We may prefer to do things ourselves, but we realize that getting good, experienced help can make all the difference between a successful outcome, and one that isn't.
The same is true when IT leaders start seriously thinking about IT transformation. Getting to cloud and its associated IT-as-a-service model can be a daunting transformational journey, and not for the faint-of-heart.
At one level, it's a re-invention of IT's business and operational model to look more like a competitive service provider, and less like a traditional IT shop.
Given my technical background, I have historically been rather skeptical of professional and consulting services, but I've discarded that obsolete view over the last several years. IT transformation is hard, daunting work -- and getting good help from people who have done it before is not to be discounted.
Such is the case with EMC Global Service's announcement today of a greatly expanded and integrated portfolio of IT transformation services -- a set of offerings that pass my personal test as truly beneficial to many of our customers.
Even if you think you're not in the market for consulting services, it's worth understanding what these people do, how they do it -- and why it's important.
EMC Global Services -- Not What You Might Think
One of things I like to do here at EMC is what I call "coolhunting" -- searching out the very cool things people are doing across our company. And the EMC Global Services team is turning out to be an inexhaustible source of very cool and extremely customer-relevant new capabilities.
With regards to the topic at hand, EMC Global Services has been engaged with multiple aspects of cloud and IT transformation for several years now.
During that time they've amassed an incredible and impressive amount of experience and insight into how customers can organize for success.
The result is a set of capabilities and methodologies that I think are unmatched in the industry today. More insight, more breadth, more depth -- and more proven success -- than any other similar set of offerings I've seen or heard about.
It Starts With A Plan For Success
EMC's top-level consulting engagement has four distinct components which make logical sense -- at least, based on my experience with customer engagements.
Don't get thrown off by the term "economics" -- what often emerges is a strategic rationale for the business to invest in transforming IT.
Frequently, this work actively engages key non-IT stakeholders who are an integral part of the transformation process, and helps build broader support for the initiative.
The second step is a steely-eyed view of the workloads in play: what are they, how efficiently are they being run, and what are their emerging requirements that will be difficult to meet with the current approach?
IT organizations are usually responsible for hundreds (if not many thousands) of application workloads. And not all workloads have the same business requirements -- or can easily move to an ITaaS model.
What typically emerges from the analysis are two related views: one is a "cost-to-serve" view (as compared to industry norms), and the other is an agility view (ability to meet new requirements). Going further, the agility drivers are traced back to the business model, and greater context is provided as to why an investment in agility will pay direct business benefits.
The third step is a readiness assessment: process and operational maturity, key skills required, funding models, governance discovery -- all that basically answer the question "how ready are we?". The result is typically a list of critical gaps that have to be closed for initial progress to be made, along with recommendations and alternatives for closing those gaps.
The fourth step is a high-level roadmap -- a logical sequence of activities, each with an identifiable benefit associated with it. In larger settings, this usually leads to the formation of a program office to drive and manage the high-level plan.
Reconfiguring The DNA Of The IT Organization
The next logical step is to dive down, and start to address the essential aspects of IT transformation: people, process and organizational models.
The organizational design activity works to define an idealized end-state after the transformation, and -- more importantly -- a logical sequence of steps and activities to move the IT organization in small, digestible increments.
Behind that is an enormous body of work around new roles, new skills, new measurement systems: basically a new "run book" for IT Human Resources.
And, of course, a plan to build and staff relatively new functions within traditional IT: e.g. go-to-market, business operations, cloud architects et. al.
If IT is to function as an internal service provider, then service design becomes an important activity: what are the processes that are used to assess service requirements, create the case, introduce the new service and assess its performance?
Again, most IT organization think in terms of delivering a specific application or project vs. creating a reusable set of services that are easy to consume and measure.
And, finally, serious design work around two key operational processes: how defined services are delivered in an orchestrated fashion, and how cost-to-serve is exposed back to the people consuming those services.
In my mind, it is these two operational processes that are at the very core of what makes a good ITaaS model: fast/reliable/efficient service creation and delivery -- and a clear understanding of cost-to-serve by those consuming the service.
Same model you find in telecommunications :)
If you step back and think about the two big chunks I've just outlined (top-level plan, org/process redesign) -- those are the two big leadership levers in virtually any IT transformation initiative. It's hard for me to imagine anyone making serious progress on an ITaaS initiative without these two key activities, especially in larger and/or more complex setting.
But, from there, the transformational work can take different paths, depending on situation and requirement. From my perspective, it's more of a sequencing discussion -- because sooner or later most IT organizations will have to address each of these subtopics, and probably more :)
Envisioning the end-state isn't hard to do, but creating a plan to get there that meets wildly conflicting demands takes a bit more work.
Note the interaction between the new infrastructure model, the previous workstreams around process design and skills, and -- ultimately -- the strategic rationale for IT transformation.
Indeed, it's this "multi-level linking" that I think the EMC people can do so well.
A second, equally popular workstream is application transformation into this new model. Predictably, this starts with a rationalization exercise, where applications largely end up in one of two primary buckets.
In this model, functionality and code are largely untouched -- the application is simply brought forward to a new operational context.
The second bucket is application modernization: enough new functionality is demanded by the business that there's a case to re-work significant aspects of the application, using modern tools and methodologies.
Other potential off-ramps include application retirement, or perhaps moving to an external SaaS-like model.
End-User Computing Transformation
More seriously, organizations that depend on mobile knowledge workers to deliver their value proposition have an exceptionally strong motivation to re-think how they do things in the post-PC era.
The "visioning and strategy" piece here is perhaps the most important. I've noticed IT professionals tend to jump to what they think the answer might be -- often without really understanding the question at hand.
One of my most popular examples is VDI: the IT team tends to think that making legacy Windows desktops appear on iPads is the "answer", when what the business really is asking for is a new platform to create lightweight mashed-up applications that are both native to the device's capabilities, and easy to find and consume.
Doing the former (and less ambitious approach) might be the right answer for your situation, but you ought to invest a bit of time to really understand the forces in play, engage key stakeholders, and set a strategy that can last you for more than 6 months :)
If the end-user computing team is going to be delivering a new class of capabilities using a new model, there's a serious amount of design, implementation and operationalization work at hand as well. The technology bits (as always) are pretty straightforward; making them work together as a service to deliver real value is a somewhat more challenging task.
Security And Availability Services
Here's the magic: when the majority of IT is consumed as a service, you secure and protect the service and it's transparently consumed. There's far less scurrying around after-the-fact trying to secure this or protect that -- it's all baked into the services people are consuming.
For example, here at EMC I consume what I think of as "iPad-as-a-service" from EMC IT. Easy to consume, nice apps, great support model -- and, oh by the way, I'm consuming all of EMC IT's security and protection services in the process.
Recently, the EMC IT team introduced an enterprise version of Dropbox-like functionality for all of us to consume. Same general story.
On top that "consumed as a service" paradigm, though, there's usually some serious work that needs to be addressed -- and doing so as part of an ITaaS transformation makes logical sense. I mean, after all, why waste a perfectly good crisis?
The term "active governance" is used to describe a process-level strengthening of the security and trust disciplines needed going forward. It's not enough to define a policy and walk away; how information is managed, governed and secured is an ongoing topic -- or should be!
Similarly, we're seeing a transition from traditional to what we've started to call "advanced security" models -- new forms of authentication, heavy reliance on analytics and predictive models, as well as the new roles, skills, workflows and org model design that it usually entails.
And -- last but not least -- data availability, resiliency and recovery become an increasingly important part of the mix, especially when you have literally hundreds of critical business applications using the same pool of shared and standardized services.
The Customer Perspective?
Let me put this as clearly as possible.
When I'm meeting a customer, and we get to talking about ITaaS transformations, and they happen mention that they're working with EMC Global Services, something interesting happens.
I smile and relax -- simply because I know they're in very good hands. I think they're getting the very best advice possible as they undertake a very daunting leadership journey -- sort of like recommending a good doctor if you've got a health issue.
But I'm not alone in this view.
Consider, for example, this gem of a quote from Mark Boucher, VP Technology Services for Postmedia Network. They're the largest publisher of English-language content in Canada. The full story is worth reading, but -- if you're pressed for time -- here's a nugget:
EMC has been very unique in Boucher's experience in dealing with a vendor. “I held them to some very key contractual obligations... we want to try this out and you will prove it will work or we will give it all back. From a partnership perspective they understood where I was at, and were with me all the way, been very key partner. I've been in this game a long time and very few engagements at this level have gone this well.”
So, how is your IT transformation going?