Digitally Speaking
First step

Chris Gabriel
November 21, 2019

Why SD-WAN is a great starting point for your Edge to Application Digital Platform transformation.

‘Every journey starts with a first step,’ is probably the most overused saying when planning any major transformation, personal or business.

For many IT leaders, the joke ‘What’s the best way to get to digital transformation? Well, if I were you, I wouldn’t start from here’” is probably a more realistic response to the opportunity and challenges of adopting new digital-native platforms.

In most of the meetings I have had with CIOs and IT Directors in the last six months, there is acknowledgement that the adoption of adaptable digital-native networks, data centre, cloud and security platforms is a priority.  But, taking the first step from where they currently are presents a major shift, not just in technology, but in skills, operating models, organisation changes, and the recognition that unless they can maximise the value of this new investment, the business will once again become disillusioned with the promise versus the reality of yet another platform investment.

So where do you start? How do you get some immediate value from the shift to digital-native platforms without causing immediate disruption and potentially creating a false start that stops further progress?

SD-WAN is likely the simplest and most effective way to put a toe in the digital platform world.

If there was an award for the least loved digital asset, then I think most CIO’s would have the acceptance speech for their WAN written in ten minutes.  Who really loves their static and difficult to optimise and change existing WAN service?

That’s possibly why IDC[i] forecasted 40% compound growth up to 2022, as companies asses which parts of their core infrastructure platforms need a bit of a digital boost, the WAN is a great place to start. And for those organisations shifting business workloads to the cloud, especially desktop, the reliability, performance, optimisation and capability of their connectivity between users, sites and cloud services is fundamental to their overall cloud strategy.

The immediate impact of an SD-WAN upgrade to your user’s digital experience can demonstrate the benefits of then moving to further SDX upgrades to the LAN, Data Centre and Cloud environments. If software defined is that good, then give us more.

It also enables the IT team to become familiar with some of the capabilities that software defined technologies have such as automation, service optimisation and trouble shooting advancements, that can then be transferred into the next SD project.

And for most organisations SD-WAN as a Service is the easiest and most effective way of jumping on the bus and getting moving.  However, ensuring the provider is using the technology in a progressive way, has understood that the benefits of SD-WAN need to be externalised to customers, who need to be able to drive the features and functionality to benefit their users is key.  What’s the point in buying into an adaptable digital network if all the value is kept by the provider?

So, if you can find the right partner then firing up your digital platform strategy with SD-WAN could be the first step in a journey your business will thank you for taking them on.  Because you have to start somewhere….

 

Logicalis is proud to have partnered with ngena The Shared Network to provide progressive global SD-WAN services based on Cisco Viptela technology.

[i] IDC SD-WAN Infrastructure Forecast – https://www.idc.com/getdoc.jsp?containerId=US44182618

Category: Hybrid IT

Personalisation

Chris Gabriel
October 22, 2019

Since the financial crash of 2008, if not before, the IT industry has been consumed with the art of consolidation. We can all admit that prior to this near global meltdown we had become somewhat profligate with IT resources. Standing up an individual server for a new application, or even standing up a new data centre because the old one was full of stuff had become commonplace.

Over the last 10 years I have sat in many conferences hearing CIO’s bemoan the hundreds of applications they have to feed and water, but with many having only a handful of users who were clinging on to them for dear life. Too many applications, too many servers, too much storage, too much complexity, too much cost.

Consolidation, driven by virtualisation was a proactive and sensible response to wasted network, data centre and security platform resources. But, during the decade when we tried to mend our digital decadence, as consumers we were overwhelmed with the perfect storm of mobility, apps, cloud and personalisation. Whatever we wanted, when we wanted, and
made to feel like it was designed just for us.

Netflix, Amazon, UBER, Airbnb, Instagram, Boohoo, Etsy, did two things. They took friction out of an existing process (watching movies, buying a book, booking a cab) but they also made the user the centre of their world. Personalisation driven by data and machine learning ensure we keep engaged with their platforms and services.

Standardisation in the digital world is akin to visiting ten clothes stores and finding they all sell the exact same pair of shoes or pants. We would get bored super quick. Personalisation in the digital world is the killer differentiation.

So, as we end the first digital decade, I believe it is time we entirely re-thought the value of the key digital platforms that drive all businesses and governments.

Every CIO and IT leader must now enter this new digital decade with the same mindset of personalising key platforms (Network, Data Centre, Cloud, Security) as is for the applications being developed to excite customers and citizens.

Imagine for one second, and it’s not difficult, that the trend of consolidation continues to sweep through the retail sector until everyone runs to the same consolidation cost model and every retailer uses the same architecture for their businesses; either internally or in the cloud. All highly efficient, but how do you differentiate from the competition? Where’s your edge?

What if those platforms can be personalised to your business? They don’t just run application or pass packets anymore, they can be programmed, integrated, automated, developed into your wider digital strategy? Yes, you and all your competitors have the same platforms, architectures and tools to manage the platform, but imagine if you all have the competitive edge of personalisation.

You are employing developers to personalise your customer or citizen apps, so why not apply the same logic and thinking to the platforms that are your digital foundations and enablers.

Imagine if you figure out that you can personalise your store network and integrate it directly into your ITSM system. When faults occur, your service team can resolve the issue faster than your competitors. More store up time and more transactions through the tills.

Imagine if you figure out you can personalise that store network to directly support loss prevention RFID tags across all your stock, and integrate from loading bay to customer exit, reducing your losses by 50% more than your competition? Less theft, less work for staff, more stock to be sold, happier customers.

Imagine if you can personalise your data centre platform to perform at optimal speed for every application when they need them, making sure that consolidated platform stays consolidated but responds to business need with no input from IT. Better throughput at the tills when it gets busy, better performance of other applications at less cost, lower prices in
the store, more sales, happier customers.

Now imagine if you have figured those things out and your competition hasn’t. Their mindset is managing consolidation or operating a standardised platform. Who wins then?

It’s why in my view every CIO now needs to start to understand the power of platform programmability, integration, automation, and development.

When do you need to do it? Now. Not everybody; not every member of the team, but, in the race for digital supremacy in every industry, do you want to be the CIO known for consolidating their business or differentiating it?

I predict it won’t be long before consolidation has levelled the retail playing field putting more businesses in poll position in the digital differentiation race. So who wins in this sea of highly-efficient sameness? If you master the art of personalisation, you do!

Category: Hybrid IT

IDC logo

Chris Gabriel
October 3, 2019

We are pleased to announce that Logicalis has been recognised as a leader in the IDC MarketScape report on Worldwide Network Consulting Services 2019 Vendor Assessment. This is a fantastic achievement and highlights our continued commitment and ability to increase the profitability of our customers globally.

The IDC MarketScape report assesses the capabilities and strategies of many prominent network consulting firms, and to be recognised and positioned as an industry leader alongside other influential businesses, is a true testament to the on-going hard work and dedication of the Logicalis team.

The annual report is based on a comprehensive framework and a set of parameters expected to be most conducive to success in providing network consulting services in not only the short term, but also in the long run for customers.

The report highlights that “Logicalis is continually refining how it will engage with its customers and is currently transitioning with its customers’ new ways of consuming products and services. Moving from traditional project-based, close scope engagements to ongoing subscription-based dynamic relationships is a paradigm that both Logicalis and its customers are on the journey together.”

The IDC report further noted that “worldwide, buyers of network consulting services regard Logicalis as particularly strong in providing and building a faster and more secure on-ramp to the cloud, increased competitive advantage, and increased profitability for its customers.”

It’s an honour to have our strengths and capabilities acknowledged by IDC. At Logicalis, we pride ourselves on how we accelerate our customers’ progress, keeping them relevant in the ever-evolving digital economy. We are committed to providing digital enablement services to help our customers harness digital technology and offer innovative services to help them drive powerful business outcomes.

Download the report

Category: News

Chris Gabriel
September 24, 2019

Shared Services should accelerate digital change; not just focus on consolidation and compromise.

Put two children on a table for lunch but provide only one lunch box and research proves both will share the available food as equitably as possible. Sharing is a natural response to scarce resources. One child does not wish to see the other child go hungry.

However, as we grow older, and as these childlike instincts give way to the more refined and less innocent behaviours, we start to think more strategically about sharing.

The Ultimatum Game[1] is a fabulous economic experiment that explores the decision-making process used during an open negotiation. Now put two adults in a room to negotiate the sharing of a pot of money. Both know the amount on offer, but one is given the position of power of dividing the spoils between the two.  They write an offer down and hand it over, with the other side deciding whether to take the sum on offer, or if they feel they are being treated unfairly decide that neither party will take away any money at all.

This is where it becomes interesting.

When a 50/50 split is offered most people take their half and shake hands. But what happens when the offer is lower, maybe forty-five, forty or say twenty percent? Neither party started with anything, so surely twenty percent of something is better than nothing? Surely you would take the money and run? This is where fairness takes over from simple monetary gain.

The experiment shows that even a small imbalance of perceived fairness can cause somebody gaining something they never had to throw away that benefit because the other person has gained more.

Welcome to the world of public sector shared services

The shared service model is a simple concept. Stakeholder organisations pool financial and people resources to build and operate IT platforms that serve their collective needs. Everybody contributes to create one thing that is suitable for all. Sounds simple. But agreeing shared IT services has always been more complicated than the concept, and over the last couple of decades this is a strategy has been tried, tested, succeeded, failed, aborted, and agonised over in equal measure.

Fundamentally, a shared service mandates some level of ceding control to others. And it’s much more than just what network or data centre technology will be chosen.  Who will run it? Who will decide on the service catalogue it will provide? Who will define and govern the service quality? Who will arbitrate the different needs of all organisations? Who will pay for what?

The word ‘share’ is loaded with the perception that sharing means compromising.  I must give up what I have to share something with you; we are taking 1+1 and making 0.75 – we are consolidating cost not constructing something compelling.

And that has always been the problem with shared services.  It usually feels like a conversation about consolidation and compromise in a world obsessed with digital innovation, digital experiences, digital choice.

Digital cannot thrive in a world driven by simple consolidation. That is a digital compromise

And who wants to build a shared service that is ultimately DiNO; Digital in Name Only?

Thankfully, the world is changing.

With a new generation of adaptable digital platform technologies, powered by software defined technologies, the progressive CIO in public sector can now bring together people, processes and technology of disparate organisations and create services where everybody wins, and more importantly where no one perceives they lose. We are now in an age where shared doesn’t mean mediocre or the lowest common denominator. It doesn’t mean compromise through consolidation.

What organisation using AWS, Azure or Google believe they are downgrading their digital capability?  Those massive shared cloud platforms have mastered the art of personalising the experience of users, delivering exactly what they need when they need it. These aggregated platforms have mastered automation, intelligence and personalisation, and so public sector shared services must adopt the same approach.

The CIO in charge of shared services designed for a digital future now has no choice but to do the same.

The trick now is to turn financial or operational or service need to build a shared service platform into a re-imagining of what can be delivered.  Not just focusing on a like for like consolidated replacement of the technology but building a new adaptable platform that can share the resources based on agreed need and provide every stakeholder organisation with an environment tuned to their specific environment.

Yes, some shared decisions will need to be made.

Individual IT teams won’t be able to get their way on the choice of a vendor, or virtual machine type, or whether the hyper-converged infrastructure or network technology is one they have personally road tested and approved.  They will have to cede operational control of their data centre platform, wide area network, or networks to a shared service organisation.  But what they won’t have to do is compromise on the quality of services they provide to their users.

Because, with adaptable digital platforms, sharing is never about compromise.

[1] ^ Güth, W., Schmittberger, R., & Schwarze, B. (1982). An Experimental Analysis of Ultimatum Bargaining. Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 3, 367-388.

Category: Automation

In digital the spending between business innovation and digital platforms is balanced

Chris Gabriel
June 13, 2019

The world is awash with digital transformation excitement.

Digital is happening around us all day, every day, in the way we work, socialise, learn, purchase goods, entertain ourselves, live in our cities and receive treatment by the health service. And in large or small ways, digital is changing, augmenting or transforming the way things are done in every industry.

Some of those digital things delight us and we adopt them with speed and passion and never look back. And many of those digital things are foisted upon us and take a while for us to accept or enjoy our lives being digitised for us.

In digital the spending between business innovation and digital platforms is balanced

According to International Data Corporation (IDC), global DX (Digital) spending will reach $1.18trillion in 2019, an increase of 17.9% over 2018.  Over the next four years, an additional $4trillion will be spent by organisations on digital initiatives that they hope will give them a competitive edge or, in the case of government, better serve the needs of their population.

So, with just over £5trillion of investment in the next few years, where is all that money going?  IDC’s research paints a picture of the business and the CIO having shared responsibility to use this growing pot of money to drive digital transformation.

What’s getting the businesses investment? Spending in autonomous operations ($52billion), robotic manufacturing ($45billion), freight management ($41billion) and root cause technologies ($35billion) show that digital investments are systemically changing industries. Boards are clearly realising the potential of making the world a smarter, more efficient, more productive and more reliable place.

But, according to IDC, it’s the CIO who is being given the lion’s share of this investment pile, building and operating the underlying infrastructure that digital businesses will now rely on.

In fact, hardware and digital services to develop, integrate, and support digital will grab 75% of all digital spend in 2019.

Connectivity ($102billion), IT Services ($154billion) take 25% of all spending, and enterprise hardware from cloud infrastructure to enterprise servers, storage, and end devices will devour $253billion between them.

Adaptable and progressive – innovation will power the best digital platforms

If one thing jumps out at me from the IDC survey it is that the stuff being invested in by the business sounds a lot cooler than the connectivity, IT services and hardware that the CIO is building to support new digital business models.  It feels big on ideas and big on business impact. It feels full of AI and machine learning, autonomous and automation.  If you pardon an old man trying to sound cool – it sounds dope.

If the business stuff sounds transformational; the IT stuff sounds transactional.

But, while the names for the near 75% of digital foundations purchased by IT sound the same as they ever were (we have been buying connectivity and servers for decades), the new generation of platforms that will support digital initiatives are just as progressive as the autonomous, AI, predicative, smart machines and things that will rely on them.

Today’s networking engineer must be as familiar with automation as their autonomous factory colleague.  Today’s data centre server specialist must be adept at automating the provision of applications and their container services to any location as their AI enabled supply chain colleagues.  Today’s security specialist will be using more AI to secure their business than their colleagues developing the next intelligent health screening system.

And of course, in a world where DevOps is creating a flood of new digital applications, your networking, data centre, cloud or security engineer of the future will also be disruptive developers.

Cisco, the company that connected the world through the internet, has over 600,000 members of their development community DevNet; pushing the potential of digital platforms as much as any Apple or Android games developer community ever has on those funkier platforms.

And while IDC classifies lots of spending in hardware, today there is really no such thing as a hardware driven IT strategy.  The network switch, the physical server, the security appliance, are now hosts for software that is transforming once static IT hardware into a new generation of highly adaptable digital platforms.

We live in a world of Software Defined, where digital platforms can be integrated, automated, developed and adapted to the exact requirements of every part of the digital business model.  And of course, in the digital world it is crucial that they can.

If 75% of the investment companies are making into digital business models is being directed at the underpinning digital platforms, the pressure is on those platforms to support transformation over time.  In the old world, big technology platforms support static business models, and were complicated and slow to change.  In the digital world, in the application world, agile is everything.

That $800billion of investment must provide a perfect digital service in a changing world, from the first sensor or robot installed in the autonomous factory, or connected asset, or intelligent building to the last.  There is no room for the status quo in the digital world; change is a given.

So, CIO’s will use their money wisely and become the hotbed for progressive digital platforms that will ensure that £1.18trillion delivers maximum economic return for the organisations and the society that will be transformed not overnight, but over time.

 

Category: Hybrid IT

Chris Gabriel
May 17, 2019

Why Higher Education CIOs have to manage exceptional expectations through adaptable investments.

Imagine being an IT Leader working for a firm that replaced 25% of its workforce every year with new employees who were paying you to come to work and who were of a demographic that demanded the very best in technology services, then being surveyed constantly with the results published to the world about how well you met their expectations.  Not a job you would imagine a queue around the corner for.

Of course, that isn’t the description most Universities publish when looking for a CIO, but, that is the challenge of expectation that comes with this unique role in IT.

It is difficult to think of a more demanding role.

Now factor in that you are helping run a large complex campus that serves tens of thousands of students, hundreds of academics, research environments and in many cases private sector business users doing cutting edge research projects.  An environment that comprises tens if not hundreds of buildings.  A transport hub.  Retailers.  A place of learning, life and entertainment.  Where people expect to be kept safe and secure.  Sounds exciting. Tempted?

Well, what if you had to do all of that for the price of a latte per user per day?

CV in the post is it?

Getting more from less – theory v reality

In an age of growing transparency, Universities are ever more encouraged and regulated to publish a breakdown of how the £9600 per year student fee is spent.  How much on teaching, buildings, admin, research, and, of course IT.  The Office for Students, the sectors new financial regulator, and others, including the Minster of State, are creating a reporting environment that is giving students ever more detailed access to how their fees are spent, linked to the concept of value for money.

In a report published in November 2018 by the Higher Education Policy Institute[1], and one that garnered many negative headlines in national news media[2], this independent policy think tank published analysis of several leading institutions spending habits of their students hard found fees.

Any prospective CIO would likely look at the reality of their budget prospects and run a mile.

Investments in IT services varied across the report, but spending ranged from a low of £520 and averaged at around £580 per share of student annual fees.  Now in percentage terms that’s 5% at the lowest spend with some institutions investing up to 9% in technology services. Sounds generous.

But, if you break that down by the number of days a student spends on campus you have the grand total of around £2.36 per day, per student, to run IT services.  We aren’t even in large latte territory.  CIOs are delivering IT services for the price of a flat white.

When you break the numbers down, the reality of running one of the world’s toughest IT gigs on a budget that expects you to deliver not just world-class services but exceptional experiences that differentiate your institution against your competitors is daunting to say the least.

The CIO wishlist

So, is it any wonder why this year’s UCISA* conference was a hot bed of discussion on topics such as automation, adaptable digital platforms, data driven decision making and the priority of demonstrating that IT investments can benefit every aspect of campus life such as student safety and security?

CIOs came with an appetite to discuss and drive change in how what they and their team do can better impact a range of outcomes; so, what was on their hot list of topics?

  • Automation of major IT platforms to reduce the cost of operations, shifting resources to experiential roles rather than traditional IT service admin.
  • IT platform investments adapting to longer term requirements; using the latest in software defined automation and innovations such API platform development to better integrate investments.
  • Building better strategic platform roadmaps so investments shift from being depreciating assets to ones that demonstrate increasing value over time.
  • Platforms such as the digital network becoming multifunction investments; not just supporting students and their devices, but playing a role in the connected campus, IoT and student safety.
  • Data as a key decision-making tool for the CIO and the right data being made available to all stakeholders across their institution; but not in backward looking reports, for real-time decision making.
  • Governance and control of resources is now key; the rush to the cloud for desktops has been followed by major application workloads, but the CIO is now looking to put controls and governance in place to ensure the cloud doesn’t become a cost or a risk.

Lessons to be learnt

The key to this major feat of investment sleight of hand must be adaptability.  No longer can a network, or data centre, security investment or data source become an asset that stays stagnant to only perform the job it was initially designed for.  Nothing can be left to depreciate – because the network bought this year is serving a new cohort of students next year.  And it is expected to support IoT campus security in three years.  A data centre platform this year must extend to the cloud next year as applications and data can be shifted to the most cost-effective location.

IT operations cannot stand still either; automation that is impacting every industry must be embraced in full to prove that human resources are being used as the truly valuable resources they are in delivering high-value experiences, and software and automation takes the strain of repetition.

And of course, at UCISA whilst the CIO was looking for ‘technology life hacks’ to show that the money they are being trusted with delivers increasing value, they are also looking for partners who are able to shift their focus to more value-driven relationships.

They don’t want partners who just look at how much budget there is to spend on a major tech re-fresh, but a partner who demonstrates that an in investment can deliver accentuated value over time.

The world of the CIO in Higher Education must be one of the most exciting roles in the industry; and by partnering in a different way we can shift the focus on how much money is being spent on IT services – stop the headlines castigating institutions for investing in anything but teaching – and show that the CIO and their partners are focused on turning the money we are entrusted with is continually delivering differentiated experiences for every University stakeholder.

If we can do all of that for the price of a flat white, then the drinks are definitely on us.

 

 

* UCISA is the member-led professional body for digital practitioners within education.

[1] https://www.hepi.ac.uk/2018/11/22/new-report-calls-universities-tell-students-fees-go-new-figures-reveal-half-fee-income-goes-teaching-rest-also-benefits-students/

[2] https://www.theguardian.com/education/2018/nov/22/less-than-half of-tuition-fees-spent-on-teaching-at-english-universities

Category: SDN / Mobility

Fork in the road

Chris Gabriel
April 11, 2019

A recent report featured in TechRepublic claimed that 41% of business leaders thought their ‘digital transformation programme’ had been a waste of time and money.

Reasons for this near 50% failure rate in delivering on business expectations were varied, from a lack of engagement with front line colleagues (63%) to a lack of engagement with business analysts (39%), and strikingly 79% of executives saying they had failed to analyse existing business processes and assess where improvements could be made before striking out on transformation.

Given those responses, it wasn’t a surprise to find that 42% of senior business leaders had no idea where to start in finding areas of their business where some sort of digital intervention could deliver improvements.

On the face of it, it all sounds a bit of muddle, and clearly, this article points out some rather obvious gotchas.

Never start a major investment without a clear reason for doing so

Unlike in the old-world (BD – Before Digital), the challenge today is there is always a moving end-goal that organisations will only ever get to in stages. Digital is not an overnight sensation.  Digital takes time and time is an organisations biggest advantage and greatest enemy.

Imagine being a UK bank that announced a major branch opening program in the heady days of 2006?  Within a year or two the economic crash, change in customer behavior and the launch of the iPhone meant that online and mobile banking would become the norm.   That first banking app was pretty basic.  Now you can transfer money to friends on the fly, pay for a coffee through tap payments, and save the change from a transaction to an investment account.  But that took 10 years to develop; and who could have guessed right back then how mobile banking would pan out?

I have some sympathy with those executives who do not know where to start or feel they have wasted time and money because their first attempts to ‘go digital’ have not returned all they expected.

But, being sympathetic is cold comfort to those embarking for the first or second time on a delivering some new business outcomes through digital investments.

So, when the CEO, CFO, COO and CIO sit down around a table and discuss digital and ponder the time it may take or the destination they may reach, I think there is a key word they should all keep in mind, and that is adaptability.

As a famous US general once said, there are known knowns, known unknowns, and unknown unknowns. The best thing you can do is assume that during a transformation initiative they will all happen, so try to plan accordingly.

Think adaptability as your new value proposition back to your business

Build adaptable operational models, adaptable platforms, and a new set of skills that can adapt what you invest in not only to the immediate business need, but also to the changes that will inevitably come over time.

Application developers have been agile and scrumming for a while now; that’s how that banking app keeps on adapting to changing consumer behavior and industry changes. So, let’s scrum down on platforms as much as we do on the applications that use them.

Cloud is a great example (or should be) of creating adaptable into the model.

Remember when the rule was no cloud, but the business moved CRM there anyway? When owning the largest data center in your sector was a badge of honor?   Adaptable IT Departments now use cloud services as adaptable resources, consuming services as they make sense to their business, and ensuring they can wrap security, governance, integration, cost control and workload mobility around those services.  Now they are seamlessly connecting their internal compute and storage resources to public cloud services, so they can adapt workloads to the most appropriate location and maintain full governance and control.

Remember when you bought a firewall and you were told to a) put some rules in to protect your business and b) never ever touch the thing again without a 3-month sign off process from the business.  In the world of static threats that was sensible model. But in a world of social change, hyper-connectivity and mobile working, and a changing threat landscape, the smart CISO is building an adaptable intelligent security operating model that protects their organisation far more effectively than the static firewall ever could and delivers on the flexibility the business demands.

If the digital initiative happens to be IoT the network must be ready to adapt many times over; in fact, it will never stop.  That very first POC of a connected home to deliver health and social care in the NHS will likely involve 1 central location and 10 homes, but will if successful soon be 100, 1000, or 10,000 homes and is going to need a network that can adapt quickly and securely.

So, to those business leaders who are starting out on the digital journey, do your homework, gather your evidence, engage with your people, and get into those business processes to ensure you know why you are starting.  But, don’t be concerned if you cannot pick the day and time of the first benefits accurately, or if you have to change course as new evidence appears and fresh opportunities present themselves.

Adaptability is your friend; you have time on your side.

Category: News

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