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Step into the IT Fast Lane with Automated Integration

Last month, Japan’s Kenichi Ito broke the world record for the 100 meter dash – running on all fours – with a time of 15.71 seconds. Known as “the monkey man,” having perfected the art of moving like a monkey on the ground, Ito sprints on his hands and feet towards the finish line. His performance is reminiscent of Samuel Johnson’s famous adage about dogs that can walk on two hind legs, “It’s not done well but you are surprised to find it done at all.”

But this is exactly what many enterprises are still doing today – building and managing their network on all fours when they should be sprinting on their toes. With network speeds now often exceeding 100 bits per second, traditional approaches to harnessing today’s hyper-distribution of information aren’t sufficient. What’s needed is “Fast IT.”

Fast IT: The Quick Definition Read More »

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New Year’s Resolutions for CIOs

As 2016 begins, people all around the world are making resolutions to improve themselves in the coming year. While you might be dedicating yourself exercising more and eating healthier, I encourage everyone in government IT to think about resolutions you can make to help your organizations better embrace digital transformation.

In no role is this more necessary than the Chief Information Officer (CIO), a position that has changed in recent years and continues to evolve. Instead of just overseeing technical assistance across a department or agency, many government CIOs now serve as a partners who help leadership develop the strategies and processes to accomplish the organization’s mission. And in 2016, the CIOs’ role in decision-making processes will only get larger as government agencies at all levels—federal, state and local—look to better integrate technology to enhance the mission, whether it’s improving citizen services at home or enhancing operations for our defense and intelligence agencies.

In order to fully embrace that responsibility, CIOs should consider making some resolutions for themselves and their job so they can keep up with the latest trends and ensure their organization is reaping the benefits of new technology.

Our own distinguished engineer Kapil Bakshi recently wrote an article on Nextgov about this topic, outlining four main resolutions that government CIOs should consider making in 2016. These resolutions are:

  1. Embrace hybrid
  2. Take Analytics to the next level
  3. Invest in advanced threat detection
  4. Unleash “Fast IT”

Check out the article here to learn more about the details of each resolution and why they are so critical for a CIO to consider in the coming year. By embracing these and other resolutions, CIOs and the larger government IT community will be able to harness the best technology solutions and increase the efficiency, security and agility of their organizations.

Good luck and Happy New Year!

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Avoid Wild Light Sabers & See How Pulsant Delivers Cloud Services Faster With ACI (Case Study)

Lightsaber_blue_(with_shimmering_aura)

Being fast is important this time of year.

X–Wing Fighters in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” are fast.

Avoiding that overly excited light saber wielding fan in line requires you to be fast.

Holiday shoppers are snatching up deals fast.

Retailers with transaction spikes need to add infrastructure capacity fast.

Your customers want their IT Infrastructure services fast…and Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) helps deliver that speed.

This IDC report shows how Pulsant – a UK based IT Infrastructure Services Provider – delivers services fast with ACI. It also quantifies the returns on that speed and other benefits. In some ways, their story is like that of many customers – they need to deliver IT services faster, they need to do more with less…you know the drill. And if you are using ACI, you also know how to address those issues. If not, take a couple minutes and check out the report. In it, Martin Lipka, Head of Connectivity Architecture at Pulsant, addresses a number of interesting issues and IDC helps to quantify them. Check out how Pulsant is:

  • Onboarding customers faster with the “simplified automation” ACI provides
  • Growing its customer base without needing to add a commensurate number of network engineers
  • Reducing the frequency of misconfigurations and improving the security of its services

In the report, Martin explains how “automation and repeatable processes enabled by Cisco ACI have benefited his company by reducing the time needed to provision network resources and speeding up deployment cycles.” For example, “Pulsant needed an average of 7–14 days before moving to Cisco ACI to deliver a bespoke cloud service to a customer, whereas it now needs only 2–3 days.” At the back end, when those services are no longer needed, “the network process of decommissioning a customer and cleansing the configuration has gone from taking hours to seconds thanks to Cisco ACI’s built-in automation.”

ACI helps Pulsant deliver services fast. ACI also delivered a return fast – ROI analysis showed a payback period of under 7 months.

In summary, if you are looking to deploy services fast, tear them down fast, get a return fast – check out the report and check out ACI.

And, oh yeah, as a public safety message, please let’s not swing those light sabers too fast tonight. May the force be with you…

Photo courtesy of commons.wikimedia.org

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Service-Oriented Everything and Digitization of Your Business

The next big phase of the Internet is the race toward digitization, which brings together people, processes, data, and things in new, more productive ways. In this emerging hyper-distributed digital world, connectivity is even more vital than ever before. Companies that are going to thrive and realize new opportunities will be the ones that adopt digital strategies to bring new services to market faster, securely connect people, things, and stitch hyper-distributed processes across internal and external systems.

Cisco’s research shows that 75% of organizations need help in clearly defining the digitization opportunity that exists for each of them. This research is consistent with what I hear from customers across many industries that are challenged with integrating systems and processes rapidly for:

  • Becoming agile as a business, adapting to changes with speed
  • Engaging better with customers and leveraging partner ecosystems
  • Improving productivity to improve revenues and profits

Expose, Compose, and Govern Any Asset

If every enterprise asset ranging from legacy applications, cloud services, data, partner services/apps, machines or things, to network/compute/storage infrastructure is viewed as a service, we need the following three capabilities to make those assets available within and across the enterprise:

All this sounds good on paper, but difficult to realize in practice. This requires organizations to think about their assets differently – both tangible assets such as people, machines, buildings etc. and intangible assets such as processes and data. All organizational assets need to be treated as services that are consumable by external or internal consumers; treated as services that are produced by various producers within the enterprise in a federated fashion.

  • Expose assets as services provide a catalog of assets exposed securely as apps, services, or APIs via marketplace catalogs and web or mobile portals
  • Compose new services via mixing services – create new services, apps, and outcomes by connecting data, cloud, and enterprise systems
  • Govern the services – develop policy-based access and control via API access control, fully federated single sign on and ID management.

These three capabilities will enable organizations to treat any asset as a programmable service that can be used by various consumers; to mix it with other services as needed to make new services, and to govern these services with the right authentication and authorization. This new approach to managing hyper-distributed assets provides your business with a framework that lets you automate and integrate your unconnected processes with complete security, governance, and visibility at every stage, allowing us to effectively collaborate with your customers and partners and improve operational efficiencies.

To help with this transformation, today I’m excited to introduce the Cisco Automation and Integration Platform that allows organizations to quickly Expose, Compose, and Govern (“E-C-G”) every enterprise asset as a service. The platform enables customers to act on insights through process automation within and outside of the enterprise, and across business and IT. It offers lifecycle management of digital assets across design, provisioning, publishing, and support. With the Cisco Automation and Integration Platform, our customers will be able to accelerate digital transformation initiatives by streamlining processes and simplifying collaboration amongst customers, partners, and internal stakeholders, as shown below.

AIP graphic

Banking on Adaptive IT for Digitization

Organizations are putting pressure on IT to deliver solutions to business challenges that create value and leverage technology as a real differentiator for the organization. It’s a tall order under any circumstances, but especially in an age of rapid technology changes and high customer expectations. Existing solutions, as many organizations have discovered, are not up to the task.

For example: a large bank seeking to deliver on-demand IT services struggled with pressure from the business to deliver new services.

Like many enterprises, the bank was burdened with legacy IT architecture and manual processes that hindered service provisioning and resulted in average service fulfillment times of four to six weeks. To meet the business need to innovate and deliver new mobile and digital services, the IT organization needed to find a way to quickly use and reuse digital assets with speed and simplicity, while reducing process complexity and lowering delivery costs.

The bank leveraged the Cisco Automation and Integration Platform to automate organization, delivery, and consumption of information, creating an internal IT services marketplace portal that automated the workflow and delivery of development resources. The bank experienced rapid development, expanded offerings, and streamlined the procurement of IT services.

The bank cut their development time of new business applications from 180 days to 2 days, while reducing their costs by 30 percent. They transformed their IT delivery model to one of on-demand self-service for their employees and became a Fast IT organization.

The Mantra for Digitization: Expose…Compose…Govern

The Cisco Automation and Integration Platform helps you digitize your business processes. It gives you the business agility to re-imagine existing business processes and create new business processes that better serve your business needs. The platform automates interactions at scale and captures key data for operational intelligence and service utilization. Tying business interactions to trigger actions within the IT infrastructure paves the way for business SLAs to be provided by an intelligent infrastructure, such as adapting network bandwidth for business needs. At Cisco, we are well on our way to the next stage of the Internet – to enable industrial automation at scale.

In future blogs, several experts from Cisco and I will showcase examples of customers who have achieved digital transformation in many ways: through business process automation, supplier collaboration, IoT integration and network automation. Meanwhile, I’m interested to hear about your challenges and opportunities to achieve digital transformation through process automation. Let me know what you are experiencing in this race to digitization.

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Does Fast IT work in Government? It sure does: check out the case studies.

In my previous post, I explained how CIOs are reinventing the mission and role of the IT department in order to support the Digital Transformation of their organisation. And that adopting a Fast IT model is less about technology and more about progressive cultural and process changes.

But is this realistic for public sector organisations as well? It sure is.  In this post and 2 following ones, I’d like to share some of the outcomes from the Fast IT engagements done with 3 IT organisations in the government sector, a sector that often has the unfair reputation of being overly conservative. I’ll show that public sector CIOs are motivated to change the status quo and disrupt the current operating model to better serve the needs of the public administration, of citizens and of businesses. Naturally, the details are confidential, so I am using pseudo-names to preserve the anonymity of our customers:

  1. Central IT department of a Large International Government Institution: let’s call it “GovIT-A
  2. Central Government IT Service Provider in Eastern Europe (providing IT services to all ministries in the country): let’s call it “GovIT-B
  3. IT Department of one of the major German Government Institution in Germany: let’s call it “GovIT-C

In each engagement, we have used the same methodology (“Strategic Roadmap to Fast IT“) consisting of 3 phases:

  • Phase One – Focus on BUSINESS: Clearly identify and document the strategic drivers for IT from the business’ perspective (or ministries, or government agencies). Indeed, you can’t ambition to build Fast IT organisation if you haven’t clearly captured what’s holding you back (the main problem often being culture, organisation and processes), and put a remediation plan in place.
  • Phase Two – Focus on IT: Build the IT Value Map to demonstrate — visually – how IT is structured to deliver value and how success will be measured. Long report are read (sometimes) and then forgotten. But you shouldn’t underestimate the communication power of a large poster in every room of the IT department (and the business): this is how you create alignment in the long run.
  • Phase Three – Focus on ROADMAP: Using output from phases one and two, identify and prioritise the key programmes and projects – the Strategic IT Roadmap – that will deliver the biggest impact, enabling a successful execution of the IT Management Plan for this year, the next 3 years and beyond.

In this post series, I’ll illustrate the outcomes from the 3 phases, using 1 client for each phase. Let’s get started…

Case Study #1 – Focus on BUSINESS

When we first started talking with GovIT-A about 2 years, the previous CIO (technically-minded) had just been replaced, mainly due to the dissatisfaction of the client departments that he was providing services to. The new CIO (business-minded) was determined to avoid the errors of the past, and wanted to build a strong foundation, based on excellence in customer services. Cisco proposed to engage on a Strategic Roadmap to Fast IT, and we received the list of 8 key stakeholders *outside* of the IT department (the “customers”), as well as the list of 8 key stakeholders inside the IT department (the “providers”).

We started by interviewing the people outside of IT, to get their perspective on the quality of the IT services they were getting. We used COBIT5 as a way to structure all the information that we collected (advantage: COBIT5 was already used by the audit department as well). COBIT5 provides a list of 17 generic enterprise business drivers, of which we identified 8 as being crucial to the future success of GovIT-A:

  1. A culture of partnership for business and IT innovation. 
    GovIT-A had a major issue: the complete lack of trust between IT and business stakeholders. Fostering collaborative attitudes was absolutely crucial for Fast IT to become a reality one day. We looked at how to build multi-level partnerships and agree on roles and responsibilities to create common goals within a shared IT Capability Framework.
  2. Managed business change programs. 
    Quickly identifying and empowering “champions of change” (both in the business and in IT) was seen as key to accelerate the transformation to Fast IT. Innovation was to be supported by top management and coordinated through agile, virtual teams. We looked at how well the operational model supported an effective change management.
  3. User-orientated service culture.
    IT was focused on its technology stacks, not on the actual services delivered to the users. A move to service-orientation was a key step towards Fast IT. Monitoring KPIs and improving processes would support this. We confirmed what the IT department and LOBs were responsible for, and reviewed how we could cut the overall cost and complexity of IT processes.
  4. Agile responses to a demanding business environment.
    IT needed to be much more agile – responsibly meeting the needs of the business in terms of time to service, flexibility and interoperability. We reviewed flexibility and the layers of authorisation that got in the way of creating a responsive IT department.
  5. Financial transparency and value for money.
    The whole procurement paradigm of GovIT-A was incompatible with a move towards Fast IT. For example, each technology team (network, server, storage, etc.) was still ordering the equipment it needed, more or less independently from the others. This meant for example that it was impossible to order an integrated compute stack. Or to order Infrastructure as a Services (IaaS). The IT department was unable to tailor its services to meet the unique expectations of the different departments in terms of cost, security and flexibility etc. This lead to each departments trying to avoid GovIT-A as much as possible, and trying to do it themselves – dramatically increasing the share of IT spend outside of the GovIT-A (around 75%!).
  6. Managed Business Risk.
    Being a government institution, no compromise could be made around information availability. However, the security team was really seen as “Doctor No”, so departments would do anything they could to find workarounds. We established the need to balance – on a per-application basis – the business benefits with its cost and the security requirements.
  7. Operational and staff productivity.
    Many employees within GovIT-A expected IT to work the way they knew was possible. With mobility. From home. Video-enabled. We discussed with the IT team how to adopt a user-centric model, powered by technologies that drive collaboration and delivered in an environment of Continuous Service Improvement (CSI). We identified quick wins, such as BYOD, mobility and telepresence initiatives, with positive results for the end user.
  8. Skilled and motivated people.
    As the IT environment evolves, so must employee’s skills. Continuously. We looked at how to create a learning curriculum that was blended, easily accessible and collaborative. Proactive, forward-looking training would help them to take on new roles and adapt to the new technologies or processes that Fast IT brings. This is all too often the piece of the strategy that’s missing to IT roadmap.

Of course, these 8 strategic drivers are not something to we can solve over the matter of a few months. It takes at least 5-7 years, to gradually evolve the IT Department to Fast IT. Today, we are pleased to continue our ongoing collaboration with GovIT-A, and seeing initiatives and projects that are approved by management, implemented in the field, and gradually reaping their benefits.

Don’t hesitate to post your comments if you’d like to get more details on some particular aspects of our engagement with GovIT-A.

In my next posts, I’ll cover the work we did with 2 other government agencies:

  • Case Study 2 (“GovIT-B”): the focus of the post will be on the IT Value Map
  • Case Study 3 (“GovIT-C”): the focus of the post will be on the Strategic Roadmap to Fast IT.

Stay tuned!

 

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