The hype around effective DevOps can make it sound like the real value provided by the methodology comes from faster time to deployment. But this misses the real benefit around maneuverability, argued Michael Nygard, an enterprise architect with Cognitect. “We talk a lot about velocity, but not so much about acceleration, which is the ability to move faster and slower as required,” he said.
Enterprises that can speed or slow their pace of development in response to changing conditions are more maneuverable than the competition. The cloud makes infrastructure disposable, and code repositories make code disposable. “Maybe even the teams need to be disposable,” quipped Nygard. This is different than making people disposable, which kills morale
Effective DevOps means being nimble
Real maneuverability comes from making it easy for teams to break down and start up projects quickly. That’s effective DevOps. The value of the individual comes from the team processes involved in completing and starting projects rather than someone’s role in a particular project. Nygard pointed out that some army units are able to break down and set up a new camp in a few hours, while others can take days. This differences comes from the collaboratively experience of navigating thousands of tiny decisions like how to move the trucks in the right order or where to put the latrines. This means developing a shared understanding around things like version control and build pipelines in the enterprise.
Team members also need to become adept at intuiting the kinds of decision others are likely to make in response to shifting conditions. A small unit commander in the military has a good idea of how other commanders will make a decision. This is something lacking in effective DevOps teams dispersed by function and geography. “Tempo is an emergent property that comes from some characteristics of your organization, and has to be built at every level,” said Nygard.
Shopping for CRM software system can be daunting. Many platforms come with bells, whistles, add-ons and integrations that you never considered — not to mention a high price tag. Adding a complicated, expensive software to your business is not a decision to be made lightly.
How can you determine which CRM software system is right for you? Ask these questions, and then take your top CRM candidates for a test drive! Many systems offer a free trial period. The best way to see if a system is the right fit is to put it to work for you. Here’s where to start to make your decision simple.
What do you want to accomplish?
Get your CRM strategy in order before shopping around for a system. Take the time to be clear about what your goals are for capturing your customer relationships. Are you going to use this information for sales, marketing, customer service, or all of the above? What details will you need to consistently report to get the big-picture data you need? Understand the variety of reporting options that come standard with each CRM platform: customer data matters, but that data must drive action. How strong are the reporting capabilities of each CRM?
Reporting is just one piece of the puzzle. Think about what other processes your CRM might need to manage. What tasks do you want to automate? Many CRM systems can automate email alerts for important events, escalate uncompleted issues, and streamline workflows by directing traffic among your teams.
Additionally, consider where your business might grow in the future. Many CRM platforms offer add-ons that you may not need today, but are worth considering as you start to see your company take off. You need a customer solution service right now, but next quarter you might be ready for some online marketing and social media monitoring. Companies like Hubspot and Zoho have marketing and social media capabilities. Others, like Microsoft, will offer project management tools and organizational supplements.
Who will use the system?
What teams will need access to your CRM system? How many accounts will you need? Most CRM platforms, like Salesforce, offer pricing based on the number of users. Factor in things like continuity and mobility: do you have a mobile salesforce? Do you have some team members who cover multiple roles?
Some platforms will also allow you to set different features and access levels for different teams. For example, you might make certain reports available to your senior management team, or limit who has access to sales leads. Consider the existing workflows within your organization. If you plan to grow your business rapidly within the next year, make sure you get a system that can accommodate many new accounts (and ensure continuity and consistent service among your team members).
Should it be cloud-based or on-premise?
Of course, cost is a big factor in choosing whether or not your CRM is on-site or cloud-based. An on-premises CRM solution is often less expensive, but keep in mind the maintenance costs will add up. Upgrades, IT maintenance, and support costs might end up making a cloud-based system a better investment. You might also need a new server to keep your on-site system up and running.
Likewise, if you choose a cloud-based CRM solution, you’ll need the network resources to support the product. How much bandwidth will it use? Will your internet speeds be fast enough for a cloud-based system? Save yourself hours of frustration and internet down-time by running some speed tests. As you add accounts, make sure your CRM won’t crash your entire network.
Typically, cloud-based systems come with quicker installation and regular, easily accessible updates and improvements. You’ll also need to factor in data security to your decision.
Does it integrate with your existing systems?
Just because you’re getting ready to shell out some cash on a new system doesn’t mean you should have to replace your existing software. CRM software can integrate with lots of other parts of your business, including POS software, accounting tools, marketing platforms, and more.You shouldn’t have to manually export and import data between platforms — as long as your new CRM is compatible with the apps you already use. Make sure all your systems will coordinate by asking customer support and double-checking with the vendor before making a commitment.
What is your budget?
Finally, the biggest question of all: what are you willing to spend on a CRM platform? There is quite a range on what a CRM might cost, from freemium offerings to price tags in the millions for enterprise-sized corporations. Mostly, you can expect to pay on a per-user, per-month basis, though some vendors charge a flat monthly fee for a set number of users.
Factor in how many people are going to use your platform, as well as how much customization is required. More customization and more usually lead to a higher price point and higher maintenance costs.
Realistically, a CRM system is a great investment. The ability to capture customer interactions and valuable sales leads: priceless.
The ##java channel on Freenode IRC has been collecting interesting content for years, including content from here on TSS on occasion. Now, it’s being collected into a weekly podcast, at http://javachannel.org/ . The RSS feed for the podcast itself is http://javachannel.org/feed/podcast/ – check it out!
As companies move quickly into the realm of digital transformation in an effort to profoundly improve performance and expand their application’s reach, developers require new ways to design, build, manage, and communicate as software is developed and deployed. Oracle proved at JavaOne 2017 that the organization is taking the right steps to drive digital transformations as they unveiled and demonstrated an impressive portfolio of developer tools and cloud-related services.
Digital transformation technologies
Which technologies drive digital transformations at Larry Ellison’s company? Within Oracle’s own teams, thousands of developers use Slack. At JavaOne 2017, Buster Benson, Slack’s Head of Platform Product, took the stage to explain why, describing Slack as both a messaging platform and an operating system for work that’s typically used internally. But even slack is starting to be digitally transformed. “We are starting to test the boundaries and also help you expand Slack to other companies with the launch of shared channels and internationalization,” said Benson. Because of the interdependent nature of the service-full ecosystem, enabling greater communication between companies would be a significant and beneficial achievement that would help drive digital transformations.
With its emphasis on collaboration, conversation, and contextual decision making, Benson pointed out that Slack hopes to improve human to human as well as human to software communication. “Larger companies are using hundreds if not thousands of different kinds of software every day. You might be the person who uses the terminal or text editor or a design app or a ticketing system. You might use that really deeply.” Said Benson. “We’re not trying to change that. We are just trying to take the other 997 products, and give it an interface that’s light and usable. Present it in a way that doesn’t require you to follow a link or enter a password, bringing that content into the conversation in human-friendly way.”
With Slack’s ability to pull in content from many different sources and display it directly in the feed, users can interact with more systems than ever through a single interface, reducing context switching and other activities that tend to degrade productivity. For companies that want exponential gains in performance, it starts with making things easier for people on the ground.
New tools drive digital transformations
Further driving digital transformations is deep learning and artificial intelligence programs that can interact with IoT devices, smartphones and various other technologies that can capture data, whether it is binary, textual or even imagery. Oracle honed in on this trend in many of the live demos they ran during keynote speeches at OracleWorld and JavaOne 2017.
In one OracleWorld demonstration, Oracle developers built a service could take a photo of a license plate, send it to a microservice on the back-end, get data back with history from providers such as Carfax, and respond to the user in seconds with information on vehicle mileage, suggested price, and more. In order for this to work, a multitude of disparate services must be integrated together, but open APIs make doing so increasingly easier. “If you look at how the new generation is building applications, they are really thinking about APIs first in terms of how the interactions will be rather than the functionality,” said Amit Zavery, Senior Vice President of Fusion Middleware and PaaS Development at Oracle.
To help drive digital transformations that are API based, new tools like Apiary are emerging to help make service integrations easier. Apiary allows developers to design, document, mockup, and test APIs quickly and easily. It addresses a recurring problem in software development. “In the past, many times I would build an API that nobody wants to use. I didn’t stop to think why they want that API or what they need it for,” said Jakub Nesetril, Oracle VP of Product Development and API Services. “With Apiary, you can document an API up front, get a mock server to prototype your API, and give that API to somebody to try to use it before you go down the route to developing.” Beside getting early feedback, this approach ensures that documentation is already in place and doesn’t have to be reverse engineered at the end.
From AI and deep learning to the API creation tools that help facilitate application integration, there are a number of new and exciting tools emerging that are helping to drive digital transformations. If anything can be learned from OracleWorld and JavaOne 2017, it’s that continuing to build these digital transformation tools is a top priority for big technology firms like Oracle.
While today’s popular digital transformation tools have expanded the possibilities presented by analytics, social, IoT, and mobile, there’s also an underlying factor that can’t be ignored. Businesses can only transform fast enough if their underlying infrastructure is built to keep up.
So how are vendors helping provide the digital transformation tools that organizations require in order to move into the modern digital age? Apparently, data, information and analytics is an important part of the puzzle. “Data is to this century what oil was to the last—a catalyst of innovation and a revolutionary leader of change,” said Michael Greene, Intel’s VP of System Technologies and Optimization during his JavaOne 2017 keynote. “This is a total transformation across technology, moving from a compute-centric to a data-centric world.” For Intel, when it comes to digital transformation tools, it all comes down to speed, scale, and smarts.
“Performance is everything in a world where the difference between days and months can mean the success or failure of a business,” said Greene as he announced the new Intel Xeon scalable processors that are designed to work across a wide range of digital transformation tools involving 5G, cloud, networking, storage, and analytics. Key benefits include supporting more VMs, much faster cryptographic hashing, double the AI power, and a 3X increase Big Data optimization with Hadoop and Spark. Greene described this as the largest generational gain in performance in the last decade, along with the fact that there are features in the Java SE 9 release that are designed to take advantage of this fresh generation of infrastructure.
Scaling to address digital transformation challenges
And the performance of low level infrastructure like processing units, along with the ability for environments like Java SE 9 to take advantage of this infrastructure, because the vast amounts of data modern enterprises are generating is placing a great deal of stress on existing digital transformation tools. “From large data centers to the billions of device sensors on the edge, the data generated are growing at an exponential rate creating a couple of challenges,” said Greene. “First, data must be stored and accessed quickly if you want to turn valuable data into business insights. Second, massive transaction volumes require a much more flexible and scalable application architecture.”
But despite the daunting challenges the gargantuan amount of data modern enterprise systems create poses, there are advocates out there ready to assure the public that modern digital transformation tools are ready to tackle even the most difficult problems.“We are running about one hundred thousand Java Apps and one million instances,” said King Sum Chow, Chief Scientist at Ali Baba Systems Software. In Chow’s JavaOne 2017 keynote speech, he assured all of us that building distributed Java Services on top of the Java SE isn’t that hard. In fact, Java has proven itself as a reliable platform for creating and deploying Java based microservices that can operate and scale independently. But the Java platform doesn’t exist within a vacuum. Chow reiterated Greene’s sentiment that fast and reliable hardware is also an important piece of the puzzle when building digital transformation tools. “The better the hardware performance, the more creative we can be in delivering better and faster services. We are also interested in learning how to use the system memory in our applications.”
Digital transformation tools and AI
So what is the final result when fast and reliable hardware makes it possible for digital transformation tools to consume massive amounts of data? Apparently, all digital transformation roadmaps eventually lead to deep learning and artificial intelligence plays. “AI will be the tool that harnesses and converts a flood of data into powerful insights and smarter decisions,” said Greene. “Increasingly, these insights will be made not only by people but by machines themselves. Society’s being transformed on a spectacular scale. Machines that sense, reason, and act can accelerate solutions to large scale deployments.”
Regardless of which technology partners enterprises rely on to supply their infrastructure, these three factors of achieving greater speed, scale, and smarts are certain to play a role in moving digital transformation into the next generation. And as digital transformation tools evolve to match the increasingly capable hardware that drives them, new opportunities for consuming, interpreting and learning from the various data points applications generate will continue to emerge and subsequently change the digital landscape forever.
Digital transformation and cloud offer opportunities, not redundancy, for CIOs and software developers, said California Department of Conservation CIO Catherine Kendall. “It’s a great time to be a developer,” she said during an Oracle OpenWorld customer panel on digital transformation projects this week. Thanks to cloud services, she said, it’s a good time to be a CIO, too.
“IT is an untapped resource of business knowledge,” said Kendall. “We sometimes know the business rules, regulations and laws better than anybody because we’re partnering in it.”
Kendall’s positive attitude about IT pros’ changing roles was a highlight of the informal press room discussion. Here’s how she sees IT playing an important role in digital transformation projects.
Some IT pros see digital transformation as a top-down project and a possible job security threat. So, said Kendall, it’s important to convey developers’ their importance to the business and the opportunities coming from digitization.
“Digital is about the business and IT together as one, regardless of the methodology, whether you’re using Agile, waterfall or [other] methodologies,” Kendall said. “IT needs to be part of the business plan, not just the secondary budget.”
Holistic teamwork is critical in digital transformation, because it is all about the end user, about the customer. “We need to get the developers out [front] more, because they offer a wealth of information,” said Kendall, a former programmer herself. Developers are the technology enablers who help businesses reach customers in ways that are usable and frictionless.
Developers know more about the business than other stakeholders at the project table, Kendall said in our brief conversation after the session. They have gathered customer requirements, studied user experience and user interface design and made sure that technologies don’t clash with governance and compliance issues.
Making IT a fundamental player at the digital transformation project table is a huge cultural change. “IT has always been the one-off,” Kendall said. “The IT guys are on a lower floor. They don’t come out a lot.”
Developers need to step up to their new responsibilities in business initiatives. “We [have to] come further across the table to learn the business,” said Kendall. “I think the developer now has to be more of a hybrid, instead of code-slinging.” She wants her IT team to feel comfortable at the table to speak up and suggest other approaches.
Developers aren’t the only ones who now have a seat at the digital transformation project table. Cloud computing, said Kendall, “is giving CIOs a seat at the table from a business perspective.” CIOs will have to reinvent themselves, using cloud’s capabilities as an initial piece in transforming business.
When cloud first came out, Kendall thought it was just a rebranding of on-demand. She quickly discovered its value. For example, just the storage capacity offered by cloud services is a game-changer for CIOs. “We can pull data from the USGS, weather services, economic data…and we don’t have to worry about infrastructure investment. We are now in a position where we are not constrained,” she said. “I don’t have to sit there and say, ‘No. No, we can’t do that.’ Now it’s about imagining possibilities, imagining what we can do.”
For all players in IT, digital transformation is a means to focus on delivering the best results to customers. “That’s what has transformed us,” she concluded. “That’s the opportunity.”
Editor’s note: Catherine Kendall was also a co-presenter in a general session, “Data and Analytics Power Your Success,” at Oracle OpenWorld 2017.
“In a digital transformation project, what are pain points commonly felt by the development group?” That’s the question I put to Tata Consultancy Services’ (TCS) Global Head Sunder Singh prior to his Oracle OpenWorld/JavaOne session, “Building Smarter Enterprises.” Here’s his response, in which he identifies and discusses five digital transformation challenges.
1. “Simplification comes at a price,” said Singh. Developers and development teams who do not have the ability to unlearn and learn quickly will not thrive in a digital transformation project.
“It’s the mantra to move away from complex, time-consuming processes to simplification,” said Singh. DevOps teams must have the self-realization that the current complex way of doing things is costing time and money and will eventually cost the company its very existence. Singh warns that developers must learn to “simplify or perish.”
2. It’s not easy for IT pros to look at the organization holistically, which is a must in digital transformation projects. Digital transformation impacts the entire organization from IT to line-of-business, said Singh. “Some people think digital is cloud while others think digital is for the front office only,” he explained. Certainly, digital transformation can be enabled by cloud, but it’s not the only component, and neither should the front office be the only focus.
Developers can’t work separately from the organization anymore. A digital transformation project encompasses social, mobile, cloud, analytics, AI, IoT and more and all in an integrated fashion. “All employees must be brought into the change and be provided with the right skills, behaviors and resources to accept and embrace the change,” Singh said.
Failure to do a digital transformation project holistically throughout the organization will lead to “continually playing the catch-up game,” Singh said. “We will keep doing it in parts, building and rebuilding.”
In digital transformation, traditional IT roles will evolve from operational focused to an approach focused on how the application will deliver business value. “There needs to be change management support for implementing new KPIs to help enable the adoption of the new role,” Singh said. “This operational change management should extend from the board room to every employee impacted by the change.”
3. Executing a digital transformation project in an agile manner is key to success, said Singh. “Adoption of agile, not in a silo but enterprise-wide, [is needed for] responsiveness in a manner to get the products and offerings out to get the first mover advantage is the key,” he said.
In conclusion, Singh noted that resistance to change is futile. Digital disruption is now and will remain the norm for businesses. “The organization’s culture and way of working for decades is being disrupted,” Singh said. Developers must go with this flow and find their roles in the new digital business paradigm.