Tag: IT Strategy

Execution Strategy

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Application portfolio management drives technology road map definition and hence the first step is to perform application portfolio management. In the application portfolio management, the applications in the landscape are assigned in to four different categories. Members of each categories depends on IT and business strategies and the categories are:

1.Replace, 2.Retain, 3.Sundown and 4.Introduce

Follow the enterprise sundown procedure for applications under sundown. Now, group the applications which are in the categories under replace, retain and introduce. Create an enterprise business process map and align the applications under the business process map. Align all the technologies used for each application. At this point, a holistic high level chart which maps business processes to set of applications and set of applications to technologies will be established. To attain ultimate end results, this chart or map should be kept high level and focus on the major items in both application and technology layer. 

A successful, practical and value added enterprise architect will strike a good balance on capturing key information in this step and avoid details. For instance, there is no focus on items like 2 Mac work stations being used by Marketing to create corporate font or no focus on items like a Lotus Notes system being used by five users in a field location.

 A general approach to map the application landscape categories to technology landscape categories is given below.
Retain: Evaluate the technology used of the retained applications and ensure it meets the technology roadmap principle
Replace: Perform – Build Vs Buy analysis. For build or buy solution – ensure it adhere to technology road map principle. Follow the sun down procedure for the current application
Introduce: Perform – Build Vs buy analysis. For build or buy solution – ensure the solution adhere to technology road map principle.

Basic principle in defining the technology road map is distinguishing differentiating and commodity technologies in the landscape.  The simple idea of categorizing the technology stack into these categories is as follows.

  • Investment  in differentiating technologies
  • Optimize the cost in commodity technologies

 

Differentiator and commodity depends on type of industry. For instance, for banking and finance industry, the key differentiators are security, compliance, investor confidence and investment management. Whereas, for energy and utility sector, the key differentiators are safety, security, green technologies and energy efficiency.  For any profit organization, the corporate strategy, IT strategy, finance strategy and etc are reflection of competitive strategy. Conceptually the differentiator factors for each industry can be analyzed but competitive strategy of the organization defines the attributes of differentiators within the market sector.

Ideally, the differentiators from competitive strategy transform into corporate strategy and infused into each organization strategy. The strategy alignment ensures unidirectional execution across the entire corporation.

In a recent project scenario I worked on, the following are top seven differentiating and commodity technologies for a company in banking and finance market sector.

The top 7 differentiating technology areas are: 1.Security, 2.Compliance, 3.IT Service Mgmt, 4.Integration, 5.Dataware house, 6.Back office and 7.Private Cloud.

The top 7 commodity technology areas are: 1.Operating System, 2.Application Server, 3.Web Server, 4.Database Server, 5.Desktop, 6.Storage and 7.Collaboration 

The outcome of the technology roadmap is to have a positive net value in terms of cost, flexibility, security, adaptability, agility and sustainability. A solid technology implementation plan is created with strong foundation of principles, alignment with corporate direction, executive sponsorship, and senior leadership endorsement. These are key required qualities to execute a plan successfully.  

Secrets for technology roadmap execution

 Integrate the architecture team part of the technology delivery team.

 Bring the industry best product experts to implement technology road map. Take time to on broad the best expert with great positive attitude and learning aptitude to the architecture team.

 The attitude of the experts plays a major role to implement technology roadmap successfully.Since commodity technologies will be replaced, the current support team of the current commodity technologies will demonstrate strong resistance to introduce and implement the replacement technologies. Industry experts with deep knowledge and great positive attitude will defeat the resistance of current support teams and infuse confidence in them.

Conduct technology forum discussions and participate in all enterprise or departmental town hall meetings and explain the reason and rationale for technology changes to the developers, application managers and illustrate the measurable value of new technology road map.

Bring the market research analyst and research documents to the organization and provide evidence and case studies on the selected technology roadmap’s success stories in the industry. 

Identify low hanging fruits, implement it quickly and celebrate success. 

Ensure the implementation teams understand that failure is not an option.

Ensure the implementation teams understand that there is no fall back plans available in case of failure to implement the new technology.

 Ensure the implementation teams does not look back and second guess all the technology decisions made. At the same time, assign in-house industry experts to the implementation teams to overcome any technical challenges they face. For complex technical problems, engage the premier support team immediately to augment in-house industry experts to uncover and solve complex technical problems.

 Engage the experts and define detail architecture to cover scalability and high availability.

 Finally, engrain “MAKE IT HAPPEN” mindset to the technology implementation teams.

 All the above steps are not just a theory. Above framework was followed and technology roadmap was defined and it was successfully implemented in less than 8 months for a large company in banking and finance sector. we “MADE IT HAPPEN”

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Blessings from Cheetahs for a long journey

A new revolutionary or evolutionary ideas are not agreed in one step nor in first step. It is a process to build consensus even to explore a new idea. An IT strategy may be an evolutionary or revolutionary idea based on the current state of an organization.  In the IT strategy definition process, the idea of change must be agreed by  senior and executive management of an organization before even a new IT strategy definition process is kicked off.  A need and purpose for a change in an IT organization becomes imperative when there is a business strategy clearly defined.  How do you define IT strategy when there is no clearly defined business strategy. In the previous post, I recommended that, in those scenario, create an IT strategy to improve the value of IT organization.  Since the IT valuation process and methods are so vague, I suggest, it is not wise  to start the discussion with senior executives as to increase the value of an IT organization as IT strategy.  The moment an IT strategy person starts the discussion of improving  value of the company, the speculation starts with wild imagination which are destructive.  

First step in introducing a change is to have courage to talk to executives of the organization and get their blessings for your ideas. The philosophy is, people will listen to your idea when you tell them nicely and you will have their blessings if it is a good one. The rank you hold in the organization does not matter and you will be able to connect with them, make them listen and get their blessings.  Result of the attempt to make the connection with your idea with your ideas  may be career threatening but,  as a strategy person, you need that courage to take the risk to make that change in the organization.

Reduction in operating cost of an IT organization is an easy sell. If someone has an idea to reduce the operating cost by 20-25% with out the reduction of services nor resources, then you will get everyone’s attention in the board room. Open source platform would be a good starting point if it is not fully maximized in the organization. Receive conceptually concurrence on embracing and encouraging open source platform in the organization. If that   is accomplished, that is a great starting point for a long road to reach the end goal – increase the value of an IT organization.

It goes back to the abstract strategy approach  “think big, start small and run fast”.

Once open source platform adoption is agreed than the next step is to show results. Look for a commercial software product that has significant on-going maintenance cost. It could be due to license, complexity, resource availability, hardware  or others. Identify an area carefully and diligently analyze the cause for higher cost. Study the availability of open source equivalent and its capabilities, capacity, supportability and maturity. Compare and contrast it with commercial product. If it is feasible to show cost saving with the open source replacement, identify technical resources and perform end-to-end proof of concept and show the results to the senior management. 

When people run fast, it is assumed that you reach the destination sooner. Generally, the audience does not have the curiosity to inquire the distance you run.  When you do a first proof of concept to prove your first idea of a long road, the time taken to accomplish it is very important. Don’t take more than 5 weeks to complete the proof of concept to show the results. Draft an implementation plan with risk.

Details on how to receive concurrence on open source adoption from senior and executive management will be in my next post..

IT Strategy: In the absence of a Business strategy

Business strategy drives IT strategy. But, what drives IT strategy in the absence of clearly defined business strategy?

Identification of successful business strategy in a dynamically evolving consumer and financial markets is extremely challenging and sometimes, it is impossible. Look back in few years, take business strategies of top companies and their result today, and hence the evidence of extreme complexity and challenge exist in defining successful business strategy for an organization in a dynamic market.

IT strategy supports business strategy in spite of the out come of the business strategy. True. However, the point is, some times business strategy can not be defined clearly or it does not exist and in that case, how the IT strategy should be defined.

In the absence of business strategy, IT strategy is to increase the value of IT organization.  Now the questions are, what is IT valuation and how to measure it, and finally how to increase it?

I had the opportunity to work with a purchase accounting project for a well known demerger in the auto industry.  I noticed, there is a significant market opportunity for a IT valuation model in spite of 3 of  big 4 consulting and accounting companies were heavily involved in that project. So I developed a simple IT valuation model to determine the fair market value of an IT organization to readjust the book value of IT assets.

To simplify it, let me put a different spin to IT valuation. Purchase accounting occurs after a merger or demerger occurs. But, before a merger or acquisitions occurs, an organization is evaluated for its market value. That includes tangible and intangible assets. The tangible assets are mostly fixed assets and over the years, valuation process for the tangible assets is more matured. Most of the IT valuation comes from intangible assets.  For a pure technology companies like Microsoft, Intel, the intangible assets of the organization can be quantified by patents, copy rights, trade mark and etc. For an IT organization supports a business function in banking and finance, oil and gas and etc, the intangible asset valuation is challenging.

In those scenarios, the intangible assets are:

  • An organization ability to adapt to market change in terms of capacity & capabilities. ie scale up or down infrastructure based on future requirements
  • An organization ability to develop a rapid applications for future requirement – skill set, processes, knowledge
  • An organization’s efficient operating cost mode –  in terms of license, hardware depreciation
  • An organization’s IT general controls and management – IT risk management, Security Management, compliance management

The above intangible assets of an organization improves the value of IT organization. It will be reflected  in case of merger or an acquisition.  In the absence of clearly defined business strategy, take the above strategic objectives of  IT strategy and plan.

The above IT strategy will reduce the cost, improve the over all reliability, flexibility, security and adaptability  of an IT organization. It requires investment and the question is how a CIO can justify the ROI for the above initiative.Biggest advantage of the above approach is, the initiative does not require any additional incremental cost. Since it has very high ROI, it will sponsor the project from its saving and improves the value of IT organization. When there is no clearly defined business strategy then the IT strategy is to improve the value of IT organization.

If any one interested to understand the granular details of the above IT strategy, practical difficulties of framing the strategy, actual results and etc. More blog postings will follow to provide the details of the above steps. Mean time, if you’re impatience and you need immediate information,  please do not hesitate to contact me.

Google Pagerank – An emprical analysis

Pagerank is an algorithm used by google to assign importance of each page in world wide web. The order of search results  depends on the page rank assigned to each page.  A web site has multiple pages and page rank assigned to each page in the web site. The page rank of the page depends on number of external links coming to the page and number of links going out of the page.  The page rank of an incoming link also plays a role on determining the page rank of the page.

Page rank is used to decide the sequence of search results for a google search. Companies want their page to be at the top of the search result. The easiest way to be at top of the search result is to pay google for the adwords. The sponsored web sites appear above and to the right hand side of its regular search results. 

Not all companies can afford to pay google for their Adwords. There is cost effective alternative which requires an understanding of how google works.  Google’s internal working knowledge will aid to define  analytical (or mathematical) strategies and implemented in the web site to improve the page rank and eventually with more visitors to the web site.

To validate the theory with emprical analysis, a plan with following steps drafted.

  1. Find a key word that is not in google’s index server
  2. Create a graph (random graph) and find the initial transition probability
  3. Evaluate the steady state of transition probability matrix using power methods – Which is the page rank of the graph (I will post the technical/mathematical details in a pdf. It is time-consuming to write matrix and other math notation in word press editor)
  4. Develop a set of web sites (pages) adhering to the random graph and each web site to contain the new key word
  5. Allow google crawler to include the new sites in their index server for the new key words
  6. Search for the new key word and absorb the order of search results
  7. Report the results

1. A new key word was selected and  is given below.   There is no google search result for the key word.

2. The random graph  (a representation of how web sites are linked to each other) and the graph will be implemented  with various blog post and  each blog post will have the key word  adhering to the graph. Each node of the graph denote a blog posting. The links connecting the nodes are the hyperlinks connecting the nodes.

Note: This page is used for google’s page rank emprical analysis. The links will be created based on the random graph created.  This is node #1 which has the key word:  xysivabodzinyx , xysivabodzinxy . As per the graph, it links out to page 2, page 4

Business Rationale for a private cloud

In a stand-alone hardware infrastructure, adding an extra memory or CPU to a hardware unit may take 3-5 months time involving various members following various internal processes like purchase request, infrastructure internal process, service provider internal purchase process and etc. The longer lead time and more involvement from various teams are required because of current enterprise hardware design. Most of  IT organization has more stand-alone servers and it limits the flexibility to add additional resources to the servers.
Due to above reasons, during the initiation phase of any project, the lenient hardware capability planning is done.  It is not ideal nor cost efficient.  This problem can be solved by procuring a bigger server and partition it as need arises. The concept has been in use in mainframe platform for last three decades and each partition in mainframe is called LPAR (Logical PARtition). The similar concept proliferated in the Unix world and major Unix operating systems AIX, Sun Solaris and HP-UX supports it now.
Operating systems Aix, Sun Solaris, and HP-UX run on their host RISC processors from IBM, Sun, and HP respectively.  RISC processor are designed for high volume high speed processing  there is a perception within IT leadership team including  CIOs that only the RISC processors are suitable for data center operations.    The cost of virtualization operating system and blade chassis hardware for RISC based server farm are more expensive than CISC (Complex Instruction Set Computer)processor (like Intel Xeon, AMD) based server farms.  CISC processor based servers had the perception that it is meant for a small scale business and not ready for enterprise data center operation.  It has been a challenge to enterprise architects and IT strategist to convince the IT leadership team to re-platform the existing expensive and inflexible stand alone RISC based servers.

Popularity, acceptance, and adoption of social networking platforms like web 2.0 indirectly helped IT leadership team to rethink about their perception on the CISC based servers for data center operations.  The popular social network sites like facebook runs on Linux platform and the number of users in social networking sites exponentially growing.  It is empirical proof that CISC processor based server are ready for high volume and high-speed data center operations.

With current economic climate, IT leadership team in all sectors have the following objectives.

  • Reduce infrastructure cost (Capital Expense, CAPEX)
  • Reduce over all data center operation cost  (Operational Expense, OPEX)
  • Utilize more energy-efficient (for both Green and cost purpose) devices
  • Minimize lost revenue due to down time

The above objective can be met by developing a cost-effective private cloud. It will additionally provide more flexibility and enable the organization to become  more nimble and agile.

How to architect the private cloud?

First and fore most, cloud operating system is required to manage a set of hardware to virtualize it to create virtual image.  There are two types of cloud operating system available.

  1. Hosted Server cloud operating system
  2. Bare-metal server cloud operating system

1. Hosted server cloud operating system requires a host operating system. The cloud operating system runs on top of the host operating system. The devices are directly managed by the host operating system. It is not designed to clone the operating system and create an image. It is primarly dessigned to clone an application. It is not recommended to run the data center operation like data ware house.

2. Bare-metal server cloud operating system has a micro kernel to manage all hardware directly. Generally the micro kernel is developed very effectively. There are open source cloud operating system available. If you are running mission critical  system, it is highly recommended to run under the commercial cloud operating system. VmWare ESX Server is one of the popular commercial cloud operating system. The micro kernel of VmWare ESX  written very effectively and does a great job of managing the resources.

What are the hardware requirements for private cloud?Well, it depends. There are quite a few certified hardware providers supply servers to  run under VmWare ESX Server. All major manufacturers like Dell, HP, IBM, Fujitsu hardware both blade and racks runs under VmWare ESX Server.  Similarly major manufacturers in storage area network, SCSI controllers, RAID controllers, Fiber Channel adapters, Ethernet Nic support VmWare ESX. Select the hardware, memory and storage based on your needs. There are guidelines available to select the hardware units. Those guidelines will be followed based on the need.

What are the target operating systems ?Well, again, it depends on the requirement. It supports both Linux and Windows. It support all major flavor of Linux (like Redhat, Novel SuSE) and Windows server platform. VmWare ESX can support both operating system at the same time.  The size of the image can be selected based on the requirement.

Results

With the private cloud architecture using Intel/AMD processors, all the above objectives are being met.

Google’s Nexus One

The next generation computation devices are lurking around in TED as sixth sense devices and labs are experimenting contact lens devices to present the most relevant information in real-time with out manually seeking. The devices will search for relevancy and the present the information to the user. It is very similar to Terminator movie (please watch video carefully at 2.13)  where the aliens receive the most relevant information for the given circumstance. The future devices will make the information readily available based on our circumstance, situation, and mood.  Well, it is not science fiction any more and it will soon become a  reality.

For those future devices, which are currently in experimental labs, the key component is an information gateway. Information gateway will seek  relevant information for each user based on location, mood, and circumstance.  The information gateway are nothing but the next generation smart phones. These information gateway will replace personal usage of PCs and laptops.

Google strategy team stuck a good balance to compete in the current market with Apple iPhone, RIM’s blackberry and laid basic foundation for information gateway market.  Google launched Nexus one as their phone product today to consumer using Android operating system. Nexus one provides easy integration for all social networking tools and techniques. There are more detail comparison done between Nexus one and iPhone and this article focus is to study Google’s strategy and it’s alignment for future technology evolution.

Google’s strategy to provide options to consumer to select the service providers  invites more customer base. However, I’m not excited about its  pricing strategy. The device cost around $520 per unit. The pricing strategy will not let current iPhone users to migrate to Nexus one and also blackberry users will not quickly migrate to Nexus one since it does not focus more on running business application (like VIN locator, inventory management and etc).

Nexus one is an another great thing for Google but the unit price needs to come down..

2010 Hot Tech Jobs

“Everyone knows someone who loves Honda” commercial in context with Honda Facebook is a prime example how social network channels have changed today’s business.  If any IT executives still thinks that social networking platform is for kids and teenagers, wake up! You have already missed lots of opportunity, try to speed up and catch on.

Social network is integral in today’s sales and marketing for almost all products and services.  Customization of a product or service based on each individual requirement is not a new concept and it has been discussed and implemented in isolation. The challenge faced before was to approximate each individual’s requirements and social network is an approach to approximate individual’s requirement. Once the requirements are understood, social networks are again used to influence individual customers to buy the given product or service. There are quite a few books written to leverage social network to promote and market products and services. To summarize, in today’s challenging market, it is obvious and evident that social network plays major role in selling product and services to consumers and some cases, even to big corporations.

Given this context, current economical circumstances, growth potential, emergence of cloud computing, compliance conformance requirements,

The following IT jobs will have high market demand in 2010..

1. Enterprise Architect – (Thorough understanding of business process management, business strategy, IT strategy, portfolio management, social networking tools ,techniques and its business application and etc)
2. Security Officer/Analyst (Audit, compliance,policy management, Threats from social networking, Identify Management Strategy,proactive incident avoidance – data loss prevention)
3. Network Engineer – (SAN/IPS/BGP/SONET/DNS/Firewall/Load Balancer/NetCache devices/SSL Accelerator/SMTP/SNMP/High availability/Disaster recovery/..)
4. Cloud Architect ( Cloud operating system – like VMVare, Business cloud)
5. Application Architect – (open source technologies,blog – wordpress, blogspot, facebook, youtube, SaaS, twitter, GoogleWave, web services, Rich Internet application – AJAX/Adobe Flex/Microsoft Silverlight)
6. Information Architect (Data Mining, Dataware house, Reporting, business intelligence, text minig, search optimization)
7. ERP specialist (SAP, PeopleSoft, JD Edward, Oracle financial, Banking – Fidelity, FiServ, Shaw, Phoenix, Hartland, and etc) 
8. Vendor/Contract Management ( ITIL)
9. Program/Project Management (PMBOK, PRINCE frameworks)
10.Smart Phone Application Architecture & Design – (iPhone, BlackBerry, etc)