All Posts By

Mukesh Ranjan

What Enterprises Can Learn About Cloud Adoption from Project JEDI | Blog

By | Blog, Cloud & Infrastructure

Enterprises must consider many different factors when building their cloud adoption strategy. It’s not easy, but the decisions are critically important. Learning the smart – and not so smart – choices other organizations have made can be enormously valuable. Project JEDI is an example of what not to do.

The background

In 2018, the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) launched the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) project to accelerate its adoption of cloud architecture and services. The contract was written to award the US$10 billion deal to a single commercial provider to build a cloud computing platform that supports weapons systems and classified data storage. With this ambitious project, the Pentagon intends to drive full-scale implementations and better return on investment on next-generation technologies including AI, IoT, and machine learning.

Here are key learnings from Project JEDI that enterprises should take very seriously.

1. Not to do: Pick a single cloud provider without evaluating others
To do: Explore a multi-hybrid cloud model

The JEDI contract’s fundamental issue arose from the fact that it considered a single cloud provider to chart out its entire cloud strategy. This caused great stakeholder dissonance, in large part because alignment with just one provider could result in losing out on ongoing innovation from other providers.

Because a single cloud strategy offers advantages including lower upfront cost and streamlined systems, enterprises often adopt this approach. But a multi-hybrid architecture allows them to tap into the best of multiple providers’ capabilities and stay ahead on the technology curve.

A well-planned multi-hybrid cloud strategy offers the following benefits:

2. Not to do: Ignore open cloud options
To do: Consider application interoperability and portability in cloud design

Project JEDI is completely dependent on a single cloud model, which exposes it to significant lock-in risks such as threat to transfer of data, application, or infrastructure. All of these can have a lasting negative impact on business continuity.

An open cloud model allows application interoperability and portability, and saves enterprises from vendor lock-in. Enterprises should be open to exploring open source or open design technologies for cloud. They should also consider implementing DevOps tools, container technology, and configuration management tools, as they will allow them to deploy their applications to diverse IT environments. All these options reduce the lock-in risks that stem from proprietary configurations, and enable organizations to easily, and with minimal technical costs, switch between providers based on business objectives.

3. Not to do: Be biased towards an incumbent
To do: Evaluate cloud vendors by aligning the service portfolio to workload requirements

The Pentagon recently awarded the JEDI contract to Microsoft. However, in the initial stages, the project garnered massive attention for its alleged preference to Amazon Web Services (AWS,) which has been involved in multiple government contracts for providing cloud support. Critics of the contract cited that an alleged unfair relationship between DoD employees and AWS would lead to inherent bias and rigged competitive bidding.

While existing relationships are important and can deliver strong value, enterprises should carefully evaluate their vendor portfolio against their workload needs. In most cases, a combination of different vendors will provide the most optimum solution. For example, Java workloads are known to work best with AWS, .NET workloads work best with Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP) is most suited for analytics workloads.

4. Not to do: Lose sight of stakeholders while moving ahead
To do: Have all stakeholders on board

A wide range of stakeholders are involved in selecting a cloud provider, and each of their needs, interests, and pre-existing biases must be addressed to avoid project derailment. For example, President Trump’s distaste for Amazon is cited as the prime reason that the JEDI project was awarded to Microsoft rather than AWS.
One of cloud project leaders’ most critical responsibilities is identifying and understanding stakeholders’ vendor biases and bringing them into alignment with business objectives if the biases are based on something other than facts.

The DoD’s approach to Project JEDI led to a prolonged delay in its aspirations in adopting cloud architecture and services and developing leading cloud-based AI capabilities. Avoiding the DOD’s missteps will help enterprises more quickly shape and secure a cloud-based contract that satisfies all stakeholders and supports their organizations’ business agenda.

What are your thoughts around the JEDI case and what enterprises can learn not to do, and to do, from it? Please share your thoughts with us at [email protected] and [email protected].

 

You Need to Rethink Your Mainframe Strategy in Today’s Digital World | Blog

By | Blog, Cloud & Infrastructure, Digital Transformation

The demise of the mainframe has been predicted every year over the past decade. With digital and cloud transformation becoming the enterprise norm, the death-knell has been getting louder. But, for multiple reasons, mainframes aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

For example, they are designed for efficiency and allow enterprises to run complex computations in a compact infrastructure with high utilization levels. They receive regular updates that can be applied without any business disruption, making them easily expandable and upgradable. The latest mainframes work well with mobile applications, which are becoming the norm across industries. And the fact that mainframes host some of enterprises’ most critical production data has created somewhat of a lock-in situation.

Despite mainframes’ staying power, a variety of factors – including 1) difficulty integrating mainframe-housed data with the rest throughout the enterprise; 2) the shrinking number of IT professionals who understand mainframes’ architectural complexities; and 3) mainframes’ lack of agility – can prevent enterprises from excelling in today’s digital environment.

Levers Enterprises Can Pull to Maximize Their Mainframe Value

With these issues in mind, some enterprises think they should eliminate mainframes completely from their technology environment. But that’s not the best route to take in the short- to medium-term. Rather, by embracing the best of mainframes and digital technologies, they can gain on operational costs and capital invested and realize business flexibility and agility without a loss of continuity or high mainframe efficiency levels.

Our Recommendations on How You Can Achieve Maximum Value from Your Mainframes

Mainframe upgrades – The latest mainframe releases mimic the benefits offered by the cloud. If you haven’t upgraded to the newest release, you should consider doing so now.

Phased retiring of applications – For applications that can work as effectively on the cloud as on mainframes, you should develop new ones on the cloud and slowly phase out the old ones from your mainframe. This approach will avoid business disruptions and help you quickly build new services while still being able to access real-time mainframe data.

Mainframe-as-a-Service (MaaS) –If you’re looking to go asset light, you can adopt MaaS, wherein your existing mainframe assets are transferred to a services provider. In these arrangements, you’ll be charged on an actual consumption basis if you meet a minimum volume commitment. You’ll gain the most value from MaaS when you use it in conjunction with phased retiring of applications, because it will allow you to gain the benefits of a consumption model while preparing your cloud environment in parallel.

Automated migration to modern tech stacks – Multiple tools and services are available to migrate a legacy stack (such as COBOL-based) to a newer stack (such as Java-based or .Net-based,) in an automated fashion. Given the variety of mainframe languages, databases, and infrastructure technologies going into the migration, you should always adopt a custom migration approach.

Wrapper approaches – In the short-term, instead of migrating away from your mainframe, you can augment it with agile data services that enable data interoperability with the rest of your infrastructure. You can also run emulators on the cloud and host legacy application code with minimum changes.

Mainframes are far from dead and will continue to form the backbone of many large enterprises in the near future. However, to excel in today’s digital world, you need to reconsider your mainframe strategy to get the best of all emerging digital technologies. Of course, there is no one size fits all solution. So, you’ll need to take a customized approach, combining the various transformation levers that are most applicable to your enterprise’s unique situation.

How do you think mainframes will fare in the digital world? Please share your thoughts with me at [email protected].

Digital Productivity Tools are Probably Hurting Your Employees’ Experience | Blog

By | Blog, Customer Experience

Most enterprises today have implemented digital tools to increase their employees’ productivity and give them a better workplace experience. For example, some have a health insurance chatbot to give employees easy 24/7/365 access to basic plan information. Others have made their intranets mobile friendly. And still others use advanced mobility solutions to allow their employees to work from anywhere.

Yet, despite the employee-centric intent of the tools, our discussions with enterprises revealed that they’re actually having the opposite effect.

During our research for our recently published report, Digital Workplace Services PEAK Matrix™ Assessment 2019: Enterprises, It is Time to Humanize the Workplace Experience, we set out to determine what was going on.

We came to two conclusions.

Conclusion #1: the employee experience plummets after digital tool novelty wears off

Our research team created the digital employee experience continuum to look at how the proliferation of tools affect employee productivity and experience. As you see below, when new productivity-focused tools and technologies are implemented in the workplace, users enter the zone of “digital awe”; because of the novelty of the tools, employee productivity and experience are high.

But after time, and following the introduction of more digital tools, although employee productivity continues to improve, employee morale and enthusiasm start dropping off. Ultimately, employees may outrightly reject new digital tools.

Let’s look at this phenomenon by considering the example of an employee who provides remote training sessions leveraging immersive communication tools. Elimination of the daily commute pushes the trainer into the zone of enhanced productivity, as he or she has more time to deliver additional training sessions. But the toll of creating even more digital content, documenting the whole process, and feeding the details into an analytics system for continuous improvement can quickly drive the trainer to the point of digital aversion.

The above scenario showcases how an enterprise may fail to identify that while digital tools can improve business productivity, they may do little to nothing to improve the user experience. Indeed, they may worsen it.

Conclusion #2: service providers may have sold their enterprise clients a productivity-centric solution camouflaged as human experience-centricity

Many service providers still view employees as users, rather than humans. So, when they design and deliver a digital solution, they only consider the things that impact user productivity, such as software preference, network bandwidth constraints, device compatibility, and tool knowledge. They fail to take into account employees’ human attributes such as user location, mood, and context.

To avoid creating a digitally-toxic workplace, here are some questions enterprises should discuss with service providers before entering into an agreement. They’re based on our HUMANEX – or Hyperconnectivity, Ubiquity, Measurability, Assurance, Novelty, Empowerment, eXtendability – framework, which outlines the attributes of a true human experience-centric workplace.

The answers to these questions help enterprises understand which of their short-listed providers are capable of and committed to delivering on real employee experience-centricity.

Attribute

What to check for

Hyper-connectivity
  • Does the service provider have credible immersive communication and collaboration offerings, including integration experience with multiple stacks?
  • Does it have capabilities and proof points around integrating social collaboration / gig collaboration platforms/stacks?
  • Can its solution be integrated with HR systems to accommodate changes in policy control and governance across the employee life cycle?
Ubiquity
  • Can the service provider demonstrate capabilities across multiple mobility stacks enabling work from anywhere, any device, anytime philosophy?
  • Can it build a workplace design for users independent of physical location?
Measurability
  • Is the service provider offering “skin in the game” for avoidance-focused KPIs rather than cost-centric metrics?
  • Is it committing to true user experience measures based on operations data beyond periodic surveys?
  • Does it offer AI/ML solutions to analyze system data and improve real-time user experience?
Assurance
  • Does the service provider have a comprehensive approach to security policy definitions across endpoints and devices and user identities?
  • Does it have credible proof points for implementing and running cloud security solutions?
Novelty
  • Does the service provider proactively offer UI/UX design expertise as part of its workplace solutions?
  • Does it have credible proof points for implementing innovative service use cases leveraging IoT, AR/VR, AI, ML, and social?
  • Does it have experience in integrating consumerized solutions such as smart offices, real-time anomaly detection, and proactive resolution?
Empowerment
  • Can the service provider help build a BYOD design, governance, and management model?
  • Does it offer multiple channels of service (e.g., personalized enterprise application stores, walk-in tech cafes, self-service kiosks, and social platforms) as opposed to pushing personas and limited self-service use cases?
  • Does it integrate virtual and human agents seamlessly within the service delivery?
extendability
  • Does the service provider have credible governance and service integration experience in multi-vendor environments?
  • What is its level of commitment to investing in a technology ecosystem comprised of traditional players and startups?

To learn more about creating a human-experience focused workplace in your organization, and how the service providers in this space stack-up, please read our report named, “Digital Workplace Services PEAK Matrix™ Assessment 2019: Enterprises, It is Time to Humanize the Workplace Experience.

For more details, please contact us directly at [email protected] or [email protected].