By Ravi Balwada, CTO of Guitar Center

In retail, we don’t have the luxury of thinking about security as an afterthought. We have to think about security early in the innovation process and make sure our security best practices, governance and architectures are taken into account when we are designing our solutions—everything from defining what a container needs to look like when we deploy something to what sort of access controls we have. 

With modern cybersecurity technology, we have better tools and instrumentation to monitor environments more effectively, to change the security posture very rapidly and meet the changing needs of the company—whether it is adapting to a new wave of mobile devices or introducing a new population of workers to information that is sensitive. 

Also thanks to modern cybersecurity, new use cases have become available in retail that were never possible before. Many retail leaders talk about the changes being enabled for their customers, but it’s also vital to explore the exciting new ways retailers can enable their frontline workers.

Three areas cybersecurity is helping to supercharge our frontline workforce

When you focus on cybersecurity in an environment like Guitar Center, you have the power to do amazing things—for your sales associates, customers and overall business. Here, digitization and cybersecurity are empowering our sales associates in three major aspects of our business:

Customer serviceBack office functionsEfficient, individualized, business management

Securing a new level of customer service and relationship

Our mission is to build a lifetime relationship with our customers in their musical journeys. Whether it’s lessons, product, repair or rental services, acquiring or selling used equipment, technology connects how we build our relationships with customers. Customers can start online and finish in a store; start in a store and finish online; or any combination they choose.

As a result, we’re shifting the engagement with the customer to the aisle instead of at the point of sale. In a previous incarnation of our business it was: “What do you need? Let me ring you up.” Now we are about: “Let me work with you collaboratively. I understand who you are, your needs, your aspirations. Let us brainstorm and together we can find the best solution. Let’s move this conversation to the aisle where I can help you make good choices.”

Our sales associates leverage information across all channels, which changes the conversations we have with customers. If you’re a salesperson, you actually know if the customer has been browsing certain items online. You know what the customer has purchased in the past. You can make recommendations for equipment, lessons, sheet music. You can help them complete their purchase and you can help them take advantage of other things that might make their musical journey more fulfilling. 

For our almost 12,000 frontline sales associates, it’s no longer a world of post-it notes and pieces of paper. We are bringing a massive amount of information and insight. They have full visibility into supply chains, status of inventory, deep insights into each customer, and much more. They are dealing with volumes of information around dozens of variables. There is far more data and activity at the edge and a much larger attack surface.

This requires cyber innovation and evolution. You now have multiple places where data is residing that have to be secured, which means you need cybersecurity with visibility and granular access controls to ensure that the right people are accessing the right information at the right time. There is also the challenge of forensics and investigation of security incidents. We need systems that have amazing logging and automation for us to be able to react very rapidly to any security incidents. That requires us to work with modern technologies that are agile and can very quickly be swung into action. 

Our data management is a key focus, including building data lakes and visual analytics capabilities that we are introducing across our entire enterprise. We also have to make sure we have a secure platform. We are replatforming our firewalls and leveraging new technology around identifying threat patterns—isolating problems when necessary, isolating our environments so they are more effective. Only through these kinds of moves can we support our associates to build those deep customer relationships that fuel their success.

Supporting the latest back office functions

Our associates have new frontline tools that enable not only customer relationship management but back office function. For example, every associate will have a mobile device. If associates need to perform actions such as pick up from a store, ship from a store, or access inventory, they have the information at their fingertips using their mobile devices. This provides a tremendous benefit for each of our people, but it also means our endpoints will increase ten times versus what we have today.

With each new device and endpoint, we put powerful capabilities in the hands of associates. You have to have amazing security—with isolation, compliance, controls, encryption, edge protection, and more. We are giving associates the ability to process payments on mobile devices. As you run financial transactions on mobile devices, on wireless networks, you need to prevent associates from compromising personal identifiable information. Another important factor is the ability to onboard people quickly and efficiently, especially with our seasonal workforce. Technology compresses time to value so they can be productive faster with information that is easily available and tools that are highly intuitive. And this speed only becomes possible when all of those interactions are properly protected.

Bringing new levels of management to the business

At a time when retaining and motivating workers is paramount to business success, Guitar Center has been executing operational advancements that are geared toward empowering and engaging our associates in new ways. Today, sales associates can manage their own businesses from their mobile devices. They can view status on commissions; access training; get real-time information on promotions; collaborate with colleagues and peers.  It’s not enough to just build an application that works on mobile devices. It has to be engaging. We’re building experiences across the enterprise that are more gamified.

It is an important, fundamental change—knowing that we have a security posture to support this kind of innovation. We continue to harden our security to ensure all of our 12,000+ sales associates can be more and more digitally enabled.

Enabling workforce satisfaction, innovation, and long term success

The value of empowering sales associates with robust, secure, digital experiences cannot be overstated, especially in today’s environment where workers have more options and are seeking jobs that are more enriching and satisfying. There is, however, one caveat. The kind of data-driven frontline innovation I am describing is only possible when we invest in and treat cybersecurity as an enabling technology, and a nice-to-have. At Guitar Center, we are always aware that we can only do the things we want to do if we have the security that we need. 

About Ravi Balwada:

Security Roundtable author, Ravi Balwada, is the chief technology officer at Guitar Center, the world’s largest musical instrument retailer.

IT Leadership

By Milan Shetti, CEO Rocket Software

In today’s fast-paced digital business world, organizations have become highly adaptive and agile to keep up with the ever-evolving demands of consumers and the market. This has pushed many organizations to accelerate their digital transformation efforts in order to remain competitive and better serve their constituents — and there is no sign of slowing down. Statista estimates that global investment in digital transformation is expected to increase significantly between 2022 and 2025, from $1.8 trillion to $2.8 trillion. While a recent Rocket survey on the  state of the mainframe showed that the mainframe — due to its reliability and superior security — is here to stay, many organizations are moving to hybrid infrastructure with a “cloud-first approach” to operations. A key component to the appeal of cloud-first business models is cloud technologies’ ability to simplify processes and streamline workflows through integration and automation.

This is especially true for content management operations looking to navigate the complexities of data compliance while getting the most from their data. According to IBM, every day people create an estimated 2.5 quintillion bytes of data (that’s 2.5 followed by 18 zeros!). IT professionals tasked with managing, storing, and governing the vast amount of incoming information need help. Content management solutions can simplify data governance and provide the tools needed to simplify data migration and facilitate a cloud-first approach to content management.

Let’s take a closer look at the essential features cloud-first businesses should look for in a content management software.

Enhanced content-rich automation

Data analysts looking to streamline content processes need a content-rich automation software that allows them to easily design and deploy workflows, integrated processes and customize applications. The best modern content solutions leverage low-code/no-code process and presentation services to streamline the construction of business applications and provide a secure and collaborative platform for execution. This gives companies the ability to quickly adapt software and processes and implement innovative methodologies — like DevOps and Continuous Integration Continuous Development (CI/CD) testing — to continually improve operations, bring products and services to market faster, and develop better customer outcomes.

Expanded collaboration support

Digital transformation brings about a lot of change — in technology, processes, communication channels, and so on. To minimize business disruptions and avoid misunderstandings or important information being overlooked, it is critical for teams to maintain healthy communication and collaboration throughout transformation. Nothing can hinder digital team collaboration more than a lack of connectivity. As much as content management teams need to stay connected in order to maintain data integrity and compliance, so too does their content software. Teams need a highly integrative content management technology that can connect them across third-party vendors and popular communication (Slack, Microsoft Teams) and management tools (Microsoft Sharepoint® and 365) to centralize internal communications and shared information.  

Extended cloud governance

The move to cloud-first operations brings both positives and negatives for content management teams. Implementing a cloud data management operation provides teams with unparalleled data availability, mobility, and visibility. However, cloud applications are less secure than mainframe environments and increase vulnerabilities to data breaches. To combat these cloud-based challenges, businesses must look for content management solutions that support immutable cloud storage technologies, like AWS Object Lock, which allows users to store data using a write-once-read-many (WORM) model that mitigates tampering by disabling the ability to edit content once it is stored.

Modernized infrastructure deployment

Manual data migration can be a heavy lift for content management teams. Each piece of valuable information must be manually pulled, copied, reformatted, and moved to the new cloud system. While these tasks are not difficult, they are tedious and vulnerable to mistakes that can delay operations or jeopardize valuable information. Also, these tasks pull employees away from more important content governance tasks, which can leave an organization vulnerable to missed opportunities and regulatory infractions. Organizations need content management tools to facilitate migration efforts, streamline processes, and mitigate business disruptions. Teams need software that can automate the tedious manual processes involved in deploying, managing, and scaling containerized applications while maintaining the integrity and security of essential documents throughout cloud migration. By eliminating the potential for human error employees will be free to focus on more business-critical content management tasks.

Organizations looking to optimize their content management operations throughout data migration must leverage content management technology. Tools like Rocket Software’s Mobius Content Services Suite of technologies deliver the agility and adaptability needed to make the most of your content while maintaining compliance. Mobius Content Services provides content-rich automation, modernization deployment and connectivity to streamline processes, facilitate collaboration, and support a business’s transition to a cloud-first approach.

To learn more about Rocket Software’s Mobius Content Services Suite, click here.

Digital Transformation

By Milan Shetti, CEO Rocket Software

In today’s volatile markets, agile and adaptable business operations have become a necessity to keep up with constantly evolving customer and industry demands. To remain resilient to change and deliver innovative experiences and offerings fast, organizations have introduced DevOps testing into their infrastructures. DevOps environments give development teams the flexibility and structure needed to drive productivity and implement early and often “shift left” testing to ensure application optimization.

While DevOps testing ecosystems require cloud technology, DevOps modernization software has allowed businesses that utilize mainframe infrastructure to successfully implement DevOps testing processes into their multi-code environments. However, introducing DevOps to mainframe infrastructure can be nearly impossible for companies that do not adequately standardize and automate testing processes before implementation.

The problem with unstructured manual testing processes

The benefits of DevOps testing revolve around increased speed and flexibility. In order to reach the full potential of these benefits and ensure a successful DevOps adoption, organizations should work to unify testing operations and eliminate any threats to productivity long before implementation begins. 

While it is important to equip developers with tools they are comfortable with, businesses working within multi-code environments must shift away from processes that require multiple vendors or lack integration. Operations that force development teams to jump from software to software to perform tasks create a complicated testing environment that can slow processes and create a disconnect between teams and departments. 

Manual testing also creates barriers to optimizing DevOps. While manual processes will still play an essential role in Quality Assurance (QA) testing, the potential for human error and the tedious, time-consuming tasks that come with manual testing make it impossible to create the speed and accuracy required for DevOps testing. And, if your testing is done using a specific developer script, you’re likely not capturing key metrics to improve your software development lifecycle, such as how the code changes the database. DevOps and true “shift left” testing environments demand structure and flexibility throughout operations that can only be achieved through standardization and automation.

Elevating testing with standardized and automated processes

To ensure successful DevOps implementation, businesses must start with an entire audit of their current operations and value stream — which is all the activities required to turn a customer request or need into a product or service. In doing so, teams can determine which software or processes create disconnects or slow operations and where automation can be integrated to enhance speed and accuracy.

Opting for vendors that offer user-friendly, code-agnostic and highly comprehensive DevOps platforms enable teams to create a central point of visibility, reporting and collaboration for processes. This standardized approach eliminates silos between teams, minimizes onboarding and allows teams a common means to rapidly commit, document and test changes to code and applications. Integrating systems and operations into a unified DevOps environment allows development and QA teams to track and schedule testing times between departments effortlessly.

From there, development teams should look to automate as many testing processes as possible. Leveraging automation in testing allows teams to implement automatic, continuous testing that eliminates human error and ensures all bugs are squashed before production. Teams can create multiple test environments and processes like unit testing, integration testing and regression testing. Standardization allows multi-code testing to be done with greater predictability and by different people — reducing the reliance on a few gifted developers and creating a more stable production phase.

Development teams can also create knowledge bases of automated testing templates to quickly pull and use or adjust to fit new and evolving testing needs. And, by leveraging automated DevOps tools, teams can configure software with controls that automatically test and vet any new coding introduced into the environment to quickly identify and address any bugs in the code or changes to the application.

The future of the mainframe and DevOps testing

A recent Rocket survey of over 500 U.S. IT professional businesses showed that the mainframe is here to stay, with more than half of the companies (56%) stating the mainframe still makes up the majority of its IT infrastructure due to its security and reliability. Thanks to highly integrative and intuitive DevOps modernization software, multi-code environments can reap the benefits of increased productivity and enhanced innovation through continuous “shift left” testing methods.

Just as the mainframe continues to modernize, so too does DevOps modernization software. Future DevOps testing software looks to leverage Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) technology to further strengthen and streamline testing environments. Organizations like Rocket Software are working to develop technologies that use AI to study testing processes to help teams identify where testing is required and what needs to be tested more accurately. ML software will be used to track relationships in testing environments to identify patterns that help teams predict future testing needs and take a more proactive approach.

As agility and speed become more important in today’s digital market, the ability of teams working within multi-code environments to implement DevOps testing into operations will become a greater necessity. Businesses that standardize processes and utilize automation throughout testing will set their teams up for success. By creating structured and flexible DevOps testing environments, teams will enhance innovation and increase speed to market to help their business pull ahead and stay ahead of the competition.

To learn more about Rocket Software’s DevOps tools and solutions, visit the Rocket DevOps product page.

Software Development

Today, the metric for success of cloud native services is measured by cost efficiency, business agility, and the speed of business transformation. Cloud has become more than a technology transformation driver; it is now recognized as a business transformation accelerator. While building compelling experiences on cloud through software innovation, enterprises have focused on automation agenda required for infrastructure configuration, provisioning, compliance, and change management. Cloud migration, being the first step, is followed by the process of setting up cloud operations.

As cloud offers scalable and powerful computing solutions at low costs with reliable storage options that meet the most demanding workload requirements of the modern times – cloud technologies, can be used to quickly deploy solutions around the world on any device. TCS helps enterprises navigate the digital transformation process by accelerating migrations at scale.

Below listed are various steps followed by TCS for cloudification that yield sustainable cloud value economics to enterprises as they begin to embrace cloud journey.

Arriving at a cloud footprint potential: The important elements of the assessment include integration blueprint, LoB-wise SaaS/PaaS adoption roadmap, application propensity to cloud based on the technology, and the data residency considerations that ensure better application performance at optimal network bandwidth consumption.Deciding the timing of cloud adoption: Once cloudification assessment has been done, we at TCS juxtapose the assessment against the underlying infrastructure dimensions to figure out the timing of application migration to cloud. The key elements which drive the timing of current applications to move from DC to cloud are primarily based on the EOL refresh cycle of infrastructure estate and also the rigidity of current sourcing/licensing arrangements. We understand the overall value of current assets and lifespan that has guided us to make reasonable assumptions for our cloud solution.Robust cloud foundation: As part of our cloud foundation strategy, we believe enterprises must gain from the native automation capability of AWS and drive the right consumption mind-set by adopting good cloud usage standards like cloud charging model based on real-time Financial Operations (FinOps). One must also bear in mind that foundation evolves vertically during the course of migration and horizontally to accommodate new expectations of the business such as AIML, IoT initiatives within one or multiple hyper-scalers.Pragmatic migration plan from an integrated approach between apps, data, infrastructure, and security workstreams: A smart approach is to weave-in layered modernization strategy starting at OS and DB layer wherever appropriate as part of the migration journey to scale modernization initiatives down the road. Also note that success of the migration is decided not only by the applications running seamlessly on cloud, but also by decommissioning velocity of current DC workloads to minimize dual-run environments and associated overheads.Earn business acceptability: The key elements of business acceptability dimension include security assurance, regulatory compliance and most importantly, ease of audit readiness. This dimension is key to sustain perpetual value from cloud beyond one-time migration given the ever-evolving expectations in this space.

Cloud value economics – food for thought

Cloud was seen primarily as a means to reduce IT running costs five years ago with focus on DC exits to cloud. However, today with numerous value creation possibilities that the hyper-scalers offer, enterprises are actively looking at ground-up modernization options including review of current business processes before investing in cloud-native development. The above mentioned five dimensions of cloud value economics lend a relevant perspective to a robust start of cloud journey. Our delivery wisdom has taught us that modernization/cloud-native development goals can be catalyzed by migration first. However, one needs to think about modernization in the long-term especially in areas of cloud-native architecture decisions, multi-cloud commitments, and SaaS adoption for sustainable yet agile cloud value economics.

TCS’ cloud services help accelerate digital transformation in a fast-moving business environment. As cloud helps businesses achieve differentiation and accelerate innovation, the learning and value enablement possibilities are numerous from each cloud journey.

Author Bio

TCS

Ph: +91 8682815444
E-mail: aditya.jn@tcs.com

Aditya Jaigopal Nagaraj leads the strategy office and business operations at TCS’ AWS business unit. He has more than 20 years of experience in designing innovative business solutions for large enterprises. He specializes in building purpose-driven, cloud-based solutions across various industries and in crafting transformative large deals in IT infrastructure and Cloud. He is passionate about building energized teams, teaching students, building robotic models and curating model train collections.

To learn more, visit us here.

Cloud Computing

March 29, 2022

Source:  Jane Marsh, Editor-in-Chief at Environment.co | Manufacturing Tomorrow 

In the U.S., manufacturing new goods accounts for nearly a quarter of all carbon emissions. By keeping goods in use for as long as possible, businesses can both cut down on their emissions and create economic opportunity.

Circular economy practices that prevent goods from going to landfills – by encouraging reuse or recycling – can help. However, these practices aren’t always easy to implement. Right now, brands are experimenting with Industry 4.0 technology that may streamline the circular approach.

How Technology Can Help Businesses Build the Circular Economy

Developing a circular economy will require a variety of different practices and new business strategies. Technology may make these practices much easier to implement.

For example, design for reusability or recyclability is one way for businesses to keep goods in the economy. If a device or product is easy to reuse or break down into recyclable components, both individuals and businesses may be more likely to reuse or recycle.

Design for recycling isn’t a new concept, but it can be challenging to implement for some devices. New design tools and design automation technology may help make design for recycling much more practical.

Some recyclers and manufacturers are also using Industry 4.0 technology like AI to streamline recycling or the design process. The pattern-finding abilities of AI can help manufacturers create designs that are more recyclable.

In other cases, circular economic practices may look similar to the preventive maintenance that many businesses already perform. Vendors of yard equipment, for example, often recommend certain end-of-year maintenance practices that can keep tools working well.

In other industries, manufacturers can work with their customers to encourage preventive maintenance practices, which can keep tools and equipment running for much longer.

These practices can have benefits for both customers and manufacturers – customers get a product that lasts longer, and manufacturers can develop a reputation for creating reliable tools. Technology like maintenance scheduling tools and equipment management systems may help both manufacturers and customers keep on top of essential maintenance.

Put together, these circular economic practices and technologies may help a wide variety of businesses reduce their carbon footprint or adopt more environmentally responsible policies.

It’s no secret that many major corporations struggle with environmental stewardship. Businesses like Ikea, Apple, Walmart, and Microsoft have all come under fire for policies that generate excessive carbon emissions or exploit vulnerable ecosystems.

Circular economic practices can help these businesses – and businesses of all sizes – adopt greener, more sustainable practices.

These Businesses Are Already Using Technology to Create a Circular Economy

While ideas about the circular economy continue to develop, some businesses have already begun experimenting with advanced technology as a building block for the circular economy.

One major adoptee of the circular approach to manufacturing is Cisco, a multinational technology company best known for its networking and cybersecurity solutions.

Katie Schindall, leader for the circular economy at Cisco, recently spoke with the magazine Tech Monitor about how the company is using technology to develop its own circular economy. According to Schindall, the right systems can have a significant impact.

“Optimising manufacturing processes for maximum reuse and tracing the embedded emissions in components and materials are both information problems that data and automation can help to address.”

Cisco isn’t the only company using modern industrial technology to develop its circular economy.

Ikea, for example, has recently rolled out a new buyback program for used furniture – which could help offset some of the environmental impacts of manufacturing new furniture.

Many footwear brands, including Puma and Adidas, are beginning to experiment with shoes made from fully recycled polyester. Fashion company H&M is exploring both fully recycled clothing materials and the use of recycled food waste in manufacturing clothing.

New Technology May Help Drive the Circular Economy

Sustainability is likely to become even more important in the future – and younger consumers, in particular, want to shop with sustainable brands.

Because manufacturing new goods is typically a carbon-intensive process, businesses can make themselves much more sustainable by building a circular economy.

Almost any practice that keeps goods in the economy can help. Recycled materials, buyback programs, and even initiatives that encourage preventive maintenance can all help businesses reduce their carbon footprint and create new economic opportunities.

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