Technology Leaders

The blog of BT Engage IT


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What to look for in your IT services suppliers…

A little while back I was fortunate enough to have lunch with a number of CIOs where we discussed their views and experience on outsourcing and out-tasking.  Whilst there were a range of views around the table given the various experience and business drivers one thought stuck with me in particular.

The CIO in question was from one of the leading retailers in the UK and he had a 4V’s model to help him in choosing the right supplier.  Here is that model:

Value

What value do you think you are going to add to my business?  Not just in the technology and service you offer, but in our overall relationship – how will you help my business?

Velocity

How quickly will you be able to move to deliver and bring me value?  When I need something done will how will you react?  How will you match my pace?

Variation

Things will change, we know that.  I don’t always know what I want or need and sometimes its only by going down the road a little we really find out.  How capable are you of coping with that?  How will you react?  Are you built to work with me and accommodate this?

Valour

How much courage do you have?  How much risk are you prepared to take? Will you challenge me when you think I am doing the wrong thing?

Obviously these are the questions that make the difference to this CIO.  The solution provided is important, but the approach and attitude are key to making technology work for this company.

How does it work for you?  What models do you use and why are they effective?


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Its people that make the difference

No matter what your business does and what projects you are trying to deliver, its the quality and commitment of the people working in the team that make all the difference to its success.

This is especially true for technology and IT projects where it is easy to get stuck in the weeds of how things should work and not so much on the impact that will have.

We helped the National Fostering Agency implement a change to their IT systems recently by migrating on to our cloud based platform.  But the two things stuck me from that work.

Firstly a quote from Mark Garratt, Group Finance Director of the National Fostering Agency, where he calls out the great  work of Laura Johnson, who led the project for the him:

“She undertook some amazing work and the project wouldn’t have been so successful without her.”

Secondly the Iain Anderson, CEO of the National Fostering Agency took the time to write to us and thanked one of our employees Christian Faulkner:

“I just wanted to drop you a personal note to thank you for your valuable input into the BT migration project during March.  Now, several weeks on, and with minimal glitches experienced by the service users, it can be seen that the project went very smoothly with minimal upheaval to the running of the business.

“Thank you for your commitment and skill you gave to the project.  I was especially impressed to hear you went above and beyond your day job in working extra hours, including over the weekend in order to deliver the project within the required timeframe.

“Your hard work has not gone unnoticed and is greatly appreciated.”

It just goes to show, with the right people on board great things happen.


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Where next for CIOs on outsourcing

There are some big shifts going on in the world of IT outsourcing at the moment.  I attended the  Gartner Outsourcing & Strategic Partnerships Conference in 2012 and some of the key take away messages for me were:

  • The days of the big and long term IT outsource deal are numbered
  • Innovation throughout a contract is vital
  • Cloud is most certainly on the agenda
  • Getting the right balance of rewards and business alignment for both parties is key
  • The cultural fit of the two organisations is as important (if not more so) as the capability

More recently we are starting to see in the UK public sector a move to SIAM (here’s a good white paper on the principles from ISG).  They are breaking up big all encompassing deals into smaller parts and looking to provide their own Service Integration and Management.  It will be an interesting journey for all concerned in delivering that change.

With all this change going on, its worth considering where next for you and your business.

In the first of a number of articles on IT outsourcing and IT managed services we spoke to Martyn Hart, chairman of the National Outsourcing Association. He outlines three key challenges for CIOs:

  1. Stop the business making major mistakes – get engaged with your executive peers, so they are not signing deals without your knowledge.
  2. Keep your current contracts valid – any outsourcing deal must add value to the business on a continual basis.
  3. Change your job role – rather than acting as an operationally focused IT director, make sure you are seen as a trusted business advisor.

Read the rest of the article – IT Outsourcing – Put the business first – to find out more of what Martyn had to say.


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Data storage – some tips for cost control

IT budgets are under continual pressure, but against that background, requirements for storage are growing and growing fast.  With some analysts predicting up to 100% growth in corporate data in the next three years, that means the proportion of the IT budget spent on storage is going up.

There are some key things that companies can do to ensure they are making the most of their investments and maximising RoI.

1 – You need a clear data retention, protection and recovery strategy

Many companies fall in to the trap of storing everything forever. That means you are probably spending money, disk space and management time retaining data you just don’t need, or continually backing up static or reference data – in turn negatively affecting your backup and recovery windows. Just think how many .mp3 files you may be storing forever, or why are you keeping a document that no one has accessed in the last two years on high value primary storage? Archiving and backup/recovery should be treated as separate processes, and an effective data retention, protection and recovery strategy should encompass the most efficient and effective policies for your enterprise.

2 – Consider your Disaster Recovery / Business Continuity strategies

In addition to your data retention, protection and recovery strategy, you should plan for efficient and cost-effective disaster recovery and business continuity processes to reduce business risk. Tiering of applications, data and users/groups and applying appropriate service levels and availability policies allows you to design robust, easy to manage and cost-efficient strategies for disaster recovery and business continuity, to ensure the maximum protection and availability at the most effective price-performance point for your environment.

3 – Adopt a thin provisioning strategy

When we analyse customers storage estates, we often find 50-70% of disk space underutilised. One of the main reasons for this is that their storage provisioning policy means they allocate big ‘chunks’ of storage for departments or applications that are sitting there “waiting for data”. By adopting a thin provisioning strategy you are able to allocate storage when the data and demand for that storage exists, and hence get better utilisation out of your existing infrastructure.

4 – Adopt de-duplication technologies

We all know that in most companies there is more than one version of a document, spreadsheet or other content. With this sitting on potentially tens, if not hundreds of people’s computers, you end up storing the file multiple times! By adopting de-duplication technologies, you can significantly reduce the capacity used storing the same file, hence giving you better utilisation of your storage estate.

5 – Consider storage virtualisation

With many storage pools in many different locations, management and control becomes a costly challenge. By virtualising your storage you can gain efficiencies by through using a single management system, reducing management time and improving the control over your whole storage environment.

6 – Get expert advice

Most companies do not start with a clean slate as far as storage is concerned, and they find themselves in a position that they didn’t design for or intend to happen. By working with our storage experts, we can bring the experience and skills of how to move from where you are to where you need to be across a wide range of leading storage vendors.


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Selecting an IT Services partner

It was quite a week for IT in the UK last week.  With a well respected and well known IT reseller / services provider going into administration.  It made me think about that IDC report I mentioned a couple of posts back.

One of the sections on the report asks about criteria for selecting external IT services suppliers and this is what it says:

“Financial stability, service quality/customer experience, and technical skills tied for first place…” – IDC

So the question I have is, if this is true then what do people look for in financial stability?  And, do they really look for it or do they hope for the best when they see a level of risk they might not like?  Is financial stability really ‘tied for first place’ or are the quality of service and technical skills a bit more important?

Of course, in reality its a complex decision and there is inherent risk in most ventures which need to be balanced off against the benefits you are seeking.  But I wonder if this won’t cause a few people to reassess their existing IT services contracts and reseller arrangements and look for options to reduce the risk moving forward.

We will be publishing a few articles on IT services outsourcing over the next few weeks on www.btengageit.com where we’ll be exploring some of the issues and thinking around this subject.  In the mean time, perhaps a bit of time this week reviewing your existing contracts for any changes in financial risk might be worth it.


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BYOD – It’s about people more than technology

In a recent article entitled “There is more to IT than BYOD” Mark Raskino from Gartner claimed that “If you don’t have a big systematic change strategy for what technology will do for your business, then the agenda will be filled by superficial stuff like IT consumerisation.”  and to a certain extent I agree, if you haven’t got a vision for IT in your business you are likely to focus on the wrong things.  But where I differ with Mark is his view that consumerisation of IT is one of these “superficial” things, I can’t help but feel Mark has missed a crucial point. If you ask business leaders and owners what drives their business forward or what they believe is the key to the success of their business or department, the overwhelming answer you will get is “our people”.  They may go on to say great process, logistics, technology, competition or something else but the vast majority start with people.

He goes on to say “With so much at stake, why are many IT departments obsessing about issues like bring your own device (BYOD)? After all, if you had a magic wand that solved all those end-user device issues completely, it probably wouldn’t shift your company’s annual financial result.”

BYOD isn’t about technology per se, it is about getting the most out of people by letting them work in a way they want with tools they like to use, thereby having more motivated and engaged staff.  We all know how much more productive we are in work when we are motivated vs one of those “quiet days”.  So if BYOD helps in making employees more motivated I would argue, contrary to Marks view, it will add significantly to the company performance.  I’ll agree that measuring the impact directly is perhaps more of a challenge without employee surveys or something similar.  But lets make no mistake, if the technology doesn’t enable the employees of a business to do a better job then perhaps its missing the point.

With the main priority of 29% of CIOs to make the business more effective,  they know they are under pressure to spend more of their time and resources helping to drive the business forward.  What better way to start than by taking an employee centric view of the world?  Best practice advice for CIOs wanting to make an impact is to make sure they take time to work with their colleagues across the business and work out what will help them drive the business forward.  If you see BYOD akin to “a hygiene factor”, then maybe spending more time with HR or other functional teams may give you a different view.


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IT Priorities for 2013 – what are yours?

As 2012 is coming to a close, it’s that time of year where we start to think about our IT priorities for next year. All around we see articles on predictions, trends and things we really must think about…

Every year I read the IDC UK IT Services Report to give me a sense of what’s happening in the market and where the CIO agenda is heading.

One thing that struck me as particularly interesting this time was the Top IT Strategy Priorities.

Last year the priority was improving alignment with the business, followed by delivering an efficient IT service and that everything was delivered as cost effectively as possible. This year something has changed.

Here are the results of the main priority for UK CIOs

  • 29% Improving IT service levels / service quality
  • 29% Making the business more cost effective
  • 23% Reducing the cost of IT
  • 18% Improving the alignment of IT with business needs
  • 1% other

The really interesting point to note for me here is the key role CIOs see they have in making the business as a whole more cost effective not just the IT department. This is a significant move in the last year from this report. So does this mean the CIO has arrived at the board table and now feels more accountable for helping to drive the business forward rather than just supporting it? It certainly feels like it.

What are your priorities for 2013 and are you feeling responsible for making the business more cost effective?

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