Petabyte data warehouse? Check! Scalable to thousands of users? Check! Every business intelligence (BI) feature imaginable? Check! Agile BI?
“One thing we do not yet know how to do well is agility,” Boris Evelson told me at the recent Forrester IT Forum in Las Vegas.
Evelson, a principal analyst at the Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research, has been covering BI for some 30 years. Over that time, scalable, powerful, stable BI has become a reality at companies with enough money and know-how. “I don’t want to say it is a commodity, but we know how to do that,” he said.
On the other hand, agile business intelligence — the ability to react faster to the ever-increasing speed of business change — remains “challenge No. 1,” Evelson said. It’s the subject of every conversation he has with clients these days, he told me, and it was the centerpiece of his talks at the conference.
Guidelines for an agile organizational structure
One of the reasons agile business intelligence remains elusive for most CIOs, Evelson said, is that BI software is different from almost any other enterprise application. With ERP or CRM, for example, once the requirements are defined and the software either procured or developed in-house, IT can expect a shelf life for that software of 12 to 36 months, with minor modifications. “With BI, if you do that, when you roll out the first iteration, it is already too late. The world changes way too fast,” he said.
Given that CIOs can’t do much about the pace of change, how do they get to agile business intelligence? In Evelson’s view, it’s a combination of using an agile software development methodology — which relies on prototyping rather than specifications — and on an agile organizational structure. Not that either is easy to do, especially the organizational-structure part. CIOs and their BI experts understand that silos are bad for BI, he said. But so is centralization, because “shared services are anything but agile.” What’s needed is a middle ground. Not middle as in wishy-washy, but as in a nuanced set of guidelines for handling BI. That requires a hard-nosed discussion about which apps need to be in a central area (mission-critical ones, for example) and which nice-to-have, ad hoc apps should stay where they are.
In-memory analytics, mobility
There are also plenty of technologies that can make a BI environment more agile. Forrester has a list of about 20, Evelson said, from cloud and mobility for BI infrastructure and delivery to inverted indexes and in-memory analytics, an approach he believes is suitable for as much as 90% of BI efforts.
“Think of in-memory as Excel on steroids. It has all the flexibility of Excel but also the power of traditional BI tools, like virtualization,” Evelson said. QlikTech International’s QlikView and Microsoft’s PowerPivot take an in-memory approach to BI.
Of course, the flexibility these tools provide also represents a “huge danger,” Evelson hastens to add. IT cannot control what users do in Excel, and the same is true for in-memory tools: One person’s analysis of customer profitability is not going to be the same as another’s. “You have to be smart. If it is a mission-critical app where nothing less than 100% accuracy is good enough, then in-memory analytics is not the right choice.”
Not surprisingly, at companies where there is more business ownership of BI, in-memory analytics are being adopted “left and right,” Evelson said. At IT-centric companies, not so much, he said.
The quick fix
Technologies help facilitate agile business intelligence, but for CIOs, finding the organizational structures and methodology is the tough nut to crack, in Evelson’s view. In the meantime? Users will gravitate toward instant gratification.
“Traditional BI is why spreadsheets are still the most ubiquitous, best BI tool out there. You have a question, and as long as you have spreadsheets, you can get your answers,” Evelson said.
Is agile business intelligence as hard as Evelson makes it sound? If you have blazed a path to agility and are willing to talk about it, I’d love to hear from you.
You couldn’t go far at the MIT Sloan CIO Symposium held recently in Cambridge, Mass., without hearing about the workforce of the future and how the CIO will help develop what some people are calling Workforce 2.0.
The old corporate regime, dating back to the days when generals were brought in to run companies post-World War II, is no longer working, but such top-down, command-and-control corporate cultures are still common.
What is needed from the C-suite down is a culture of transparency that encourages input from everyone in the company. That entails a lot of technology platforms, from social media and mobility, to real-time analytics and reports that “mere mortals” can actually decipher, according to Brian Halligan, co-founder and CEO of HubSpot Inc.
“The CIO will work with the CEO to fundamentally transform how we communicate, transform the culture, and … work to pull the workforce into the postmodern world,” Halligan said during a panel at the MIT event. “Everything needs to be rewritten, and the CIO will be the one to pull the CEO over that line and help develop the employee workforce of the future, by putting in place critical hardware and software skills that employees need now and five years from now.”
This disruption of the “Old World Order” is taking many shapes. At New York Life Retirement Plan Services, CIO Neal Ramasamy and CEO David Castellani plan to “destroy the desktop” and replace it with smartphones and dumb terminals.
In a conversation about the changing role of IT, Castellani said he envisions a more flexible, self-service computing environment for the workforce of the future — no surprise, considering his background as a co-founder of Mi8, a Software-as-a-Service email and messaging platform provider.
As far as proprietary applications? “Throw them out the windows,” Castellani said in a panel at the MIT event. “They don’t add business value; all they do is create more headaches. Focus on disruptive and aggressive ways to get rid of things like this.”
At Raytheon Co., Chief Information Security Officer Michael Daly and his team are building a private cloud so Raytheon employees and the company’s partners can collaborate in a dynamic environment. The end result will be a new approach to collaboration between and among Raytheon employees and partners to develop products for various government defense branches.
The message from some attendees and panelists at the MIT event was not only that corporate culture had to change to foster the workforce of the future, but also that IT systems and methodologies are the backbone of that culture and workforce. CIOs need to develop transparent, fluid communication environments, with teams that can be spun up and disbanded as needed; and they must be willing to let go of entrenched systems.
Tech-savvy employees. The need for speed. Self-service technology. The next time you’re inclined to examine where your CIO job is headed, or who you need to hire, Forrester Research is suggesting you keep these three trends in mind.
The rise of all three means that the CIO job of tomorrow — as in, pretty much today — is more about consulting than doing. That goes for your IT staff, also. “It’s a very broad definition of consulting. It’s providing direction, it’s providing oversight, it’s providing value,” said Marc Cecere, a principal analyst at Forrester and keynote speaker at Forrester’s IT Forum in Las Vegas this week.
Cecere said that in a business environment dominated by tech-savvy business people, self-service technology and speed [think cloud computing and mobile devices], much of the building, procuring and maintaining of systems will not be done by internal IT organizations. Instead, CIOs will need people who can identify and assemble all the pieces of these systems — solutions architects, data integration architects and vendor and sourcing managers.
For many of the IT roles today, including the CIO job, businesses will be looking for the equivalent of a Russell Brice, a New Zealand mountaineer who has helped 300 people climb to the top of Mount Everest. At some point he quit climbing and provided oversight, using his computer, mobile phone, walkie-talkie, telescope and so on to guide the climbers on the mountain. Just as application developers will be guiding those tech-savvy employees to make sure the technology they are building is secure and scalable, Cecere said. Project managers will not be running one project at a time but overseeing numerous projects simultaneously. When people get off track — when there is an emergency — that is when those IT job roles will revert to hands-on.
To excel at your CIO job, you will not only need guides, but also innovators and specialists. Cecere would like to see senior IT people freed up for innovation. “We’ll see if that happens.” At a minimum, CIOs will need people who can identify where innovation is needed and where it will come from. Some roles will need to be more specialized than they have in the past — in security, in managing data, in process design, for example, given anytime/anywhere computing. CIOs will need people who can figure out how to scale, secure and add functionality to the mobile applications business people are building for themselves, he said.
“That’s an awful lot of change that you folks in particular will be going through, as we move to more empowered BT [business technology] organizations,” Cecere said, using Forrester’s latest coinage for companies where business people are more tech savvy, and IT will play a more strategic and consultative role in the provisioning of technology.
Of the three broad components of today’s IT department — app dev and delivery, infrastructure and operations and a project management office — Cecere believes the app dev and delivery functions will shrink the most, as this is the technology area business people are most interested in. They haven’t shown much interest in running or planning IT.
CIOs should not think about this transition as a transformation project. The business and IT are not going to drop what they’re doing and plot out a course. And it won’t come about in a big bang — the vendors, business and IT aren’t ready for that. Cecere’s metaphor of choice?
“You ever see 5-year-old kids playing soccer?” he asked. “Somehow, the ball gets from one end of the field to the other and once in a while in the goal, but everything in between seems like random motion. I think it’s going to be this zigzag function.”
We’ve written quite a bit about the need for changes to software virtualization licensing terms to uncouple them from the physical hardware and accommodate the dynamic, shared computing environments that virtualization has made possible. Many vendors’ licensing terms remain outdated because they prohibit the movement of workloads or the divvying up of resources.
This counters some of the benefits of moving to a cloud model and adds another snag to a long list of cloud security risks on the minds of CIOs and CISOs.
Michael Daly, deputy CISO and director of IT security services for Raytheon, said that it’s a two-sided security coin: Vendors and SaaS providers want to make sure that you are truly using only the licenses allowed to you by contract, but how do you prove usage in an environment in which usage is fluid?
What it comes down to is validation, said Daly. The vendors want to know that you are not “fibbing” about usage, “but the alternative is that you [give] all these vendors — and you might have hundreds of products in this [virtual/cloud computing environment] — oodles of usage data about every movement your business makes.”
That’s too much information to be giving away, and then some. “It might even not be legitimate for you to be giving it away under some SEC rule, because you might be giving away stock-affecting information about how many customers you have at any given time,” he said.
Daly’s advice to other CISOs and CIOs is to minimize cloud security risk by negotiating a contract that lets you test your hosted environment for vulnerabilities and change simple things such as passwords.
“Get friendly with a lawyer,” he said. “Walk through the contract language to make sure there is flexibility in there, and that you understand what happens financially when you do want to make a change to that environment.”
In our coverage next week, SearchCIO.com will explore how corporate information security practices change when a virtual cloud environment is added to the mix.
In the meantime, here’s more food for thought from experts and CIOs grappling with cloud security risks:
- Are you beholden to the security practices of the cloud provider, or is there room to change the rules to suit your needs?
- If your data is housed on a shared cloud, does it still meet the mandates of certain regulations?
- Do cloud providers need to create more modular environments for their customers to prevent potential data sharing mix ups between customers?
Let us know what you think about the blog post; email Christina Torode, News Director.
Innovation happens at the edge of an organization, with rebellious workers willing to go against the status quo, said an executive with a large IT consulting firm. That doesn’t exactly fit the modus operandi of IT, he said. Venture capital firms interested in investing in startups tend to avoid companies spending a lot on IT, he said in furthering his point, because they don’t believe IT equates to innovation.
IT does not result in innovation, said a vendor CEO on another panel, and pointed to an anecdotal number based on his dealings with corporations that “98% of organizations don’t see innovation in IT.”
I could go on with examples from other vendors (perhaps with their own agendas) explaining how IT is not innovative, though in large part through no fault of its own: Many CIOs still are mandated to cut costs. That’s not exactly a spur to innovation, although some would argue that indeed it is.
The point is that plenty of IT innovation — or maybe we should say business innovation through IT — is under way. Take, for example, the winner of this year’s MIT Sloan CIO Symposium innovation award: Marco Orellana, CIO at Chile’s Codelco, currently the world’s largest copper mining company.
Orellana set out to make the life of his workers easier. So, he helped create Digital Codelco, a system that automated a lot of the functions the miners really didn’t want to do. The idea was to allow them to spend less time in the mines — remote controls for the mines’ trucks is one example.
The idea is that innovative CIOs are in touch not just with the CEO or the C-suite, but also with the needs and desires of everyday workers in the company.
Let us know what you think about this blog post; email Christina Torode, News Director.
A perennial scolding heard at conferences is that if IT leaders ever want to have a seat at the table — if CIOs hope to play a strategic role at their organizations, they need to learn to speak the language of business.
Well, guess what? That table is turning. Or at least, it was my fleeting impression yesterday at the annual MIT Sloan CIO Symposium that the language of business seems to be morphing into the language of technology.
The theme of this year’s conference was how the role of the CIO will evolve in the digital business world. Now, as some readers of this blog might remember — and as repeat attendees of the MIT Sloan Symposium certainly know, the evolving CIO role was a major theme at last year’s symposium. The tagline, however, of this year’s event — Beyond the Crossroads — signaled that something was different. And something was, never more so than in the CEO panel that kicked off the day. The most striking aspect of the speakers was their tech savvy: Tech talk practically rolled off their tongues — and I’m not referring just to the word cloud, which came up often enough.
Take David Castellani, senior managing director and CEO at New York Life Retirement Plan Services. He wants to “destroy the desktop” and move “to dumb terminals, iPads and small phones.” For Eric Openshaw, vice chairman and U.S. technology, media and telecommunications leader at Deloitte LLP, social media is top of mind (nothing too surprising there); but Deloitte, he went on to explain, is struggling to get “the right platforms” for both internal use and for engaging with the external world. Data analytics also is critical for Deloitte; indeed, the firm’s $1.2 billion investment in that analytics now allows it to do things like predict a bank failure within 60 days of it happening. But the “great opportunity” for his and every other company, according to Openshaw? That lies in “mining unstructured data,” he said. I could give other examples.
Now, the organizers of the MIT Sloan CIO Symposium might have gone out of their way to find tech-savvy CEOs and business people for their panels, but that would distinguish this symposium from last year’s. There, CEOs and CIOs alike voiced the same old CIO leadership issues in the same old words, such as speaking in the language of business, or the need for CIOs to align IT with business goals. Yesterday, CEOs at least sounded like they are indeed operating in a digital business world and have moved beyond the crossroads.
I’m pretty sure there isn’t a CIO around who hasn’t asked himself at some point or another if he has what it takes to do the job. Heck, there’s probably not a sentient person on the planet who hasn’t wondered at times if he is up to the task. On these occasions, our tendency is to look inward for the answer. Am I smart enough, tough enough, patient enough? Oh, shoot, am I good enough for this? But it just may be that it’s the ability to look outward that really counts — at least when it comes to being an IT innovation leader.
That’s been the experience of Roger Roberts, a partner in McKinsey & Co.’s Silicon Valley office, and leader of the firm’s IT Strategy service. Roberts is talking about new IT innovation models at the MIT Sloan CIO Symposium on May 18. I interviewed him for our ongoing CIO Innovators series.
Could Roberts tell me what characteristics IT innovation leaders tend to possess?
“I think the most important,” Roberts said, “is that they can easily place themselves in the shoes of different customers and stakeholders around the technology function.” Instead of describing a problem from the “supply side of IT,” innovation leaders can look at the problem from the “demand side,” he explained. He went further in his characterization: “The ability to adopt other perspectives and to truly empathize with both customers and business leaders, I think, is often the grounding for being able to release their agendas in IT and find ways to really solve problems on behalf of their stakeholders.”
It’s funny. This idea of putting yourself in somebody else’s shoes as the key to being an innovation leader has come up a lot recently, in one form or another. Bill Wray, CIO at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Rhode Island, was saying much the same thing when he explained in an interview that his approach to innovation was less about big software than about careful observation. He dispatches his IT team to sit side by side with frontline employees and find technology solutions (the cheaper the better) to improve their jobs — or as he put it, to make them “happier.” In fact, employee happiness is one of three criteria he uses as his yardstick for success. He referred to his team as therapists.
The view of the innovation leader as empathetic certainly doesn’t jibe with the stereotype of the single-minded, hard-charging business or military or political leader (Bill “I feel your pain” Clinton and Barack Obama are two notable exceptions, in my view). It’s closer to what I believe is the mental habit of great novelists and some visual artists. I remember hearing that Dickens would take the part of every character as he was writing — actually speak in their voices as he composed, acting out each person’s life. I think it’s a frame of mind that probably a lot of CIOs — with their having to take an end-to-end view of the company — would be wise to cultivate.
Okay, I have a funny story — and a compelling one.
There I was, sitting in the second row, alone in the small conference room, waiting for a customer panel to begin at Red Hat’s summit on open source solutions last week. The five panelists arrived early as well, shook hands with each other, found themselves at a loss for words and readily took their seats on their stools, staring straight ahead, maybe 10 feet away.
Well, this is awkward, I thought.
With nine long minutes to go before the start, I decided to break the ice and approach the panelists, introduce myself and exchange cards. Imagine my horror when the first panelist I approached, a man in a blue suit, appeared not to have a card on him. I raced back to my briefcase to retrieve several of my own, handed one to him and to two other panelists, along with a pen, and exchanged cards with the remaining two customers.
When the man in the blue suit was finished, he returned my card and inquired, “And who are you?” Embarrassed by the order of events, I told him about SearchCIO.com, its focus on the CIO’s point of view and my particular interest in cloud computing. I then collected the other cards and beat a path back to my seat.
Now, imagine my delight in the irony when I flipped over the card from the man in the blue suit to find the phone number and email of Jerome Bender, deputy assistant director at the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) division. It just goes to show that when you need to get information, sometimes you have to resort to persuasive measures — in this case, peer pressure from card-carrying panelists!
The compelling story is the one Bender told the room once the panel discussion got under way.
CJIS operates national law enforcement services across 18,000 agencies, and has about a million end users, Bender said. The National Crime Information Center in Clarksburg, W. Va., where CJIS is based, processes 8.5 million transactions a day. These include fingerprint processing (200,000 per day) and background checks (14.5 million per year).
The speed with which these transactions are processed against a database of 68 million people with criminal records is astounding: 15 seconds to 2 hours. “The fastest checks are in support of homeland security as people are coming across the border — 15 seconds,” Bender said.
Yet that isn’t what’s most compelling about Bender’s story. A rapidly increasing need for capacity drove CJIS to move two years ago from a proprietary hardware platform to commodity servers running Red Hat’s open source solutions, he said. In doing so, the organization saved about $80 million — while adding four times the capacity.
It takes a lot of horsepower to zip through a database of 68 million people. The FBI’s Next Generation Identification, or NGI, system, a cornerstone designed to enable CJIS to become a global biometrics leader, is deployed on 2,600 hosts in a highly redundant architecture that operates 24/7, 365 days a year.
There were challenges and successes in the FBI’s move to open source solutions, Bender admitted. “Security folks are not used to open source; it tends to be a challenge.” On the other hand, the decision to “do everything diskless and move onto a storage area network to minimize moving parts” has resulted in just one hardware failure over 2.5 years.
“Life-and-death stuff needs to be high-availability,” Bender said, and by using open source solutions, CJIS is providing that in a cost-effective service.
Open source computing is based on the concept that sharing is a good thing — a virtue we were all supposed to learn in kindergarten. This week at the World Trade Center in Boston, Red Hat shared its vision of an open source cloud ecosphere based on transparency and collaboration, the new business imperatives.
It’s a vision endorsed by numerous businesses including Nissan, which plans to deliver cloud services to automobiles in the future. The Japanese car manufacturer expects to sell 10% of its vehicles with “AV telematics” connected to a data center 24/7 for service, according to Celso Guiotoko, vice president and CIO at Nissan. Since the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, the company has strengthened its plan to standardize on open source technologies and applications as a platform for disaster recovery, he said.
Just how much money can a business save by going with open source solutions? Red Hat’s website has a TCO calculator, but just by way of a benchmark, company officials estimate that an implementation of Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization costs about one-seventh what a VMware installation costs. The government of Brazil saved 80% by moving to Red Hat, the officials said.
Open source vendors offer software for free but charge for support — a licensing model that requires customers to license support for all servers in order to receive it for any one of them, according to John Giordano, a system administrator from Harris Corp. in Melbourne, Fla.
The world is moving fast toward transparency and collaboration. Politically and professionally, innovation happens when people come together. The U.S. government, a huge open source user, is responding to Federal CIO Vivek Kundra’s cloud-first directive by consolidating data centers and looking for open source cloud solutions.
Red Hat announced two products — the CloudForms Infrastructure as a Service and the OpenShift Platform as a Service (PaaS). CloudForms repackages and enhances Red Hat’s technologies in concert with partners who offer open source application development, identity management, database, performance monitoring and other technologies, in order to provide enterprise customers with the tools to build an open source private cloud.
“Anyone with a private cloud today has had to do a lot of heavy lifting,” said Gordon Haff, cloud evangelist at Red Hat. “It’s our goal with CloudForms that you won’t have to do your own heavy lifting as you might have had to years ago.”
The OpenShift PaaS supports several development frameworks for Java, Python, PHP and Ruby; and is the first PaaS to plan support for Java EE 6. “It’s not a me-too offering but an industry-leading platform on day 1,” a Red Hat official said in a press conference. However, the PaaS is currently in developer preview, and at this time does not come with a service level agreement — a potential deal-breaker for enterprise developers.
Attendees at my lunch table at the conference were nonplussed about the “new” cloud focus, calling it a new name for virtualization. The two customers who spoke on a cloud panel — one from a health care company, the other from a small systems integrator — have built private clouds using open source technologies, but haven’t tried CloudForms or OpenShift. Judging by a show of hands, few folks in the audience have moved beyond open source virtualization to private cloud development (which entails automated provisioning of IT services and potentially, metered charges for those services).
One questioner at the final keynote drew chuckles by asking whether he, as a system administrator, would become obsolete by adopting the new cloud strategy — a question that also plagues system administrators of companies that use proprietary cloud technologies.
What are the risks to enterprises deploying open source technologies? Email me at email@example.com.
I wasn’t looking for a CIO lesson or IT insight when I grabbed my laptop in the wee hours to read more about the story of the century. Like many others, I was just hoping to fill in the blanks on the daring hunt for and execution of the person who claimed credit for killing nearly 3,000 unarmed civilians going about their business on Sept. 11, 2001.
Then, a comment by security expert Rachel Kleinfeld about an information innovation made me think about your job as CIOs. The co-founder and CEO of the Truman National Security Project, she was commenting for The New York Times on why it took so long to find Osama bin Laden. She writes:
I know, some people are saying the opposite: that torture helped us get the intelligence that ultimately led to the courier who worked for bin Laden. But the facts simply don’t support the claim. Torture produced a lead, but it took nearly five years between that lead and the end game, which simply shows that torture produces intelligence leads that can’t be trusted and must be verified through other means.
Instead, the intelligence breakthrough came when Gen. Stanley McChrystal took over at Joint Special Operations Command in 2004. In the aftermath of Abu Ghraib, he and his intelligence chief, Gen. Michael Flynn, brought police experts to teach their special forces cutting-edge criminal forensic techniques. They then forced the special forces, Central Intelligence Agency, National Security Agency and National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency to work together.
This could not have been easy: I was a researcher in 2003 and 2004 on a Defense Science Board study looking at why intelligence agencies weren’t sharing information, and it is hard to overemphasize how much the deck was stacked against information-sharing. But McChrystal forced cooperation, and it paid off. It was the intelligence gained from this innovation that led to the breakthroughs of the last few days.
But McChrystal forced cooperation, and it paid off. It was the intelligence gained from this innovation that led to the breakthroughs of the last few days.
Readers of SearchCIO.com know that we are writing a lot about technology innovation this year: the role CIOs play in innovation, how they use technology to spur innovation, how they create a culture of innovation, how they measure the risks and benefits of innovation.
For many CIOs, breaking down information silos — and forcing cooperation — is the innovation that will lead to more innovation. Abha Kumar at The Vanguard Group is convinced that the social collaboration and communication tools her IT team is implementing and supporting will dramatically change corporate culture in concrete ways, such as compensation, as well as in ways we cannot even imagine.
The New York Public Housing Authority’s Atefeh Riazi is convinced that the business intelligence systems most likely to lead to the breakthroughs that will improve the lives of the authority’s low-income constituency are those that can cull and correlate data from inside and far beyond the parameters of her organization.
Breaking down information silos has become something of a cliché in CIO circles. It’s good to be reminded how monumental information-sharing is. Go forth and force cooperation.