It’s clear that in the last few years, the global pandemic has created unique circumstances for business and IT leaders at small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). Yet a relentless focus on customers can help build resilience and success.  

In this 3rd episode of our 5-episode podcast, Essential Connections: The Business Owner’s Guide to Growth During Economic Uncertainty, we explore why success and resilience depend on high-quality customer engagement.

For MK, this focus is essential, especially for small- and medium-sized businesses.

“It’s always been true, how well you connect with your customers. But now we’re communicating with and supporting each other in ever more critical ways,” says MK. “All of us need those seamless interactions with each other. We used to be able to have these rich interactions when we were face to face. And now technology must pick up the slack.”

In fact, the importance of customer experience now trumps goals such as cutting costs as a deciding factor around IT investment, MK says.

I think it’s important to realize that just like all of us, our customers and our employees are experiencing uneasy times. It’s almost like concentric circles of unease. And that has drastically changed the way they work, the way we work,” she says. “But expectations have only grown. Customers, employees, people, they value staying connected. The stakes are very high. We commissioned some research with Frost and Sullivan. And we found that nearly half of employees say they won’t consider working for a company unless the company offers some flexibility.”

“Now consider how hard it is … in this labor market … to make hires. And you see why the stakes are super high,” she says. “With customers and employees – these are your two most valuable assets.”

Listen in to learn all the details, including MK’s actionable insights on how to prevent poor customer experience from undermining your company’s resilience.

Be sure to listen to other episodes in our series, Essential Connections: The Business Owner’s Guide to Growth During Economic Uncertainty, and learn how you can future-proof your business with agile IT leadership.

IT Leadership, Small and Medium Business

In today’s fast-paced business world, where companies must constantly innovate to keep up with competitors,depending on fully customizable software solutions created with programming languages and manual coding is insufficient.

Instead, enterprises increasingly are pursuing no-code and low-code solutions for application development. No-code and low-code development entails creating software applications by using a user-friendly graphic interface that often includes drag and drop. These solutions require less coding expertise, making application development accessible to a larger swath of workers. That accessibility is critical, especially as companies continue to face a shortage of highly skilled IT workers. In fact, IDC has identified low-code/no-code mobile applications as a driver of the future of work.

“The key difference between traditional and no-code and low-code solutions is just how easy and flexible the user experience can be with no-code and low-code,” says Alex Zhong, director of product marketing at GEP. “Speed has become more and more important in the business environment today. You need to get things done in a rapid way when you’re responding to the disruptive environment and your customers.”

The traditional application development process is both complicated and multilayered. It entails zeroing in on the business need, evaluating and assessing the idea, submitting the application development request to IT, getting evaluations and approvals to secure funding, designing, creating and producing, and doing user testing.

“Traditionally it’s a lengthy process with many people involved,” Zhong says. “This can take quite a few weeks and often longer.” Not only does the time workers spend accrue but various costs also quickly add up. “The new way of application development reduces complexity, tremendously shortens the process, and puts application development more in users’ hands.”

Here are some other benefits of no-code/low-code solutions over the traditional approach:

Projects are more malleable. “With local solutions, you can make changes quicker,” says Kelli Smith, GEP’s head of product management for platform. With fewer levels of approval and cooks in the kitchen, it’s easy to tweak ideas on the fly and make improvements to applications as you go.

Ideas are less likely to get lost in translation. With traditional development, sometimes ideas aren’t perfectly translated into a product. With the user at the helm working closely with IT, ideas are more likely to be accurately executed.

IT and the business work better together. No-code and low-code solutions are typically driven by someone close to the business, but IT is still involved in an advisory role — especially in initial stages. The relationship becomes more of a collaborative one. “The business is developing together with IT,” Smith says.

Developers are freed up for more complex work. With the business more involved in application development, IT workers’ time is freed up to dedicate to more complicated tasks and projects rather than an excess of manual or administrative work.

Often, moving away from traditional application development is a process for enterprises. Companies may start with low-code solutions and gradually shift toward no-code solutions. The evolution requires a culture change, vision from leadership, and endorsement from IT.

Importantly, employees also need to be empowered to participate.

GEP believes that no-code/low-code is the way of the future. The company is leading efforts in no-code and low-code solutions through partners and investments in solutions. “In today’s environment,” Zhong says, “no-code/low-code is simply key to giving enterprises more flexibility.”

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

There’s an old saying when something you value changes and no longer brings you the joy the way it used to, “it’s not like it used to be.” For those who remember the good old days, great service was an essential part of the customer experience. Nowadays, customer service is not what it used to be. For decades now, customer service has become a necessary cost center. The emphasis on scale, automation, speed, and margins have also come at the cost of customer experience. However, new research now shows that the role of service is shifting back to “service,” to unify the customer’s experience.  

Since the dawn of the contact center in the 1960s, customer service evolved into a transactional entity. Over the years, executives learned to think of service as a numbers game, cycling customers on and off the phone and closing-out tickets as fast as possible, regardless of whether or not customers had a positive impression of the company in each interaction. That mindset would serve as models for deploying next-gen technologies, including IVRs, knowledge centers, chatbots, automation/RPA, text/messaging, with each designed to scale transactional engagement vs. delivering the level of service customers hope to receive. 

Customer experience reflects all customer engagements; Service can no longer serve as the weakest link 

The customer experience — the sum of all engagements, beyond customer service, a customer has with a business — is core to business success today. A related study of customers and B2B buyers published by Salesforce, the “State of the Connected Customer,” showed that nearly nine-in-ten respondents consider experience to be as critical as the product, itself, in deciding whether or not to buy from a company. This means that the experience you deliver is also a product.  

Nearly all respondents to that survey said a positive service experience makes them more likely to make a repeat purchase (94%). The same study also found that 71% of customers had switched brands in the last year with 48% switching companies for better customer service. These are critical insights especially in the current economic environment, when budgets are tightening, and loyalty becomes more important to the bottom line.  

Every facet of that experience must contribute to the great whole of the brand experience you promise. If customer service is viewed as a cost center and metrics prioritize speed over quality and transactions over relationship, it will always take away from the customer’s experience instead of enhancing it.  

There’s good news to report for service professionals. In its fifth edition of the “State of Service,” Salesforce found that companies are increasing investments in employees and technology budgets to match case volume and customer expectations. Over half of service organizations (55%) report increased budgets — up from 32% in 2020. And 51% report increased headcount — up from 19% in 2020. 

Mindset: The value of service shines when it’s meant to enhance the customer experience 

As customers become increasingly connected and empowered, their expectations soar. Service as a cost center is no longer a viable strategy to stand out against competitors where everything either takes away from or adds to the experience. It comes down to a shift in mindset, from a cost center mentality to a revenue generator. When executives invest in customer services that enhances their experience, customers are more likely to make repeat purchases and stay loyal.  

That truth is increasingly penetrating the hallowed walls of C-Suites and the boardroom.  

More than 50% of respondents in Salesforce’s survey of customer service professionals say their management now views their department as a revenue generator, rather than the cost center it may have perceived to be. That’s a significant tipping point that makes service performance all the more important not just for companies as a whole, but for the people in charge of delivering customer service. 

If you need more proof of this phenomenon, consider that over one-third of customer service leaders are now in the C-level — an unprecedented level of representation at the highest reaches of business structures.  

The fact that these are sourced from customer service ranks speaks volumes. And there’s appetite for this trend to continue. Nearly nine-in-ten of customer service respondents who don’t have C-level representation see its value. 

With the rise of roles such as chief customer officers and chief experience officers, service becomes one, albeit critical, part of the overall customer experience. It no longer has to represent the weakest link in the customer journey. 

Connection is the heart of service 

Driving customer success starts with connection to engage customers to meet and eventually exceed customer expectations. 

Think about the myriad of touchpoints that proliferate the path to purchase — and repurchase and loyalty — today. We often talk about this in terms of striving for omnichannel engagement. But beyond business buzzwords, a customer would never use the word omnichannel, it’s important to humanize the customer experience by considering the different, disconnected, departments that touch the customer journey. For example… 

Are service agents aware of marketing campaigns a given customer has received when they make contact? Do they have an informed sense of how a customer has navigated the company’s e-commerce touchpoints? Is the customer’s historical experience, preferences, previous purchases, available to service agents and all frontline executives responsible for customer engagement through their journey? Is integrated data and insights available to power AI in ways that present next best actions and experiences at a personal level, whether that’s an agent, chatbot, or self-guided path? If in a B2B company, are they aware of salesperson interactions?  

This is all critical context that service reps need to meet elevated customer expectations for efficient, tailored engagement. 

So, have companies met those customer expectations for connected engagement? According to the “State of the Connected Customer” survey, they have not.  

Three-in-five respondents say they generally feel like they are interacting with different departments rather than one company. And unfortunately, two-thirds say they often need to repeat information to different agents. When nearly all customers say a positive service experience makes them more likely to make a repeat purchase, is this status quo serving service’s elevated business mandate? 

This attests to a cost-center vs. growth mindset. In each case, the outcomes are very different. 

Compare high-performing service teams — those with the highest customer satisfaction levels — and their underperforming peers. The top teams are empowered to treat unique customers with unique engagement, think freedom from restrictive policies that don’t put all customer situations into a single category of service. Top teams are also more empowered with contextual information that details a customer’s entire journey, whether with service, or another team.  

In these cases, over three-fifths of service teams now share the same CRM software with their colleagues in other departments like ecommerce, sales, and marketing.  

Context matters in a digital-first world 

Let’s talk about the other critical element of meeting elevated customer expectations: digital channels and, more importantly, customer context. 

Even though the world is opening up, the use of digital channels, such as social media and customer portals, have not backtracked. In fact, customers say they are likely to spend more time online than before 2020. This is leading to the adoption of more digital-first touchpoints. Nearly three-in-five customers now prefer to engage through digital channels.  

Before you ask, yes, that preference skews higher among younger demographics. But still, channels such as phone and email are dropping, and digital-first touchpoints are rising across the board.  

Responses to this trend are represented in the increasing adoption among service organizations of channels like mobile apps, forums, and especially video. But a wholesale shift to digital channels ignores critical nuance…context. 

Key objectives are shifting to reflect a focus on efficiency, cost savings, and doing more with less 

Customers veer towards different channels depending on the circumstances. For instance, 59% of customers prefer self-service tools for simple issues while 81% of service professionals say the phone is a preferred channel for complex issues — up from 76% in 2020.  

Wherever they go, customers want their interaction to be easy, seamless, and fast. Let’s focus for a moment on the preference for self-service for simple issues. This is a great example of where customer and company priorities meet — in this case, in the pursuit of efficiency. 

Customer success excellence in today’s environment isn’t easy. Salesforce research found that 83% of customers expect to interact with someone immediately, and 83% expect to resolve complex problems through one person.  

Service professionals are feeling the pressure too, with 60% recognizing the increase in customer expectations since before the pandemic. 

Shifting KPIs reflect a focus on efficiency 

The preference for self-service for simple matters coincides with a heightened focus on efficiency for companies facing uncertain economic conditions. 

Organizations are being asked to do more with less and reduce costs. This is reflected in the rise of efficiency-related service KPIs, such as case deflection, customer effort, and first contact resolution.  

While self-service is a great foray into this pursuit, it can only go so far. How else can service organizations maximize customer satisfaction while using resources most efficiently? 

The answer lies at least in part in technology. Specifically, nearly three-fifths of service organizations now use at least one form of workflow or process automation — freeing up agents to focus on the higher value, more complex work that customers with more pressing or unique needs demand in exchange for repeat purchases.  

Users of automation reported significant benefits, such as time savings, better customer focus, and fewer errors in addressing customer needs. 

Three takeaways to transform service into a growth (and customer relationship) engine  

Service plays an important role in delivering a connected, efficient, and product customer experience. More importantly, service itself is shifting from a necessary cost center to a strategic growth engine. 

Service organizations are now at the forefront of strategic shifts across industries. Leaders are investing in continued momentum as well as future disruptions as customer expectations only continue to increase. 

1) Shift from a service mindset to an experience mindset 

Customers don’t see a “service department” — they see one company. As elevated, connected experiences become more commonplace, any instance of a disconnected, siloed experience across sales, service, marketing, and beyond will stand out and prompt customers to seek out better alternatives. Connecting service people, processes, and technology with their cross-functional counterparts helps mitigate this risk and elevate the overall customer experience. 

2) Empower employees as much as customers 

Scaling digital engagement offerings for customers has its merits, but we need to also think about what capabilities employees need to engage across these channels and provide the tailored, empathetic, and contextualized service customers deserve. Technology is a big part of this equation. But all the technology in the world won’t make much of a difference without the evolved policies and processes that transformation requires. 

3) Audit metrics for efficiency, scale, and experience 

Tried-and-true service metrics aren’t going anywhere, but a narrow focus on closing out as many tickets with as few agents as possible is a recipe for CX and service failure. Think about how KPIs can help identify areas of improvement as you scale across new channels, for instance. As resources get scarcer among economic uncertainty, look for ways to do more with less, without compromising the experiences customers have and take away from each engagement. 

Business Services

The CIO has a real ability to achieve a competitive advantage for its business through data. This is the underlying purpose of the digital transformation exercises that have been so significant to IT in recent years. For the CIO to be successful with this, there needs to be a comprehensive strategy that extends far beyond simply deploying new technologies. Many CIOs are now working with an IT environment that can deliver a modern data strategy but are struggling to unlock the full potential.

The first step for CIOs is to break down internal barriers and address the problems caused by data siloed in legacy environments. As we saw in the previous article (How The CIO Can Become The CMO’s Best Ally In The Use Of Data), this ultimately comes down to the CIO’s ability to achieve stakeholder alignment across the executive team.

As Warren Jenson, LiveRamp President, said, failing to do this first can be counter-intuitive to the company’s data goals. “Alignment between the company’s mission and goals to each area of data collection, monetization, and collaboration creates a clear road map for interlocking data and business strategies, eliminating the possibility of missing new revenue-generating opportunities.”

The four steps to data advantage

A recent report from LiveRamp outlines the four steps that can bring a company to data maturity.

1) Match the tech strategy to the business strategy. “Disorganized data and disjointed digital tools often cause decision fatigue that can further disconnect business goals from tech and data strategies,” Jenson said. Organisations that can properly align their data environments stand to gain a significant competitive advantage.

Stephan Zimmerman, a Senior Partner at McKinsey & Company, confirms this sentiment in the LiveRamp report. “Companies should have a consistent data blueprint linking use cases to create business value and identify early wins to help build momentum for the organisation.” This is important, since the executive buy-in the CIO has earned needs to deliver quickly in order to encourage further investment for even higher value, but longer-term, projects.

2) Invest in an identity solution. Identity enables enterprises to unify and consolidate their customer view, which is an ongoing challenge for most businesses today. “Identity awards your consumers with more personalisation, better experiences across channels, and helps prevent an unhelpful or repetitive ad experience,” Jenson said. “For internal stakeholders, identity strengthens customer intelligence, improves ROI and generates new revenue streams across sales, marketing, IT and other departments, among many other benefits.”

In short, an identity solution is critical to being able to properly analyse and leverage customer data. Here, LiveRamp uses the retail vertical as a use case: “E-commerce often exists entirely separate from data generated by in-store operations. Imagine what insights merchandisers could glean if they were able to analyse transactions and other pertinent data across the full customer journey?”

An identity solution that is defined as “people-based” enables intracompany and intercompany data collaboration while allowing the CIO to maintain tight control over these assets.

3) Collaborate with partners. With the proper controls in place, the CIO can start to bring their organisation’s data together with second- and third-party data to generate far deeper and more powerful insights. A good example of this is media companies, which have deep analytics into their audiences and can segment according to the needs of their partners. In collaboration with the CMO, the CIO can bring their company’s own data in connection to a media partner for better targeting and measurement.

“Publishing and the TV industries have rich and valuable data sets. Thanks to the rise in granular privacy controls that mitigate risk of unauthorized data access or use, both are growing areas where meaningful data partnerships are finally possible,” Jenson noted.

4) Use data to build new revenue streams. By step four the CIO is delivering meaningful new revenue streams to their business, which can then be reinvested into other initiatives. The retail industry is a prime example. By leveraging its wealth of first-party data assets to set up a retail media network, Amazon was able to generate $31.1 billion in ads, and Walmart $2.1 billion for its own.

The LiveRamp report also shares the experience of Boots, which went from 7 percent of media being booked using first-party data, to over 40 percent using data collaboration to unlock customer insights. “The opportunity has to be that you are there in that moment of customer need. Having that passion for the customer, backed with the data that says, if we know our customers better and we understand their lives and the role we play in them, and we are looking out for those key moments and using the best technology, then that’s how we’re going to win.”

Data is undoubtedly a major point of investment for organisations. A recent McKinsey report noted that in a company that has $5 billion in operating costs, third-party data sourcing, architecture, governance and consumption will cost $250 million –  2 percent of the cost in itself. When managed well, and supported by the right tools, this becomes a competitive advantage and investment into further growth for the business.

For more information about getting started with your data collaboration strategy, click here.

Data Center Management

To make a profit, manufacturers need more visibility into the cost of goods to sell at a price that reflects the value to customers. And that transparency has been lacking to date. From flour to fuel – and now baby formula – the cost of commodities has skyrocketed while availability has plummeted and no one knows when things will turn around.

Clearly, things have gotten out of control. So the leaders at Clariant International, a leading specialty chemical company, decided to build a tool that would monitor and analyze future price changes on finished goods instantly so they could make pricing decisions that pass-through costs to the value chain.

What does a specialty chemical company make?

Modern chemistry delvers solutions and revolutionary products, and Clariant supports global production in everything from home care to vehicles, energy, electronics, mining, agriculture, and cosmetics – even your kid’s brightly colored toys (with safe, stable paint) to the stain-trapping polymers that protect their favorite Star Wars t-shirts.

Plus, to feed a hungry world with higher crop yields, there are “adjuvants” – biological enhancers of herbicides and pesticides that increase effectiveness and sustainability by preventing wind drift in farmers’ fields.

Development is a cause for celebration but getting revolutionary products into the market quickly is another. Here’s how Clariant — an SAP Innovation Award Winner — built a cost forecasting tool that simulates costs end-to-end from procurement and operations, to finance and sales.

In the chemical production industry, nothing stands still

Clariant’s legacy solution for pricing simulation allowed only a single, manual simulation that took several weeks to process making it outdated by the time it reached the business decision makers.

The need for real-time pricing forecasts was driven by the costing complexity of bills of materials (BOMs) and finished products from multiple group companies – not to mention currencies based on tens of thousands of raw materials operating in volatile markets around the world.

Clariant required a robust product costing solution that could simulate finished goods costs for multiple scenarios using data from a wide array of sources. It also needed to offer intuitive reporting and analytics that procurement teams could apply instantly to resolve the many challenges they were facing.

But the biggest drawback for the forecasters was the cumbersome, labor demanding, and error-prone calculation required for 20,000 finished goods, 50,000 materials used, 18 production levels, 67 production sites, and 18 months of forecast simulation.

To move this mountain, Clariant built an end-to-end cost simulation forecasting tool with full visibility to enable proactive pricing and margin management across a variety of factors.

100X Faster –Value-Driven ROI in minutes instead of days

The company based its end-to-end forecasting tool on a production benchmarking and simulation engine from MIBCON NDC built on SAP S/4HANA and SAP Analytics Cloud with robust data processing, system stability, and user-friendly dashboard reporting and analytics. The return on investment for the entire project was realized in just three weeks!

From one manual simulation per quarter to instant forecasting, Clariant’s pricing simulations are 100 times faster than before.

“We can run forecasts almost immediately and provide updated pricing quickly,” says Markus Mirgeler, head of procurement, Clariant. “This shows up in higher margins and better product volume, differentiating us from the competition.”

Instant transparency

The ability to analyze the full production portfolio instantly, based on detailed bills of materials (BOMs) ensures accuracy. Plus, identifying products that require given raw materials, and the systematic collection of future raw material prices, any time, affords flexibility as things change.

Now, sales can rely on a single source of truth for global pricing forecasts that support the bottom line while significantly reducing the possibility of error. With less time needed to obtain the actual and input data as well as for planning and preparation, and empowered by self-service reporting and advanced visualizations, sales can analyze the value chain with pricing simulations and produce reports in minutes instead of days. 

And last but not least, the transparency of cost changes is passed onto customers so they can see the value.

To learn more about the challenges Clariant faced, and the actions the company took that placed them as a winner of the SAP Innovation Awards, read their Innovation Awards pitch deck

Digital Transformation

C-level executives are most interested in strategic assets and initiatives that will advance, transform, and grow their enterprises. They continually want to make “cost centers” more efficient and more cost-effective, while investing in what will accelerate, empower, and protect the business operations and its customer base.

Because data and digital technology have become so integral into any enterprise’s lifeblood, senior leadership teams must differentiate between the strategic aspects of IT and the tactical parts of IT cost centers. Storage has emerged in 2022 as a strategic asset that the C-suite, not just the CIO, can no longer overlook.

Enterprise storage can be used to improve your company’s cybersecurity, accelerate digital transformation, and reduce costs, while improving application and workload service levels. That’s going to get attention in the board room. Here’s how to equip yourself for that discussion with C-level executives. The following are three practical ways to make enterprise storage a strategic asset for your organization.

1. Make storage part of the corporate cybersecurity strategy

According to a Fortune 500 survey, 66% of Fortune 500 CEOs said their No. 1 concern in the next three years is cybersecurity. Similarly, in a KPMG CEO survey, CEOs also said cybersecurity is a top priority. The average number of days to identify and contain a data breach, according to security analysts, is 287 days. Given these facts, changing the paradigm from an overall corporate security perspective is needed.

Too many enterprises are not truly equipped and prepared to deal with it. Nonetheless, companies need to ensure that valuable corporate data is always available. This has created an urgent need for enterprises to modernize data protection and cyber resilient capabilities. The answer that CEOs, CIOs, CISOs and their IT teams need to take is an end-to-end approach to stay ahead of cybersecurity threats.

You need to think of your enterprise storage as part of your holistic corporate security strategy. This means that every possession in a company’s storage estate needs to be cyber resilient, designed to thwart ransomware, malware, internal cyber threats, and other potential attacks. Cybersecurity must go hand-in-hand with storage cyber resilience.

It’s prudent to evaluate the relationship across cybersecurity, storage, and cyber resilience. Both primary storage and secondary storage need to be protected, ranging from air gapping to real-time data encryption to immutable copies of your data to instantaneous recovery. 

What should you do? Perform a comprehensive analysis of your corporate data, determine what data needs to be encrypted and infused with cyber resilience and what doesn’t, and figure out how the protection needs to keep your company in compliance. You also need to decide what to do for modern data protection and you need to figure out what to do from a replication/snapshot perspective for disaster recovery and business continuity.

2. Use a hybrid cloud strategy to accelerate digital transformation

More than 75% of CIOs identified digital transformation as their top budget priority of the last year, according to Constellation Research. Companies are leveraging digital capabilities to better serve their customers, accelerate new products and services to market, and scale their operations. The growth and importance of data continue to proliferate exponentially.

The role of hybrid cloud infrastructure – part of your data on-premise – as the key enabler of this megatrend is at the forefront. A core value of cloud services is the support for digital transformation. Digital transformation is enabled and powered by hybrid cloud computing, offering increased flexibility, rapid application development and deployment, and consumption-based economics. This is essential to competing and remaining relevant in today’s world of data-driven business.

Data is the lifeblood of all modern enterprises. How to collect, manage, store, access, and use the data determines the level of success that a company will have. Enterprises can either innovate their data, or be strangled by the data, or even be held hostage for the data. This is why you need the strategy and the infrastructure to drive the future of data for your business.

As businesses evolve themselves digitally, a hybrid cloud strategy orchestrates all the different aspects of it in a mixed computing, storage, and services environment, comprised of on-premises infrastructure, private cloud services, and a public cloud such as AWS. Just in the last 18 months, advancements have been made for “on ramps” between private cloud and the public cloud. This hybrid cloud infrastructure becomes the cornerstone for an organization’s ability to be agile and accelerate business transformation.

3. Reduce IT costs

It can be challenging to identify areas in IT to reduce costs, while maintaining the level of service or capacity. But here’s a practical tip that can be a quick win for an enterprise: CIOs, CISOs and their IT teams can lower IT costs by consolidating storage arrays.

Because of the advancements in storage-defined storage technology, an enterprise can replace 50 arrays with two arrays, while still getting all the capacity, performance, availability, and reliability that are needed. This strategic consolidation saves on operational manpower, rack space, floor space, power expense, and cooling expense. In short, dramatically reducing your CAPEX and OPEX.

You can consolidate storage while, simultaneously, improving access to data across a hybrid cloud and a container-native environment for greater resilience, lower application and workload latency, and higher availability. For today’s enterprise requirements, 100% availability is a must.  

A hybrid cloud approach with a strong private cloud configuration creates the opportunity to consolidate storage arrays for maximum efficiency. Furthermore, with a private cloud, you have better, more exact control over cost structure and service level agreements (SLAs). Essentially, this strategy enables you to match an SLA, such as application performance and availability, with a higher level of control. 

Switching to consumption-based pricing models for storage is another way to reduce costs. Organizations can choose to flex up or flex down based on fluctuating needs for storage, utilizing storage-as-a-service. The worldwide analyst firm Gartner predicts: “by 2023, 43% of newly deployed storage capacity will be consumed as OPEX, up from less than 15% in 2020.”

Alternatively, companies can choose capacity on demand and seek out elastic pricing. All of these options have made storage more cost-effective. There are options across OPEX and CAPEX. You can even get a mix of OPEX and CAPEX to realize those cost savings.

Key takeaways

Think of your storage as part of your holistic enterprise security strategyA hybrid cloud infrastructure should be the cornerstone for your organization’s ability to be agile and accelerate business transformation.Strategic consolidation of storage arrays reduces CAPEX and OPEX.

To learn more about enterprise storage solutions, visit Infinidat

Data Management

TOGAF is a longstanding, popular, open-source enterprise architecture framework that is widely used by large businesses, government agencies, non-government public organizations, and defense agencies. Offered by The Open Group, TOGAF advises enterprises on how best to implement, deploy, manage, and maintain enterprise architecture.

The Open Group offers several options for those who want to be certified in the TOGAF 9. Earning a cert is a great way to demonstrate to employers that you are qualified to work in an enterprise architecture environment using the TOGAF 9.2 Standard framework. TOGAF is designed to help organizations implement enterprise architecture management using a standardized framework that is still highly customizable to a company’s specific enterprise architecture needs.

Earlier this year, The Open Group announced the latest update to the TOGAF framework, releasing TOGAF Standard, 10th Edition. The update brought changes to the structure of the framework, making it easier to navigate and more accessible for companies to adopt and customize for their unique business needs. Currently, The Open Group offers certifications only for TOGAF 9, but there are plans to release new certifications that align with TOGAF Standard, 10th Edition. This article will be updated once the new certifications are announced in the coming months.

TOGAF 9 Foundation and TOGAF 9 Certified

The TOGAF 9 Foundation and TOGAF 9 Certified are the two main certifications for the TOGAF Standard, Version 9.2 offered by The Open Group. To earn your TOGAF 9 Foundation certification, you’ll need to pass the TOGAF 9 Part 1 exam. To earn the next level of certification, the TOGAF 9 Certified designation, you’ll need to pass the TOGAF 9 Part 2 exam.

You can opt to take each exam separately at different times, or you can take the TOGAF 9 Combined Part 1 and Part 2 exam to earn both certifications at once. There are no prerequisites for the TOGAF 9 Part 1 exam, but you will need to pass the first exam to qualify for the TOGAF 9 Part 2 examination.  

The TOGAF 9 Part 1 exam covers basic and core concepts of TOGAF, introduction to the Architecture Development Method (ADM), enterprise continuum and tools, ADM phases, ADM guidelines and templates, architecture governance, architecture viewpoints and stakeholders, building blocks of enterprise architecture, ADM deliverables, and TOGAF reference models.

The TOGAF 9 Part 2 exam has eight scenario-based questions that demonstrate your ability to apply your foundational knowledge from the first exam to real-world enterprise architecture situations. The eight questions are drawn from topics such as ADM phases, adapting the ADM, architecture content framework, TOGAF reference models, and the architecture capability framework.  

TOGAF Business Architecture Level 1

The Open Group offers the TOGAF Business Architecture Level 1 certification, which focuses on validating your knowledge and understanding of business modeling, business capabilities, TOGAF business scenarios, information mapping, and value streams.

Integrating Risk and Security Certification

The Open Group also offers the Integrating Risk and Security Certification, which validates that you understand several security and risk concepts as they apply to enterprise architecture. The certification covers important security and risk concepts as they relate to the TOGAF ADM, information security management, enterprise risk management, other IT security and risk standards, enterprise security architecture, and the importance of security and risk management in an organization. There are no prerequisites for the exam, but to pass you will need to attend three hours of training from an accredited training course and then pass the assessment. There is an option for self-study training via an e-learning platform.

TOGAF certification training

The Open Group offers self-study material, with two available study guides that cover the TOGAF 9 Foundation and learning outcomes that go beyond the foundational level. Those who wish to attend prep courses can search through accredited courses. Some courses also include the examination at the end of the course, depending on the program.

TOGAF certification cost

For the English TOGAF exams the current rate is US$360 for Part 1, US$360 for Part 2, or US$550 for the Combined Part 1 and Part 2 exam. The English TOGAF Business Architecture Level 1 exam is priced at US$315. There is currently no pricing information available for the Integrating Risk and Security Certification.

It’s also important to note that pricing and rates per exam will change depending on where you’re located. To see the rates for other countries and languages, check The Open Group’s website for more information.

TOGAF Role-Based Badges

The Open Group also offers TOGAF Role-Based Badges designed for IT professionals seeking to demonstrate enterprise architecture knowledge and skills. The Badges are digital and verified by “secure metadata” as a way for you to display achievements and awards online, and for organizations to easily verify certifications of potential candidates. They can also be used to identify various milestones as you work your way toward a full certification. Badges can be used in email signatures, on your personal website or resume, and on your social media accounts.

The Open Group offers three categories of Role-Based Badges for TOGAF 9.2: Enterprise Architecture, Enterprise Architecture Modeling, and Digital Enterprise Architecture. Under each category, there are two types of badges you can earn, Team Member or Practitioner. You’ll earn different badges depending on which certifications you complete or how far along you are in completing the TOGAF 9.2 Certified credential.

Certifications, Enterprise Architecture

Founded in 1784 by Alexander Hamilton, BNY Mellon is one of the oldest banks in the U.S. and is the world’s largest custodian bank and securities services company, with $2.4 trillion in assets under management, another $46 trillion in assets under custody, and more than $307 billion in private wealth.

It is also evolving to become a digital bank, with cloud a key element of this transformation.

Laying the foundation for its cloud strategy, BNY Mellon undertook a multi-year application modernization effort. “In that course of that journey, we virtualized and containerized approximately 95% of our distributed applications in our internal ecosystem. We essentially built an orchestration layer and viewed public cloud as just another landing zone outside our data centers,” says Joe Sieczkowski, CIO of architecture and engineering at BNY Mellon.

At CIO’s recent Future of Cloud Summit, John Gallant, enterprise consulting director with Foundry sat down with Sieczkowski to learn more about his cloud strategy, governance in the cloud, and leveraging cloud where it is most effective. What follows are edited excerpts of that conversation. For more insights, watch the full video embedded below.

On BNY Mellon’s cloud strategy:

First and foremost, we view cloud as a journey, not a destination. Our strategy is essentially to leverage the public cloud’s economies of scale, to drive business value, to lower risk, to increase resiliency, and really to ensure our infrastructure is evergreen. Essentially, cloud enables us to better serve our stakeholders.

Today, our strategy is to have a multi-cloud approach. We have to go to where our clients are. We are going to pick best of breed solutions and maintain our ability to pivot as needed. We are going to limit lock-in, we are going to understand our exit strategy. And frankly, for critical business workloads, we actually may select a process on multiple providers, like Azure and GCP or AWS and Azure, etc.

Governance in multicloud environments:

BNY Mellon already has a rigorous governance process. And our approach has been to extend that process and enhance that process to cover cloud. So as an example, every development initiative has to go through a permit-to-design, permit-to-build, and permit-to-operate tollgate. And that is where we do the architecture reviews, the security reviews, the risk reviews, and even the operational reviews to make sure that we are appropriately securing, monitoring, and governing everything we do for our stakeholders.

BNY Mellon’s modernization journey:

BNY Mellon is evolving into a digital bank. The key point here is that our cloud strategy is part of our overall technology and digital journey, as we continually modernize. So we view this as we have laid the foundation for public cloud with our internal modernization journey. This included enhancing our designs, our standards, our controls, quality assurance, as well as the governance and tollgates around it. We have established well-defined designed patterns and blueprints that are constantly evolving, and we also established anti-patterns that people must avoid. Technology is always evolving, and we have to evolve with it and continue to manage it professionally.

How cloud bolsters resilience:

BNY Mellon has a very strong resiliency posture. However, we believe cloud will afford us an opportunity to really think about next-generation resiliency. This includes scaling during market events, avoiding missing windows, avoiding missing service-level agreements. And frankly, we have also been thinking about the notion of a lifeboat in the cloud, meaning that if there was a really drastic event, we could spin up a lifeboat—in the cloud—to process workloads. We are thinking about it as a cost-effective way to further improve our resiliency posture.

Where cloud is most effective:

One area I think cloud is just going to be really effective is any area which involves experimentation and has a high opportunity cost. Because when you can experiment, you can potentially enter a new business quickly, test an idea. So, for instance, let’s say I have an idea or one of our leading data scientists has an idea for a next-generation fraud model. We can spin up 1,000 GPUs in the cloud for 2 weeks, test a new fraud model, and then turn them off. I just completely removed the opportunity cost.

Another thing that comes to mind is there are customers that want the data close to them. And so cloud in another area, if a customer happens to want their data in their own country—both for latency reasons and perhaps for data domicile reasons—it allows us, as an organization, to go to the customer rather than have the customer come to us.

On AI in the enterprise:

I believe data science, ML, and AI will actually transform the enterprise. In and outside of financial services. In my point of view, regardless of industry, effective firms will be deriving insights from data and driving actionable strategies to provide value for the customers and stakeholders.

At the end of the day, AI and ML isn’t magic. At its core, it is sophisticated and complex math on data. And you need to understand purpose and outcome, establish the right due diligence, peer review, and your processes to test your algos, to ensure effectiveness.

And you hear this a lot. But at the end of the day, you need to make sure your results are explainable and free of bias. It is all about data driving insights and insights driving strategy.

Cloud Computing, Financial Services Industry, Multi Cloud

Founded in 1784 by Alexander Hamilton, BNY Mellon is one of the oldest banks in the U.S. and is the world’s largest custodian bank and securities services company, with $2.4 trillion in assets under management, another $46 trillion in assets under custody, and more than $307 billion in private wealth.

It is also evolving to become a digital bank, with cloud a key element of this transformation.

Laying the foundation for its cloud strategy, BNY Mellon undertook a multi-year application modernization effort. “In that course of that journey, we virtualized and containerized approximately 95% of our distributed applications in our internal ecosystem. We essentially built an orchestration layer and viewed public cloud as just another landing zone outside our data centers,” says Joe Sieczkowski, CIO of architecture and engineering at BNY Mellon.

At CIO’s recent Future of Cloud Summit, John Gallant, enterprise consulting director with Foundry sat down with Sieczkowski to learn more about his cloud strategy, governance in the cloud, and leveraging cloud where it is most effective. What follows are edited excerpts of that conversation. For more insights, watch the full video embedded below.

On BNY Mellon’s cloud strategy:

First and foremost, we view cloud as a journey, not a destination. Our strategy is essentially to leverage the public cloud’s economies of scale, to drive business value, to lower risk, to increase resiliency, and really to ensure our infrastructure is evergreen. Essentially, cloud enables us to better serve our stakeholders.

Today, our strategy is to have a multi-cloud approach. We have to go to where our clients are. We are going to pick best of breed solutions and maintain our ability to pivot as needed. We are going to limit lock-in, we are going to understand our exit strategy. And frankly, for critical business workloads, we actually may select a process on multiple providers, like Azure and GCP or AWS and Azure, etc.

Governance in multicloud environments:

BNY Mellon already has a rigorous governance process. And our approach has been to extend that process and enhance that process to cover cloud. So as an example, every development initiative has to go through a permit-to-design, permit-to-build, and permit-to-operate tollgate. And that is where we do the architecture reviews, the security reviews, the risk reviews, and even the operational reviews to make sure that we are appropriately securing, monitoring, and governing everything we do for our stakeholders.

BNY Mellon’s modernization journey:

BNY Mellon is evolving into a digital bank. The key point here is that our cloud strategy is part of our overall technology and digital journey, as we continually modernize. So we view this as we have laid the foundation for public cloud with our internal modernization journey. This included enhancing our designs, our standards, our controls, quality assurance, as well as the governance and tollgates around it. We have established well-defined designed patterns and blueprints that are constantly evolving, and we also established anti-patterns that people must avoid. Technology is always evolving, and we have to evolve with it and continue to manage it professionally.

How cloud bolsters resilience:

BNY Mellon has a very strong resiliency posture. However, we believe cloud will afford us an opportunity to really think about next-generation resiliency. This includes scaling during market events, avoiding missing windows, avoiding missing service-level agreements. And frankly, we have also been thinking about the notion of a lifeboat in the cloud, meaning that if there was a really drastic event, we could spin up a lifeboat—in the cloud—to process workloads. We are thinking about it as a cost-effective way to further improve our resiliency posture.

Where cloud is most effective:

One area I think cloud is just going to be really effective is any area which involves experimentation and has a high opportunity cost. Because when you can experiment, you can potentially enter a new business quickly, test an idea. So, for instance, let’s say I have an idea or one of our leading data scientists has an idea for a next-generation fraud model. We can spin up 1,000 GPUs in the cloud for 2 weeks, test a new fraud model, and then turn them off. I just completely removed the opportunity cost.

Another thing that comes to mind is there are customers that want the data close to them. And so cloud in another area, if a customer happens to want their data in their own country—both for latency reasons and perhaps for data domicile reasons—it allows us, as an organization, to go to the customer rather than have the customer come to us.

On AI in the enterprise:

I believe data science, ML, and AI will actually transform the enterprise. In and outside of financial services. In my point of view, regardless of industry, effective firms will be deriving insights from data and driving actionable strategies to provide value for the customers and stakeholders.

At the end of the day, AI and ML isn’t magic. At its core, it is sophisticated and complex math on data. And you need to understand purpose and outcome, establish the right due diligence, peer review, and your processes to test your algos, to ensure effectiveness.

And you hear this a lot. But at the end of the day, you need to make sure your results are explainable and free of bias. It is all about data driving insights and insights driving strategy.

Cloud Computing, Financial Services Industry, Multi Cloud