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Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Different Path same Destination

Our world is changing dramatically, Stock Markets have become more like Roller coasters, many businesses are now satisfied with sustainable business models as opposed to rapid growth and many technology companies are suggesting that hardware and software sales could be in for a difficult time. The result of all of this? Zero to Low confidence within businesses on their journey of business evolution as they continue on their journey in the increasingly global and competitive landscape. At this point I can already hear a few people wondering how this has anything to do with the common topic of my blogs, the impact of technology on the world we live in? Well it does, so let me explain.
Today’s businesses and technology are intertwined to such a degree that you can’t look at one without understanding the implications, limitations or even changes required to the other. Many CXO’s that I speak to lately are concerned with the balancing act they are facing – how do they invest in technology to ensure they can support their business requirements but at the same time manage a tight rope balance of cost vs. business benefit without knowing what is happening in the next 3 months let alone 3 years!
Many businesses are offering increased flexibility in their products but they are equally concerned with their own business models and outlook resulting in their own business concerns. On that basis it is time to throw out the guide book and reconsider business models for a new era, a period of sustained unpredictability as a vehicle for change. I have said it before in one of my blogs, we as individuals and society drive technology, we should not accept that technology will limit our own choices or for that matter determine our own path to success. Consider for a moment what would happen if we knew our oil would run out (I know not a pleasant thought!), we would adapt and look at alternatives to ensure our needs were met ensuring we could continue with our journey as we already are starting to do so!
Each and every business has a vision or a goal they are seeking to achieve over a 3 to 5 year period, many are concerned that the current instability in the market is placing that goal at risk. What is required is for businesses to reassess the path they are taking to achieve their goal. It may take longer, it may require acceptance that they are evolving from a straight highway to a windy mountain path, which requires a more graduated approach to ensure the business does not slip backwards as it progresses towards its goal.
Once we have identified the new path to achieve our goal and/or vision businesses can then look to what role technology could and will play in supporting the journey along that path. This is a crucial pause point, looking to technology in the same way as we have done in the past will simply result in reliving “Groundhog Day” (for those of you who don't understand that analogy watch the movie!). We need to look at the principles of what technology can provide in its simplest form and redesign the manner in which that technology is both delivered/implemented and supported. What I mean is we need to look at how we reshape the use of technology, from its commercial, integration and utilization aspects. Business are looking for new ways of working as they seek to break the cycle of change they find themselves in today with various factors pulling their decision making in different directions.
Technology can support businesses in continuing their journey to their goal by ensuring that communication and IT developments are not static and that they can be moulded to the needs of the business. The end benefit of this approach is a return to three year planning, an increased confidence in formulating longer term decision making and commitments … Why? Simply because if you know that your business can access levers across your organization from commercial, technology, geography and people in order to adapt to your changing business environment then your business will equally grow in confidence and will increasingly develop an inherent ability to adapt and anticipate market change.
On that note I leave you with two final comments – Stay on your path, your vision is the key to the sustainability of your business and remind yourself that technology is only an enabler. Accept that the path to realizing your goal may change and that it is your adaptability as a business that will result in the greatest chance of achieving success!

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

It's Official - The world is now virtual!

Let me start by saying I still believe we are just talking about Virtualization but to keep this simple we will use the marketing term “Cloud Computing”!
With the announcement from Apple that they are entering the world of Cloud services, looks like we now have all of the key players offering cloud services and as I think about it we can do just about anything in the cloud. Yes Nathan, fair enough … but why write about a topic which is one of the most talked about subjects in the technology industry today? Well the reason is the developments in virtualization to deliver Cloud Computing is on the verge of creating significant divergence of technology, as every vendor, provider and SI attempts to make ground in this space. Someone recently described to me the Cloud Computing landscape as a “Cloud Universe”, a complex mix of platforms serving different requirements and very much like our space programs seeking another “Earth” so will it be for Cloud Compute providers. Trying to find that elusive partner with whom you can bridge your platform to provide businesses with a hybrid platform across Private and public whilst leveraging your specialization.
I know there will be many providers and vendors thinking that this is not the case that there are only a handful of components to the platform and that you can probably count the key modules on two hands. That’s fair, however let me give you another analogy, consider building a house out of Lego bricks, you have 10 different colour bricks, and that as a minimum one wall must be a different colour from the others (given the fact we have not seen a single block which provides all cloud compute requirements – today at least), now consider how many different ways you could build that house. This is the same challenge we have with cloud computing with a large number of permutations of cloud computing and the number expected to continue to grow our focus needs to not be on driving singular standards of cloud computing but actually on the ability to build interoperability interfaces between the different platforms.
I can already hear people asking why that is important, well consider a business’s processes within their business, take specifically their supply chain process, some aspects of this process such as the financial elements are critical and therefore must be secure and therefore in a private cloud, others such as those for ordering and tracking systems are more likely to be partially public for access an interface but information on other vendors or distributors must be private and then finally providing access to products and offering for customers whether that be software or a service catalogue, this must be able to scale to meet the demands of the customer at any given point in time and accessible to all through a multitude of devices, hence public. Of course we could design a Cloud Compute Platform that achieves all of this for a Supply Chain process, but then how do we engage the banking system for transactions or the distribution company who will have their own system?
It is this complexity in process, choice and type of business that is driving the development of cloud compute platforms to meet specific requirements, it is also the reason we are facing a cloud universe. I am very excited about the market developments and innovation happening in Cloud Computing and I am sure we will continue to hear new services being launched and partnerships being formed in years to come, but I would urge cloud providers to also think about the interfaces they are building to be able to offer cross cloud services, therefore remaining focused on solving the customer’s requirements end to end as opposed to driving businesses to build their own interconnects with a multitude of Cloud capabilities.
I leave you with one final thought, remember when you had to choose between Beta and VHS from the Video store, and your choice of movie was limited by the one that your system could run, yes eventually VHS won out, but with Cloud computing we are talking about having more than a 1,000 variations of VHS or Beta, do we really know who would win that race, or should we just develop a universal Video Player or in this case Cloud Compute framework that can talk to all and therefore leverage the unique strengths of each cloud offering?