon, Uber, and Airbnb -- are extending to business-to-business (B2B) commerce, allowing buyers and sellers to find and know each other openly -- and accelerate B2B transactions and commerce efficiencies.

To learn more about the trends that are making business networks more powerful and more important than ever, BriefingsDirect recently sat down with Marshall Van Alstyne, Professor at Boston University School of Management and Research Scientist at the MIT Center for Digital Business, and also Tim Minahan, Chief Marketing Officer SAP Cloud and Line of Business. The panel is moderated by me, Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions.

Here are some excerpts:

Gardner: Professor Van Alstyne, this is a tricky time for companies. It seems that they want to retain what works, the business models that have been tried and proven for them. They like having big margins, of course, but in order to grow and to be part of the future they need to expose themselves to these networks, take some risks, maybe lose margin in the process, but perhaps get scale and automation as a payback.

How do you view that? How do you see companies adjusting? Is this a cultural thing where some companies will take this plunge and others don't? It does seem to be a perilous time for companies. I hope they're not just freezing in the headlights.

Van Alstyne

Van Alstyne: It’s a great question. There are a couple of elements and they vary based on the where the company is currently. If it’s a relatively virgin market, then it’s fairly straightforward for them to invite others in, create the platform, and expand out in that direction. If it’s an existing market for them, they really have to worry about managing the cannibalization question.

I know SAP has also had a very interesting example of that, as you move from on-premise services to hosted services. They're doing a nice job of managing that migration. It’s a little bit tricky in terms of how much you expand the market, but you really need to. You have to realize that the scale, the innovation, the customer engagement happens on these business platforms. Long-term, one really doesn't have a choice.

Platforms vs. products

One of the arguments that we typically make is that even weak platforms tend to beat very strong products. You can look at any number of examples, whether you take a look at the Blackberry, the Sony Personal PlayStation gaming device, or the Garmin device for GPS.

All of these functions are effectively absorbed into the platform. If you manage a platform ecosystem, where third parties can add value on your behalf, you'll grow faster. The platforms almost always will be products. So, in the long-term, companies don't have a choice. They have to move in this direction.

Gardner: So if it’s inevitable that you have to change, it sounds to me from what I've seen at SAP, that they're recognizing this. They're dealing with it themselves as a company, but they're trying to put together a safe path for enterprises to expand into the networked economy. At the same time, they can have trusted partners for automating a lot of the behind-the-scenes activity and allowing them to still function within their business verticals to know what their intellectual property is and to extend to it.

Let’s go back to Tim. Am I reading that right, Tim, that SAP is trying to be, in a sense, the arbiter between risk and exploration when it comes to the networked economy?

Minahan: That’s an accurate depiction, Dana. Think about our personal lives. Whether we're engaging family and friends on Facebook, buying a book or a blender on Amazon, or trying to capture transportation services to get downtown during rush hour on Uber, we're experiencing the scale and simplicity and convenience of personal networks.

At SAP, we believe that solving this inter-enterprise collaboration challenge is one of the biggest opportunities of our era.

We run our daily lives on them now. Unfortunately the business world traditionally has been optimized within the four walls of the enterprise. Companies have invested billions over the past 20 to 30 years in re-engineering their processes and investing in systems to really automate those internal processes and information flows.

They have created what have become islands of efficiency that work very well, and continue to work well, for those that are highly vertically integrated, but very few are, as we talked about earlier.

At SAP, we believe that solving this inter-enterprise collaboration challenge is one of the biggest opportunities of our era. We feel that we're well positioned to do that and have been assembling some of these business networks. We've had the acquisition of Ariba and Fieldglass in the area of contingent workforce and, with Concur, now in the area of travel and expense.

Minahan

We're complementing that with network extensions of our own, both through the addition of things like the product sustainability network, which leverages the existing connections within the network to help companies better perform tracing and tracking of their products, and the financial services network, which really facilitates and aids payment.

What we're looking at is an opportunity to extend existing IT infrastructure and business process outside the four walls of the enterprise in the most scalable and efficient way possible, no matter what systems a particular company or their trading partners use, all through a single integration point.

Integration adapters

Think about Amazon in your personal lives. You don’t worry about integrating tier trading partners or how you are going to sell that. Amazon takes care of that for you. That’s the same metaphor that we're attempting to carry through into the business world by providing single standard integration adapters or on-ramps to the network that allow you to manage this virtual enterprise in a highly transparent and highly efficient manner.

Gardner: Professor Van Alstyne, we've seen a great deal of network effects in business over the past decades. Yet nowadays, the confluence of cloud, mobile, and social and an emphasis on data-driven business processes seems to be accelerating and empowering these shifts. Some organizations call this the Third Platform. How does your research define business platforms, and how are the impacts from these Third Platform technology advancements newly impacting businesses?

Van Alstyne: I emphasize the network effect as one of the driving forces. Indeed, if we can create a positive feedback loop throughout the network effects, that’s where you see the efficiency in the scale happening so quickly.

In terms of a definition, we focus on two elements of the platform. The first is an open architecture that third parties can build upon.

The second is the governance rules. How is it that people can participate? Why would they participate? How do you share the profits? How do you resolve conflict? You think about it as a nexus of rules and architecture. If you can put those two things together, you can probably grow an ecosystem that helps to foster and stimulate some of those network effects.

Gardner: Tim Minahan, SAP has been a pioneer inside the four walls of the enterprise over the years with enterprise resource planning (ERP) and other business applications. Now, it seems as if you're recognizing what Professor Van Alstyne has been describing with these network effects and extending your value and business insight and processes across multiple boundaries, outside the four walls of any given enterprise into entire ecosystems.

Next productivity wave

Minahan: We truly believe that the next wave of business productivity is not going to come just within enterprises, but between them. Forty years ago, when SAP arguably invented the whole concept of ERP, businesses were operating much, much differently.

We showed them a new way to automate their internal information and process flows, but they were organized in a much more vertically oriented fashion. The employees would graduate from college, spend 40 years with the company, get the gold watch, and retire.

Companies owned most of their infrastructure, their manufacturing facilities, their inventory, their shipping fleets, but certainly this is not your father's business environment anymore. In part, this was accelerated by the recession that we're still emerging from. Companies are less vertically integrated than they were in the past.

They've adopted more variable operating models. They've outsourced everything from manufacturing to customer service, and they need to reach and compete with companies across the street and on the other side of the world. And this is creating new opportunities, as well as new challenges, for businesses today, and it’s increasing demands and expectations on individual functions of their teams.

You're seeing it everywhere. If you have an iPhone, look on the back. It’s designed in California by Apple, but it's built, shipped, and serviced by someone else entirely. Even beyond the physical device, Apple makes most of its revenue from network-based services. iTunes relies heavily on an ecosystem of mobile carriers and artists and studios.

Now, we're seeing this move into the business world, in which companies need to rapidly organize this virtual enterprise, all these resources of employees, manufacturing capacity, logistics, delivery capacity, and customer service to take advantage of certain market opportunity. Or, they need to adapt very quickly to certain market changes, and the only real way to do that is through a digitally connected network of partners, customers, and supply chain.

Gardner: As the very nature of corporations change, it's really about relationships, data, and feedback loops. The data-driven organization, is it really about that. Are we losing something, are we gaining something, or both, Tim, as we seek this new definition of a corporation?

Minahan: We're entering an age where the borders between enterprises are being taken down. Companies are moving toward a model where they're managing pools of resources, whether that’s pools of talent around expertise, as you just indicated Dana.

A third of a typical workforce is no longer on the company payroll. It's contingent, statement of work (SOW) workers. In some industries, it’s already more than half. This is fastest growing part of the workforce. HR executives, and I talk with many of them, are beginning to rethink what constitutes the workforce and are looking at pools of talent.

A third of a typical workforce is no longer on the company payroll. It's contingent, statement of work (SOW) workers.

They need to understand where the skill sets lie, not necessarily what roles someone plays today, what skills they have had in the past and be able to, when a particular opportunity or project arises, assemble that expertise very quickly to address that particular project, and disassemble them just as fast, but retain the knowledge within the enterprise for the next time that comes up.

The same thing is true if you're organizing a supply chain and need to be able to serve a new market like China. Where do you put your manufacturing? How do you address distribution, value-added taxes, and customer support. Traditionally, the model would have been to go and establish your own manufacturing facilities, build your own local agents, but no longer.

Now you can quickly assemble and address, or test, a particular market or test a particular product in any given market. Should it work, scale it up. Should it not, scale it down and move on. Networks allow you to achieve this.

I wanted to go back to something that Professor Van Alstyne said that's critically important. I fully agree that the networks go through phases. The first phase is to connect all the various parties, whether they be people, businesses, merchants, banks or all of the above.

The second part is to automate their existing processes. What gets really exciting, once you've automated these processes, once you have these parties collaborating or transacting its scale, are the new insights and entirely new services you could enable.

Transactional information

Once you have these millions of companies or people transacting at scale, you can see the transactional or relationship information. It could be the generated content that helps all members of the community make more informed decisions whether it's about buying or whether it’s about, should I bid on a particular bit of business as a seller or as a bank, mitigating risk in lending to allow them to understated who the buyer is, who the seller is and what their traditional history is.

That is the ultimate big data opportunity, when you have these networks operating at scale. We're beginning to deliver this networked intelligence in the form of insight services to help our members of the communities make important buying, selling, and financing decisions in ways that they couldn’t before.

Van Alstyne: Dana, let me jump in for a second. One of the things that Tim just said is quite important. One of the most interesting elements of the platform is the extent for new business services and new products to emerge. One of the Silicon Valley descriptions of the platform is that you know you have one when your community takes it in a direction you didn't expect.

One of the most interesting elements of the platform is the extent for new business services and new products to emerge.

You need to have made it possible for that. The underlying architecture needs the support the ability to develop something new that wasn't expected, but that’s one of the ways the platform adapts to create new value.

The communities start to add new value and new services in ways that the platform meets the needs of the ecosystem, so it’s this ability to turn out new sources of value based on the underlying architecture. This is one of the key distinctions of platforms that really do add value.

Minahan: I totally agree with that. We've only just entered it into this networked economy or networked era. One of the most exciting things is that it allows you to begin to entirely rethink traditional business models that were organized in an era where, to use an economic term, transaction costs were extremely high.

Look at Uber, what Uber has done, and the challenges we're now seeing around challenging the traditional medallion livery service. That was organized out of a very real concern around safety and issues, but over time, that model matured and unfortunately got very costly.

What you saw were the medallions being aggregated in the hands of a small few who could afford them. That obviously had some implications on the level of service and cost of service to employers. Now we've removed all of the transaction costs and could add up efficiently match demand -- i.e. you as the traveler -- and supply literally anyone that is a card-carrying member of the Uber service.

That’s an entirely new business model that is fundamentally challenging hundreds of old rules and thoughts about what it means to hail a cab. So let me toss in one additional principle that’s often used for design. I'm thinking exactly of the Uber example.

One of the best ways to view a platform is that you have the best platform and the transaction cost are the lowest. If you can get those lowest transactions, you're going to get more business taking place on that platform. So do whatever you can to see if you can lower those transaction costs to get the business going.

Looking for signs

Gardner: So we've taken a look at the inevitability of these networks. We've seen them already very prominent in the business to consumer (B2C) space, consumer activities, and commerce. We’ve recognized that openness is important. So we have innovation. We also recognized the importance of governance and management.

So how do we know when we've done this correctly? Is there a sign? Professor Alstyne, you've mentioned a few that describe powerful and successful networks. Do enterprises have to view themselves differently? Do they need to look at participants in their network as a metric rather than just margin and net in gross revenues and incomes? Is there a way to be successful?

Van Alstyne: Platform businesses behave differently than traditional businesses. Silicon Valley had been using lot of these metrics for engagement. How many new users do you get, and how engaged are they with the platform? It’s a wonderful place to start. Let me give you three rules that we like to use for platform design that actually help get the system running smoothly.

One of them is "frictionless entry." You would like to make it as easy as possible for people to get onboard your platform. It doesn’t matter if that user is on the developer side. You want folks to be able to enter the platform as easily as possible.

If you're bringing in apps in your ecosystem, your users are going to get a bad experience if they are low-quality apps.

The next one is that you need to manage "riskless quality." If anyone can participate, there's a danger that folks who actually get onto the platform don't necessarily add value or they may try to siphon off value. You may worry about lower quality. Atari fell apart as a platform when it got low-quality games on it. Uber has to worry about low-quality drivers. If you're bringing in apps in your ecosystem, your users are going to get a bad experience if they are low-quality apps. So you still need to have riskless quality.

The first principle is frictionless entry, and you need to manage riskless quality from the users on that side.

The third one is "permissionless innovation." You don't want your developers to necessarily have to come to you to get permission. There is always this danger because you own the platform. You have enormous power over them and you could simply take that idea and run with it. You need the ecosystem partners to be able to run with an idea and create something novel on their own and let them have that value. They don’t need to get permission first.

These are three rules that we use for design -- frictionless entry, riskless quality, and permissionless innovation. Those are really good guidelines and are helping to get these ecosystems to grow quickly, get more users onboard, and get your value add from third party participation.

Gardner: Tim Minahan at SAP Cloud, tell us a bit about what you're doing at SAP, some of your acquisitions, besides your cloud, this ability to be frictionless and help people come on the network easily. You recently finished up the Concur acquisition, one of your largest ever. Explain how you're growing the size of your network?

Application agnostic

Minahan: What Professor Van Alstyne just talked about are principles that we subscribe to. In a business network sense, it also requires you to be open and application agnostic and largely agnostic to the on-ramps. That’s part of the frictionless entry.

So regardless of what system you are using, whether it’s SAP, Ariba, Concur, Oracle, PeopleSoft Info, etc., you need to be able to attach the systems to the network, those demand systems that allow you to connect and collaborate through the network to extend that business process and engage with your customers, suppliers, and other partners.

Think about our personal lives, whether it’s Uber or Amazon, those networks that are most powerful and most impactful on our personal lives allow a seamless process. You don’t even think about the process, but it is end to end.

In the case of Amazon you don’t think about the buying process -- how am I going to connect to those individual merchants? They're already connected for you. Ultimately, you believe you're buying from Amazon, but you might be buying from an independent provider and they are still delivering to you.

Those networks that are most powerful and most impactful on our personal lives allow a seamless process.

Likewise, you don't think about, gee, now that I have placed the order, do I have to call my bank to settle out? No, that’s handled for you, SAP has been using these guiding principles to go out and make sure that we're building the network appropriately, both in our organic means through innovation and the introduction of new services, like payments, financing, and dynamic discounting, both independently with other members and financial institutions of the network, as well as inorganically through acquisitions.

Gardner: As we close out, we've determined that the number of participants and the value of the commerce is super important in these networks. Several times we've also touched on this feedback loop in the data. So as we look to the future, we might have  competing networks. If we assume that those networks are going to have some frictionless ability to move on and off of them, then the best network is where people will go.

Is the best network the one that provides the best insights in data? Can we close out our discussion by looking at the importance of shared data and analysis and the ability to counter that analysis up from these transactions as a differentiator going forward that will pick winners and losers in open commerce network environment, if you will.

Let’s go to Professor Van Alstyne first. Who is going to win in this network environment and is the data and openness and availability of analytics going to be a major determinant of that?

Van Alstyne: I am going to argue the best platform is the one that creates the most value over time and that probably means that the data analytics, those that can use the data to create these data-driven feedback loops, will be the winners.

One of the things that I want to emphasize is that frictionless entry and the ability of the movement of data doesn’t necessarily mean that switching costs are going to be low or that it’s going to be easy to necessarily change networks. Network effects do create winner-take-all markets, they do create these behemoths. Google Search has 67 percent market share in the US and 90 percent in Europe. Facebook has 1.3 billion users. I think Amazon web services has a huge proportion of the cloud services.

We need to be careful if we think we're going to be able to switch networks easily. There are going to be some very substantial winner-take-all networks and some concentration at the top. Cloud and data is going to be an integral part of that, as the data creates these data-driven feedback loops that support these network effects.

Data and analytics

Minahan: I agree with the professor that the key litmus test of who wins is the platform or the network that creates the most value, and I think value comes in a few flavors.

Number one is relevancy. Are my trading partners there? At SAP, typically about half of any given company's trading partners are already connected in transacting. That makes the frictionless entry that much easier. Think about Facebook. Why would you join any other personal network when most of your friends and family are already there.

The second is the aspect of value. Can I manage most of my collaborations in a single environment or do I need to join multiple networks in order to complete a transactional process? The more capabilities you can layer in to make it more convenient for all members of the network to collaborate, the more value add.

The more capabilities you can layer in to make it more convenient for all members of the network to collaborate, the more value add.

And third, I believe that we've only scratched the surface on these insights. I wouldn’t even say that it’s a two-sided model. It’s a multi-sided model, where once you get these parties collaborating at scale, the transactional relationship and community-generated content can deliver new insights to help folks make more informed decisions, whether it's, which trading partners to do business with or which areas of your existing supply chain might be presented with risk in the future and you need to adapt quickly or which financial settlement options you have to settle out to help you optimize cash flow.

These are new insights that were previously impossible with traditional on-premise and point-to-point integration models and it can only be accomplished in a network model.

Gardner: I'd like to thank out panel, Marshall Van Alstyne, Professor at Boston University School of Management and Research Scientist at the MIT Center for Digital Business. And I'll alert our readers that there will soon be a new book called "Platform Strategies" out in 2015 from Professor Alstyne and co-authors. Also a big thank you to Tim Minahan, Chief Marketing Officer, SAP Cloud and Line of Business.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Read a full transcript or download a copy. Sponsor: SAP.

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Tags:  BriefingsDirect  business network  Dana Gardner  Interarbor Solutions  Marshall Van Alstyne  networked economy  SAP  Tim Minahan 

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