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The path to mature Infrastructure and Operations is through culture?

As the Gartner Data Center conference in Las Vegas, NV closes, I can’t help feeling a bit of irony in bearing witness to the contrast in culture and atmosphere that this city encompasses relative to the experience many of us have interacting with Information Technology organizations today.

Moving any taboos about Vegas aside, the experience here is about an immersion into a culture of service. From the moment you step into a hotel to the moment you sit down to test your gaming fortunes, your experience is facilitated by professionals whose job it is to ensure you have a good time. Whether greeting you at the door, serving that fine cocktail or dealing your next hand of blackjack, an excellent experience is made possible by people who know how to be of service.

In contrast, many IT organizations today struggle in providing such a positive service experience to those who are seeking to use IT resources for their own productivity. Having some experience of my own in the world of hospitality, I was delighted but not surprised in observing the conference lunch staff have a plan to insure everyone who finished a session around lunch time, was fully accommodated. Each attendee was guided to the next available seat and immediately greeted with a fresh salad, ice tea and warm roll. Careful attention was paid to whether or not I want more or less of something, and if I’m ready for what’s next. Throughout lunch, I experienced a pleasant positive attitude by the attentive wait staff that satisfied my expectations.

What would it take to bring this culture of service excellence to users and organizations? Users of IT resources need the assistance and care of IT professionals so that they can be fully enabled for productivity.

Thankfully, while attending presentations around Infrastructure and Operations, I noticed an ominous theme around what it will take to mature the IT services in organizations today, the message pointed directly to a problem of culture.

In an example of how a change in culture really can transform productivity, Jarrod Green describes in his session, “Kill the IT Service Desk: Create a Business Productivity Team to Transform IT From the Grassroots”, the concept of the Business Productivity Team(BPT). Jarrod discusses business productivity teams having a singular focus on enabling business outcomes through:

1. Extending the capabilities of current and new IT resources
2. Proactive Identification to the solution to a problem
3. Understanding of and alignment with Business Challenges
4. Enabling user self sufficiency and digital literacy
5. Establishing the relationship with the business as a trusted advisor

This savvy service team sounds really excellent! But what does it look like?

It starts with someone who has knowledge of both technical and business processes. Instead of being an expert up the Ivy tower, they meet the user face to face where they are, leading them in solving their technical problems and teaching them about a new feature or way to do their work faster and smarter. Because a Business Productivity team is customer oriented, they earn the ability to influence by building partnerships and driving the consumption of features in current and new technologies that add value.

Wow, I must have stepped into an imaginary organization whose culture expects nothing less and rewards its professionals well! A pretty serious culture change is necessary in order to facilitate this unique capability.

In working with customers during services engagements, I am often asked by CIOs and IT Management how they can facilitate maturing their organization into   becoming a strategic differentiator in the business they support.  When focused on the evolution of customer service, support and the improvement of end-user experience I often refer to the “Fanatical” Customer Support that differentiates Rackspace in being a market leader of data center and cloud services.   Rackspace’s support model encompasses the spirit of enabling productivity and success as the outcome for its customers.

We can speak endlessly about novel technologies that create all kinds of efficiencies and time saved for users. In order to get the most out of the investment in technology, an evolved IT Service desk that drives productivity and end user satisfaction is needed for that next step toward an extraordinary IT organization.  Within the Operate Practice in Cisco’s Advanced Services,  we strive to help customers achieve the goal of operational excellence in the planning, building and management of their IT Investments.

In my coming posts I will share more about what I think the IT organization of the future, enabled by new cloud tools and processes, will look like. More importantly, I want to bring forward what I think a proactive, inspiring and value-creating culture looks like for both IT teams and the organizations who depend on them.

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You Can’t Wait for Connected Mobile Experiences

Ten billion. That’s the estimated number of connected devices by 2016. That’s more than the whole world population today. According to data from the Cisco Visual Networking Index, mobile connection speeds and data use are anticipated to rise with this influx of smartphones, tablets and laptop computers. Mobile device users are increasingly always on, always connected, using their smartphones at work and at play—Can anyone say BYOD?

Mobility doesn’t just take the office beyond our cubicles—it weaves itself into our everyday lives—mobility keeps us connected. Cisco is working with enterprises, service providers, mobile software partners and mobile app developers to deliver Connected Mobile Experiences to end-users. Sujai Hajela discusses the concept of The Connected Mobile Experience and our partnerships on The Platform.

What’s in it for the enterprise?

As consumers tote their mobile devices into malls, airports, hotels, and other venues around the world, businesses see new opportunities to improve and personalize the consumer experience, generate new revenue streams and enhance business operations.

Businesses are looking for location-based services that can provide new ways to interact with the current 6 billion mobile device users worldwide. This means there is an opportunity to develop a solution that connects businesses to those connected mobile consumers.

That’s why we’re announcing Cisco Connected Mobile Experiences, a wireless solution to help you engage your customers while they’re in your venue with context-aware, personalized mobile services.

Sound too good to be true? It’s real.

Armed with Qualcomm for indoor-location capabilities, 3rd party vendors for mobile app technology, and  Cisco for context-aware location solution with real-time analytics, Cisco Connected Mobile Experiences gives indoor venues the means to target their consumers in real-time and helps businesses more effectively understand and reach their customers, provide the right content at the right time, and generate revenue.

Read more in Sujai’s blog post..

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Big Data – Hadoop from an Infrastructure Perspective

It’s amazing how some concepts take off like gangbusters in a short duration of time. Big Data is one such concept, that creeps into our conversations because of all the market noise. There is definitely merit to the fundamental premise behind Big Data for most businesses; create better end-user experience, make intelligent business decisions, reduce intellectual waste and monetize on new opportunities or opportunities that did not present itself before. Thus the demand for Data Scientists, application developers, statisticians, mathematicians, etc. – note these are mostly on the development and analytic side of the house. What’s amazing is large databases have been there for the longest time, in many cases, even the data that are targets now for Big Data applications were also available for the longest time. What has evolved rapidly are the applications tools that facilitate optimized manipulation of massive data sets and flexible interfaces to diverse databases – example Hadoop.

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Communications Management Nirvana

We have a new ‘Spotlight on Unified Communications Management’ available now and it may really help many of you get your head wrapped around the value of buying and using this kind of software.  We tackle four typical headaches around:

  • Remote Site Rollouts
  • Moves, Adds and Changes
  • Monitoring and
  • Problem Resolution

We showcase the incredible new look and feel that PRIME brings to the UC Management Suite as our favorite tools have gotten a lot more integrated and easier to work with.

UCMS will help you automate the minutiae, delegate the redundant, all the while giving you a rich tool set to be in control when times are smooth and quick to react when things go awry.

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How Cisco IT Organizes Its Voice Operations

How many people does it take to manage the service infrastructure supporting over 150,000 hardware phones, 50,000 soft phones, and 10,000 room and desktop video devices. That’s the size of our UC infrastructure at Cisco, and today we manage all our voice, voicemail, and video services with an integrated voice and video Tier 3 operations team of 25 people, and another 5 people supporting contact center applications and services. We do this by continually finding new efficiencies – learning new ways to support existing services so we can spend more time learning how to support the new technologies.

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