And they even pay me :-)
Sometimes, though, you get this great juxtaposition: you get to see how different IT organizations approach the same fundamental challenge in entirely different ways.
And the contrast can be stunning ...
What Do We Do About End User Computing And Productivity?
That was the fundamental question for two large, successful companies in the financial services industry. Both are well-run businesses, both with a significant knowledge worker population that's increasing in importance.
Both have the pain of aging desktop infrastructure that wasn't only holding the organization back, but was the quintessential "burning platform" in that something had to be done sooner than later. Both had experimented a bit with desktop virtualization, and wanted to use more of it going forward.
The First Meeting
This meeting was clearly being led by the technologists.
They wanted to know about things like storage efficiency, and how cheaply the VDI server farm could be built. Seems there was some sort of mythical ROI number out there that they had to beat, otherwise they thought that the project wouldn't fly.So we got into the usual "virtual desktop sessions per unit of physical infrastructure" discussion: how many sessions could you safely cram on a server blade, how and where could you compress and deduplicate physical storage, what kinds of data could be squeezed and what the impact was, how that would affect cost-per-user, and so on.
Now, truth be told, EMC's experience and capabilities with regard are unmatched -- no one is better. We've done a lot of that sort of stuff, and we've usually gotten very good results.
But I left the meeting shaking my head. I thought the project was largely doomed, simply because it had started off on the wrong foot.
The reasons why became clear as I went to my second meeting.
The Second Meeting
The people in the room were very different in the second meeting. Yes, there were senior IT people in the room, but there were also non-IT stakeholders.
The problem statement was very different: how do we create a better capability for our business, and solve a bunch of growing problems at the same time?
They had done a good job of understanding how different parts of the organization used desktop computing, productivity and collaboration -- and how that was likely to change in the future. Increased value creation for knowledge workers was at the very top of the list for them, shortly followed by cost containment and risk mitigation.
The EMC discussion was not led by technologists -- it was led by EMC Consulting. This team is doing an increasing number of engagements like this, and I end up seriously enjoying every session I'm in with this team.
Frankly, we didn't talk much about technology for the two hours we were in the room -- we talked about outcomes, frameworks and processes. If you were a technology infrastructure professional, you'd think you were in the wrong meeting.
The central questions revolved around organizational change management -- how do you engage different parts of the broader organization to be willing to adopt new ways of doing things in an effort to increase business value?
We covered a lot of great ground over two hours:
* how to get key stakeholder to embrace and endorse the new environment
* how to help the current desktop team free up enough cycles to become key contributors in the overall project
* how to engage users on how to best exploit the new capabilities they'd have
* how to comfortably integrate both internal and external end user services
* how to successfully engage the risk mitigation portions (legal, security, compliance) of the organization
There was more, but you get the idea. And I'm sure at some point in the process, we'll get into the nitty-gritty of the supporting infrastructure, and how best to build and operate that.
It was an outcome-based discussion, not an ingredient-based discussion
We Vendors Are Largely To Blame
I have been as guilty as the next guy.
Customer wants to do a project. Find a technology-related potential problem that you can solve. Make the project all about that problem, and no other. Lather, rinse, repeat.
If you're a storage vendor, and it's desktop virtualization, then it's got to be All About Storage Efficiency, doesn't it? Or maybe we should emphasize the special coating we've put on our power cords to ensure long life?
Well, we're not doing our customers any favors by encouraging this sort of thinking. We, as vendors, ought to be thinking about how to enable positive customer outcomes, rather than how we jam our stuff into the project.
Say what you want about consultants in general, or EMC Consulting in particular -- the contrast between the two meetings was striking.
Anyone want to guess which project I think is going to be more successful?