Turning Long Demands Into a Short List | Features | ChannelWorld.in

PARTNER HOTLINES

Turning Long Demands Into a Short List

By Beth Stackpole, Computerworld on May 09, 2012

The consumerization of IT, in particular, is driving radical changes not only in what IT needs to prioritize, but in how it interacts with other business units to deliver new tools. IT needs to figure out how to manage, acquire, support and build mobile apps. It also needs to rethink the entire end-user computing experience with mobile in mind.

As the top IT executive at Aspen Skiing for the past 16 years, Paul Major has become skilled at keeping multiple balls in the air.

With responsibility for all technology initiatives that support the Colorado resort's four mountains and extensive lineup of hotels, retail shops and rental operations, Major has grown adept at helping his staff of 20 handle IT-related requests from the company's 3,400 employees.

Lately, however, the juggling act has grown far more intense, says Major, Aspen's managing director of IT.

Thanks to the mania surrounding mobile and social technologies, Major's group is constantly being peppered with requests to launch new projects. A business executive reads about a cool app in an in-flight magazine or Joe in operations overhears casual conversation about technology while on the slopes, and Major's email box starts to fill up.

"The game-changer is the sheer amount of demand on IT for new technologies that don't follow the normal trajectory of IT," says Major. "You can't just have a thousand random requests coming in because so much is new and untested. More than ever, there has to be a voice of sanity about what these technologies are going to do and what the long-term strategy is."

Major is up against the same challenges that a lot of IT shops are facing. Surging demand for new mobile, social and advanced analytics tools is adding to IT's already full plate of traditional enterprise system work. The still-uncertain economic climate doesn't help -- tech budgets are up a bit and companies seem more amenable to expanding their IT staffs, but people with expertise in the new technologies are scarce.

In the heyday of IT hegemony, executives like Major would have had an easier time managing priorities. Back then, line-of-business managers looking for new technologies submitted requests and then waited in line for IT to set up their systems. These days, ordinary end users can tap the power of the cloud to get what they want if they think IT is slow or unresponsive.

"The formal models and mechanisms of prioritizing things no longer work," says David Cearley, an analyst at Gartner. "It can't be done in isolation from the business, but rather needs to happen in tight partnership with the business. If IT just says no or doesn't put the right things high on their priority list, business will just go around them."

Against that backdrop, IT is feeling the pressure to get more agile in its delivery methods, more flexible in project prioritization, and savvier in assessing ROI -- all so it can work with, not against, the needs of business.

Explaining Pros and Cons

The consumerization of IT, in particular, is driving radical changes not only in what IT needs to prioritize, but in how it interacts with other business units to deliver new tools. IT needs to figure out how to manage, acquire, support and build mobile apps. It also needs to rethink the entire end-user computing experience with mobile in mind, according to Cearley.

Since resources aren't infinite, he says, IT management needs to recast its role to become more of a broker of services -- one that works in concert with the business side to understand priorities and then acts to facilitate, rather than impede, new technology deployment.

For example, instead of shooting down a request for a mobile application because of security concerns -- or green-lighting another simply because someone thinks it's cool -- Cearley says it is IT's responsibility to help the business understand core risks and highlight the technologies available to help mitigate those risks.

"Being proactive means helping the business understand how new technologies like mobile can impact the business," he explains. "Governance cannot be the mechanism to just say no. Governance needs to be the mechanism to help direct and support the requirements of the business."

That's an outlook that Major is taking to heart at Aspen Skiing. With an onslaught of personal devices showing up at work and near universal demand among employees for mobile apps that can support guest services like ticketing and ski rentals, Major put together an executive steering committee to which he introduces new technologies and presents case study examples, encouraging feedback and collaboration to get the creative juices flowing.

Once ideas start to percolate, Major enlists help from a different management focus group, this one charged with finding practical applications for those big ideas and using traditional financial tools to determine ROI.

"There's no such thing as fake dollars in a company -- everything costs money. And especially in this financial climate, things need to be scrutinized," Major says. "You have to apply whatever tools are in your financial quiver" to justify or deny new proposals.

So rather than signing off on a virtual desktop client that would have allowed Aspen's enterprise apps to run on a mobile platform -- but needed to be developed from scratch -- the management focus group instead suggested a handful of specific ticketing, rental, retail and human resources applications that could run on employee-owned devices without the high costs and labor associated with mobile development.

Taking Stock of the Portfolio

In addition to involving business directly in the prioritization process, Major is kicking off a new project portfolio management strategy to rein in what he says is an unsustainable number of projects in the IT pipeline.

Working with a strategic group of six people evenly split between IT and finance, the team is conducting interviews with senior staff members from every area of the business to identify all current and requested IT projects -- anything as complex as a call for a new business intelligence system or as simple as an order for a new mouse.

The projects are then categorized to find opportunities for reuse and optimized licensing arrangements. "The idea is to see at a high level what we're doing, find out where we want to be in 18 months, and then categorize projects using man-hours, costs, risks and priorities," Major says. "If we can distill out of the list the top five or 10 projects, we can present those to executive leadership and get decisions about funding."

Developing Apps in a New Way

At Catalina Marketing, new mobile apps and business intelligence projects are so central to the corporate charter that business units are eager to work in step with IT to lobby top management for support.

As a result, Catalina's 250-person IT department has essentially been given a blank check to bring in the resources that it needs to get the job done, "and there is no argument about moving [other projects] down the hierarchy list," explains Eric Williams, former CIO at the company, which provides promotions and marketing services to clients in the retail and healthcare industries.

"Sales teams in the different business units have made it clear to the CEO that this is where we need to be," says Williams, who retired last December.

The high level of involvement from business stakeholders has also spurred IT to rethink its development process, moving from a very structured, waterfall method to a more ad hoc approach where IT teams up with marketing or other business units to quickly build a mobile app or launch an analytics program -- sometimes in a matter of days rather than weeks or months.

"Business people and the marketing team are so wanting this technology, they are willing to work with developers, literally sitting at the desk with them throughout the day answering questions," Williams says. "It's much more cohesive integration of product development than I've seen in the past."

Williams admits there has been a ramp-up to the new, more agile approach and that the team is doing a bit of on-the-fly learning as it takes on mobile app development. Yet even with these adjustments, Williams says programmers have been able to complete a steady stream of mobile and business intelligence projects in a timely fashion.

Soliciting Input

Northern Kentucky University has also adjusted its prioritization process, moving to a more open system where input is solicited from advisory committees made up of faculty, staff and student representatives, according to Timothy Ferguson, associate provost for information technology and the university's CIO.

"Previously, we took a more traditional IT perspective and worked through management to get priorities approved and get funding as needed," he explains. "Now, with the impact of things like social media and mobile so widespread, we're listening more to end-user demands and are less worried about back-office [computing] as we go through the prioritization process."

When it comes time to actually develop new mobile and social media systems, Ferguson has access to a unique resource: students in the university's computer science program who not only have technical expertise, but also are well acquainted with new technologies. "They've grown up with this technology, they are connected, and this is the way they've always worked," he says.

Ferguson has enlisted five or six student developers to work 25 hours a week on new projects. So far, it's been a win-win situation: The students are teaching the IT staffers a lot about emerging technologies, and the veteran IT professionals are helping the students understand what it takes to write back-end applications as well as teaching them about enterprise issues like authentication and security.

Automating Mobile Development

At international freight transportation company CSX, the IT department is using automated tools to manage its lengthy queue of projects, especially those that involve mobile development.

Demand from business users for mobile apps was outstripping the IT department's ability to keep pace, according to Jon Yuan, a solutions architect on CSX's enterprise architecture team.

What's more, because CSX has a liberal bring-your-own-device policy, IT was struggling to stay on top of the wide range of platforms it needed to support, principally Apple iOS and several flavors of Android.

"We're finding that mobile is a different animal. There are considerations that we didn't have to take into account with past technologies," not to mention business users who expect fast turnaround, Yuan says. "People are used to getting things in near real time. They don't want to wait six months for new functionality."

To help expedite development, the IT shop turned to a mobile enterprise application platform (MEAP) from Verivo (formerly Pyxis Mobile).

MEAP tools allow developers to design an app once and then quickly deploy it on any of a variety of mobile platforms -- without writing unique versions for each one, Yuan explains.

Instead of having to recode apps to support each individual Android device and for every operating system upgrade, Yuan's team now develops apps using the MEAP's drag-and-drop development environment. Subsequently, they can deploy the app to run on any device without modification.

At Aspen Skiing, being responsive to user demand for new technologies, in a fiscally responsible way, defines this new era of IT, says Major.

Without formal methodologies for prioritization and proactive governance, IT departments run the risk of being marginalized -- a risk that Major says he's not willing to take.

"There is not enough space today to miss important technology opportunities. You will be overrun by rogue IT," he says. "Departments will take things into their own hands."

The result, he says, is something most IT managers don't like to contemplate: "Instead of strategic technology decisions, you will end up with one-off projects that go well for six to nine months, and then IT is overrun with calls from people looking for support."

Stackpole, a frequent Computerworld contributor, has reported on business and technology for more than 20 years.


Latest Features

  • Cutting the final cord: How wireless power and wireless charging works

    In the 1890s, Nikola Tesla captured the imagination of the world with his invention of the Tesla coil, a device that could transmit electricity through the air, no wires required. More than 100 years later, the world has responded by adapting this breakthrough technology... mainly to recharge their electric toothbrushes.
  • Biometric security is on the rise

    Biometric security is on a sharp growth curve, according to a number of recent research reports. The technology is on the rise in large part due to the fact that many mobile users have become comfortable using tools such as fingerprint identification for access.
  • 11 Tips for Improving Your Company's Customer Support

    Companies spend tens of thousands of dollars (or more) promoting their brand, trying to create a positive image. Yet often they treat customer support, which can be a customer's first point of contact with the company, as a necessary evil. Many businesses make it difficult for customers to get the help they need -- creating a negative impression.
  • Budget 2015: Partners Apprehensive About Smart Cities and Digital India

    Budget 2015: Partners Apprehensive About Smart Cities and Digital India

    Channel partners feel that, in this year’s budget, the Smart Cities project was conspicuous by its absence. Will the government ensure that the Smart City project fuels the Digital India vision?
Budget 2015 Special

Budget 2015: Technology Vendors are a Happy Lot

Positive, bold, pragmatic: That’s what the Union Budget 2015 means to India’s top technology vendors.

Budget 2015: Partners Apprehensive About Smart Cities and Digital India

Channel partners feel that, in this year’s budget, the Smart Cities project was conspicuous by its absence. Will the government ensure that the Smart City project fuels the Digital India vision?

Budget 2015: By the Numbers

This year's budget has been a mixed bag for the IT industry. Here's a look at the numbers that matter to you.

Budget 2015: 3 Things I Liked and Didn't Like: Prashant Jain, JNR Management Resources

Increased domestic transfer pricing and digitally signed invoices are beneficial for channels but increased service tax rate will be a dampener, says Prashant Jain, Founder and CEO, JNR Management Resources.

An Inclusive Budget Focused on IT and Growth: Bhaskar Pramanik, Microsoft

The Chairman of Microsoft India says the budget has made technology the backbone for government processes and systems.

MAIT: The Budget Promotes Domestic Manufacturing in India

The association believes that, from an IT industry perspective, the Union Budget 2015-2016 is a mixed bag with the inverted duty structure being finally addressed with the removal of SAD on all components.

NASSCOM: The Budget’s Good for IT, But Concerns Remain

The industry body says the budget is comprehensive, but it still hasn’t addressed concerns like dual levy on software and high rate of TDS.

A Budget for Innovation and Growth: Partha Iyengar, Gartner

This is a pragmatic and growth-oriented budget which incorporates the ‘rising tide lifts all boats’ philosophy, says Partha Iyengar, Country Manager (Research)-India, Gartner.

Getting Started on GST: What CIOs Should Start Doing Now

GST could impact the way you manage IT. Here's what you can do today to get started, according to Vivek Pachisia, Partner Tax and Regulatory Services, EY.

GST Could Radically Affect the IT Department

GST is coming, so what? What effect could it have on IT and IT strategy? Plenty, says Vivek Pachisia, Partner Tax and Regulatory Services, EY.

EDITOR'S PICK

Confessions of a Technobiophiliac

The consumer electronics industry would be wise to revisit its habit of making everything out of plastic, metal and glass. There's a strong pent-up demand for natural materials like wood because the appeal of such materials is innate and universal.

Wipro Collaborates with World Economic Forum to Quantify Cyber Risk

With this partnership a cyber-value at risk framework will be developed which will help companies assess the threat landscape. 

Google, Apple $415M Deal with Tech Workers Heads for Approval

A proposed US$415 million settlement between tech workers and Intel, Google, Apple and Adobe Systems is likely to be approved by the judge, according to some of the lawyers in the case.

What Happens Inside Amazon When There's a Xen Vulnerability

In the past six months AWS has twice had to reboot some of its Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) servers because of a Xen vulnerability.

IBM Plugs OpenPower Servers into SoftLayer Cloud

IBM will roll out a cloud computing service next quarter using OpenPower-based servers, continuing an effort to expand the market for Power processors and challenge Intel in hyperscale data centers.

Aruba CEO Allays Partner Concerns Over HP Buyout

Aruba Networks has moved to allay partner fears over changes at the company following HP's $2.7 billion acquisition of the wireless networking company.

Tech Chat

Collaborating To Outcome Based World: Priyadarshi Mohapatra, Avaya

Priyadarshi Mohapatra, Managing Director, India and SAARC, Avaya, on how IT is transitioning from a keep-the-lights-on role to one that enables customers to deliver results.

The Dawn of the Digital Age: Akhilesh Tuteja, KPMG

The development of digital infrastructure will be a key growth driver for technology and solution providers. 

Paradigm Shift from End-Users to User-First : Parag Arora,Citrix

Parag Arora, Area Vice President and India Head, India Sub-continent, Citrix, says new technologies will force organizations to take a user-first approach in 2015.

Mobile and Cloud Are Gamechangers of the Future: Karan Bajwa, Microsoft

Karan Bajwa, Managing Director, Microsoft India, says, in  2015, organizations will adopt a mobile-first and cloud-first strategy to get ahead of competition.

A Network for the Internet of Everything : Dinesh Malkani,Cisco

Dinesh Malkani, President, India and SAARC, Cisco, talks about IoT and the significant technology transitions in the networking world.

Moving to the Third Platform: Jaideep Mehta, IDC

Cloud and mobility are the two technologies that will fuel the rapid adoption of the third platform in India.

Envisaging a Holistic Security Strategy For 2015: Sanjay Rohatgi,Symantec

Sanjay Rohatgi, President–Sales, Symantec India, says the company has a set of holistic solutions in place to secure organizations from security threats. 

Beating the Bad Guys: Sivarama Krishnan, PwC

Organizations will need to turn inwards to establish robust information security strategies.

Building Capabilities for a Digital Tomorrow: Alok Ohrie,Dell

Alok Ohrie, President and Managing Director, Dell India, on the company’s investments to build end-to-end solutions and delivery capabilities for a digital world.

SLIDESHOWS

CEO Comebacks: For Better or for Worse?

We bring to you six global CEOs who made the idea work, or not.

Datacenters in the Weirdest Places

A peek into some of the most unusual datacenter locations in the world. Here are 13 datacenters that are built in unusual locations like mines, ships, trucks and even a nuclear collidor. Taking about common wisdom, eh?

12 LinkedIn Mistakes IT Pros Make

LinkedIn is the go-to place for IT pros to market themselves, connect with co-workers, find former colleagues, and meet-up with like-minded folks. Take a few minutes now to make sure your profile showcases your accomplishments, and skills. Here are some common mistakes to avoid.

ChannelWorld Survey: State of the Market 2014

Partners poll their sentiments, expectations, pain points, and challenges for the coming year.

6 Leaders Who Headed for an Abrupt Exit

The abrupt exit of top leaders of Indian and global tech companies this year, with many of them citing ambiguous reasons, surprised the technology world.

FAST TRACK

Kamtron Systems

Transitioning towards a service-oriented company will boost our growth, believes Kavita Singhal, director, Kamtron Systems.

TIM Infratech

Delivering ‘best of breed’ technologies to enterprises is key to success, says Monish Chhabria, MD, TIM Infratech

Mudra Electronics

A vendor-agnostic strategy helped us sustain business, says Bharat Shetty, CMD, Mudra Electronics.

Systematix Technologies

Our USP is a customer-friendly approach backed by services, says Akhilesh Khandelwal, Director, Systematix Technologies.

CorporateServe Solutions

Our ability to turnaround complex ERP projects in record time is what gets us customer referral, says Vinay Vohra, Founder & CEO, CorporateServe Solutions.

KernelSphere Technologies

We are emerging as an end-to-end systems integrator, says Vinod Kumar, MD, KernelSphere Technologies.

Uniware Systems

We constantly validate emerging technologies for first-mover advantage, says Vergis K.R., CEO, Uniware Systems.

Astek Networking & Solutions

An innovative approach helps us stay successful, says Ashish Agarwal, CEO, Astek Networking & Solutions.

CSM Technologies

Our approach is backed by innovation and simplicity, says Priyadarshi Nanu Pany, CEO, CSM Technologies.

EMC PARTNER SHOWCASE

Partnering for Profitability

Atul H. Gosar, Director, Network Techlab, shares how the company’s association with EMC has provided it with a competitive edge and a wide customer base, leading to increased profitability.

Sponsored Content

Promising Pipeline

Venkat Murthy, Prime Mover, 22by7 Solutions, shares how EMC brings in competitive edge by enabling technology, GTM and lead generation, helping 22by7 acquire new customers and retain old ones.

Sponsored Content

Powerful Performance

Deepak Jadhav, Director, VDA Infosolutions, says initiatives by EMC around training and certification have helped the company’s staff improve its performance and enhance customer experience.

Sponsored Content

Performance Booster

Rajiv Kumar, CEO, Proactive Data Systems, says that the solution provider’s association with EMC has helped expand its customer base and added value to existing offerings.

Sponsored Content

Pursuit of Profitability

Santosh Agrawal, CEO, Esconet Technologies, shares insights on how the systems integrator’s association with EMC has spelled sustained success over the years.

Sponsored Content

Non-Performance is Not an Option

Nitin Aggarwal, Director, Trifin Technologies, shares insights on how the association with EMC has helped the system integrator stand out and empowered its personnel to deliver consistent performance.

Sponsored Content

SOCIAL MEDIA @ CW India
SIGNUP FOR OUR NEWSLETTER

Signup for our newsletter and get regular updates.

VIDEOS | FORECAST 2015

SAP Cloud Strategy Powered by HANA: Ravi Chauhan

CIOs will rapidly adopt SMAC in 2015, and SAP has innovative solutions to provide business advantage and competitive edge to India Inc., says Ravi Chauhan, MD, SAP India.

Dell to Dominate Converged Infrastructure Market in India: Alok Ohrie

From a PC manufacturer to an end-to-end solutions provider, we are gaining India market share through a strong partner ecosystem: Alok Ohrie, MD & President, Dell India.

Citrix Will Catalyze Shift From End-user to User-First: Parag Arora

Parag Arora, Area VP and India head, India Sub-continent, Citrix, talks about the company’s vision to drive a paradigm shift in enterprise IT: From an end-user approach to a user-first approach powered by mobile and cloud computing and enabled by competent channel partners.

Mobility to Boost Collaboration and Conferencing in 2015: Priyadarshi Mohapatra, Avaya

Avaya delivers great value as an end-to-end communications solutions provider across data, audio and video, says Priyadarshi Mohapatra, MD India and SAARC, Avaya

Securing Organizations Against Modern Day Threats: Sanjay Rohatgi, Symantec

We have proven that we can manage and secure an organization’s data from within and outside a network, which is a vital requirement by CISOs today, says Sanjay Rohatgi, President-Sales, India, Symantec.

We are the Apple of Network Security World: Anil Bhasin, Palo Alto Networks

Anil Bhasin, Managing Director, Palo Alto Networks India, says new threats weaken an organization’s network but advanced security tools can change that.

Software Defined Networking to Rule in 2015: Ashish Dhawan, Juniper Networks

Networking is definitely moving towards a software-defined paradigm and we continue to dominate the India market with an extensive portfolio, and well-entrenched channels, says Ashish Dhawan, MD, India and SAARC, Juniper Networks.

EMC to Dominate 3rd Platform Across India Inc.: Rajesh Janey

In the last year, EMC has refreshed its entire product line to enable customers take advantage of the 3rd platform, says Rajesh Janey, president, India and SAARC, EMC.

IoT Vital for Digital India Initiative: Debjani Ghosh, Intel

The tons of data that will be generated in the coming years will open opportunities in storage, and analytics, says Debjani Ghosh, VP, sales and marketing group, and MD-South Asia, Intel.

VDI, Flash and Hybrid Cloud to Propel Storage Market: Anil Valluri, NetApp

We are witnessing a movement from traditional data storage systems to a hybrid cloud environment says Anil Valluri, president, India and SAARC, NetApp.

SDDC is the Big Shift for 2015: Arun Parameswaran, VMware

Arun Parameswaran, MD, VMware, says that in India, unlike other countries, there is still a huge untapped opportunity to virtualize existing infrastructure in 2015.

Go Cloud for Business Advantage: Sunny Sharma, Foetron

Sunny Sharma, CEO and Founder, Foetron, speaks about the company's focused roadmap to ride the public cloud wave.

FireEye to Combat APTs Across Multiple Vectors in 2015: Ramsunder Papineni

Going into 2015, organizations need to think of security more holistically, including ways to defend end points, e-mail, Web, file, and mobile security, says Ramsunder Papineni, regional director, India and SAARC, FireEye.

Retaining IT Talent in 2015: Shirish Anjaria, Dynacons

Shirish Anjaria, CMD, Dynacons Systems & Solutions, speaks about how partner companies can enhance the talent pool of skilled IT staff.

New Style of IT to Gather Traction in 2015: Neelam Dhawan, HP

SDS, SDN and software defined infrastructure will play a key role across Indian organizations in 2015, says Neelam Dhawan, VP and GM, enterprise group, country MD India, HP.

Building Strong Vendor-Partner Relationships: Pawan Khurana, QuantM

Pawan Khurana, CEO, QuantM, on what he expects from technology vendor companies in 2015.

IoE to be Biggest Market Disruptor in 2015: Dinesh Malkani, Cisco

We continue developing innovative solutions in IoT and cloud computing and help our partner ecosystem capitalize on market opportunities, says Dinesh Malkani, president, Cisco India and SAARC.

New Technologies For New Growth: Murtuza Sutarwala, Swan Solutions & Services

Deep selling and upselling emerging technologies to customers enhances our value proposition as a competent solution provider, says Murtuza Sutarwala, Swan Solutions & Services.

Analytics is a Goldmine for Channels in 2015: Anoop Pai Dhungat, Galaxy Office Automation

Analytics, mobility, and security are the technology megatrends for us in 2015, says Anoop Pai Dhungat, CMD, Galaxy Office Automation.

Smartphone Proliferation to Impact Mobile Strategies in 2015: Vikram Sehgal, Forrester

Enhancing customer experience through mobility will be key priority for organizations in 2015, says Vikram Sehgal, VP and Research Director, Forrester.

3rd Platform to Take Off in India: Jaideep Mehta, IDC

Jaideep Mehta, MD, India and South Asia, IDC, say cloud computing and mobility will be the fastest growing 3rd platform technologies in India.

Opex Model the Way Forward for Partners in 2015: Ajay Sawant, Orient Technologies

Ajay Sawant, Orient Technologies, talks about the massive shift as traditional system integrators move towards an Opex-led business model.

Digital India is Colossal Opportunity for Channels: Akhilesh Tuteja, KPMG

Channel partners should devise a vertical strategy with the right alliances and innovative solutions, says Akhilesh Tuteja, Partner-IT Advisory, KPMG India.

Going Digital the Way Ahead for India Inc: Karthik Ananth, Zinnov

Since India is a mobile -first market, Indian organizations that are turning digital should ensure that they deliver a uniform experience for their customers, says Karthik Ananth, Director, Zinnov.