BRINGING CLOUD TECHNOLOGIES TO YOUR BUSINESS

By Ron Mente, Director of Cloud and Emerging Technologies

As IT teams are increasingly expected to deliver more quickly and effectively, cloud technologies are no longer an option – they’re required.  Unfortunately, demystifying cloud technologies and how they can best be utilized by an organization is often as nebulous as the word “cloud” itself. 

Corporations that are seeing results understand their business goals and identify the technological capabilities which enable them to achieve those goals. There are many options to consider, and many paths that can be taken when driving to achieve the desired results.  In this blog, we will discuss a few of the most common deployment methods IT groups are using, and the pros, cons, and caveats of each.

Method 1: All in on public cloud  

In this scenario, you abdicate your choices to one of the public cloud vendors by using their platform, tooling, and methodologies.  In exchange for your monthly spending, you get significant help from the vendor. In many cases, this is a fair trade, but a thoughtful approach is required.

Pros:

  • Supports the ability to adopt CI/CD practices, greatly increasing speed to market  
  • Does not require you to refactor your applications in most cases to get started (although this is something you will need to consider long-term for maximum effect)
  • Allows for greater agility and scalability, married with lower complexity – the ability to elastically turn on and off resources on demand is one of the prime benefits of the public cloud

Cons:

  • Costs are difficult to maintain (this is the #1 piece of feedback we hear from customers who have chosen this method)
  • Cloud-only focus does not consider alternative technologies
  • For best cost and performance, interdependent workloads will need to move to the public cloud environments together – there is significant work involved from the networking, security, and performance teams to make this successful
  • Being locked into any single public cloud provider limits future flexibility and increases business risk

Caveats:

  • Putting controls in place to understand the spend is key to being able to align the spend to the business value it is driving
  • Anticipate a 30 percent repatriation of workloads as costs and performance realities are quantified
  • The full benefits of cloud platforms are realized when you leverage cloud-native technologies – you will not be there on day one!

Method 2: Toe in the water 

In this option, your approach is to make small, strategic investments in a new technology, and then if it is successful expand the effort. You identify a business need requiring new features that are unavailable in the current solutions.   

Pros:

  • By choosing a new, specific capability you get it in place quickly, limit your impacts, and start to see the benefits immediately
  • Honing in on a new business capability as opposed to modernizing an existing application allows you to deliver incremental functionality, allowing the team to leverage cloud technologies without impacting incumbent technologies    
  • In addition to introducing native cloud technologies, you can begin to transform the delivery approach by adopting agile methodologies, including CI/CD and automation
  • Once you have successfully implemented one of these newer technologies both the staff and the business as a whole will have greater confidence you can do more

Cons:

  • It is often difficult to limit the scope and isolate delivery of new technologies without some integration with existing functions
  • The team’s success in adopting new technologies and methodologies will challenge traditional approaches, causing overhead and delays
  • Success will be limited if the technology team does not partner with the business – the whole point of technology implementation is business impact

Caveats:

  • Clearly define the need and the minimum functions needed to deliver value.  Time box your efforts so you can realize value quickly
  • Ensure the new capability is grounded in a business need which drives business value
  • Clearly define success criteria inclusive of both business and technology objectives.  This will enable you to quickly identify success and build momentum moving forward 

Method 3: A Hybrid Approach 

This method shifts the focus from, “I need to move to the cloud” to “what is my business trying to accomplish and why?”  It challenges you to re-think how you architect, provision, and operate your infrastructure, taking a holistic approach grounded in enabling the capabilities which drive business outcomes. 

Pros:

  • Leverage the best of public cloud and on-premise technologies
  • Incremental approach allows you to modernize, keeping incumbent workloads in place and refactoring, replatforming, retiring, or replacing them over time
  • Gives you the greatest flexibility within the environment – you own the entire ecosystem, not relying on an external entity to set the process
  • Provides alternative options, with the same speed, agility and benefits as the public cloud, when the public cloud is not the best option.   Enables greater autonomy for the business without introducing risk, improving the business/technology relationship

Cons:

  • High risk if not approached thoughtfully
  • Requires that existing processes evolve
  • New technologies must consider existing technology constraints
  • Provides the greatest flexibility but complexity is increased
  • More difficult to control scope

Caveats:

  • Requires an integrated approach.  To achieve the greatest success, business and technology teams need to work as one team to deliver results
  • Be aware of total overall costs
  • You will need outside expertise, to support the team for the implementation to be successful

Although there are many ways in which cloud technologies can be adopted, the above outlines some of the primary options to consider.  The key is to ensure your technology investments remain relevant to the success of the business.  The path you choose will depend primarily on your focus, skills, and budget.  True success will come only if you have awareness of your goals, where you are in relation to those goals, and the tenacity to see it through each and every day until you get the results you are looking for.  One last caveat is that once you achieve the goal, you will need to maintain the result and continue to execute.  The discussion of maintaining your new modern infrastructure, however, is a topic for another blog.

There are many ways to approach implementing cloud technologies. There is no one size fits all solution. Micro Strategies uses a data-driven approach to guide organizations through the cloud journey. Using assessments, analysis and strategy, we help you understand where the cloud makes sense for your organization and enable you to make decisions grounded in business needs. We provide actionable knowledge about your data, a specific workload or your entire environment. Armed with this information, you can decide where to make technology investments based on functionality, cost and operational impact rather than simply deploying everything to a predetermined platform. Once a decision has been made, we can help you migrate to the chosen platform, and assist in maintaining the environment moving forward. Interested in hearing more? Let us know.

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TECHNOLOGY OPERATIONAL MATURITY LEVEL: A CATALYST FOR BUSINESS TRANSFORMATION

By Bob Claybrook

This is the first blog post, in a series of four, focusing on technology operational maturity level and the role it can play in an organization’s business transformation.  Look for the remaining posts in the coming weeks.

Your business, regardless of size, needs to transform in a way
that efficiently and effectively leverages technology to drive business value and
remain competitive—it’s unavoidable.  But
how do you know where to start?  How do
your operations compare to the competition with respect to how well you are leveraging
technology to drive business results? 

The ability to recognize your current state as well as your progress towards even more effective leverage of technology in support of your business goals is critical.  This is where assessing your technology operational maturity comes into play.  An Operational Maturity Level (OML)* assessment provides a benchmark for how well your organization is integrating technology to:

  • Drive strategic investment
  • Efficiently and effectively operate technology to optimize and deliver business value

In this series of blogs, we’ll describe how understanding your technology
operational maturity helps guide high-performing organizations in the
transformation needed to attain their results and mitigate the technology risks
of not attaining their goals.

What is Technology Operational Maturity Level? 

Technology Operational Maturity Level provides insight
into how an organization compares to best practices for technology
utilization.  Low performing companies generally
make the same mistakes in determining their technology investments and in how
they manage technology. As a result, they often gain less business advantage of
their technology investments and incur higher risks in technology failing to
help them attain their business goals. In contrast, high performing companies (leaders
in their competitive circles) generally all leverage the same best practices in
determining their technology investments and in how they manage technology. In
this way, they often gain better business advantage from technology and reduce
the risks incurred from less-effective technology management practices.

We call
these differences in technology decision-making and management, Technology
Operational Maturity Level.  Micro
Strategies helps management teams determine their Technology Operational
Maturity Level, understand how it impacts achieving their goals, helps them
improve, to enhance the management team’s ability to attain their business
goals and reduce the technology-related risks of falling short.

Micro Strategies’ method for doing
this produces objective, Technology Operational Maturity level scores across a
range of critical technology management capabilities, which the client can work
to remediate on their own or can retain us to help accelerate their progress. Below are some of the components included in each of the areas.

  • Strategic Alignment considers required skills and internal
    relationships
  • Operations & Scalability considers core technologies,
    and data and analytics
  • Governance & Compliance considers how IT budgets
    are leveraged to align spend with business priorities and goals

How can technology OML be measured?

The OML tool developed by Service Leadership provides
a repeatable, systematic approach to assessing your operational maturity regarding
how technology supports your business, initially and as you progress upward.  The five levels defined in the tool provide
guidance on how an organization is operating in each of the primary areas.  The tool identifies specific details at every
level providing insight into how the organization is managing its technology
for competitive advantage.

What are the
stages/characteristics of the different maturity levels?     

Under this approach, there are five levels of operational
maturity:

  1. Beginning – You don’t know what you don’t know.  You’re too flexible.  IT operational effectiveness and budget are unpredictable.  The need for technology’s strategic value unrecognized.         
  2. Emerging – You realize what you don’t know.  You’re still too flexible.  IT operational effectiveness and budget are unpredictable.  There is an initial awareness of the need for technology’s strategic value. 
  3. Scaling – There is a basic understanding of the total cost of IT operational effectiveness.  Reduced flexibility yields increased IT operational effectiveness and budget predictability.  Basic business value is delivered.
  4. Optimizing – There is a good understanding of the total cost of IT operational effectiveness.  Standards are established and flexibility is minimized.  IT operational effectiveness is strong and budget efficiency is high.  Strategic alignment basics are in place.  
  5. Innovating – There is an understanding of the total cost of IT operational effectiveness.  Controlled flexibility is enabling new lines of business or revenue with IT and IT has been integrated into or is leading company strategy.

How do you apply the OML results to your business?

As discussed in the Achieving Business Agility – The Role of Data” blog, the data generated from assessing your organization’s technology operational maturity level, when integrated with the organization’s strategic objectives, is critical to your transformational efforts.  The information gained by combining these data elements allows you to more accurately prioritize where to focus.

To apply the concept, let’s consider the following example.  Let’s say one of your organization’s
strategic objectives is to “Provide a Frictionless Customer Experience”.  You completed your OML assessment and the
results were: 

  • “Scaling” for Strategic Alignment
  • “Beginning” for Operational Scalability
  • “Emerging” for Governance

Taking into consideration the objective of providing a
frictionless customer experience, and the OML results, you might prioritize your
focus on:

  • Evaluating and improving your skills internally and
    with your technology partners 

    • Where do you need to invest and where can you
      partner to attain the skills needed quickly?
  • Evaluating the current technology investments both
    in your core technologies and specifically for data and analytics 

    • Have the right technology investments been
      made? 
    • Do the technologies have the required
      capabilities? 
    • Have the appropriate solutions been architected to
      leverage those capabilities? 
    • Do you understand your current customer needs?
  • Understanding the organization’s budget 
    • Where is funding currently allocated?
    •  What options
      are available to re-direct funds if needed?

Using the OML and the results of the assessment provide a
baseline of your current state against best-in-class organizations allowing you
to more effectively prioritize your improvement activities and develop a plan to
achieve the strategic goals of your business.

This post is the first in a series of blogs on technology operational maturity level and the role it can play in an organization’s business transformation. Micro Strategies provides technology operational maturity assessments both as a stand-alone engagement for organizations interested in progressing upwards to gain better leverage from and control of their technology investment, and as an integral part of a technology and technology management transformation designed to increase their leverage and control, and decrease the risk of technology management impacting its customers’ ability to reach their business goals.  Interested in hearing more? Let us know.    

* Operational Maturity
Level is a trademark of Service Leadership, Inc.


ACHIEVING BUSINESS AGILITY: THE ROLE OF DATA

By Lisa Cavanagh, Practice Executive

This is the third blog post, in a series of five, about achieving business agility as experienced by a technology business partner. Look for the remaining posts in the coming weeks:

  1. Business Agility: What is it & Why is it Critical to your Business?
  2. Achieving Business Agility: Focus on Value Creation
  3. Achieving Business Agility: The Role of Data
  4. Achieving Business Agility: Modernizing Operations
  5. Achieving Business Agility: Confronting Reality

In my last blog, I discussed the importance of focusing on value creation as the basis for your transformational journey.  Understanding what actually drives value for your business requires a strategic, yet pragmatic approach.  So, how do you inform that approach to ensure that it accounts for the strategic objectives of your organization and the daily operations of your business?   The answer….DATA

Data plays an integral role in the journey to achieving and sustaining business agility.  It informs critical strategic and operational decisions required before and during a transformation as well as decisions to sustain business agility. 

Some of the key questions that data can influence are:

  • What has contributed to the organization’s success?
  • What is driving current revenue?
  • What are the current market trends? 
  • How is/can the business being/be impacted given market trends, including current and future customers?
  • How is the company currently operating as compared to the competition?

As we embarked on our transformation at Micro Strategies, we recognized that data informed our understanding of why we needed to transform. It helped us identify how to prioritize our areas of focus, and continues to inform our ongoing journey.  Our founder and CEO, Anthony Bongiovanni, recognized the role data played in informing our internal operational business decisions around our own initiatives and our external strategic decisions with respect to our customers, partners, and market.

“We view data as competitive currency. It plays a key role in our approach to internal initiatives and when we work with customers we use data to inform business decisions regarding security, analytics, infrastructure, business processes, and business and technology operations,”

~ Anthony Bongiovanni

The Role of Data in Establishing Strategic Objectives 

The previous two blog series (here and here) emphasized the current reality for organizations—they must evolve their business to achieve greater business agility and competitiveness.  If they do not, odds are, they will not survive.  That reality is daunting, but so is the journey to transform. 

As with all significant choices in life, having the appropriate information allows you to better navigate the change.   An organization should be clear on the factors that contributed to their success, the aspects which drive their current success and the market trends that impact their business.  Integrating these data elements provide leadership visibility into:

  • How the organization’s history has shaped its culture and how that might help or hinder its ability to transform and sustain the change.
  • Potential risks to the current organizational pillars given market trends and competitive pressures. 

As you review and integrate the multiple dimensions of the data, you can more confidently establish the organizational objectives that will fuel your growth.  You can also identify the value-driven teams needed to achieve the organizational objectives.  These teams can utilize the data to prioritize and shape their investments. The organization’s and teams’ ability to utilize the data to recognize and work with market and customer opportunities and threats is crucial.

At Micro Strategies, we consistently leverage data within our practice teams to ensure we are effectively evaluating the performance of solutions and their development, and detecting opportunities for new offerings.  It also informs the strategic guidance given to customers as to how our solutions can support them in achieving their objectives, as well as to our strategic partnerships by allowing us to more effectively integrate their technologies and our offerings to better serve our customers.  

The Role of Data in Driving Operational Effectiveness

Establishing your strategic objectives is key to anchoring the transformational journey.  However, the decisions around prioritization and where to focus your efforts cannot be made without taking into consideration how effectively the organization is currently operating. 

Understanding the maturity of your operations in comparison to your competition is also important as it allows you to identify which areas may pose the most challenges during your transformation.  Recognizing the strengths and weaknesses of your organization, teams and employees and subsequently finding a way to work with them is crucial. 

Ultimately, data contextualized as information, and information driving insights will allow you to navigate your organization’s transformation while balancing tolerances for risk, crucial decision making leading to better decisions, as well as where change is needed and at what pace.

At Micro Strategies, we leveraged data to establish our strategic objectives and also invested in understanding the state of our operational maturity.   This data played a critical role in helping us determine how to embark on our journey and we continue to leverage it to guide us as we execute our transformation to achieve greater business agility.

Driving change is never easy, but change is the constant we must all integrate as we navigate the reality of the current market, competitors, customers, and employees.  Your organization’s ability to achieve the agility needed to survive and thrive is rooted in how well you understand the role of data and how you leverage that data in your transformational journey and growth.    

This post is the third blog post in a series of blogs on achieving business agility as presented from a technology business partner’s perspective. Interested in hearing more? Check out the first blog or contact us.


BONGIOVANNI RACING GOES ROUNDS IN BACK-TO-BACK RACE WEEKENDS

September has already been a busy month for the Bongiovanni Racing team with races in Indianapolis; Epping, New Hampshire, and finally Reading, Pennsylvania. The last two weekends consisted of the team’s favorite venues, New England Dragway and Maple Grove Raceway.

The Epping event was the second-to-last stop on the Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series tour and our team had a nice showing with Anthony and Michelle behind the wheel. Anthony competed in Stock and Super Stock, while Michelle competed only in Super Stock.

Anthony lost early in his Resource 1 Super Stock Mustang, but he ran strong in Stock, lasting five rounds. He was solid on the tree all weekend, having super-quick reaction times. With six cars remaining, he lost to eventual Stock winner Billy Pires by just .004 of a second. Michelle also had a great outing in her Micro Strategies Cobra Jet. Michelle was going strong until a red light against Jimmy Daniels knocked her out of the competition.

A week later the team competed at the NHRA Mello Yello Keystone Nationals at scenic Maple Grove Raceway.

Kenny Miele was back in competition in Stock at “The Grove” along with Anthony in Stock Eliminator. Both racers qualified well and went into eliminations feeling confident. Anthony won a pair of exciting and very close races in rounds one and two but lost due to a -.007 red light in round three. Miele also had a pair of wins, followed by a loss in the third round.

“Four weekends in a row is tough for any race team, no matter how big or small,” said Anthony Bongiovanni, “but we have a great group of people, especially our crew chief Ricky Hertzog, who maintains the cars and haulers.”

“We had strong races and Kenny, Michelle and I did well with our driving. Michelle doesn’t get to compete quite as often, so it was nice to see her going rounds. We have a few races left and we’re looking forward to wrapping up the season on a high note. I’d really like to thank everyone involved with our team and racing program and as always, we’ll be looking to improve over the winter so we can come back stronger in 2020.”

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2019 NHRA U.S. NATIONALS PRODUCES UPS AND DOWNS FOR BONGIOVANNI RACING

After a fun weekend at the NMCA Ford Performance
Cobra Jet Showdown in Norwalk, Ohio, Bongiovanni Racing continued west to Lucas
Oil Raceway in Indianapolis to compete in the 65th running of the
NHRA U.S. Nationals. Also known as “The Big Go,” the U.S. Nationals is the
crown jewel of the NHRA drag racing series. Held each year over Labor Day
Weekend, it’s a marathon event, lasting six days with over 850 cars in
competition.

With over 150 cars shooting for the 128 spots in
the Stock and Super Stock fields, it’s a big deal just to make the show. The
first task was to qualify and our drivers Anthony Bongiovanni and Ken Miele locked
in during the first session. In Stock Eliminator 159 cars attempted to qualify,
there were 158 in Super Stock.

The Big Go is unique because Stock and Super
Stock racers have two chances to win. First, racers compete in “Class Eliminations”
where they race heads-up within their own respective categories, then they move
on to the main eliminator.

There were four cars in FS/A, and after two sessions Miele was first and Bongiovanni was second. Bongiovanni won the first round and Miele lost a tight one to Joey Shipp. Miele was .031 on the tree and ran 8.733, Shipp was .008 and ran 8.739. However, the quicker light allowed Shipp to get to the finish line first by just .017 of a second. This set up the final between Bongiovanni and Shipp.

Shipp produced a .013 light, but Bongiovanni was
on his heels with a .052 reaction time. With both Mustangs on the march, the
Bongiovanni Racing Cobra Jet tracked down Shipp’s Ray Skillman Ford-backed
machine, crossing the line first with a strong 8.61 at 154 mph to Shipp’s 8.75
at 135 mph. This earned Bongiovanni his fourth NHRA U.S. Nationals Class win
and a coveted Wally trophy.

After three rounds of qualifying, Bongiovanni locked into the 51st slot with an 8.61 and Miele was 79th with an 8.67 elapsed time. Bongiovanni also ran Super Stock, where he qualified 96th with an 8.67.

Unfortunately, the racing luck ran out during final eliminations. Bongiovanni was uncharacteristically late on the tree in Round 1 of Stock, while Miele ran into mechanical problems causing him to red light in the same round. Bongiovanni then had the same fate in Round 1 of Super Stock, where he red-lighted by -0.003 seconds to end his chance at a U.S. Nationals title.

If there was a silver lining, Meile’s Cobra Jet
was easily fixed and the team will be ready to go for the upcoming NHRA Mopar
Express Lane Nationals September 12-15 at Maple Grove Raceway near Reading, PA.

HOW MANAGED SERVICES CAN HELP YOU MAINTAIN IT BEST PRACTICES

By Alexander Meseguer / Managed Services Architect

ITIL is positively viewed as growing in importance due to trends like cloud and agile –   46% of global respondents view ITIL as increased in importance; 49% viewed ITIL as staying the same in importance 

(Source: AXELOS’ The Importance of ITIL® A Global view – 2014 and Beyond)

With IT trends like cloud infrastructure and agile becoming more and more important to any businesses wishing to stay competitive, you may have considered or even started to adopt one or more IT Service Management frameworks to help stay ahead of the curve.

The promise of embracing frameworks like the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) is taking advantage of the accumulated experience and knowledge of the world’s technology service community. ITIL is so widespread, its exams were taken 30 times in Antarctica in 2017 (source: AXELOS) Like any set of principles, it’s easier to put them down on paper than it is to follow them.

Whether your organization is still discussing ITSM or has already adopted something similar into your organization, an ITIL-based outsourced IT provider is a business partner who already has experience with where you want to be. After all, why start from scratch when you can take something fully developed and tested off the shelf?

ITIL/ITSM is not just for big companies

Many smaller organizations see how far-reaching and deep ITIL/ITSM can be and are often intimidated. While it’s possible to adopt a service framework in a digestible, incremental way, choosing a Managed Services Provider (MSP) who has embraced ITIL can jump-start your ITSM adoption. Some partnerships are so transformative you may find yourself adopting some of their practices into your organization.

Best practices are more than the latest tool or certification

Some leading service management platforms or tools will push ITIL as a major selling point. While ITIL-based tools are a critical part of improving your IT services, they are only a part of the equation. The adage “garbage in, garbage out” still applies. If your service desk can’t use an ITSM tool efficiently to satisfy clients, then you’re receiving no return on its investment. An MSP based on ITIL has built their entire organization with ITSM practices in mind.

As part of your vendor selection, you should be able to ask an MSP for their process documents and what certifications they hold. You should see a short time to value for services from organizations who can show their bona fides. Their accumulated ITSM experience and standardization cuts ramp up times and the need for relationship building to enable services to start bearing fruit.

Working with an ITIL-based MSP

Like gears meshing, two organizations need a smooth and reliable way to work together. A dedicated account team can bridge the gap between process and your changing business needs while still providing a single point of contact for all account issues. Over time, their value will grow and the team will be able to align your business needs to their services in ways other providers cannot. This ongoing creation of value is at the heart of ITIL best practices.

Micro Strategies has seen significant benefits when a client’s point of contact (a vendor manager or director of IT) holds some level of ITSM certification. These employees who hold a permanent role in IT vendor management can speak the MSP’s language and understand how issues should be handled, no matter which piece of the partnership is involved.

Conclusion

No matter which framework you adopt or outsourced provider you choose, we hope this information will help you navigate the complex and deep waters of IT Service Management. Interested in learning more? Contact us to hear from a Micro Strategies Professional.