Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Cloud has Stolen the Thunder finally - Has it? : Part-3

CLOUD has Stolen the Thunder finally -  Has it? (Part-3)

Part-1 here
Part-2 here

We shall now check our 2nd point, i.e. Is it that this time marketing crescendo is unprecedented, after all this word ‘cloud’ is  more pleasing in lexicon per se.  

If we look back in the history of computing, one can easily deduce that the concept of cloud is not new. Even during 50's and 60's when first mainframe was erected, scientists looked into the possibility of "Access to centralized resources, data and services". The idea could not reach mainstream due to two major obstacles:

  1. Incompatibility with other systems (in techy term we call it Interoperability issues)
  2. Lack of distribution mechanism 

90's and 21st century witnessed two major innovations - Parallel computing (i.e. sharing) and Internet. Together they were able to break the barrier; it allowed this concept of sharing to spread all the way to end users. 

About the metaphor CLOUD. The history of technology is always like this. First, a concept gets formulated. With time, newer innovations join the fray, helping the original concept to evolve. Eventually someone sees that this concept can be packaged as a product and be sold. 

The 'product' must have a Name, Life-cycle, Economic value, perceived Benefit and most importantly the product must find a User. 
In this context, I do not know who first coined the word 'Cloud'. To the best of my knowledge Gartner gave major push to Cloud and helped in spreading the benefit of this product (still doing). Whether a product will be successful or not, can be checked by measuring the difference between 'Perceived benefit' and the 'Economic value'. Higher the difference, greater are the chances of failure of this product. Marketing push has major role in creating the difference.  

In this part of the blog I raised the issue of marketing (the Cloud). Marketing is about raising the value of 'perceived benefit'. On the other hand, till date we are not fully sure of right 'economic value' of Cloud. 
In my view ROI (and TCO) will vary widely depending on the type of end user we are talking about. Therefore I am neutral to the second argument. I shall prefer to follow wait and watch rule in this case.

We shall look into our 3rd argument, battered world economy in the next blog.  

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Cloud has Stolen the Thunder finally - Has it? : Part-2

CLOUD has Stolen the Thunder finally -  Has it? (Part-2)

We stated, IT Cloud is a subject of discussion at the top-most echelons of budget approval pyramid process. We touched on 4 dimensions to understand the reason behind it.

  1. Business executives have become tech savvy? Have they finally reached a level where they could understand technicalities and resulting value behind it?  or, 
  2. Is it that this time marketing crescendo is unprecedented, after all this word ‘cloud’ is  more pleasing in lexicon per se. or, 
  3. Is it because battered world economy has forced Executives to think beyond conventional areas? Or, 
  4. Is it simply because, this time ICT sector has fashioned something to roar about. 

Let us analyze the first dimension i.e. growing tech savvy-ness of business executive class.
To do this, Firstly I tried to find the authentic list of current CxOs of developed countries, emerging and underdeveloped countries. 
  • I met with success in getting the list for developed countries. It is widely available for US, Canada, Australia and most European countries: Central bank sites, Stock exchanges, Forbes lists, Fortune, Business mags, CEOexpress and archival record from libraries. 
  • Among emerging market: I could easily get the list for India and Middle-East (because I work here currently). I had great difficulty in finding any such lists for China <could muster certain data but incomplete. For this I must thank to my friends and old colleagues>. Russia/Brazil <probably it is there but I think page language was major hindrance>. SouthAfrica (frankly, did not try hard). 
  • Did not venture in to underdeveloped countries for lack of time and resources
Profiles accumulated churns vast amount of data. I had tough time assimilating them and running hundreds of  macros on spreadsheet. Unfortunately at my home I do not have the luxury of any 'intelligence tool' to this work for me. I realized that even after getting equipped with an efficient tool, it can take many years for someone to  arrive at any precise conclusion. In my case though, I just wanted to get the trends of a very small subset of data... which I think was possible, because it is more about sampling, modeling, running analytics and generating extrapolation.

To complete my analysis, I divided CxOs in two distinct categories: a) Chiefs/Heads of a unit closely related to technology, channels, eBusiness or engagements where HoD spends more than 50% of her/his time on technology management. b) rest of the bunch. The ratio of a and b in my sampling is approx 15 to 85. 
Next the data was further distilled based on their last 10 year experience and type of companies/entities they led.

There were other interesting analysis though... e.g. throughout 2000-2004 and 2004-2008 average age of CxOs was decreasing YoY. Beyond 2009 average age started rising again. Another interesting trend observed is the duration of CxO tenure which was rising during 2000-8; but dropped sharply thereafter.
Also, there were diametric opposite trends of big enterprise CxOs when compared to CxOs of smaller, younger, entrepreneurial companies. A separate book can be written about interesting and fascinating trends gathered while analyzing just the professional profiles of CxOs.

Coming back to the subject of understanding whether current generation CxOs are technology friendly enough? 
Secondly, I used data from my own first hand experience; gathered while talking to executives in conferences, meetings or social gatherings. To summarize my understanding of the situation, I am putting forward a real scenario which I experienced recently while conversing to a group over cocktail drinks. The group consisted - One banker, one from PR/media, one head of finance working with a logistics company, one was HR manager in an oil company and myself (sole IT person). At one point during our normal chit chat, the banker reached to her Blackberry, looked at it and immediately cursed as why the SMS reached to her so late. She apparently used her card at least 6 hours beforehand. 

Quickly our conversation drifted on the subject as why the message received by her was not very informative and what extra information we think must be part of this SMS message sent to her. 
It further drifted where they phrased terms like data availability, real time data, data warehouse, Business Intelligence, bandwidth, protocols, central source of customer data etc etc.

I tried to put my bit by cautioning the possible bottlenecks in the whole process of data gathering before it is formulated and sent to telecom carriers. To me this whole discussion was very occupying and amusing as well, especially when the lady annoyingly exclaimed that she will ensure that this issue is fixed before she uses her card next time. The lady <actually Head of corporate marketing/RM - in an MNC Bank> perceived this as an issue, may not be an issue for others. 

Any way, from the flow of the discussion it appeared to me that now-a-days execs are able to pick and stick techie jargons much more rationally and efficiently than ever before. They are certainly able to connect their 'own experience' with 'end-user experience' using technology bandwagon. I take this a definite sign of them reaching out to technology. This, in my view is departure from the past when it was IT, who is used to knocking doors of business executives... now-a-days, it seems business execs are knocking windows of technology managers and sticking their necks inside. 

Besides, there is another angle to it. Such situation automatically creates extra pressure on the service level required from IT department. Cutting it short... in effect stakeholders will inadvertently press for  higher level of service and shorter time to market. There is now closer scrutiny. CIOs can no more run IT as a shop where something goes in, something else comes out; in terms of product/service or tangible/intangible.  (this para deserves a separate blog topic)

As the old age typical saying... <this one is from the CEO of my previous organization> "I do not need to understand as  Where and How the particular Technology can do something for me? Instead, I just need to know Whether and What it can do for me."... does not fly anymore. I think the time has come that executives need to understand and accept growing pervasive nature of technology to end-users and to themselves as well. Possibly CxOs have already understood this. Most of them already have complete understanding of end-user experience, very often delivered to their target users/customers directly in paper-less and touch-less mode
It was not possible without them venturing out in the How element of the technology. 

In summary, it is quite obvious that CxOs of this age are much more closer to technology than we think they are. Their exploration of "How Technology Can do it" has changed a lot. 

Nevertheless, based on above TWO arguments..... do they justify the reason behind "Cloud in Boardrooms" ?  
In my view, the answer is half-yes. The proposition that Business Executives are becoming more tech savvy is not sufficient. Yet, this phenomenon is very important. This trend has given a launching pad to business executives, using which they are now able to reach out to Technology very easily. 

We shall move to item number 2, marketing crescendo in the next blog.

Saturday, April 21, 2012


CLOUD-onomics - Benefits calculation in terms of ROI when embracing "Cloud services & infrastructure" will continue be highly speculative. Arriving at the 'Economic value' is even more difficult. It depends on numerous factors... starting from the Organizational parameters <culture, size, compliance, security and risk appetite etc. etc> to the Hardware, Software, Design, Vendor, etc chosen as part of the solution. In certain cases it can be even negative.

Complete text here.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Cloud has Stolen the Thunder finally - Has it?

CLOUD has Stolen the Thunder finally -  Has it?


          Over the last 20-30 years, enterprises have spent vast sums of capital to setup IT empires.  Inside story of these IT domain is always the same. 

You will find bright meeting rooms and fancy cubicles swamped with worthy geeks, analysts and project managers. Then there are Data centers and Storage rooms where invariably one can find sophisticated machines which you are forced to change every 3 to 5 years; rarely any equipment ages beyond 7 years… thanks to the combined efforts of vendors, sales personnel and hardware syndicates. Blame it to constant innovations and incompatibilities. 

21st century saw waves of convergence, distributed computing, SOA, open source, mobile applications etc. Technology ecosystem of IT shops were indeed impacted. Still, they didn't have all the punch, that is necessary to change the Business landscape. It certainly missed mentions in any CxO briefings and places where real decisions are made.

Now, the new thunder – CLOUD. Some call it Cloud computing; others differentiate in terms of private, public and hybrid cloud. More mature and respected ones have explained it using meaningful acronyms SaaS, PaaS and IaaS.

Unlike previous waves, this time however, surprisingly the word “IT Cloud” has finally stolen the thunder. It is being touched-on in Executive briefings and in some cases even in Board meetings! If nothing else, year 2012 should be remembered simply for this reason. IT has breached a barrier quietly… no one took notice of it! Never ever any IT paradigm could make way to Board rooms before.

Is it because?
  1. Business executives have become tech savvy? Have they finally reached a level where they could understand technicalities and resulting value behind it?  or, 
  2. Is it that this time marketing crescendo is unprecedented, after all this word ‘cloud’ is  more pleasing in lexicon per se. or, 
  3. Is it because battered world economy has forced Executives to think beyond conventional areas? Or, 
  4. Is it simply because this time, ICT sector has fashioned something to roar about. 

Which one is the right answer? Let us Analyze....... to be continued in Part-2

***** End of Part-1*****

Sunday, April 15, 2012

A white paper on IT Process Optimization
(Emphasis is on Change management)

 From -  Sanjeet Kumar                                             14th March 2012


An organization cannot accelerate its results without an IT function that is aligned with a coherent strategy, and optimized to perform at its highest potential. In a stable economic environment, it has been statistically established that within IT:
  1. 45% of the resources are wasted on non-productive work
  2. 90% of staff do not understand their own goal, as well as business goals
  3. 75% of CxOs do recognize the failure of their IT processes, but fail to streamline it; due to obstacles they face in getting support from stakeholders.

Closing the Execution Gap

Above statistics reveal, there’s an obvious disconnect between Investment and Performance. Between crafting the strategy and showing results. It can be labeled as the ‘execution gap’. Reasons vary one organization to another. But whatever the reason; at its base lie issues relating to the process of execution: getting the right workforce and processes to use its full potential, and to focus that potential is in the right direction.

We are transgressing ‘eras’; Economy crisis around the world has battered Banks to the extent that it is no more the question of who makes profit and how much… Rather, the question of Bank’s survival itself is in question. 

Evolution of IT as Utility, not merely a Service provider

Nowadays application environments are faster and more incremental. Nice interfaces and colorful screens are absolute. Today, if asked to Business to choose single word they hate most, would like to avoid at any cost. Invariably majority will pick the word… disruption. Disruption in banking services is big NO.
There are broader underlying requirements from the business, something they do not articulate…i.e.  Not merely the ‘continuity of service’; 2nd and 3rd criteria below as well:
  1. Continuity of service
  2. Continuity of business processes
  3. Continuity of interaction

Our aim should be to design internal Processes (development, support, operation) and SLAs in such a way that ensures continuity. It will be the “first step” towards the healthy alignment of “Business and IT”. This however, can potentially result in major transformation in the way IT executes its development and operations.

In today’s world; fraught with financial crisis, hard pressed to optimize funding… noise level to search for efficiency has grown to its highest level.  Innovative transformation of internal IT processes is inevitable. It was long due.
This is actually a boon in disguise; it is an opportunity to clean up fat and align IT with Business in completely novel way. Business Process Management (BPM) will be vital in formulating strategy and planning & achieving desired results. More than half of the World’s top tier Banks have already completed BPM exercise.

It is my strong view that future of IT workforce will reduce (is already becoming) to just 3 generic roles/skills:
a)  Consultants: Must be a combination of Internal (permanent staff) or External (on contract for limited duration). Individual who fall into this category are: CxOs, Architects, IT Unit heads <of IT support, development, Infrastructure> and Business heads who interact with IT. Essential skillset for this category:
a.       Understanding of Business
b.      Strategic thinking
c.       Knowledge of Architecture
d.      Leadership
      b)  Project Managers: The definition has changed. They will be actually a Delivery Manager. Their skill-set should include following four:
a.       Able to ensure delivery dates
b.    Able to understand Business language and convert it to developers’ language. The role of Business Analysts will merge with PM.
c.       Able to ensure that ‘delivery’ matches Service and Quality expectations of stakeholders
d.      Tactical in approach
    c)  Developers: They are ‘doers’ who carry limited programming skills in one or more areas. They sit in front of screens to provide (or develop) all the information required to run business. Majority will sweat behind LCD screens configuring applications, running automated software and generating reports.

Unfortunately, our old age method of charting hierarchy to IT workforce in an organization has created confusion and invisible barriers. Demand for off-the-shelf services growing louder and louder. Unintentionally, the Business is expecting its IT department to provide services similar to that of utility.

Transforming Development Process

Strategic vision for IT Execution should be about moving beyond automating workflows; to actually aligning, optimizing, and accelerating workforce productivity in a way that drives measurable business results. The role of ‘automation and monitoring software’ should increase.

How can we in the organization start improving IT execution? The first step is to recognize that IT execution is a shared responsibility… no one group can do it itself. Rather, IT execution requires involvement and collaboration from individual business heads, CIO, CTO, Finance and HR. Business leaders need to articulate both an overall strategic vision and the key performance indicators and metrics linked to realizing their vision.

Remember… It is the The General who ensures that the Battle is won, not thousands of Soldiers.

************* End of Part1 ******************