Monday, July 19, 2010

The Secret Sauce

Those of us who have been in IT over the past decade have seen a steady increase in the focus on business/IT alignment. Once the focus of Enterprise Architects, it's now become a part of everyone's job. But what exactly is the end goal? Ask the business leaders and the common answer is a more agile IT capable of making changes closer to the rapid pace of business and further from the lethargic, slothlike pace IT has followed for 30 years.

Offended? Well the reality is compared to the business IT is lethargic. The business has become nimble and I've finally discovered the secret to their sauce: assets. The business carries as few assets as possible. Everything today is an expense. Buildings, labor, equipment, everything. What was once capital is now leased resulting in fewer assets. Fewer assets to manage means greater agility. One specialty retailer I know of can put up a new store, from signing the lease to opening the door, in two days. They can shut one down in one day. Wow! Now that's agile.

How about IT? Most companies I know cannot setup a server, from request through completion, in two days. In fact I don' know of a company that can decommission a server in one day. See why the business thinks we lethargic?

So what we need on the IT side is more of that special sauce. We need to reduce our capital intensive asset driven footprint. Sure we already lease servers and data centers, but that's not enough. We need to adopt cloud computing and leverage other people's assets to deliver against our agenda. The best way to make money is to use other people's money. That's what cloud is all about. It's the opportunity IT has been longing for to gain the required agility to meet the business on their terms in their timeframes. From spinning up a new server or storage to rolling out a new application, timeframes need to be measure in hours and days, not months and years. SaaS solutions can put companies at the starting line on important enterprise solutions such as ERP, CRM, SFA, and MRP in days at a cost significantly lower than those opting for installed monliths like SAP and Oracle. And where do the savings go? Right to that bottom line!

Another secret? Innovation requires continuous tinkering and feedback loops. Product companies test, test, and retest. Focus groups, test markets, viral campaigns. It's all about iterations. Cloud can help IT in this approach as well, minimizing both the cost and time required for each iteration. More iterations means better results.

I always new the answer lay in the secret sauce!

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