Cecilia Edwards
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Cecilia Edwards

Cecilia Edwards possesses 20 years of experience in strategy and management consulting, having worked with a number of Fortune 500 corporations, middle market companies, private equity firms, and non-profit organizations. She brings this strategic expertise to her Everest Group clients with a focus in next generation IT strategies, enterprise as-a-service models, IT enabled business transformation, and service provider growth strategies. To read more, please see Cecilia’s bio.

5 Steps to a Realistic, Repeatable Innovation Process | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

By | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

Innovation in a business context cannot be a simple flash of brilliance. (It typically isn’t a simple flash of brilliance in any case, as we’ll discuss below.) Even in the rare cases that an innovative idea seems to come from nowhere, it must not end there. Businesses, and especially IT departments, need to deliver outcomes. A cool new gadget, algorithm, etc. is essentially meaningless until it enables or produces the desired results, e.g.: improve the customer experience, drive down costs, transform the business model. Only then is the energy from that flash of brilliance harnessed in a way that matters to the organization.

This focus on practicality feels unintuitive and different from how we usually think of innovation; the image of a single inventor being struck by a moment of genius is a powerful cultural paradigm. It is also neither realistic nor repeatable. Innovation driven by an undisciplined creative process will not predictably deliver results. This makes reliance on serendipity an innovation strategy unsuited for a corporate environment.

Read more at Cecilia’s blog

3 Strategies for Measuring the Impact of Innovation | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

By | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

For today’s leading companies, innovation is no longer optional. The imperative to transform your offerings while simultaneously driving productivity and cost savings continues to grow more urgent as the pace of technology accelerates. But while innovation is a key component of any modern business plan, it also enjoys a singular status among most organizations’ critical strategies: it’s the only one that is not consistently and rigorously measured. Read more at Cecilia’s blog.

The Biggest Risk to Your IT Department that You’re Not Addressing | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

By | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

Today’s IT departments face a profound challenge: the delicate and precarious balance between stability and innovation. “Keeping the lights on” has never been more important. Business quite literally runs on technology and any downtime or blips in the user experience can cause major negative consequences, from brand equity and sales to internal productivity and morale. But innovation is equally imperative. The pace of technological change demands that businesses evolve or go extinct. You can’t afford to stand still – but you cannot compromise your core operations, either. In response, most organizations split the difference. IT assumes that legacy systems are stable and continues to rely on them as foundational infrastructure. When new requirements arise, they invest in new technology with a greater emphasis on agility and responsiveness, often in the cloud. Read more at Cecilia’s blog.

A Lesson to be Learned from Delta Airlines’ System Outage | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

By | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

Bimodal IT has become common parlance. It is the term for the underlying assumption that large enterprises require stability in their core IT systems, and should therefore not take the risk of migrating to new technology. Instead, the old systems should be maintained in their current condition – or a condition that is fundamentally the same with only minor adjustments – and only use current or next generation IT for new requirements.

While the logic seems to make sense on the surface, there is a major flaw in this argument. IT systems aren’t like fine wines that get better with time. IT systems become old and outdated, just like your own personal computer. Think about it – how many years did it take you to become totally frustrated with the computer you LOVED when you first got it? It was the best thing on the market, was lightning fast, and did all the cool new stuff.  But five years later, it has slowed to a crawl, the operating system isn’t compatible with the latest version of the programs you want to use, and no one has the components or software required to service it. There comes a point in time when it is more risky to hold on to the old than to migrate to the new.

Now let’s test this argument to determine whether it makes as much sense for the enterprise as it does the technology forward consumer.

Delta Airlines’ entire system was shut down due, at least in part, to some of their core IT systems not switching over to backup when Georgia Power encountered a switchgear failure that is the equivalent of blowing a fuse. The result? More than 650 flights were initially cancelled, with thousands more likely at risk of being cancelled later in the day. Of course, the impact of an outage of this magnitude is not limited to a single day. Somehow, all of the passengers still have to get where they were going, and will need to fit in on other flights. There is no way Delta will be able to accommodate all those people, so other airlines will have the opportunity to pitch in and serve those stranded by Delta.

The outage began at 2:30 am, and Delta resumed flight by 9:00 am. In just six and a half hours, Delta lost millions of dollars, ran many of its passengers off to other airlines, and served a major blow to its hard-fought battle to build a reputation as the most reliable U.S.-based international carrier. All in just six and a half hours.

This should force enterprises to look at their IT systems and ask just how stable they really are. Their systems, assuming they are similar to most major airlines, were likely built in the 1990’s – more than 20 years ago. Given the rapid pace of technology changes, a 20 year old system is practically ancient. Who has the skills to service systems that old? How well does the system integrate with new technology? What level of customization and patching together has occurred over the past 20 years to keep the system relevant? How has the system been able to address the vulnerabilities and performance issues resolved by newer technology? In other words, what is the underlying risk associated with an IT system that is a couple of decades old, and is it reasonable to expect it to get better?

Bimodal IT might make sense in some instances when the cost of the risk of obsolescence is low. It can also make sense as a short-term strategy. However, nothing is stable forever, and the increased complication of maintaining old systems adds risk that slowly creeps up over time.

Yes, transitions to newer technology are both costly and risky. But so is having an unexpected total business shutdown due to the inability of an ancient system to continue to perform as it has in the past. Transitions to newer technology can be planned and managed, and seem to be much less of a gamble in the long-run.

The Internet of Things (IoT): What’s not to love? | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

By | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

If this year’s International Consumer Electronics Show was any indicator, the Internet of Things (IoT) has made the transition from fascinating concept to increasing reality. Companies are developing and launching all sorts of useful products for consumers: connected lightbulbs, health sensors, parking space finders, snow monitors, smart toothbrushes, self-watering flowerpots … and just about anything else you can dream up, and probably a few you can’t.

What remains to be seen, perhaps, is what’s in it for consumers beyond the cool factor. As devices become increasingly wired and consumers become more reliant upon them, the IoT inevitably faces some real challenges. Most importantly, consumers use a broad range of electronic devices developed by different manufacturers. Because no standards currently exist, there is little interconnectivity among these devices, creating islands of potentially interesting and useful data, but virtually no causeways connecting them.

Relatedly, these devices may produce heaps of interesting data that, ultimately, is just that – interesting data. The hard work is gleaning meaningful insights from the data. Many of us can (and do!) share our step counts with anyone within our Facebook reach … but we’ve made no inroads into losing those 10 pounds we gained over the holidays.

And then there’s the issue of data security. Just who owns or has access to all of that data that is produced and just what are they going to do with it.  It may seem reasonable that the company that made the device can use the data to improve their product offering, but when it comes to specifically targeting us in sales campaigns, that seems like another line we may not want them to cross.

It just may be that the challenges with the lack of standards that would cause a consumer to have to learn how to manage multiple systems and the uncertainty around the data issues may stymie the growth of IoT with consumers.

The other IoT “consumer”

An IoT “consumer” that gets much less attention is the commercial enterprise, which is unfortunate, because there’s a lot of potential there. Enterprises are better positioned to take advantage of the IoT because they don’t face the same challenges as regular consumers do in making use of IoT outputs.

For example, organizations are accustomed to hiring systems integrators to build custom solutions to integrate across their products. They are, therefore, much more able to build the causeways to connect the islands of data that the IoT produces.

Furthermore, many enterprises have, or can hire, the resources necessary to manage the resulting data. And beyond data management, a significant proportion of organizations understand the value of collecting and analyzing data of all types, and have teams dedicated to the exercise. Ultimately, many organizations are well positioned to derive meaningful insights from the data they can collect through connected devices.

And (the recent Sony situation notwithstanding) they may be better able to control and manage the IoT data outputs, so privacy is less of a concern here than it may be for consumers.

Ultimately, though, the financial benefits offer the greatest opportunity for the enterprise consumer of IoT data. While most individual consumers can’t anticipate significant financial gain from optimally watered plants, every commercial organization can benefit by eradicating waste, speeding product delivery, and/or identifying competitive advantage.

Potentially then, the greatest short-term benefit of the IoT will go to enterprises that aggressively embrace the opportunity by leveraging the resulting data to differentiate from competitors.

Taming Your IT Transformation Terror | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

By | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

Originally posted on Fierce CIO

Transformation is a journey that, done correctly, requires a significant amount of change in an organization to achieve success.

IT transformation is the overhaul of an organization’s IT operations, where the goal is more than just cost savings. Instead, IT transformation is about increased capacity to use technology to drive new competitive advantages. IT transformation is about unlocking value through improved business agility, faster speed to market and using big data to inform smarter decisions that can lead to improved margins, sales growth and happier customers.

Transformation is always disruptive on some level. It requires changes in people, skill sets, training, headcount, career management and more.

“Big T” transformation demands that an organization attack both technology and process changes simultaneously, two variables that can add enough complexity and risk to sabotage the effort before it gets beyond the planning stage.

“Big T” transformation demands that an organization’s senior leadership be ready to make it a strategic priority, assign champions and hold people accountable for specific metrics along agreed-upon timeframes. Time must be invested to create a clear vision for what success looks like at the end of the transformation process. That includes a clear articulation of the business value desired, one that your bankers and shareholders would easily understand.

Read more on Fierce CIO