Back and Better

It is great to be back writing again and I’m very excited to fire up this site as well. I’m working on multiple articles and will start posting those up shortly. One series of articles that I’m very excited about is the remaking of the IT business model. We are reconstructing IT using the Business Model Canvas that Alexander Osterwalder & Yves Pigneur developed. We will be breaking down each section and examining the inputs. We will then be adding in innovation components to make sure that the new IT model has the proper innovation mindset and tools to meet any future challenge.

We will also be examining current events in business and technology and discussing multiple topics from economics and emerging markets to reverse innovation.

Look for articles, commentary, thoughts coming soon.

Cheers

Michael

Dell Enterprise Strategy Update and Social Think Tank Review

I had the great pleasure last week of being invited by Dell to participate in their Enterprise Strategy Update and Social Think Tank event in San Francisco. In addition to moderating the Social Think Tank panel discussion, I was able to attend the briefing that the Dell executives were giving around their latest converged infrastructure offering; Active Systems. Dell’s new addition, Marius Haas (President of Enterprise Solutions Group) along with a handful of others like Dario Zamarian laid out the game plan for moving forward in the world of cloud computing, big data, and converged infrastructure.

As I sat and listened to Marius (a former HP’er as well) he was saying all the right things about the four design principles of a flexible enterprise: modularity, simplification, integration, and standardization although not really coming right out and saying those exact words. This was music to my ears as I have been speaking about these four design principles for many years now as the way to increase the convergence of IT and the business applying them across the business processes, applications, and infrastructure to be a truly flexible enterprise.

You could see the tie-in from the morning’s event to the afternoon’s Social Think Tank event on the Future of Convergence. I could see that what Dell’s execs were talking about was the necessary shift from “vertical stacks” where resources are housed in silos to a “horizontal infrastructure”, which creates a common foundation on which their customers can layer any application or process and how their new Active Systems offerings could help achieve this.

After the executive briefing and announcements were done all of the attendees were shuttled through the demo area to see how Dell was approaching cloud computing, big data, mobility, and ultimately how the new Active Systems was the backbone for making these trends achievable. I took away from the cloud computing demo that Dell was serious about allowing heterogeneity and not forcing homogeneity and monolithic rules as some vendors do. That their cloud solution enabled parallel innovation and fast response to change and provided great support for multi-sourcing (flexibility of outsourcing/in-sourcing), which is a key trend that I’m seeing in the enterprise. Their model driven automation simplifies execution of IT practices and demonstrates that the cost of change can be low and predictable along with automating service lifecycle delivery and management. Great job!

The next section was the “Data Insights” demo and it was good to see that Dell is bringing together Hadoop and other “big data” vendors (Boomi, etc.) along with Crowbar and making it ‘simpler’ for customers to get moving into data analytics and using the insights that their data is giving them to make intelligent decisions. This is also plays into conversations I’ve been having recently around business process modeling and how it’s key to aligning delivery with strategy. This alignment depends on information flowing both ways: the business strategy must be informed by the actual performance of the delivery processes, and can in turn influence ongoing business objectives. It’s great to see that Dell is seeing this as well.

I thanked Dell via Twitter last week but would like to thank them again for sponsoring me and my other industry colleagues and allowing us to take part in some very interesting conversations. It’s great to see that Dell is listening to its customers and spreading the gospel of when you get your IT infrastructure right, anything is possible, and change becomes an opportunity, not an obstacle.

Know how the business makes money and retool your business model to make a bigger impact

There was an article posted up on the website Center for CIO Leadership  the other day titled, “IT Paranoia-We’ve got to stop it!”.  I was so amazed that the author, a long time IT veteran, stated this about IT in general, “We are not narrowly focused practitioners who don’t know what’s going on in the company or are indifferent to corporate results.”  Yes you are and this statement couldn’t be further from the truth.  This is just one mindset of a bigger problem with IT still being the roadblock to agility and earning its spot in the boardroom.

Here’s the question IT management people, “How much of an understanding do have on how your company makes money thereby having a staff that knows where the money comes from and where it goes?”  This question gets asked a lot by some consultants with the same answer, “why would I want to do this? I don’t have enough time to do what I need to do now.” The answer is, “well by doing this you will carry out the task of having an IT organization that knows how to see opportunities to differentiate the company from the competition.”

According to the post on the Center for CIO Leadership the author still believes that there are no issues between IT and the business almost like he’s in denial.  There are issues and the key here is to get beyond the old cliché and first step of IT-Business alignment to more of the IT-Business convergence.  The term “IT-Business alignment” is wrong because it implies that IT is separate from the business, whereas IT-Business convergence is the pinnacle in the efforts to integrate, to a higher degree, IT into the business decision process.  To help accomplish that convergence, everyone in IT has to learn how the business makes money and how to use that information to generate new innovations and revenue opportunities. Doing so will help you to increase ITs value to the organization.  Today IT is the roadblock and you need to get it to a point where the lag gaps between change event and the profit are minimal.

The author of the article at Center for CIO Leadership (Paul Ingevaldson), even states that, “I teach a couple of sessions in a local MBA class that focus on IT Management to primarily non-IT students. Each semester I ask the students what they think of their IT department. Invariably I get the following comments:”

  • IT doesn’t get its projects done on time or on budget
  • IT doesn’t understand the business
  • IT is more loyal to IT than to our business
  • IT has their own language – I don’t understand them
  • Why does it take them so long to do anything?
  • IT lacks a sense of urgency

Hello!!! Now not every person in IT will have the bandwidth to pay attention to this but they should.  In most organizations, the IT staff has always been “heads down” and the IT organization as a whole has been content to just be the providers to the business.  But this is a whole new world of business, and if IT wants a seat at the strategic table they have to figure out how to speak the language of business.  There is another point to that statement that gets thrown back out in almost a grade school type fashion almost every day; “business needs to understand IT as well.  IT folks need to just quit complaining and get in the game. IT needs to shoot for a higher-level of understanding here and realize that this is a symbiotic relationship.

It’s time that IT management start thinking like a CEO and CFO.  I will guarantee you this, “that at the top of every CEO’s and CFO’s mind is the fact that for every dollar coming in the front door, a portion is going out the back in the form of costs. If you take time and study that equation you can discover ways to save and generate revenue.”

One of the things that IT needs to do is ask not just how IT contributes to today’s business model, but how that will change in the future.  This really gets folks thinking on a different level (strategically instead of tactically).

At one large customer the Sr VP of IT was asked if he could invite the CFO into one of the department meetings.  He asked why? the answer was that we need a focused conversation around the “bottom line” with the staff.  The importance of the “bottom line” discussion with his team was to share how the company earns revenue, where the profit goes and where excess cash may be invested.  After the meeting the Sr VP stated that this information would be invaluable to help focus his managers thought processes around innovation.  That was the point.  If you understand areas where the company is growing, you can potentially come up with new ideas or different ways to do things that will bring a competitive advantage. These ideas may range from a function on a website to improvements in customer service to changes in internal processes, etc.

The last way that you can help facilitate the move to convergence is to map IT functions to business processes.  Here’s an example; a customer relied heavily on IT to produce its products; customer-facing applications are tightly integrated with the ERP and manufacturing systems. But what was observed during analysis time sitting on the help desk was that agents didn’t understand how all the systems and manufacturing machines were integrated to scan and manufacture this product – which was a highly intricate process.

At the end of the day the  management review stated that the solution to better IT support lay in fostering a more integrated view of business processes and IT operations. In the final report to executive management it suggested they create an “anthropological team” and send this team out to the manufacturing sites to learn about the equipment and systems they were servicing from the user’s point of view, interview the users and document that business-centric view.  By taking the “Anthropologist” view they were able to eventually map out the company’s business processes to each application and the machines they run on and show how each was connected to the others. This map was a powerful illustration of how the employees who create and service each system contribute to their company’s top line. It also worked as a tool to show which systems impact revenue the most and which processes needed infrastructure improvements.

By getting in touch with what the business does, almost to the extent of embedding IT teams into the business, along with retooling the IT business model you can build a deeper understanding of the relationship between how the business makes money and the work it does everyday will be the only way to raise IT to the level that it should be. This will help you create better partnerships with the business users and further the movement to IT-Business convergence.

Next Generation IT and VDI. Some thoughts

IT can’t continue to focus on the device, it needs to focus the user persona virtualization to be able to move across the multitude of devices/connection methods out there and on delivering the right applications to the user no matter what device they use.  As it relates to the device-centric conversations that are happening these days I think Citrix had a great way to put this as it relates to ubiquitous access and that is, “Snack, Dine, and Create”.  Develop solutions that take these user access/device scenarios into account and you have a solution that meets the needs of everyone in the enterprise.

The majority of the CIOs on the CIO Executive Series call last week were concerned with the “nuts and bolts” of VDI, i.e. Storage, Security, etc. which again I think they are getting too far into the technical weeds and not enough at the higher levles that they need to be at.  They need to be more focused on the business value benefits of virtual desktops and how it can help drive growth and allow for improved performance/productivity.  They are so focused on the “nuts and bolts” that they aren’t developing the Service Strategy, Service Design, Service Transition, and Service Operation.  This will eventually end up in the typical IT Sisyphean struggle that IT always ends up dealing with.  Most CIOs and IT executives today prefer the “what is” as opposed to the innovation path of “what could be”.  Traditional IT executives are not willing to spend time in the “dragon gap”.  They are under the illusion that the solution to a problem exists in the past, therefore all we have to do is reach back and grab a solution from the “solution shelf” as if we were buying a pair of pants from the read to wear rack.  This does not work in this era of the consumerization of IT.

I spoke of the Service Strategy dilemma that CIOs now face as it relates to VDI.  A lot of the contention that organizations are seeing with virtual desktops (in whatever flavor they use) can be mitigated by actually following some ITSM processes.  With the right service strategy these points of contention can be better understood and handled along with possibly forming a new organization within IT to handle this technology (again covering whatever flavor of virtual desktops are used).

In my opinion all Virtual desktop solutions should be gathered under one new organization within IT.  At this point the organization needs to follow a very standard phased approach, starting with.

1.      Service Strategy Phase: Whereby the new organization within IT determines the needs, priorities, demands and relative importance for a virtual desktop service. The organization then needs to identify the value being created through a virtual desktop service and the predicted financial resources required to design, deliver and support them.

2.      Service Design Phase: Here is really where the rubber starts to meet the road.  The architecture teams kick off the design for the infrastructure, the processes and the support mechanisms needed to meet the availability requirements of the customer.  By engaging the necessary teams and individuals at this juncture of the Service Design, the “turf wars” can be minimized if not completely mitigated.

3.      Service Transition Phase:  With the right teams and individuals assembled and working together, they can then validate that the Service meets the functional and technical fitness criteria to justify release to the customer.

4.      Service Operation Phase: Here is where the creation of the new organization within IT would/should be responsible for all current and future flavors of virtual desktops from server-based computing on down to the client-side hypervisor desktop virtualization that is coming.  This new organization would be responsible for the monitoring of the ongoing availability being provided. During this phase they would also manage and resolve incidents that affect Service Availability.

5.      Continual Service Improvement Phase: The new organization then ties directly into the team that manages and coordinates the collection of data, information and knowledge regarding the quality and performance of services supplied along with Service Management activities performed. Service Improvement Plans are developed and coordinated to improve any aspect involved in the management of virtual desktop services with the new support and operational team.

These steps would lead eventually to the re-architecture of the obsolete IT business model we have today and better enable IT to adapt to the change that the business needs.

The conversation needs to be elevated to beyond the device-centric and mobility conversation to the user persona virtualization and service oriented aspects.  IT needs to stop prognosticating about the trends and start developing the next generation IT organization to keep up with those trends and stop being the “department of No”.

Change is Coming IT. Are You Ready?

Taking place this week is one of the best IT Service Management conferences in the world; Pink11  Gathered in the Belaggio Hotel in Las Vegas are some of the best and brightest minds in the industry sharing their thoughts, theories, suggestions, etc.  For those readers who have followed me for a while now are familiar with my take on IT Service Management and using “change” as a competitive weapon.  I was so impressed by the opening remarks and especially the opening video that I had to tweak an old post I did and put it back up here.  Make sure you watch the video first and then watch the open remarks.

I’ve stated many times that, change presents opportunities.  The ability to adapt to change is a key advantage in business.  To survive, compete, and win, enterprises must adapt.  However, because change is often disruptive and expensive, few organizations are prepared to take advantage consistently of the opportunities that change presents.

The IT organization, in particular, is sometimes often seen as a roadblock to business agility.  This is somewhat ironic because new information technology should be a key part of the solution.  But IT innovation causes so much change, that it is difficult to reap the benefits of this innovation.  Accordingly, CIOs have often paid close attention to cost, quality, and risk management concerns.  Because of the complexity of the business environment and underlying technologies, the desired end state was typically stability of operations, with changes managed as initiatives delivering new functionality while ensuring ongoing stability and controlling costs.

The situation we find ourselves in today is that IT is still sometimes an inhibitor of the business (in some respects) and we need to get the business and IT organizations to not merely align their efforts but to converge and synchronize them to reap the rewards of being flexible, responsive, and proactive.

One of the key challenges I see, and I’m sure the rest of you see, is that there are silos of applications and information.  For instance, a customer of mine wanted to roll out a new app.  It needed to go through five different “silos” to get to the end users.  I was in the meeting with them along with the server team, network team, security team, systems mgmt team, and finally the desktop team.  All of these “silos” had concerns:

  • the server team was worried about power and datacenter space
  • the network team was worried about bandwidth and trafffic
  • the security team was worried about all the risks and vulnerabilities
  • the systems mgmt team was worried about  trying to make it all fit together
  • finally, the desktop team who has to support all the end users

These guys were lucky to get any application project out in less than nine months.  One of the risks with these silos was that the business requirements changed three times by the time they could get it rolled out.  This is not acceptable today and the reason this happens is because of the obsolete nature of today’s IT business model.

Another dilemma here is what C.K. Prahalad and M.S. Krishnan referred to their book, The New Age of Innovation, as the “line of business and CIO disconnect”, because it involves a chasm between what the line of business managers want to accomplish and what CIOs perceive their jobs to be – and how they are perceived.  Most CIOs that I have spoken to are still thought of as operating in a technology silo concerned primarily with “internal efficiency” and this is a seriously limiting factor.  “It’s not surprising that the CIO focus is on maintenance of existing systems and not business innovation.”

So why aren’t CIOs devoting the required time and effort to innovation in IT?  The truth is that most do, and in other cases it’s something that isn’t really generally expected of them.  Overall, CIOs have a very difficult balancing act as seen by this graphic:

 

Over the years I’ve talked with numerous CEOs and CIOs and they pretty much tell me the same things.  They want to:

    * maximize the return on their investments
    * manage and mitigate risk
    * need improve their IT performance
    * and finally they want more agility

Basically the net here is they want to be able to handle and take advantage of change today to improve their competitiveness, lower costs, and serve their customers better — and build an IT environment and business processes that can easily accommodate tomorrow’s changes.  How?  In today’s perilous economic times IT budgets are growing but not by much.  CIOs are having a tough time with changes happening continuously, more of the budget is going to maintenance and integration tasks, with little left over for innovation; but it’s not time to retrench.  I’ve stated before that retrenchment will surely buy you time, but it will not buy you opportunity, growth or a future. 

The old business model of IT is dead.  It’s time to “rearchitect” the business model to get in the game.  If not, then get out of the way.

Why WAN Acceleration Is Not Enough for VDI Success

The purpose of this article is to highlight why plain old WAN acceleration (Riverbed, Citrix, Cisco, etc etc) is not enough for optimizing end user experience at remote sites within a virtual desktop infrastructure implementation. What IT needs, and more importantly users need is a way to configure settings that dynamically respond to the user’s choice of applications as their workload changes.  For instance, if the user is viewing YouTube or other multimedia sites the QoS tag can be dynamically altered to a lower priority, but when they switch back to an application like SAP for instance, the QoS tag can be altered again to raise the priority of the traffic.

Overview

Providing network communication Quality of Service (QoS) guarantees in VDI is a significant problem.  Whether it’s a terminal, thin client, repurposed PC or traditional PC with terminal client software, communication to and from the VM is facilitated through a connection brokering technology or “infrastructure access” package. Common protocols include PC-over-IP, Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) and ICA.

In traditional physical PC network architectures, QoS guarantees are achieved through a standard called Differentiated Services or DiffServ. DiffServ is a mechanism for classifying and managing network traffic. The goal is to provide guaranteed service (GS) to critical network traffic such as voice and email while providing “best-effort” traffic guarantees to lower priority non-critical services such as web traffic or file transfers. 

DiffServ operates on a traffic classification principal where individual data packets are placed into a limited number of classes. Each router is configured to differentiate traffic based on its class and each class can be managed in different ways. This ensures that critical network traffic get priority over other non-critical traffic.
Per-Hop Behavior (PHB) is indicated by encoding a 6-bit value called the Differentiated Services Code Point (DSCP) into the 8-bit Differentiated Services (DS) field of the IP packet header. While a network could employ up to 64 different traffic classes utilizing different marking in the DSCP, the common and practical standard is employing the following 4 Per-Hop Behaviors.

• Default PHB: Which is typically best-effort traffic
• Expedited Forwarding (EF) PHB: Dedicated to low-loss, low-latency traffic
• Assured Forwarding (AF) PHB: Which gives assurance of delivery under conditions
• Class Selector PHBs: Which are defined to maintain backward compatibility with the IP Precedence field.

Default PHB
A default PHB is the only required behavior. In general, traffic that does not meet the requirements of any of the other defined classes is placed in the default PHB. Typically, the default PHB has best-effort forwarding characteristics. The recommended DSCP for the default PHB is ‘000000’ (in binary).

Expedited Forwarding (EF) PHB – DSCP= (46 OR 101110)
The EF PHB has the characteristics of low delay, low loss and low jitter. These characteristics are suitable for voice, video and other real-time services. EF traffic is often given “strict priority queuing” above all other traffic classes. Because an overload of EF traffic will cause queuing delays and affect the jitter and delay tolerances within the class, EF traffic is often strictly controlled through admission control, policing and other mechanisms. Typical networks will limit EF traffic to no more than 30% and often much less of the capacity of a link. For more information the IETF defines Expedited Forwarding behavior in RFC 3246.

Assured Forwarding (AF) PHB
For more information the IETF defines the Assured Forwarding behavior in RFC 2597.

Class Selector PHB
Class Selector PHB provides for legacy standard support in DiffServ. Before the DiffServ standard, IP networks could use the Precedence field in the Type of Service (TOS) byte of the IP header to mark priority traffic. The TOS byte and IP precedence was not used to large degree. The IETF agreed to reuse the TOS byte as the DS field for DiffServ networks. In order to maintain backward compatibility with network devices that still use the Precedence field, DiffServ defines the Class Selector PHB. 

VDI/QoS Problem

In a traditional physical PC network architecture, applications and their associated data are assigned specific ports on which to communicate. Web traffic is generally port 80, SQL traffic is port 1433, FTP traffic is port 22 etc. Network routers take advantage of traffic segregation by port to prioritize business critical traffic over non-critical traffic.
The problem with QoS in today’s VDI implementations resides in the underlying display protocol. Communication to and from the VM to the thin client or terminal is facilitated through a single protocol communicating on a single port, regardless of the application in use. All network traffic is treated the same, whether it is video, email, file transfer or some other application. As an example, if you’re using PC-over-IP to connect your thin client to a VM, the data that flows between the two devices communicates via the PC-over-IP protocol on port 50002. There is no differentiation between the various applications in use, because all traffic to the VM is on the same port and is therefore treated with the same priority. For example, a person streaming a YouTube video will consume a predominate amount of available bandwidth, thus impacting users performing their regular business related computing activity. The router cannot segregate and prioritize the traffic under this scenario. Further complicating matters, the user frequently changes applications over the same connection over time.

So how do you prioritize the traffic so as not to adversely impact the productive users from those that are running bandwidth intensive applications or websites?  With Lakeside Software’s SysTrack you can easily configure DiffServ priority based on the application or website with which the user is actively working. Priority would then be dynamically applied to the Windows TCP/IP stack, resulting in packets being DS-tagged according to the application in use and priority assigned. Unique to this solution, priority is dynamically established based on applications being executed.

Let’s use the above example, running various applications over PC-over-IP on port 50002. We simply define specific applications and the priority that they should receive. We might decide that SAP traffic and a particular URL associated with a company web application has a higher priority than other traffic. With a simple SysTrack configuration, we assign an Expedited Forwarding (EF) Per-Hop Behavior DSCP value of 46. This results in the DS field for IP packets that support high-priority applications having a higher priority tag at the router level, even though all traffic operates over port 50002.

In the example above, if we have a 128KB WAN link between the terminal and the VM, although the data stream is all communicating via PC-over-IP on port 50002, when the YouTube video data and SAP data is routed, the router can prioritize the important traffic by looking at the DS field tag.

Conclusion
As virtual desktop infrastructure implementations begin to grow beyond just proof-of-concepts and limited production pilots the branch office and WAN considerations will take on a higher priority.  WAN acceleration via the prominent vendors in the space is not enough to ensure that the data infrastructure is adaptable and dynamic.  The only way to reach this level of adaptability is to have a firm grasp of the workload and the deep analytic capabilities about that workload to drive infrastructure performance to benefit the users.

IT and Business Convergence: 2010

I wrote this post over two years ago, but it seems that the talk of the “IT business alignment” movement to “BT synchronization” is starting to pick up at this years Forrester’s IT Forum in Las Vegas this week.  Enjoy this repost.

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There has been a lot of talk in the last decade or so about IT and Business “alignment”. But no one seems to actually achieve this elusive goal.  Why?  Because “alignment” is actually only the first step in achieving a higher level of coordination in what I call IT/Business convergence. One way that we can help this convergence happen is to use virtualization and application delivery technologies. 

In this first stage, or alignment stage, IT is still in a support role.  Always playing catch up to what the business wants to do.  This is actually where most IT departments are today.  So what does this stage look like?  It is where IT is still stuck in the old “siloed” structure with every department within IT having their own little fiefdom.  What I mean is, most companies still have their “Desktop”, “Security”, “Network”, and “Server” groups and they rarely talk to one another.  And when one group needs something from the other it takes forever to get it done.  The consequence of having these functional silos is that the infrastructure becomes hard to change – the more hard-coding you add to the infrastructure, the more rigid it becomes.  Some of the challenges look like this:

    1.  Lack of scalability, inflexible (hard and slow to change)
    2.  Costly to implement and maintain, hard to work across groups
    3.  Changes to the infrastructure can cause unintended consequences in what becomes
         a “brittle” environment

I have seen some companies actually try to optimize each and every silo in this current model.  This NEVER increases business agility nor does it change IT’s operating cost dynamics.

So how you do you increase business agility and change ITs operating dynamics?  It won’t happen overnight, but we can start down the road by utilizing a “virtual first” tactic.  You notice I used tactic and not strategy.  “Virtual first” is not really strategic, but a great policy.  In the adoption lifecycle of virtualization technology, this “Virtual first” tactic comes after the “limited deployment” of virtualization technologies.  Believe it or not, even though the adoption of virtualization is hitting the mainstream, there are still pockets of where only “limited deployments” like dev/test and non-critical production usage are as far as customers take it.  A “virtual first” policy will help in the operational areas of provisioning, standardization, configuration changes, and maintenance/patching and lay the groundwork for a more operational transformation in IT.

From that operational transformation perspective, provisioning with standard builds will be easier as we use hardware-independent templates.  Utilizing those templates and other tools such as visionapp’s vSM product, we can drive a higher level of standardization.  From the configuration perspective, we can use tools like snapshots, to give us the ability to rollback to known trusted states and for maintenance/patching, we can use those snapshots to test patches or rollback from bad patches.

The next stage is “synchronization”.  Here is where IT plays a more active role in “how” the business should operate.  For instance, how the company manages its supply chain, improves efficiency, goes to market, or introduces a new product.  At this stage I’ve seen companies that start to get how to be enablers of the business.  They are in the process of re-architecting their IT to adapt to the rapid pace of business change and become more of the operational component of business strategy and success.  Here is where I see companies focusing on responding faster to changing business needs by improving the ability to quickly integrate and deliver applications, data and work flow that support new business requirements.  Companies use IT to monitor business performance and speed the business’s operational adjustments to market changes and supporting policy-driven actions.

Using virtualization technologies as the base of an overall larger framework, we can get IT to that more active role in how the business should operate.  Here is where we can be more business transformational with the usage of virtualization technologies.  What kind of technologies? well virtual desktops for one, advanced automation of workflows that would otherwise be manual.  There are others as well like:

On-demand infrastructure
Disaster Recovery
Business Continuity
“transient” VMs.  Meaning purpose built VMs that are the destroyed when finished.

The final stage would be the convergence of IT and business.  At this stage the business model is so intertwined with IT that there is no separate orientation.  IT has become part and parcel of management’s vocabulary.  I’ve worked with companies in the past like this and the one thing that they have in common is that they are very much in tune with the global economy, and are playing a significant, leading role in terms of new business models and innovation, and are very much converged when it comes to business and technology.  One common theme among these companies is that they take a very holistic viewpoint towards technology.  They have a very dynamic IT environment.  This is where they are truly using the virtualization technologies and concepts as the base of business technology.

So how else does a company reach this convergence level?  It’s a matter of management maturity.  There has to be a vehicle for measuring that maturity. Not technology or business maturity, but a holistic maturity that looks at organizational and governance structure, at the way companies make IT investments, at enterprise architecture, overall strategy and planning.

One thing that I have seen in the companies that have matured in the way I described above is that the traditional CIO (or insert the name of your head of IT here) role has changed.  That role is not about technology, but a business role that is focused on improving processes by using technology.  Your company’s head of IT can’t be a supporting role.  It has to be very holistic because at the end of the day the CIO is responsible for the information and processes. So how can they be just a supporting role?

I’m known for saying this many times in the past – that any company for whom technology is a strategic enabler will become obsolete if they don’t reach this convergence stage.  So don’t think that just being at the alignment stage is satisfactory.  I’m not saying that companies have to be on the bleeding edge of technology to be “converged”.  I’ve seen companies that are very early adopters of new technology and they are floundering.  Why?  They are misusing the technologies.  Two questions to everyone: What are you doing to get to that convergence level? and do you have a plan for developing a dynamic IT environment?
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