The New IT: Driving Business Innovation With Tech - InformationWeek
IoT
IoT
DevOps
Commentary
7/5/2016
08:06 AM
Andi Mann
Andi Mann
Commentary
Connect Directly
Twitter
RSS
50%
50%

The New IT: Driving Business Innovation With Tech 

Andi Mann, chief technology advocate at Splunk, sees major changes afoot in how IT and business are aligning. Here, he shares his experiences working with CIOs and other IT leaders as they look to derive real business outcomes from the technology they use every day.

8 Smart Ways To Use Prescriptive Analytics
8 Smart Ways To Use Prescriptive Analytics
(Click image for larger view and slideshow.)

For years, IT professionals have been exhorted by their leaders, their colleagues, and assorted industry pundits to better connect IT to business goals. It's a core strategy many have neglected because they're locked away in data centers.

However, in the course of my business, I am starting to see an increase in the number of IT leaders using specific strategies to focus on deriving real business outcomes from the technology they use every day. The approaches they're trying include modernizing infrastructure, exploring ecommerce, and looking for opportunities with connected devices, mobile, wearables, and the sharing economy.

Traditionally, IT executives have focused on buying various components, such as servers, storage, and software from different vendors, assembling the pieces like a puzzle into their own systems, and hiring specialized staff to maintain the systems. With this model, the IT organization ends up spending more money than it should, and dedicating too much time, on an endless cycle of integration, configuration, tuning, and testing.

[Worried about keeping secure in the cloud? Read 7 Ways Cloud Computing Propels IT Security.]

As digital work environments become commonplace, forward-looking IT leaders are not content to sit back while a chief digital officer gets to own the company's modernization budget. Gartner forecasts worldwide IT spending will total $3.49 trillion at the end of 2016, a decline of 0.5% from 2015 spending of $3.5 trillion.

Instead, IT and non-IT leaders alike are choosing to spend on nontraditional digital and business technology solutions. Business technology buyers are actively finding ways to free up capital, invest in new technologies, and deploy new capabilities for new business opportunities. They're shifting investment toward modern, agile capabilities, such as cloud computing, sharing services, and bring your own device.

I'm seeing many traditional industries -- such as banking, insurance, and government -- adopting what I call "new IT" approaches to reduce capital expenditure, modernize systems, and free up budget for new business-relevant initiatives.

What's Holding Us Back?

From where I sit, the "new IT" transition has not been easy. Poor visibility is perhaps the biggest challenge I see holding IT teams back from digital innovation. I'm talking about poor visibility into business goals, application delivery, technology operations, delivery costs, and how the customer is affected.

Visibility is further limited by new force-multipliers, such as the proliferation of user-driven applications, an increase in the number of connected systems, new automation tools, and adoption of serverless techniques like "X"-as-a-service and APIs.

(Image: merznatalia/iStockphoto)

(Image: merznatalia/iStockphoto)

Instead of trying in vain, like King Canute, to turn back this digital tide, "new IT" leaders are starting to accept this complexity and focus on improving visibility into their many disparate systems.

For example, one of our customers in online retail has deployed a new reporting capability to establish a direct line-of-sight into all the stages of digital service delivery -- from planning to development, through quality assurance and staging, and into ongoing operations. This view enables the company to efficiently allocate resources, stay on top of the unexpected, and spend less time on troubleshooting. Even better, the company is able to drive digital innovation in product development, market engagement, customer loyalty, and business value.

Streamlining DevOps

DevOps is another approach I am seeing "new IT" leaders use to enable business innovation. The fifth annual RightScale State of the Cloud Survey polled more than 1,000 IT professionals.

According to the survey, respondents who said they their enterprises had adopted DevOps increased from 66% in 2015 to 74% in 2016. More than 80% of respondents said they are now using DevOps principles for application delivery.

I work with one large SaaS business that commits new feature code daily, and provides product teams with feedback on exactly how customers are using its service. Working closely with both Dev and Ops teams, business leaders can try out new capabilities, iterate quickly, and measure real business results.

They can then rapidly double down on successful innovation, while quickly pivoting when things don't go quite as planned. With the right systems and technologies in place to deliver insight, DevOps connects application delivery with business goals and customer experiences, and helps business leaders work directly with IT on iterative, innovative approaches.

Driving Insightful Business Decisions

Every company is becoming an analytics company as new types of data pour in from new digital devices, systems, and applications. This data has incredibly valuable information on customers, product, partners, and operations, but even the most analytically oriented company is challenged by the amount and diversity of data received.

"New IT" leaders meeting this challenge most successfully appear to be those who connect these many data sources together to establish a common data fabric. This is accessible and meaningful, not only for IT to solve development and performance problems, but also for business leaders to gain actionable business insights.

For example, one gaming business I am working with has started tracking and analyzing website metrics every day, not only measuring application speeds and feeds, but also uncovering customer activity such as wagers made, new users signing up, money paid out, and cancelled subscriptions.

Connecting IT delivery directly with business goals is enabling the company to make data-driven technology decisions, creating measurably better business outcomes. To stay competitive, organizations need to drive innovation, not only with their products and services, but also in business approaches and finding new strategies to exceed business goals.

By modernizing infrastructure, ensuring visibility, exploring new technologies such as cloud computing, and adopting techniques such as streamlined DevOps and common data fabrics, IT can sit at the center of business development and take an organization to new heights. Aligning IT with business goals from the get-go gives companies a competitive edge and sets the standard for success.

Andi Mann is an accomplished digital executive with global expertise as a strategist, technologist, innovator, marketer, and communicator. With over 30 years' experience, he is a sought-after advisor, commentator, and speaker. Andi has coauthored two books. He blogs at Andi ... View Full Bio
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Page 1 / 2   >   >>
SaneIT
50%
50%
SaneIT,
User Rank: Ninja
8/10/2016 | 9:32:59 AM
Re: Legacy infrastructure maintenance is still there
Cryptolocker is teaching a lot of small IT shops hard lessons.  The takeover of the small hospital in California a couple months ago is a good example.  In years past there would have been threats to wipe out their data and maybe a chance to head them off when suspicious activity tips off the IT staff.  Now it's a matter of minutes to encrypt everything so by the time you notice something is wrong it's too late to minimize the damage.  An attack on a PC that has drives mapped to a dozen server locations gets ugly fast.
tjgkg
50%
50%
tjgkg,
User Rank: Ninja
8/9/2016 | 9:42:45 AM
Re: Legacy infrastructure maintenance is still there
The crypto locker virus is really becoming a problem. You really have to have backups of backups on different platforms just to have redundency almost like the nuclear triad at this point. On top of that you need the best possible firewalls and anti-virus to combat this plague.
SaneIT
50%
50%
SaneIT,
User Rank: Ninja
8/4/2016 | 8:03:54 AM
Re: Legacy infrastructure maintenance is still there
In a sense, yes you need to be a bit of a belt and suspenders person.  If you're going to push all of your back ups to the cloud the way that I do now you need to be sure that the data is going to multiple sites.  Luckily you can do this with larger providers so if one datacenter disappears your data won't.  Eventually though because so many services intermingle you will want a place offline to store your data.  I'm thinking of things like a crypto locker virus hitting your cloud based file storage, your automated cloud storage backs up those locked files and depending on your archival methods you may not have much of anything left to restore.  To do some local archival, your local storage doesn't have to be fast just big enough to cover your archival schema.  You use the built in functions of your cloud based services most of which do some kind of snapshotting or versioning as your first line of defense then you move your data elsewhere as your larger storage area.
tjgkg
50%
50%
tjgkg,
User Rank: Ninja
8/3/2016 | 1:07:44 PM
Re: Legacy infrastructure maintenance is still there
Your thoughts on backups are interesting. I remember being fastidious about backing up my PC to floppies, then CD's, then DVD, then to the cloud. COrporations used tape to back up. Imagine if the cloud went down and you needed to restore. The only problem i would see if the entire cloud went down as opposed to your cloud backup vendor going down. If the entire cloud went down, restoring might get you back documents and spreadsheets that might not work if they were created with software on the cloud (like Office). If just your vendor went down, the local backups would work. I guess you need to be a belt and suspenders type of person these days.
SaneIT
50%
50%
SaneIT,
User Rank: Ninja
7/13/2016 | 10:42:25 AM
Re: Legacy infrastructure maintenance is still there
Even with cloud providers offering VDI there will still be network infrastructure, clients to run the VDI images and various pieces of hardware like VPN concentrators and servers for apps that just don't make sense to move.  One thought that I had recently was that backup methods will almost be reversed in a few years.  Instead of sending your data off site to protect it, we'll start pulling our data down to hold it on site in case the cloud provider goes down.
tjgkg
50%
50%
tjgkg,
User Rank: Ninja
7/12/2016 | 7:59:01 AM
Re: Legacy infrastructure maintenance is still there
That is right. A lot of companies offer to host business applications on their cloud so that takes away a certain amount of additional investment for a solution. However there will always be a need for a company to have their own infrastructure to connect and work with the cloud and each other. IT will always be around, just not as big or following that same repeating cycle over and over.
tjgkg
50%
50%
tjgkg,
User Rank: Ninja
7/12/2016 | 7:53:31 AM
Re: Legacy infrastructure maintenance is still there
True. I can't see the that aspect ever going away. Maybe now the IT department's focus is more on making the business more efficient, but there will always be a need to procure, configure and maintain the infrastructure to make that happen.
TerryB
50%
50%
TerryB,
User Rank: Ninja
7/6/2016 | 4:13:14 PM
Re: Better Examples
Thanks for reply, Andy. I've certainly been following changes in tech and we do some pretty trick things here for a mfg company who has been making brass wire for 50 years.

We have 3 plants in local area. We use an IBM i5 server for ERP and shopfloor systems, connected to Invensys Wonderware to feed info directly from machines. We track, and barcode, every unit of inventory we cast and process all the way out the door. We have paperless shopfloor system, including ISO docs. I send electronic data to certain customers who request it and we support custom shipping labels barcoded however customers demand it. All integrated with this single i5 server.

I've yet to find a compelling reason to put our shopfloor dependent on an internet connection to use cloud systems. Just the network cost alone would be staggering compared to local LAN (with wireless) already in place. We'd have to use two vendors like AT&T and Time Warner for redundancy and to get anything close to local LAN bandwidth would be $3K a month.

I even looked at moving i5 hardware to cloud. My current on premise cost is $3500 in annual maint to IBM for next biz day support. I looked at cloud provider of i5, it would have cost $22,000 a year before factoring in network circuits. And I'm only IT person here, I'd still be here if we were in cloud.

I'm not sure what will change in forseeable future to change that equation? We are in Appleton WI, not a huge tech buildout going on here. How quickly do you think network connection cost will change in this type of area?

I like the idea of having no hardware on premise but routers and switches (I'm a developer) but it has to make sense and it has to be highly available. I have 8 years left before I retire, do you think I'll see that opportunity here?
andimann
50%
50%
andimann,
User Rank: Moderator
7/6/2016 | 3:57:58 PM
Re: 1 solution to the "visibility problem"
Thanks Mike, I appreciate the comment and like your thinking. The end user experience is so critical, and like a canary in the coalmine to understand if you are meeting business goals. Data in general is especially important to decision-making, especially for business leaders looking to innovate, or simply to provide excellent service.

But I do think that UX data alone is not enough - there is so much more to know, from how well you deliver on new ideas, to how effectively you leverage partners, to how much you are spending on IT and other areas, and a lot more.

But having real data on the actual customer experince is always an excellent place to start!

 

Andi Mann, Chief Technology Advocate, Splunk
andimann
50%
50%
andimann,
User Rank: Moderator
7/6/2016 | 3:52:39 PM
Re: Better Examples
Thanks for reading Terry, and good comment too.

First I would say - if everyone was doing these things, they wouldn't be 'New IT', would they? ;-)

To be serious, you are right, these new approaches are not happening (yet) in every business - but I think most orgs will need to move in these directions to stay competitive.

Because while business-IT alignment is not new, new approaches are helping orgs to achieve and/or improve that alignment. And although many businesses must still work with older systems - from mainframe to ERP to desktop clients - leading businesses are not ignoring new approaches like cloud or devops or mobile, lest they follow the likes of Blockbuster and Kodak and so many others.

Finally, it is certainly easier for a 'born in the cloud' SaaS org to adopt these new approaches. But retail is almost as old as commerce itself; and gambling may be older! FWIW, I see fundamental change in manufacturing too, like using real-time sensor data to manage production, or connecting with suppliers via cloud APIs to reduce costs of JIT inventory.

These trends are coming - if unevenly - to all industries. People are really important, and approaches like DevOps recognize this too. But I think the most competitve businesses in all industries are adopting new approaches to technology and process too, to keep up with newer, more agile competitors.

 

Andi Mann, Chief Technology Advocate, Splunk
Page 1 / 2   >   >>
[Interop ITX 2017] State Of DevOps Report
[Interop ITX 2017] State Of DevOps Report
The DevOps movement brings application development and infrastructure operations together to increase efficiency and deploy applications more quickly. But embracing DevOps means making significant cultural, organizational, and technological changes. This research report will examine how and why IT organizations are adopting DevOps methodologies, the effects on their staff and processes, and the tools they are utilizing for the best results.
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
IT Strategies to Conquer the Cloud
Chances are your organization is adopting cloud computing in one way or another -- or in multiple ways. Understanding the skills you need and how cloud affects IT operations and networking will help you adapt.
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.
Flash Poll