For me personally, it's been crazier-than-normal-crazy over the last few months. Most years, summer slows things down a bit, but not this year.
Why? As I might have predicted, the brunt of the ITaaS (IT as a service) transformational wave has started to hit. We are now starting to be collectively besieged by growing cadres of IT leaders who want to start driving meaningful change in their own organizations.
I couldn't be more pleased.
The hard part is that since I've been so personally identified with this subject, I seem to be the first call people make, so I've been completely swamped. But help is on the way, as many parts of the EMC organization are now investing their time and cycles to learn more about ITaaS, and specifically how to best help our customers who want to make that journey.
Most of our customer and partner engagements start with the lessons we've learned from EMC IT's own transformation, roughly from 2009-2011.
Not every situation is identical, but there's a lot to be absorbed from someone who's already made that big investment in transformation.
Thanks to the EMC IT team, there's no shortage of that material here in my blog.
But, in some sense, EMC IT has now moved to a post-ITaaS world.
Yes, they've done the heavy lifting to transform to a service provider model. They've re-architected and re-skilled. They've changed the way IT services are produced and consumed. They've established price transparency and started to shift the very way IT is funded at EMC.
Always more to do, but -- now that they've achieved a great measure of success -- there's now an important question: where do we go from here?
And the answer is turning out to be "all sorts of great places".
Qualitative Changes In IT Perception Abound
Although there's plenty of before-and-after numbers to consider, I've found the more powerful evidence to be anecdotal.
One frequent question I'm usually asked "have your IT expenses gone up or down?". I've seen the numbers, but they don't really tell the whole story.
First, the unit costs for delivering IT services appear to have dropped like a rock. Our IT team routinely benchmarks their services against those out in the marketplace, and all the evidence points to the fact that EMC is getting a pretty good deal for the majority of IT services we internally produce. There's always room to do better, but that particular topic just isn't a big hot button as it once was.
The second part of the answer is more telling: as a company, I think we're spending more on IT services now at EMC than we ever have in our history. Why? We're getting great value from it -- as seen by the business.
EMC IT's mission is to produce the quality IT services that our business users find attractive to consume. If they do their job, aggregate consumption should go up, not down -- unless finance chooses to have a firm foot on the brake pedal.
That's what usually happens when you produce something that people find compelling.
More broadly, IT services are now seen as just another input to the business, like headcount, facilities, travel, etc. If one of our business leaders is overspending on any one of these elements, that's a discussion you have with your friendly financial controller, and not the IT team.
But here's the great part -- the role of managing overall IT consumption as part of the business mix is now clearly a finance discussion, and not an IT one. The IT team is no longer in the business of rationing IT consumption. Big change.
I, as typical business leader, have to make choices on where to invest. If investing in new applications and IT capabilities is the most attractive choice, that should be a good thing, right? And, in an nutshell, that appears to be exactly what's happening.
As a result, demand for IT services by the broader EMC organization is growing exponentially. Because we have a competitive service catalog, transparency and chargeback elements, business leaders can make informed decisions, and get results quickly. As just one example, I think it's probably faster, easier and cheaper to stand up a modest new application here at EMC than it is to bring in a contractor or -- gasp -- hire a full-time position.
A growing number of business leaders here are starting to choose to invest in automation and productivity tools, and not necessarily bringing on more headcount to implement a process.
From my typical strategic perspective, I think that's a very good thing indeed.
Finally, my commentary wouldn't be complete unless I shared with you how the day-to-day discussions have shifted over the last few years.
Going back several years, you'd be in a session where you'd be discussing some sort of new business initiative. We'd get around to the inevitable IT components of what we needed to do, and the discussion would almost always stall. We'd frequently have to back up, and re-plan around what our IT team could and couldn't do.
That's not the case anymore. More of our teams are now fully aware of the IT service catalog, how to work with it, etc. They're learning to consume intelligently, and -- as a result -- the speed and agility of the overall EMC organization has picked up the pace to a remarkable degree.
Yes, EMC IT has helped give that quintessential "agility" to the business. It's hard to quantify, but I see it everywhere.
A quick analogy -- and don't be offended, please.
If you need to fly somewhere to meet a customer, you're pretty sure you can get a reasonable flight to get there. You don't think about it much. If you're thinking about a modest project here at EMC, you can simply assume you can get the IT resources you need to get it done. The more you use those resources, the easier it is to work with them -- there is a learning curve, to be sure. But it's happening.
More importantly -- I see our business teams innovating faster -- and with better results -- simply because IT inputs are generally easier to discover and consume. All good, all important, all valuable -- but there's even more.
Now IT Can Really Make A Difference Using ITaaS
Given all the goodness that's happened: sharply lower unit costs, dramatic increase in business agility, etc. -- one could make a case that victory has been achieved, and simply rest on ones laurels. But that's not the case.
Our EMC IT team has now moved to the next phase: building on their ITaaS platform to deliver a handful of stunning, really-move-the-needle-for-the-business initiatives that almost read like science fiction.
None of these could be seriously contemplated before; all can now be tackled simply as a logical extension of the model transformation that occurred during 2009-2011.
So, let's take a quick tour of an IT organization that's now using their clouds to deliver advanced IT services, and what they can now deliver to the business.
Topic #1 -- EMC's Core Applications
At its heart, EMC is still a tech company, so we sell a ton of hardware, software and services around the globe. Like anyone else in our sector, we use our core apps to take orders, build stuff, ship it and get paid. That's how we make money. And we need some pretty scarily powerful and resilient applications and infrastructure to do all that.
Earlier this summer, we went live on a migration from legacy Oracle eBusiness to modern SAP.
Internally dubbed "PROPEL", it was done entirely on our private cloud (e.g. Vblocks). From an infrastructure perspective, the results are about as flawless as they could be: huge boosts in performance, availability, functionality, security, etc., enormous cost savings, important new capabilities -- you name it!
Of course, we still have a lot of people puzzling through the new system :)
But the EMC IT team can justifiably claim a huge "win" for the migration and cutover. They're now documenting their experiences and learning, and starting to share it more broadly. If you're interested, you can catch the first wave of these materials on a webcast September 13th.
You'll hear from Bill Reid (EMC IT Director of IT Architecture) and Henrik Wagner, EMC IT's Global SAP Lead. Two hands-on IT practitioners to share how they moved a $20B global IT vendor to a future-ready environment -- what they learned, and what they'd do differently if they were doing it again.
Here's the point: I can't see how this project could have happened outside the overall ITaaS transformation discussion. We wouldn't have had the skills, and we certainly wouldn't have had the process maturity. But -- since EMC IT has been at this for a while -- we've got both.
And here's a use case to demonstrate what can be done -- at substantial, mission-critical scale -- once process maturity has been achieved.
Topic #2 -- Analytics As A Service
Here at EMC, we've now got the big data analytics bug. Not just for our customers, but for our own business.
We're absolutely dazzled by the power of what this stuff can do. We fully realize that we're not exactly proficient today, but we are very enthusiastic about investing aggressively to improve our proficiency across the entire organization.
But we need a place to do that.
A bit of history: when we decided to get good at social media many years ago, we stood up a platform to drive broad social proficiency across the enitre organization.
Dubbed EMC|ONE, it was an early example of how a corporate social media platform could be used internally to not only create value but also to create new skills. It still holds up well, even to this day.
The functional equivalent here is our new analytics-as-a-service platform. Of course, the requirements here are far more demanding, but the core idea is still the same: stand up a shared platform, make everything very easy to discover and use, wrap the platform in resources and programs, encourage everyone to use it, and we'll get two big benefits: immediate business value and long-term skill competencies.
Quick note: I just got an email from our HR team that I've been scheduled for my first round of "analytics proficiency training".
And I'm sure we'll learn a ton of useful things in the process, much of which I'm looking forward to sharing here on this blog. Again: we wouldn't be seriously contemplating an initiative like this unless we'd done the heavy lifting on ITaaS.
Topic #3 -- Enterprise Mobility As A Service
We've now chosen a mobile-first strategy for obvious reasons: our workforce is mobile, our partners are mobile and our customers are mobile. Any questions?
And by mobile, we're not just talking BYOD or web apps or even just VDI -- although that's all part of it. No, the real prize is building a set of factory platform services that enables any part of the EMC business to build and deliver modern, finger-friendly native mobile applications.
Once again, you need a platform that everyone can use: one where app services can be discovered and composed, one where applications can published via an enterprise app store model, one where devices and containers are presumed to be secured and managed, one where best practices can be shared, and so on.
Just like social and big data analytics, we need a shared platform to deliver both business value and increased competencies across the organization. Although I don't think I'll be tapped by the HR team to take the coursework on this one :)
Once again, it's hard to imagine us standing up a traditional dedicated IT silo to go do this. But building this on top of our existing ITaaS capabilities? Logical, and almost inevitable. And, BTW, if you're in the midst of this and are trying to figure out the secure enterprise container on the client side, we should talk -- our IT team came up with a great answer.
Topic #4 -- The New App Factory
If you're like EMC, you have no shortage of demand for internally-developed business applications. You buy what you can, and turn your focus to value-added integration.
These tend to take a predictable form: discover and compose existing information services, provide some value-added logic, and deliver services to application experiences farther up the stack; e.g. mobile, analytics, etc.
As part of our ITaaS transformation, we've now been able to re-envision exactly how that app factory works -- modern frameworks, modern tooling, and modern methodologies. All cloud-friendly and cloud-agnostic. No longer are we investing enormous amounts in monolithic and brittle code stacks; not only are results seen far sooner (think "agile") but we end up with re-usable componentry.
That's a win-win if there ever was one.
Once again, think "platform" -- new capabilities, plus the programs, skills and incentives to deliver that double-win: better results, and better proficiency.
And, once again, hard to envision us or anyone else doing this successfully without that basic ITaaS transformation.
The most articulate spokesperson we have on this topic is our CIO: Sanjay Mirchandani. These slides are sourced from his quite amazing session at EMC World. You can catch the video version here.
But the thinking is everywhere. For example, I came across this short video blog from Wayne Pauley, one of our lead educators on topics like cloud architect and now ITaaS. I've known Wayne for a long time; he used to be one of the more tech-focused people at EMC, which is saying a lot. He could geek it with the best of us.
Listen to how his perspective has changed over the last few years, and -- more importantly -- how he has to now convince very senior tech-focused IT professionals that there's now a business agenda at hand that has to be understood, integrated and acted upon.
It's almost like our tech-heavy IT profession is finally growing up :)
Self-Help For The IT Leader?
If you've ever wandered into a bookstore before a flight, you'll notice that the self-help section is very large indeed.
Although I'm not a fan of the genre, the formula seems straightforward: a handful of obvious principles, a ton of effort to put those principles into practice, followed by testimonials of all sorts of direct and indirect benefits.
In some sense, we've got a potential best-seller for the enterprise IT world: people frustrated with the current approach, a handful of radical-but-obvious guiding principles, a challenging and sustained effort to put those same principles into practice over time, followed by the inevitable great stories of what happened afterwards.
Thanks to our EMC IT team, we can provide all sorts of examples and learnings from our experience. We're finding strong correlation between our experiences and those of our customers who are doing the same thing. In every case, the focus has shifted away from cost containment, and landed squarely on value-generation through multiple, innovative initiatives that couldn't happen any other way.
There's no shortage of self-help material in this bookstore.
The missing piece we can't supply?
The initiative to take those ideas and put them into practice.