By Patrick McFadin, DataStax

When the gap between enterprise software development and IT operations was bridged 15 or so years ago, building enterprise apps underwent a radical change. DevOps blew away manual and slow processes, and adopted the idea of infrastructure as code. This was a change that upped the ability to scale quickly and deliver reliable applications and services into production.

Building services internally has been the status quo for a long time, but in a cloud-native world, the lines behind cloud and on-prem have blurred. Third-party, cloud-based services, built on powerful open source software, are making it easier for developers to move faster. Their mandate is to focus on building with innovation and speed to compete in hyper-fast markets. For all application stakeholders—from the CIO to development teams—the path to simplicity, speed, and risk reduction often involves cloud-based services that make data scalable and available instantly.

These points of view aren’t far apart, and they exist at many established organizations that we work with. Yet they can be at odds with one another. In fact, we’ve often seen them work in ways that are counterproductive, to the extent that they slow down application development.

There might be compelling reasons for taking everything in-house but the end users are voting with execution. Here, we’ll look at the point of view of each group, and try to understand each one’s motivations. It’s not a zero-sum game and the real answer might be the right combination of the two.

Building services

Infrastructure engineers build the machine. They are the ones who stay up late, tend to the ailing infrastructure, and keep the lights on in the company. Adam Jacob (the co-founder and former CTO of Chef Software) famously said, “It’s the job of ops people to keep the shit-tastic code of developers out of your beautiful production infrastructure.” If you want to bring your project or product into the sacred grounds of what they’ve built, it has to be worthy. Infrastructure engineers will evaluate, test, and bestow their blessing only after they believe it themselves.

Tenets of the infrastructure engineer include the following:

Every deployment is different and requires qualified infrastructure engineers to ensure success.Applications are built on requirements, and infrastructure engineers deliver the right product to fit the criteria.The most cost-effective way to use the cloud is to do it ourselves.

What infrastructure engineers care about

Documentation and training

Having a clear understanding of every aspect of infrastructure is key to making it work well, so thorough and clear documentation is a must. It also has to be up to date; as new versions of products are released, documentation should bring everyone up to speed on what’s changed.

Version numbers

Products need to be tested and validated before going into production, so infrastructure teams track which versions are blessed for production; updates must be tested too. A critical part of testing is security, and we are generally behind the latest cutting edge, so we have the most stability and security.

Performance

Performance is critical, too. Our teams have to understand how the system works in various environments to plan adequate capacity. Systems with highly variable performance characteristics – or those that don’t meet the minimum – will never get deployed. New products must prove themselves in a trial by combat before even being considered.

Using services

Installing and running infrastructure is friction when building applications. Nothing is more important than the speed of putting an application into production. Operational teams love the nuances of how things work and take pride in running a well-oiled machine, but developers don’t have months to wait for that to happen. Winning against competitors means renting what’s needed, when it’s needed. Give us an API and a key, and let us run.   .

When it comes to infrastructure, developer tenets include:

Infrastructure has to conform to the app and not the other way aroundDon’t invent new infrastructure—just combine what’s availableConsume compute, network and storage like any other utility

Things service consumers care about

Does it fit what I need, and can I verify that quickly?

The app is the center of the developer’s universe, and what it needs is the requirement. If the service being considered meets the criteria, this needs to be verified quickly. If a lot of time is spent bending and twisting an app to make a service work, developers will just look for a different service that works better.

Cost

Developers want the lowest cost for what they get. Nothing so complicated that a spreadsheet is required. With services, developers don’t necessarily believe in “you get what you pay for,” with more expensive being better. Instead, they expect the cost to decrease over time from a service provider finding efficiencies. 

Availability

Developers expect a service to always work, and when it doesn’t, they get annoyed (like when the electricity goes out). Even if there is an SLA, most probably won’t read it—and will expect 100% uptime. When building my app, I assume there will be no downtime.

In the end, the app matters most

From working with a lot of organizations for whom applications are mission-critical, we’ve often seen that these two groups don’t work particularly well together—at times, their respective approaches can even be counterproductive. This friction can slow application production significantly, and even hamper an organization’s journey to the cloud.

This friction can manifest itself in several ways. For instance, a reliance on home-grown infrastructure can limit the ways that developers access the data required to build applications. This can limit innovation and introduce complexity to the development process.

And sometimes balancing cloud services with purpose-built solutions can actually create complexities and increase costs by watering down expected savings from moving to the cloud.

Application development and delivery is cost sensitive, but it requires speed and efficiency. Anything that gets in the way can lead to a dulled competitive edge, and even lost revenue.

Yet we also know of organizations that have intelligently combined the efforts of infrastructure engineers, who run your mission-critical apps today, and those who use services to build them. When the perspective and skills of each group is put to good use, flexibility, cost-efficiency, and speed can result.

Many successful organizations today are implementing a hybrid of the two (for now): some bespoke infrastructure mixed with services rented from a provider. Several organizations are leveraging Kubernetes in this quest for the grand unified theory of infrastructure. When describing a deployment model, there are blocks that create pods and service endpoints, with  other blocks that describe endpoints on a pay-per-use method. If you are using any cloud with Kubernetes, think storage and network services.

There are other important elements to an organization’s universe of services — whether they’re built or bought. Standard APIs are the de facto method of serving data to applications — and reduce time to market by simplifying development. SLAs — customer and internal alike — also clearly delineate scale and other performance expectations — so developers don’t have to.

Finally, I should point out that this is an immediate challenge in the world of open source data where I live. I work with Apache Cassandra®—software you can download and deploy in your own datacenter for free; free as in beer and free as in freedom. I also work on the K8ssandra project, which helps builders provide Cassandra as a service for their customers using Kubernetes. And DataStax, the company I work for, offers Astra DB built on Cassandra, which is a simple service for developers with no operations needed. I understand the various points of view—and I’m glad there’s a choice.

Learn more about DataStax here.

About Patrick McFadin:

DataStax

Patrick is the co-author of the O’Reilly book “Managing Cloud Native Data on Kubernetes.” He works at DataStax in developer relations and as a contributor to the Apache Cassandra project. Previously he has worked as an engineering and architecture lead for various internet companies.

IT Leadership

By Thomas Been, DataStax

Bringing a promising idea to life with an application that solves a hard problem or creates an amazing experience (or does both)—this is the developer’s dream. But even if that dream comes true, real success can only be achieved if the groundwork has been laid for high growth.

DataStax set out to identify enterprises and builders that define the future of data and have planned and prepared to scale to whatever demand their growing businesses and customer bases place upon them.

These “Digital Champions” have built data-driven, high-growth businesses. They are the visionaries and driving forces in using real-time data and the cloud to deliver unprecedented value to their organizations. As you’ll read below, the hard work, vision, and ingenuity of these builders has led to significant success and recognition for their organizations.

It’s not easy. Developers are often hampered by the laundry list of challenges that can stymie growth, productivity, speed, and innovation, including data silos, technical debt, and data architectures that aren’t scalable.

The first four in the DataStax Digital Champions series—Overstock, Temporal, Alpha Ori, and Uniphore—have overcome these hurdles thanks to their use of modern data technologies to build and run fast-growing, real-time applications that delight consumers and power businesses. Read on to learn more about their journeys, and keep an eye out for upcoming Digital Champions.

Overstock

While at Overstock, Devin Bost played a key role in building an organization-wide data fabric to leverage real-time data to help the online retailer expand into new markets, provide a powerful experience to its customers, and ultimately drive shareholder value.

Bost, the company’s former senior data engineer, explained how Overstock’s data architecture handles extremely high volumes—it processes between four billion and 10 billion events per day—and expects to expand that significantly.

The company’s prowess at harnessing real-time data made them a shoo-in to earn the title of Digital Champion.

Learn more about why Overstock is a DataStax Digital Champion here.

Temporal

Temporal’s superpower is making life easier for developers. It does so by offering a workflow orchestration engine: Enterprises provide the business logic and Temporal handles all the parts that require specialized expertise, like persistence and resilience.

So it’s no surprise that the company’s platform, built by CTO Samar Abbas and his Temporal co-founder Maxim Fateev, has experienced rapid success and high-growth in the three years since the company was launched. Its open-source software code is used by the likes of Netflix and Instacart, and just this year Temporal secured a $103 million Series B round that put its valuation at $1.5 billion.

We’re proud to recognize Temporal as a Digital Champion.

Learn more about why Temporal is a DataStax Digital Champion here.

Alpha Ori

With approximately 90% of world trade transported by sea, Alpha Ori Technologies recognized a great opportunity to apply cutting-edge, real-time information solutions to the maritime transportation industry.

Cofounded in 2016 by Praveen Viswanath, the company’s platform offers intelligent analytics, alerts, and insights from data gathered from over 260 vessels. The results have been impressive, says Viswanath, who is Alpha Ori’s chief architect: since inception, the platform has saved its users an aggregate 44,000 metric tons of fuel, resulting in an aggregate $5 million in cost savings and preventing the release of 137,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide.

The results have garnered Viswanath glowing recognition. He recently received the Constellation Supernova Award for business transformation.

We are pleased to recognize Alpha Ori as a Digital Champion.

Learn more about why Alpha Ori is a DataStax Digital Champion here.

Uniphore

Uniphore’s Saurabh Saxena knows that when it comes to winning new customers, conversations are the most important asset—and huge volumes of real-time data are key to generating value from that asset.

Founded in 2008, Uniphore offers a platform that analyzes sentiments with AI in real-time. Saxena, who is Uniphore’s head of technology and vice president of engineering, explained how his company’s platform seamlessly captures and processes about 200 data points on every meeting participant’s face at 24 frames per second—this can add up to 4 million records generated in a single meeting.

Uniphore’s innovation has generated explosive growth, and its promising future has garnered continued interest from the investment community (the company earlier this year announced a $400 million funding round that boosted its valuation to $2.5 billion).

DataStax is proud to have helped Uniphore handle the massive volumes of real-time data that its platform generates, and is pleased to recognize the company as a Digital Champion.

Learn more about why Uniphore is a DataStax Digital Champion here.

We’re honored to partner with companies like Overstock, Temporal, Alpha Ori and Uniphore on their journey to success with high-growth applications and platforms, by speeding their time to market and ensuring that their data architectures have the runway to scale to whatever their success throws at them.

Does your organization fit the Digital Champion mold? Contact me to nominate a Digital Champion today!

About Thomas Been:

DataStax

Thomas leads marketing at DataStax. He has helped businesses transform with data and technology for more than 20 years, in sales and marketing leadership roles at Sybase (acquired by SAP), TIBCO, and Druva.

Enterprise Applications, IT Leadership

By: Lars Koelendorf, EMEA Vice President, Solutions & Enablement at Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company

Can an enterprise CEO today be successful without having a strong relationship with the CIO and the corporate network?

The short answer is no. Technology today powers and enables so much of how businesses function. Given the pace of digitization, the corporate network, led by the CIO, is increasingly becoming a critical business decision center for the CEO within the broader context of running a large enterprise.

In particular, there are three points CEOs today must consider when examining the network and their relationship with the CIO.

1. Investing in the network is foundational to achieving business goals

Is there any department across the modern enterprise business that would not benefit from the ability to work better, faster, easier, smarter, cheaper, and more secure?

The COVID-19 pandemic has already proven again and again why digital transformation is now fundamental to business growth and survival, especially in the face of outside, unanticipated events severely impacting normal business operations.

Matching technology with how business engages key publics, from clients to the community to investors and beyond, allows employees to create higher quality work while producing more competitive products and services that keep pace with ever-evolving demands. It means empowering back-end functions to support the rest of the business better than before. Meanwhile, regardless of which department they belong to or where they choose to work, employees must have the best experience possible, without any technical roadblocks and complications that can stop them from delivering their best work. Otherwise, employees will and are seeking out that environment elsewhere. Indeed, many employees actually experienced very good connectivity while working from home during the pandemic – and now demand that same easy and seamless experience coming back into the workplace or while on the road.

The key to creating that effective work environment is ensuring the CIO makes clear to the CEO the value of automated systems, which not only includes streamlining operations, but eliminating human error, overcoming human limitations, and freeing up employees to focus on projects that drive real value. In short, with the right technology, CIOs can drive actionable insights from the deluge of data that a given company has been accumulating that support the CEO’s long-term vision and business goals.

Enterprise data has the potential to deliver significant cost savings, improve operational efficiency, and even unlock new business opportunities and revenue streams. But first, it needs to be stored, secured, sorted, and analyzed – all of which a great enterprise network can facilitate.

To unlock its full potential, CEOs need to work closely with their CIOs and other department heads to understand the exact impact that the network could have on every area of the business.

2. The network also plays a vital role in achieving sustainability goals

Sustainability is not just a strategic priority. For most companies around the world, sustainability has become the priority, given that it’s being driven both from the top down (by company boards, investors, and governments) and from the bottom up (by employees, the general public, and key communities affected by business operations). In essence, networking capabilities must align with corporate sustainability goals and initiatives to truly achieve its full potential.

The network plays an integral role in empowering enterprises to become more sustainable, to measure and prove that sustainability, and to build more sustainable products and services. Therefore, investing in the right network infrastructure should be at the top of any CEO’s agenda, and they will need to work in tandem with the CIO and other relevant department heads to achieve those aims.

3. A modern network can help the enterprise stay ahead of potential pitfalls

Given the rate of change and disruption, any CEO simply investing just enough in the network to keep operations moving has already lost the plot. The CEO instead must work closely with the CIO to anticipate future business needs, opportunities, and threats, outlining clear goals and corresponding initiatives that ensure the modern network is flexible and nimble enough to meet the challenges.

It used to be that if the network were down, employees could do other manual work while waiting for a fix. Today, however, if there are issues with the network, everything stops, from the factory floor to the storefront to the corporate headquarters. In that sense, the network is mission-critical to keeping the business running.

But the network has so much more potential than this – to help the business continually stay ahead of and be differentiated from the competition. The reason is an agile network creates the foundation for every area of the business to innovate, from IT to R&D and logistics.

With an agile network, the infrastructure is always ready to integrate, support, secure, and fund any new technological developments that might help the business to move the needle on its goals.

Creating Strong C-suite Connections

While this particular article has focused on the relationship between the CEO and the network, at the end of the day, the CEO must empower the CIO to be an advocate for the network and support all C-suite members to work together towards building one that helps them achieve both individual departmental and collective organizational goals.

For more on creating a modern, agile network, learn about Aruba ESP (Edge Services Platform): https://www.arubanetworks.com/solutions/aruba-esp/

Networking

Data-driven brick house, or house of modern tech cards?

The origin of winning insights? Sometimes, it’s an individual at your organization. Other times, insights come from cross-team collaboration. No matter the human catalyst for the breakthrough, it all starts with your data. You need to empower your people, across technical and non-technical users, with equal access to data. In other words, data democratization. And democratization begets the data-driven culture your organization needs for enduring success.

There’s good news and not-so-good news about organizations’ data-driven mission. The good? Most executives agree data-driven operations across lines of business is key to a winning strategy. Illustrating that point is the 85% increased investment in digital capabilities and 77% increased investment in IT, as reported in the 2022 Gartner CEO and Senior Business Executive Survey.

The not-so-good news? In New Vantage Partners’ Data and AI Leadership Executive Survey 2022, two alarming numbers highlight the struggle: 1) Only 26.5% report having achieved the data-driven goal, and 2) only 19.3% report having established a data culture. Those two numbers contribute to one particularly disturbing number: Through 2025, 80% of organizations seeking to scale digital business will fail because they don’t take a modern approach to data and analytics governance, according to Gartner’s State of Data and Analytics Governance. Modernizing tech stacks and migrating to the cloud are not enough on their own. Organizations must modernize their governance practices to fully uphold their modernization efforts. With no buttressing data-driven or data-democratization pillars, their efforts are built upon a risk-ridden house of cards.

Building a democratic, data-driven brick house

Moving to the cloud promises massive potential. But the benefits are equally matched by complexity. Each cloud service has its own unique method of security and access policy enforcement. Now, add the growing spectrum of regulations and compliance mandates that must be enforced and kept up to date across this increasingly complex and technically diverse data estate. Plus the increasing number of data consumption and policy stakeholders.

All this complexity creates massive friction between data consumers, policy drivers, and especially IT, which is tasked with physical policy implementation and enforcement. 

So begins the journey to evolve data governance. And with no single size fitting all, organizations are struggling. How do we build a sustainable, modern data governance program?

Six practical steps toward better governance

Create and document your data guidelines as to who can access specific types of data.Document policies to formalize roles, access, and capabilities. For example, what can each type of user do with different types of data?Perform data discovery to determine what’s in each table, column, row, or cell. Classify and tag the sensitive data based on the rules and requirements laid out in your guidelines and policiesCreate fine-grained access policies that will be enforced in your data layer, predicated on your defined guidelines. This is the basis for permitting or accessing data for discovery, moving beyond describing and documenting to establish where sensitive data resides.Expand base policies by defining and creating specific controls for enforcing encryption, masking, and tokenization across each data service accessed.Provide deep analysis and monitoring to provide full visibility, monitoring, and auditing into data access and usage – ideally via a single pane of glass for administrators and data stewards to monitor and control data at rest and in motion.

It’s possible to achieve centralized data access and security governance across your entire multi-cloud estate. All your stakeholders – such as business teams, IT, and compliance – can leverage a unified, holistic way to manage, define, and enforce data access policies across your storage, compute engines, and consumption methods. That’s what you need to power your data democratization and achieve a data-driven enterprise.

By using Privacera, enterprises get a single, centralized data security and access policy management and enforcement layer for efficient access governance across hybrid and multi-cloud data sources. Their unified platform simplifies data security and privacy enforcement by automating and managing the entire lifecycle, including sensitive data discovery and classification. Classify and tag data based on built-in support for PII, GDPR, HIPAA, and various other regulations. Build fine-grained security policies, automatically synced to your underlying data services for localized policy enforcement and execution. And reduce time to insight through orchestration and automation of manual data governance processes to fuel your data-driven mission. Privacera’s built-in data access request workflows and automation securely get the right data to the right people faster to power your data democratization.

Learn more about Privacera here.

Data and Information Security

All indications are that Mastercard’s vision for creating teams built around the so-called “Five Cs” – community, common vision, cross-functionality, culture, and Cutting edge – works.

Two years after its opening, the 230 employees at Mastercard’s Global Intelligence and Cyber Centre of Excellence in Vancouver have already submitted 30 patents and some of their products are in use around the world, helping to protect both commercial businesses and consumers from cybercriminals.

CIOs don’t always have the opportunity to build such a large team in one fell swoop. But the same principles that guided hiring at Mastercard’s Vancouver, British Columbia, tech hub (the eighth such centre for the company including those in Ireland, Australia, the US, and others) can help build IT teams of any size.

Nicole Turner, Mastercard senior vice-president, technology hubs, explains the Five C principle, and how IT leaders can use them to guide their own work.

Community

Like all companies, Mastercard is looking for the best possible talent. “But ideally, we try to hire local people, those who have a presence in the community. For us, that’s a plus,” Turner says.

She believes that people involved in their community are more likely to establish contacts with local businesses and help find more talent down the road. Even if a company is targeting the international market, having nearby partners can provide a host of benefits, generating new product development, for example.

For Mastercard’s technology centres, the community aspect is not only related to hiring but to the company itself. The new facility in Vancouver operates an exploration centre that holds co-creation workshops involving the company and its customers.

Mastercard also regularly invests in the regions where it’s located. Last year, the company donated $6.3 million to various local programs, such as Tech-Up, which is linked to helping young Canadians learn about technology. Employees who are present in their communities can help build such connections with local organizations.

These relationships are not only beneficial and motivational for local teams but have a positive impact on the company as a whole down the road.

Common vision

Each of Mastercard’s eight technology centres has its own personality and specific mission. For example, the Vancouver centre focuses on intelligence and cybercrime, while the Sydney, Australia, hub concentrates on artificial intelligence and machine learning. As for Dublin, Ireland, the centre there specializes in e-commerce.

“These hubs are independent, but Mastercard is a global organization, so everything has to be aligned on a common vision,” Turner says.

She has implemented a clear structure to coordinate the work of the various centres. “As an employee in a tech hub, I work with a local manager – but that manager has to operate with the global directors,” she says.

“The teams were designed to work on their own, but also to make sure that what is created locally can benefit the whole company.” In other words, the autonomy of the different units doesn’t result in working in silos.

For Turner, a fragmented structure with a common vision “allows the whole to be greater than the sum of its parts.”

Cross-functionality

“We mix skills in our teams, and we make sure they’re able to design a product from start to finish,” says Turner of the third C in her approach.

While some organizations might compartmentalize the different skills needed to create products (for example research in one centre, development in another, user experience in a third), Mastercard wants its tech hubs to imagine, develop, design, and create new products from beginning to end.

“To me, that’s the secret sauce for IT centres,” Turner says.

Cross-functional teams are especially important in times of labour shortages. Employees take pride in the work they’ve accomplished when they feel they’ve had a significant impact in making it happen and that they were able to bring their own ideas to fruition.

By definition, cross-functional teams also allow for exposure to people with different experiences and skills than one’s own, which can benefit the whole organization in fostering innovation.

“Our teams are also designed to be scalable,” says Turner. For example, Mastercard expects to hire a total of about 400 skilled employees at its Vancouver centre.

Culture

When a new team is formed at a tech hub, Mastercard looks for talent that shares the company’s culture, both in relation to where the centre is located and to the global structure of the organization.

 “We’re looking for people who are intellectually curious and who enjoy working toward goals,” Turner says. She believes the role of a technology centre like Vancouver’s is to create a culture of innovation and to allow its talents to thrive and achieve the best possible results.

For each tech centre, Mastercard also makes efforts to build teams with employees from underrepresented backgrounds, such as Indigenous and LGBTQIA+ people. “We’re committed to inclusion and equity in Canada and around the world: every major digital innovation requires it,” states the company on its website.

Mastercard also hires neurodivergent talent. “These are people who have unusual strengths that can help us create better products and serve different types of customers,” says Turner.

Cutting edge

Innovation means new technology, but not everyone is constantly pushing the envelope. “We seek talent that wants to be on the cutting edge of things – always ahead of the curve,” Turner says.

She believes it’s important to attract employees who will “think about the next generation of technology,” and who will be comfortable with more than just the current tools and ways of doing things. The company must attract this talent, but also build an organization around them that allows people to explore future opportunities.

Whether it’s AI, blockchain or other advanced technology, companies don’t always know in advance what will be the solutions to the problems they’ll be facing tomorrow. Building teams that naturally gravitate toward new technologies ultimately makes it easier to integrate cutting-edge innovations.

Translation by Daniel Pérusse

IT Leadership

As organizations accelerate their cloud migrations, they need both a strategy and a strategic partner, according to the Foundry 2022 Cloud Computing Study.

For example, despite their accelerated investments with multiple cloud service providers, 59% of EMEA IT leaders said they do not consider any of them a strategic partner. The partnership capabilities they are most seeking include security expertise, better cloud management capabilities, and strategic guidance on overall cloud strategy or a roadmap.

Working with a strategic cloud partner is more critical now than ever. Companies are adopting both hybrid and multiple clouds, which is creating greater IT complexity. They’re also facing significant challenges controlling costs, while struggling with a lack of cloud security and management skillsets.

These hurdles will become more difficult to overcome as organizations deepen their cloud investments. Meanwhile, enterprises risk employee and customer frustration when IT environments don’t meet their speed and performance expectations. Also, they may not achieve business objectives for increased or sustainable revenues if IT cannot keep up.

Take a building-block approach

It’s important to map your cloud strategy to attain business value. A building-block approach — in which organizations address the most pressing use cases first and build on successes — helps to minimize risks and increase successes.

For example, a global food processing company based in Brazil had deployed multiple clouds, in turn struggling to manage complexity and control costs. Their first step was to map out their pain points and then develop a plan to gain visibility across their clouds, including existing and forecasted costs.

Working with a strategic partner, the company implemented a multicloud management platform that uses automation to pull together costs and cloud assets in a single, consolidated dashboard. This visibility enabled the organization to increase efficiency and reduce costs — which in turn has allowed the company to invest in other cloud solutions.

Identify where expertise is most valuable

Most organizations have cloud skills gaps in their IT teams, and the current labor shortage makes it difficult to attract and retain talent. Once you have a cloud roadmap, identify where you will most need expertise — such as architecture, security, implementation, or management skills.

Even large enterprises with significant resources and IT talent on staff sometimes struggle to get cloud implementations up and running. For example, a multinational food services company in Spain needed to rapidly migrate a 6 TB ERP database and 130 virtual machines (VMs) from their private cloud to the public cloud as a backup and recovery solution. They couldn’t afford much, if any, business disruption.

The food services provider engaged with a strategic partner to plan and prepare for the migration. Although the planning took months, the actual ERP and VM migration was carried out in a single weekend — with zero business disruption.

Engage a strategic partner with deep expertise

Kyndryl has 30+ years of experience designing, building, and managing mission-critical IT environments, and has empowered 4,000 global customers. It offers critical cloud consulting and services, including:

Cloud strategy and roadmap development to help align platforms and services to your business strategyCloud and landing zone design with a unifying cloud solution architecture that meets your requirements for hybrid or multi-cloud estatePlatform and infrastructure modernization that aligns to your value chains and transformation goalsModern operations management that establishes a solid foundation for cloud platforms via DevSecOps, automation, and AIOps initiatives

In addition, Kyndryl offers implementation and managed services to fill skillset gaps and accelerate your cloud transformation.

Get your cloud strategy underway by starting here.

Cloud Management

Organizations with lagging supply chain maturity are at a disadvantage. They lack digitization – and therefore have more manual work. Plus, there’s little visibility into their operations, often resulting in poor planning and collaboration.

An enterprise can’t help but be inefficient and operate with low resilience and little agility in this environment. Inevitably, the organization will face higher costs, more risk, and deliver subpar services to other enterprises and customers. Moreover, in today’s highly disruptive and competitive environment, competitors will easily surpass them.

To improve both efficiency and resiliency in the supply chain, companies must pay attention and address the gaps and misalignment throughout their supply chains.

The best way to accomplish that, and increase supply chain maturity, is with supply chain convergence. This approach involves aligning systems, data, and processes from across an organization so all departments can successfully collaborate and seamlessly share data.

Yet, supply-chain convergence can seem overwhelming for enterprises with lower supply-chain maturity. Luckily, today’s technology can help companies leap their maturity, and there are specific steps to take to get started.

Six steps enterprises with lower supply-chain maturity can take right now toward supply-chain convergence include:

Understand the silos, gaps, and misalignment in your supply chain. Then, take a thorough inventory and include company leaders and managers from across departments to get a complete picture of the gaps across your organization.Prioritize what gaps need to be reduced. After compiling a thorough list of the gaps and misalignments, choose one or two to address first. Then, consider the ones that, by correcting, would result in the biggest impact on customer service and the bottom line.Simplify processes. Set a goal to eliminate any outdated, redundant systems you might have as well as elaborate processes. Simplification is an important strategic process to keep businesses lean and agile. Find technology and a platform that can make your supply chain more seamless.Outsource non-core functions when feasible. Find an external service provider to help with non-core functions. This is an important step in the simplification process and will allow you to focus on core and competitive functions.Build alignment and synchronization. Encourage alignment across the end-to-end supply chain. Having the right technology in place will help foster synchronization and collaboration.Continue to expand visibility and collaboration throughout the supply chain. Building up your supply chain maturity is a process that takes time. Continue to assess your operations and set achievable goals as you go.

Companies that bolster supply chain maturity through supply chain convergence should expect improvement in several areas, including supplier collaboration, cost management, and new product development.

Strong supplier collaboration helps build supply chain efficiency, resiliency, and sustainability. In addition, strong cost management is a powerful tool to create a competitive advantage jointly with suppliers.

Often, new product development is run inefficiently because of silos in the organization, which impacts time-to-market and business opportunities. However, the business can derive significant value when good collaborative processes and alignment are established between procurement, supply chain, engineering and suppliers.

While, at first, supply-chain convergence might seem daunting for organizations just getting started, by committing to specific steps, you’ll be well on your way to building a resilient, sustainable, and profitable supply chain.

At GEP, we help companies with transformative, holistic supply chain solutions so they can become more agile and resilient. Our end-to-end comprehensive, unified solutions harness technology to change organizations for the better. To find out more, visit GEP.

Supply Chain

For IT leaders stepping into a new CIO role, laying the groundwork for IT success can be difficult. Shannon Gath, CIO of $3.7B high-tech solutions provider Teradyne, has a playbook for addressing this challenge, and it starts with listening.

“I do a deep dive with my business partners to learn how IT can help them solve their business problems and accelerate them on their journey,” she says. “But once I have that understanding, I need to take action fast to show that we are committed to their, and our, success.”

Structuring IT around stakeholders

After Gath joined Teradyne in April 2021, that action was to restructure the IT organization around stakeholders, rather than technology. “When you are organized around technology, one person has to know the ins and outs of a system, which leaves very little time to spend with business partners thinking about investment opportunities,” she says. “The technology-focused approach forces you to be too honed in on the tactical view, not the strategic.”

By dedicating an IT leader to each of Teradyne’s three business areas — industrial automation, automated test equipment, and corporate functions — Gath not only encourages IT to be more strategic, she also builds her bench. During her career, she has seen several people she has placed in these roles evolve into full CIO roles. “The business-centric organizational structure pays for itself; in addition to setting your current business up for success, the model becomes a platform for developing next-gen talent,” she says.

With her reorg under way, Gath turned to another key lever in creating IT value: governance.

“Sometimes governance is a dirty word, but it is the key to transforming from a cost center to a value center,” says Gath. “Governance is simply a cross-functional team using an objective process to weigh every investment opportunity.”

To make the governance process effective, Gath and her team use the same tracking and communications tools they use in their internal IT operations meetings. “This way everything is reusable and our messaging is consistent, no matter what the forum is,” she says. 

IT governance clarifies priorities

In governance meetings, Gath and her peers create a stack ranking of all investment opportunities, “because we need to be crystal clear about the leadership team’s priorities,” she says. “This way, teams who work across multiple projects don’t need to escalate tradeoff decisions to the leadership team. Because they understand the priorities, those teams can make those decisions themselves.”

In companies that do not have a formal governance process, departments that appeal (and complain) the most are the ones that often get the investments, which results in siloed investments and lack of an enterprise mindset. That is why Gath sometimes “ruffles feathers” when, as a new CIO, she puts in a formal governance process.

In one role, she was asked, at the last minute, to present on the status of governance process. “I was put in the hot seat to defend the new model,” she says. “So, I created one slide that described what was working, what wasn’t, and what I am doing about it. People put down their pitchforks because they saw that I didn’t think our new governance model was perfect.”

While a stakeholder-centric IT organizational structure and an effective governance model are foundational to IT value, they are not sufficient. For Gath, IT value comes from her team’s ability to help their business partners create value, and to shift from order takers to true strategic business partners.  

Forecasting value and risk

Shifting a team from order takers to business partners is a perennial challenge for CIOs. As such, Gath solicited the help of Gartner’s Tina Nunno, who has developed a list of questions that IT leaders can use to drive for business value.

“A stakeholder will tell the governance body that they need a new technology, because without it, the business will be at risk,” Gath says. “But when you ask questions to drill down on the specific nature of the risk, you might find that the technology is really not about risk; it’s about cost savings. I’ve never worked in a business where creating value statements was easy. It’s hard for every single investment, especially when the investment is risk-oriented. The right questions get everyone to a well-articulated value statement that we can weigh against other investment opportunities for a true apples-to-apples comparison. It’s not hard; it just takes thoughtful questioning.”

Such questions include: “How is this investment supporting your business strategy?” “What risk does this initiative create?” “Are we growing the top line or benefitting the bottom line?” “Is this a ‘try’ or a capability that we’re going to embed into the organization?” Addressing questions like these enables Gath’s leadership team to get to the ultimate question: “What is the value of this initiative and when we can expect it?”

With that final question answered, Gath and her team can put in place another key to IT value: measuring the ROI of initiative after it is implemented.

Measuring IT ROI

Gath’s IT PMO leader is charged with measuring the actual ROI of a technology investment. “We can’t create a business case for an investment that will grow us by $500M and then not measure it on the other side,” she says. “The feedback loop improves the governance process. It makes the business sponsor and the governance process accountable for being realistic about the return on an investment.”

Ultimately, for Gath, the stakeholder-centric organizational design, governance process, and encouraging her team to ask the right questions, are all about one thing: transparency. “In every CIO role I’ve had, one of the biggest obstacles is a lack of transparency around how we are reducing operating costs so that we can free up funding for growth opportunities,” she says. “If we have a strong bottom-up understanding of the spend, when the business asks, ‘Why are you so expensive?’ we can show them.”

Gath’s advice to CIOs looking to build a culture of business partnership is to be accountable, transparent, and objective. “Let them know that you are on their side, because ultimately, we are all in this together.”

IT Governance, IT Leadership, IT Strategy

A lot is being written about VSM, and for good reason: it offers the opportunity for organizations to benefit from increased alignment, accelerated innovation, reduced risk, and improved competitive advantage. In spite of the clear benefits, it remains a struggle for many leaders to feel confident in taking initial steps and knowing exactly where to start. In this regard, it is invaluable to hear from experts who have been doing this work and realizing success.

While each organization’s VSM initiative will be unique, there are nevertheless common principles and lessons that all can benefit from. In our work with global enterprises, we’ve had the opportunity to hear directly from the executives who are leading the VSM initiatives in their organizations, and who are leading the industry in terms of maximizing the benefits of VSM. We recently had the opportunity to chat with a leading VSM expert working in a large insurance firm. Several years ago, this executive helped launch the organization’s VSM initiative. Here are some of the key lessons they’ve learned in terms of breaking ground with VSM:

Start with clear definitions

In today’s business world there’s no shortage of acronyms and buzzwords. Ultimately, for the insurer, VSM has come to involve people from throughout the organization, especially when working with an international mix of stakeholders, executives, and participants. It is vital to start with a clear understanding of VSM so everyone’s grounded in a common understanding of what it is and why it’s important.

Clearly define value. The good news is that any organization that’s been in operation has value streams. It is essential to gain a clear, well understood, and agreed upon definition of the value being delivered. Ultimately, if teams aren’t clear on value, it is inherently a hit-or-miss proposition as to whether that value can be delivered and improved over time. The VSM leader took a purposeful approach in this case. Start with value, then look to back up from there in terms of decisions that enable that value, and how it is delivered.

Leverage data to gain transparency

Teams need to be empowered with data. Without a real-time view of what’s happening, it takes longer to pivot, and longer to deliver value. When you have fundamentals in place, decisions become faster, and you’re more likely to avoid having to make the same decisions repeatedly.

Quality data provides context, and helps teams navigate complexity. Teams have to navigate thousands of micro decisions. If we don’t have quality data, those decisions become bigger, more complex efforts; we then have to stop and gain input from others, etc. With quality data, we can validate decisions and move forward.

Are you constantly asking, “What can be done to inform an action?” See where there are disconnects and blockages in value streams. Focus on removing things that get in the way of making decisions, from tactical to roadmaps.

Data-based dashboards versus PowerPoint slides: Ensure your dashboards are based on real data, not interpretation. Automated dashboards are much less manual effort than aggregating data and building slides, and if you have thousands of people doing manual rollups – it really becomes a massive cost and drain on efficiency.

Be inclusive

For this insurance giant, VSM is very much a team sport; to succeed, many people need to be involved and engaged. Any time someone approaches, it is very useful to share knowledge around what the teams are trying to accomplish with VSM. Invariably, when hearing about the focus on delivering customer value, others get engaged and want to be a part of it.

Ultimately, people from legal, finance and executive leadership, and a range of other areas are part of the delivery of value. On a practical level, bringing in these other teams can be instrumental in avoiding potential roadblocks and speeding up initiatives. It is important to listen to different perspectives and be open to changing your mind.

Don’t be neutral

Value streams already exist – the question is how effectively they are being managed. Staying neutral, or not investing in VSM, means competitors will be getting in front of you. Often, if you put off dealing with VSM, problems don’t necessarily emerge right away. They may start emerging in six to eight months. Therefore, it is essential to take a proactive approach, and get started right away. You have to invest in an umbrella before it starts raining, just like you have to invest in systems, processes, and people. Build trust in those investments before you realize you are facing a catastrophe.

Focus

If focus is everywhere, you will be weak everywhere. We all only have a finite amount of time and resources. If your organization is not clearly focused on value, you will be diluting power that exists in an organization. Focusing on everything can be very detrimental. You’ll fall into a trap of focusing on efficiency, while losing sight of what really matters: whether you are gaining traction in value delivery.

Balance continuous improvement and innovation

Continuous improvement is inherently about improving existing processes, while important drivers are very different for innovation. You must be able to accommodate unstructured creativity, experimentation, etc. to foster innovation, without disrupting other workflows. For example, if you have scrum methodology in agile, you are effectively measuring velocity. Ultimately scrum is about stability, and the ability to predict and forecast productivity. You can’t expect to measure on this type of predictability, while at the same time requiring innovation. It creates conflict. If there’s misalignment and you try to scale, you will only scale misalignment. Before you try to scale value, you need to be certain you are delivering value.

Conclusion

VSM makes success far more likely for your organization. By leveraging clear definitions, real-time data, and using an inclusive approach, teams can ensure benefits of VSM are realized – as proven by this real-life example.

For more information, watch this webinar, Resilience Through Rainstorms – How Unum Weathers Any Storm with VSM.

Collaboration Software

All-inclusive vacations. Personalized tours. Packed sports arenas. These are the kinds of experiences that engage us, excite us, and leave us feeling satisfied. CXOs, CIOs, and others entrusted with and empowered to make CX decisions should want the experiences that flow in and out of their contact centers to be just as engaging. They should be pleasantly surprised by their communication options. Customers should be floored by how easy it is to get things done with self-service tools such as a virtual agent. They should be excited that they didn’t have to answer the same repetitive security questions. So excited, that they’re willing to engage more deeply with a business and tell their friends and family about it. 

Today’s contact centers are no longer transactional in nature. Customer experience leaders should be actively working to build an experience-driven contact center. Here’s what to consider…

Building an experience-driven contact center requires experience thinking. 

Experience thinking means placing experiences at the heart of all changes to operations by focusing on the core of human interaction. By doing this, companies can consistently give customers what they need, many times, before they think to ask for it. This is crucial in today’s age of the Everything Customer. Coined by Gartner, the Everything Customer represents a customer who wants every mode of engagement at their fingertips for getting the help or answers they need. Customers should be able to use whatever channel or touchpoint works best for them in the moment, which can change at any time depending on the need or circumstance. 

One day self-service might make sense. The next day, in-person at a physical location. Even in a physical store, there are many ways customers can engage, connect, and be serviced. Businesses can’t presume to know how a customer will reach out, but they should be prepared to deliver a seamless, effortless, and personalized experience every time and in line with their desired outcome. 

To compete on experience thinking, companies need an Experience Platform. 

Many companies try to do the right thing by using technology to meet customer demands only to move farther from them. That’s because they are using monolithic, generic apps that don’t enable them to deliver personalized experiences. What businesses need is an Experience Platform that is open, flexible, and composable in nature, allowing them to build their own experiences as well as leverage “pre-built” experiences that can be quickly tailored to fit their customer and business needs. In essence, the cloud becomes a toolkit for digital transformation instead of a destination to migrate to. 

Let’s say you work from home (cheers to remote work!) and need a latte from your local coffee shop to get through the day. You open a food delivery app on your phone to place your order, but notice the shop is out of your favorite drink. At this point you’re able to tap on an icon at the bottom of your screen and chat with a bot in real-time to confirm if it’s the topping that’s unavailable and, if so, what options you do have. You’re surprised by how easy it is to talk with the bot. The conversation is natural, seamless, and humanlike. You learn which toppings are available and finish placing your order. This is a simple example of experience thinking in contact center design. The customer is empowered with the information they need, with a fantastic experience, and the coffee shop doesn’t have to use costly in-person resources. 

The kinds of things an Experience Platform can do in minutes is more than a typical company could develop and enable in months. In the example above, in which the food delivery company offered a virtual agent through its mobile app, the company could build its own from scratch or deploy a cloud-based, pre-built virtual agent that can be customized and scaled to deliver seamless transactions in a matter of minutes. The Avaya OneCloud™ Experience Platform enables this kind of innovation and can also connect users with our Experience Builders community to provide access to all the technical expertise, skills, and resources they need to develop incredible experiences for their customers and employees. 

An Experience Platform also supports a vendor ecosystem, giving businesses instant access to a pool of innovative, readily available solutions from industry-leading vendors. Gartner predicts that by 2025, the average organization will be exploiting the benefits of this ecosystem approach to create better customer and employee experiences. 

Let’s say you’re a healthcare or financial organization that’s heavily reliant on identity and data security. Every time a customer reaches out to pay a bill, manage their account, or make an appointment, they must answer frustrating security questions often related to their personally identifiable information. Avaya OneCloud supports Identity-centered security and biometrics by Journey as part of its Experience Builder ecosystem. Patients and users can verify their identity through the use of biometrics to simplify the authentication process with higher veracity, reducing costs by as much as $3 per call while improving the customer experience. Avaya OneCloud enables effortless transfers across all physical and digital channels (ex: chatbot to agent), and Journey carries this authentication forward so the service experience continues without missing a beat. There’s no need for patients or users to reauthenticate themself every time they speak with someone new. This is a notable example of experience thinking in the contact center. 

An experience-driven contact center gives your customers what they want and what you want for your business.

An Experience Platform provides everything businesses need to create an experience-driven contact center that thrills and satisfies. Tools and building blocks to build their own experiences, pre-built apps to deliver value more immediately, a global community of experts for support as needed, and a growing Experience Builder ecosystem to further simplify, enhance, and differentiate experiences. It’s a powerful piece of technology that takes what’s complicated and makes it simple so that businesses can focus on experiences and outcomes. 

Learn more about Avaya OneCloud and Avaya Experience Builders

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