How CIOs can use 3D printing technology to their advantage

CIOs may want to label 3D printing — a type of additive manufacturing that constructs layers of plastic, resin or metal into three-dimensional objects — a design or a product development tool and, therefore, technology that falls outside the senior IT manager’s purview.

But, according to experts, the perspective is short-sighted. If 3D printing technology is brought into the enterprise, it will connect to the network, suck up bandwidth, produce data that needs to be collected and secured, and have an impact on file retrieval. If 3D printing is outsourced, the business will need to shuttle large files between the enterprise and 3D printing service bureaus — files that contain sensitive intellectual property that will need to be protected.

Any item on the above list is reason enough for the CIO and the IT organization to make a case for their involvement in 3D printing. But another? Proactively introducing or supporting 3D printing technology in the enterprise could help CIOs establish IT as a business innovation partner, a shift many IT experts argue is necessary as companies increasingly rely on technology to perform just about any business function.

Taking 3D printing out for an enterprise spin, however, won’t be easy. While the business headlines suggest that 3D printing tools are consumer-ready — Mattel recently announced it will sell a 3D printing toy maker for kids this fall — experts caution that the enterprise 3D vendor market is immature. The business applications are still largely confined to manufacturing companies and the technology itself — for all the advances made since its introduction 30 years ago — is not standardized.

Another issue for CIOs? Can they get in on business technology conversations early enough to earn the business’ trust and prove their department’s worth?

Fragmented market

The first hurdle CIOs and their companies will face is the immaturity of the technology, itself. Experts describe the vendor market as evolving but still nascent and fragmented — and not changing any time soon.

Sophia Vargas
“There is no dominant player — there is no dominant printer — that can solve all of your needs,” said Sophia Vargas, a Forrester Research analyst who has been watching the 3D printing market for two years.

In fact, to date, experts said the most popular use case for 3D printing technology is still rapid prototyping, an iterative process of building models that can be quickly tweaked. One of the reasons for the limitation is that printers can often print products in one type of material — say a certain type of plastic or ceramic — but not in multiple types of materials. Yet, as Vinod Baya, director at PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Center for Technology and Innovation, said, “Most products we use aren’t made with one material.”

Vinod Baya
He said the technology will need to overcome three challenges if it wants to go from a “prototyping phase” to a “production phase”:

Performance. Baya said 3D printers need to get faster, more accurate and more consistent. “Right now, in some cases, you print a product on one printer, and if you print the same product on another printer, they could be a bit different,” he said.
Printing in multiple materials. Machines that can 3D print in multiple materials are beginning to show up on the market, but they’re still young. And while they can print in multiple types of resin, for example, they still can’t print in a diverse set of materials, say metals and plastics.
Printing complete systems. Printers that can, for example, print a hearing aid device complete with the plastic ear piece, the circuitry and the battery all in a single go will be the market’s “biggest game changer,” Baya said. But that technology has not yet hit the market and, when asked to put a number on it, he predicted it’s at least five years out.
Using the moment to IT’s advantage

Still, 3D printing is having a moment, experts stressed. Look no further than GE for proof: This year, the company’s new CFM LEAP engines will include the first 3D-printed parts in an aircraft engine platform — 19 fuel nozzles that couldn’t have been constructed otherwise, according to a press release.

If CIOs are smart, they’ll leverage this hot — and quickly evolving — technology to burnish their IT department’s standing as a trusted innovation partner. That’s especially the case for CIOs working in verticals like retail, medical device manufacturing, industrial manufacturing, education, fashion, architecture and product design, Forrester’s Vargas said. These are industries either primed to begin experimenting with 3D printing technology or are already doing so, which means the next step will be to extend the technology to other members of the enterprise, posing integration and interoperability questions for the IT department.

Pete Basiliere
The good news? Introducing the enterprise to 3D printing technology doesn’t have to cost much. Pete Basiliere, Gartner analyst, said CIOs can set up a 3D printing innovation lab (what he called a “maker’s space”) for as little as $10,000. Experimenting with 3D printing gives CIOs an opportunity to be a digital thought leader to the business, said Graham Waller, a Gartner analyst and co-author of the new book Digital to the Core.

Up next: 4D printing

Skylar Tibbits, the director of Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Self-Assembly Lab, has teamed up with Stratasys and Autodesk in an attempt to add a fourth dimension to 3D printing — time. Three-dimensional objects are printed with materials that react to specific environmental stimulus — say heat or moisture — that can trigger self-assembly or a shape-shifting transformation in the product, itself. “You can think of it as the field of smart materials,” Tibbits said at EmTech, an emerging technology conference hosted by MIT Technology Review.

“The CIO can often be in a position of being the provocateur or the inspiration,” he said, “because often, they’ve got a purview to see across the business. This is the skill that they need to bring — to see across the core business vision, mission, strategy as well as the technology — and then combine those things so that they can distill out what is relevant and material from a strategy side.”

Graham Waller
But that requires CIOs get in on emerging technology conversations with the business early, according to experts. For senior IT managers who are already stretched thin maintaining legacy systems, fighting uptime fires, and keeping costs in line, finding the time to build relationships with the business can be difficult.

“We can never take our eye off the ball,” Waller said. “The trap for the CIO is that they spend all of their personal time doing that and then they don’t have any time to step up and play the more strategic role.”

Digital CIO

One piece of advice from Waller? Delegate. He advised CIOs consider establishing an operational CIO role to oversee the day-to-day operational IT duties. That way, CIOs could ensure operational service remains excellent while carving out time to think about and talk about emerging technology initiatives with the business, he said.

The payoff in restructuring the IT department to include an operational CIO role isn’t 3D printing, per se. Instead, it’s a strategic move that could help CIOs reframe how the business looks at IT and how the C-suite regards the role of the CIO.

“This is very deep technology and digital-enabled change,” Waller said. “Often a traditional business leader, whether that’s a CEO or any other role in the C-suite, and also boards of directors, can have blind spots as to what is possible. So there’s a tremendous opportunity for CIOs to play a role there.”

Source: CIOs can use 3D printing technology to their advantage


4 key workforce trends driven by digital transformation


Source: tech.e

Today’s ‘workplace’ is no longer a place at all, such as a constricted cubicle with a computer. Expectations of employees as well as employers are rapidly changing in regards to how and where work gets done. With the rise in mobile and internet penetration, productivity is now independent of work location.

The ability to work from anywhere has improved and traditional working hours have changed. However, there is a tremendous pressure on IT service management (ITSM) teams to make critical services available 24/7 to support the new digital enterprise.

In a recent Kensington Productivity Survey, it was found that over 60% of working professionals use multiple devices at work at least half of the time, and 90% believe integrating devices would enhance productivity. To add, tech-savvy millennials today comprise a larger percentage of the work force and expect a consumer-like experience at work. They want to make smart use of technology to be productive while working from anywhere at anytime.

With traditional businesses going digital, the workplace is expected to enable employees to choose the productivity tools and technology they want to use. Companies who are not modernizing their workplaces to adequately support their digital businesses will face slower growth and difficulty in attracting and retaining talent.

Below are some interesting ways companies are embracing digital to stay relevant and meet the requirements of a dynamic workforce:

1. Mobile-ready: Digital-savvy millennials have grown-up using mobile phones and expect workplaces to offer a technology user experience they’re used to. They need flexibility to work from anywhere on multiple devices with a seamless experience. A mobile-first approach can also offer unparalleled convenience and productivity to IT service support teams, along with increased customer satisfaction.

2. Appropriate distribution of apps, devices: It is imperative to give individuals easy access to appropriate tools and streamlined service delivery based on their roles, such as a ‘market analyst’ or ‘software developer’. This promotes user understanding, interest, adoption and a better overall user experience.

3. Automation: Automation is key for adoption of the digital workplace. Digital business requires a strategic approach to automation that responds to changes almost immediately. It needs to move at the speed of expectations.

Automation in the form of user self-service, for example, reduces IT staff workloads while improving employee productivity and satisfaction. Reducing the chance of human error and optimizing every step of a process also radically reduces security and compliance risks.

Empowering IT service management to support the digital business is enabling companies to provide self-service access to the answers and tools employees need based on their locations, roles and preferences. Rather than submitting a trouble ticket into a long queue or waiting on hold, the information they need is available through a browser or a mobile app, easing resolution and reducing the burden on IT staff. In addition, by solving their own problems quickly and easily, employees can get back to work promptly to serve customers.

4. Crowdsourcing: Many companies use crowdsourcing to enable employees to help IT map and manage the IT environment. Using crowdsourcing, users add assets to location-aware maps, while IT determines what information needs to be included and controls who can add what information to which maps. Employees can also report outages, providing IT with a real-time flow of asset updates. By building a repository of crowdsourced problems and resolutions, IT empowers employees to find answers to most of their questions with little effort.

Companies today need to rethink about how to best utilize their workforces. Optimizing employee performance is not only about making offices more mobile and digital but also enabling employees to get work done quickly and effectively, while working anytime and from anywhere. It is about how employees experience work, and the tools and services they use to increase their success and satisfaction. By reconsidering their digital capabilities, companies will be able to raise the bar on how employees can engage with customers, drive operational efficiencies and boost overall productivity by adopting these best practices.

For an enterprise, becoming ‘digital’ is not the plan for the future, it’s a transformation that CIOs need to make now. Digital empowerment is imperative for companies to stay relevant and competitive, or face inevitable extinction without transformative technologies. key workforce trends driven by digital transformation

Cut IT Costs and Improve Service with Smart Automation

For the past 20 years and to the benefit of the C-suite in companies all over the world, smart automation software has been engineered, refined, and constantly improved by its developers to respond automatically to repetitive and resource-consuming tasks – that is, the work that nobody wants to do.

It is widely accepted that the most basic and repetitive tasks usually can be solved with software, scripts, and simple programs with even limited intelligence making it the baseline for automation. That scenario is so 2010 – if you threw just a few variables into the mix, and the engine would come to a grinding halt.

Today, organizations such as the largest banks, IT companies, and telecoms are moving beyond the baseline of basic automation, and it isn’t for cost savings alone. Their compliance requirements related to higher-order transactions have increased, and the stakes are much higher for them to remain in compliance. This plus the expense of using expertly trained personnel to keep IT systems running and to solve what boil down to basic and repetitive problems are key drivers in the move to more advanced intelligent automation.

Another key factor is one that has been a constant this decade – the issue of so much data flowing into the company, from transactions, authentications, and other business processes affecting customers that organizations need any help they can find just to keep up. It is the quintessential image of trying to drink from the fire hose, and the fire hose is ever-widening. And with the state of IT today, few organizations – even highly successful ones – have been able to increase IT spending fast enough or significantly enough to match the growing demand for IT in all aspects of the business.

If You Can’t Get Bigger, Get Smarter

What this means, in the end, is either increased costs or increased risks, neither of which is acceptable. But the good news is that the smart automation technologies available today are light years ahead of earlier automation tools, which depended heavily on hand-coded scripts and rigid run books to automate some traditional manual IT tasks. Today, smart automation engines are more capable than ever of analyzing, learning, and responding to a mountain of transactions, which can number in the thousands per minute. These transactions are critical, must be watched and responded to in real time and, as an added benefit, produce critical, valuable, and actionable data.

Source: IT Costs and Improve Service with Smart Automation

How to embrace the benefits of shadow IT

By making shadow IT a bad word, CIOs are ignoring the benefits of what are business-aligned systems and missing an opportunity to build a cohesive strategy and governance system that includes all the technology systems in an enterprise. Here’s how to better identify, manage and take advantage of business-procured IT.

The terms shadow IT conjures up negative images in the minds of most IT organizations. Yet non-IT enterprise functions and lines of business are buying more of their own IT systems than ever before, particularly product, operations and external customer-facing groups and highly dynamic services areas. “As business functions seek to realize the benefits from these non-traditional channels of IT enablement, the shadow IT organizations are growing aggressively in order to help orchestrate and aggregate services into business consumable offerings,” says Craig Wright, managing director of outsourcing and technology consultancy Pace Harmon.

Shadow IT is not necessarily a threat to the IT organization. In fact, it can be an effective way to meet changing business needs and create a greater understanding between IT and the business. But IT leaders must do a better job of identifying, assessing and managing these once stealth systems to both manage their risk and reap their benefits. talked to Wright about how IT organizations should rethink their relationship with this realm of IT systems. The term is largely a pejorative in IT groups—or used to be. What are the legitimate reasons for concern about shadow IT?

Craig Wright, managing director of outsourcing and technology consultancy Pace Harmon: Shadow IT has traditionally had negative connotations for IT groups as it is often perceived as a serious threat to the continued existence of IT as a function.

Many IT organizations have evolved over time, morphing to accommodate major transformation projects such as ERP implementations AND refreshes, re-platforming from legacy technologies to current day solutions, and extending or contracting based on mergers, acquisitions, and divestitures. As a result, the size, shape and composition of the traditional IT organization is often as confusing and complex as the myriad of technologies that are woven together into a tapestry of IT solutions that are constantly challenged to keep up with business needs.

Contrast that dynamic with shadow IT, which is often set up by the business for the business, very well aligned with the affordability and competitive demands of the business, is easily understood as it aligns perfectly with the business functions OR products, embraces the latest and greatest technologies via SaaS, PaaS, IaaS, and other consumption-based models, and is agile by design—not as a costly retrofit.

While shadow IT often appears to win over the traditional IT group, this is not the case where organizations have legitimate concerns in major technology areas, such as:

  • The ability to scale to deliver and support enterprise-wide solutions
  • Conformance with regulatory and quality requirements, particularly where design, construction, installation, operation, or performance [is auditable]
  • The continued use and integration of legacy platforms where there is no as-a-service alternative and down and dirty IT programming skills are required
  • The need to address the corner cases where there is no real business case, but there is an absolute technology-driven need to address obsolescence, vulnerabilities, customization, or localization requirements So what’s the upside—not just for the business, but also for the IT organization itself?

Wright:Shadow IT demystifies IT. It is a trusted model, relatively inexpensive, and established along operating principles that are clear and obvious for consumers. Enterprise users of IT often have difficulties understanding the terminology and definitions of services used by IT and are even more puzzled by the costs and time to achieve desired outcomes. IT functions that recognize the value of bringing shadow IT under the IT umbrella are viewed by the business as being less intimidating and much more business intimate.


Source: CIO-How to embrace the benefits of shadow IT

Q&A: The rise of the virtual CIO in SMBs

The role of chief information officer has become entrenched in large organisations, but smaller businesses often can’t afford to employ one. This means that they miss out on the expertise a CIO can bring, but also lack representation of IT at board level.

In some cases businesses are getting around this by outsourcing the role to a ‘virtual CIO’ who may only be needed for one or two days a month, so they can also work across multiple organisations, and from different locations. We spoke to Dean Coleman, head of service delivery at service management specialistSunrise Software to find out more about this trend.

How does the role of virtual CIO work?

It’s being taken up by small and medium companies where they don’t have the opportunity to appoint someone internally. They often have an IT manager and an operational team, but a virtual CIO allows them to have IT represented at board level, something they may not have the budget for full time. They’re often charged on a daily rate or held on a retainer.

We’re seeing this more and more and several of our customers have employed someone in this role. They get someone with expertise in technology but who is also boardroom savvy and aware of the strategic way forward for IT.

Are these people in a sort of consultant role working across several companies?

Yes, they hold a portfolio of customers and they’re able to use their experience and knowledge of the industry to benefit a number of companies. It also means a more varied role for them as consultants.

Is this part of a more general outsourcing trend?

It’s outsourcing that one particular function and it can actually lead to outsourcing of other services. What we’ve seen recently is that organisations that bring in a virtual CIO role are also getting them involved in the operational delivery of services. For example they may have issues around a service desk that’s been outsourced and they want to bring it back in house, or they might be looking to outsource functions.

It gives them the opportunity to work with multiple vendors and have the expertise to allow them to get good deals and to manage the surrounding risk and issues. It’s then the CIOs responsibility to manage those service contracts.

There are also now service providers who now have this service as part of their wider offering alongside project management, support services and so on. It helps enable service integration and management (SIAM) strategies.

So it allows business to afford a better level of expertise than they would otherwise be able to?

Yes, definitely because you can have someone in the organisation just one day a week or a couple of days a month just providing governance and high level overview. The amount of time may increase when they’re doing strategic planning or bringing in new suppliers for example.

It also ties in to the use of cloud services, often businesses struggle to implement these and need the additional expertise that a virtual CIO can provide to understand the different charging models and so on..

Does this have a knock on effect in other areas, do you end up virtualising other roles too?

It can do, we’ve seen a case where someone was brought in to look at the overall IT and technology side of the business because it had an under performing service desk. They’ve ultimately outsourced the operation and were able to deliver a more up to date, modern service.

Is this along term thing or people being brought in just for specific projects?

For the smaller organisation it can be a long term arrangement. They can manage their budgets by not having somebody full time on the board, but can have someone with expertise to fill the role without the overhead.

Source: The rise of the virtual CIO in SMBs

Six CIO tips for business innovation with data

First Utility CIO Bill Wilkins has a job that relies on data. The company started as a small, entrepreneurial business in 2008 and experienced rapid growth as a pioneer in smart meters. By 2014, the firm had become the seventh-largest energy supplier in the UK, with over a million customers and a market share of 2%.

“Because of the company’s rapid growth, every year has been different,” says Wilkins.

The firm is now scaling up for further growth through a focus on its digital platform. Wilkins, who joined First Utility full-time in 2010 after spells with Sun Microsystems and SeeBeyond, is drawing on his experience to push a data-led process of innovation.

Wilkins offers six best-practice tips for other CIOs from his experiences of running data projects, covering areas such as organisational culture, external partnership and continuous innovation.

1. Create a customer-driven approach to data analytics

Wilkins says First Utility benefits from access to a huge data asset that it uses in three key ways. First, the business runs a number of information-led initiatives to boost customer engagement. “We are, essentially, a retailer and we want to have long-term, valuable relationships with our clients,” he says.

The second way First Utility uses data is for optimisation. “Information helps us to understand what processes work, which processes are causing us problems and how we can use our experience around those processes to make the business better,” says Wilkins.

The third way the firm uses information is strategically, says Wilkins. “Now we’ve built a platform, we want to know our technology is working and where the business can use systems and services to develop and grow,” he adds. “It’s all about making the most of data to find new opportunities and to market to new sets of customers.”

Wilkins says the firm’s customer-driven approach goes further – other external stakeholders are included, too. “From a very early stage of operation, the firm – because of its strong focus on data – has had access to detailed market information,” he says.

“It was not until the IT team built an application on top of that data that a wide base of users started making the most of our knowledge. The awareness within our organisation about how competitive we are in the marketplace is now much clearer because we created a visual representation of data for our employees.”

2. Get your organisational structure right

Wilkins says that, while his firm’s use of data is very broad, he can benefit from a tight organisational set-up. “We have the advantage of still being focused as an organisation, despite our rapid growth,” he says.

Take information management, for example. Here Wilkins benefits from access to a single data team. “If you go into many other billion-pound businesses, you’d have a much more established set of functions with their own silos of data,” he says.

“We’ve managed to retain a coherent organisational structure. We also have a central repository for data and that represents a huge advantage, because it means we can look at information and synthesise it in many different ways.”

Wilkins says he has strived to achieve an integrated approach to data, both in terms of human skills and technical resources. One key factor is that he combined the role of head of enterprise architecture with that of data delivery at a very early stage of his tenure as CIO.

This single manager has design authority for data inputs, but also needs to drive insight from the information. “In a period of rapid growth and innovation, we can use this integrated approach to make sure our aims and objectives are still as aligned as they possibly can be,” he says.

3. Look to evolve, rather than to keep starting afresh

Wilkins says that from the start, the investors at First Utility recognised that the company would use technology to create a competitive differentiation. The firm wanted to deliver smart, rather than standard, energy and it spent a lot of time building an end-to-end infrastructure.

“At the time, you couldn’t get a smart gas meter,” he says. “The business ended up building its own hardware to measure volume and send the data back to the office. The senior executives got involved in a lot of low-level, but clever, technology to get their smart proposition set up.”

“Work with a partner, learn from their experience, innovate for your customers and differentiate from your competitors”

Bill Wilkins, First Utility

On joining the business, Wilkins was able to inherit this foundation work. The company had already solved the problem of taking heterogeneous data and creating a normalised, standard view of information that worked in a billing system. The problem, however, was that the system did not scale.

The answer to that challenge, says Wilkins, was to modify the foundation, which he says represents key advice to other CIOs facing a similar data conundrum. “What you have to do is to take what’s already there and look at ways to evolve that approach,” he says.

4. Partner with external specialists to build engagement

With the platform in place, Wilkins started to look at other ways to help First Utility develop its smart approach to energy provision. He realised there was a huge opportunity for using the firm’s half-hourly collected smart meter data to create a new form of engagement with customers.

“The call to action was that we realised we had this rich data set which contained lots of interesting information. What we had to do was to turn it into knowledge that could inform our customers about their energy use,” says Wilkins, who explains how the firm partnered initially with external specialist Opower to create its My Energy programme.

Read more about innovating with data

  • Driving innovation with big data: Rather than refusing the wider use of data outside the organisation, only by opening it up to third parties can we realise its true value.
  • An innovation and collaboration centre has been launched in London to develop ideas relating to data and the UK economy.
  • The Digital Catapult in London’s King’s Cross is home to ambitious technology startups innovating around big data.

“That’s another tip from me – don’t try to build it all yourself,” he says. “Innovation happens in many places, so look for partners that can complement what you do. We worked with Opower, as the leading US player in energy analytics, and learnt from their knowledge and experience.”

First Utility then decided to bring the My Energy initiative back in-house, because it thought the US-centric platform was not necessarily the best way to serve its UK customer base. “Partnering allowed us to get a product out there and to learn from its use in the real world very quickly,” says Wilkins.

5. Use experience to build your own data platform

Knowledge from the first, externally developed iteration of My Energy proved essential as First Utility created its own version of the platform, which was launched at the end of 2014. “For other CIOs, I would say the lesson is to work with a partner, learn from their experience, innovate for your customers and differentiate from your competitors,” says Wilkins.

To achieve this level of differentiation, Wilkins built a dedicated team of internal specialists. He initially thought First Utility would need to employ a broad range of analytical specialists, but quickly discovered that customer experience expertise would be more useful.

“As we started building out the My Energy platform, we realised we needed people who could translate the data into areas that customers would be keen to investigate and use,” says Wilkins. “We inevitably spent much more time and money on the look and feel of the service and less on the data side.”

“We’ve learnt that the way you present information to different stakeholders is very important. Half-hourly updates have a very low value for consumers, but we’ve used My Energy to take that information and present it in a more informative manner for customers.”

6. Think in an entrepreneurial fashion and continue to innovate

As a smaller utility firm, First Utility must try to keep pace with larger competitors, but often with fewer resources, says Wilkins. He points to the firm’s mobile programme, which – when compared to the big budget spend of some competitors – was launched with the help of just four engineers in under a year.

One area of pioneering development is the firm’s partnership with Cosy, a Cambridge firm specialising in the development of smart heating systems. Wilkins says First Utility’s aim is to be in a position to offer the Cosy technology to all its customers by the end of the year.

“Cosy is all about bringing in a new data set concerning the heating characteristics of a house,” he says. “Customers get to control their heating from an app, and we get fine-grain information on their requirements, and the efficiency of their boiler and insulation. That information is then fed back into the My Energy platform.”

Wilkins says data becomes more valuable when it is weaved together and used for cross-purposes. As well as Cosy, First Utility is also set to launch a new Auto Read feature as part of its mobile app for customers who do not yet have smart meters. A UK first, the app uses the phone’s camera to take a snapshot of the meter and helps to create more accurate readings.

“Both innovations – Cosy and Auto Read – are concerned with how we can get better-quality data into our analytics engine,” he says. “Getting an accurate view of energy consumption is a challenge for utility firms. Unless you get it right, you start billing estimates, which isn’t great for customers and doesn’t help create certainty in terms of revenue for the business.”


Souce: CIO tips for business innovation with data

Five SAP HANA implementation tips CIOs should know

If you’re planning an SAP HANA implementation in the near future, you’re probably on a fierce hunt for guidance.

That’s because despite HANA’s ability to analyze massive amounts of data in real-time, HANA adoption rates have so far been on the low side, although they doappear to be rising as its functionality expands into a major platform for enter­prise applications and word about its success spreads. Still, the dearth of real-life experience from which to learn may leave early adopters feeling like they’re making an SAP HANA implementation journey in the dark.

Download “SAP mobility walks the runway”

SAP mobility strives to give users flexibility while maintaining security, usability and proper business processes.

To make that journey a bit clearer, here are five tips to help light your way. (Note: The first three tips apply to the HANA database, and the last two are on HANA applications, or S/4HANA Enterprise Management; see sidebar for more on the difference.)

Spend time deciding whether you want on-premises, hybrid or cloud versions of HANA. Maintaining an in-house database infrastructure has always been an expensive undertaking, due to the cost and overhead involved. CIOs must decide if the future direction of their company requires them to partially or fully get rid of their in-house database infrastructure and partially or completely move to cloud. The decision on whether the cost associated with the HANA database is justified may take longer for companies that have already heavily invested in in-house infrastructure. However, undertaking a cost-benefit analysis greatly helps in this decision-making process. Often companies only migrate their old and slow databases to SAP HANA to speed up transactions processing, but leave the applications side as it is or do it later on to take advantage of S/4HANA Enterprise Management offerings.

SAP has positioned the HANA portfolio into two distinct categories:

Technical. This is the powerfully fast database processing side of HANA.

Functional. This is the application side, positioned as S/4HANA Enterprise Management. It’s on the Enterprise Management side of HANA, where there are ongoing innovations and simplifications in business processes taking place. These are released every quarter.

Companies may choose only the technical upgrade by choosing HANA database and leave the functional side for implementation later on, or they may do both at once. However, it is not possible to implement Enterprise Management without first implementing the HANA database.

Address hardware sizing by calling on the experts. HANA’s simpler database, faster CPUs and flexible scaling requires CIOs to diligently conduct hardware sizing when it comes to HANA, since these are an altogether different ballgame than traditional databases, and any misstep could lead to underestimating or overestimating the required hardware. To make the most-informed decision, CIOs should engage multiple SAP HANA-certified vendors and then compare the results and reports of each vendor. If most vendors suggest a similar database size, then it is better to go for the higher estimation of database size. If there’s a significant deviation in hardware sizing estimates from one vendor to another, then CIOs should ask each vendor to provide references to similar sizing projects that they’ve undertaken or get help from SAP to validate the vendor-suggested database size.

Tap into any available HANA knowledge and experience. At this time, there aren’t too many reference clients and industry referrals that CIOs can consult to see how well others have done and the challenges they faced. Being a newer technology that has not been adopted among a lot of enterprises, even SAP consultants engaged in HANA implementation do not have a depth and breadth of experience. Fortunately, SAP helps with its early adopter program, known asSAP Ramp-Up. In this program, SAP engages subject matter experts who then engage with early adopters on a regular basis throughout the duration of SAP HANA implementation to guide and advise on all technical and functional aspects of HANA. SAP also incrementally shares technical guides, user manuals, presentations, roadmaps, accelerators and other assets to enable the client to effectively and successfully implement HANA.

SAP’s ongoing innovations to SAP S/4HANA Enterprise Management can evoke an intense case of FOMO.

Access SAP Activate. For companies opting for HANA’s Enterprise Management, the S/4HANA deployment methodology SAP Activate ensures expedited and guided S/4HANA Enterprise Management implementation. SAP Activate leverages best practices, guided configuration and proven implementation methodology to ensure a project’s success. SAP Activate eliminates the traditional way of creating an SAP Business Blueprint document that maps current business processes with SAP Best Practices business processes and then conducts a gap analysis — SAP Activate gets straight to the gap analysis. CIOs must be aware that it is still too early to evaluate if SAP Activate will ensure that all important business processes are captured, given that not all SAP Best Practices are currently available in HANA. However, SAP does keep on adding and building up the Best Practices library. So can CIOs rely only on the library as it gets fully built out? Not likely. An approach that seems to work well so far is to use traditional business blueprinting, but also create a variant or additional document by using SAP Activate.

Create an implementation roadmap and stick to it. SAP is continuously rolling out newer functionality and innovations with each quarterly release of SAP S/4HANA Enterprise Management, which can evoke an intense case of FOMO (fear of missing out). But it is critical that CIOs do not let new offerings and features derail the ongoing SAP project. In other words, don’t go back two-steps on an already-agreed upon solution just to take advantage of newer innovations, or the result will quickly become scope creep, skyrocketing project costs and timeline slippages. CIOs should put a hard-stop on adopting S/4HANA innovations until the initial SAP HANA implementation is complete. Later, after SAP HANA implementation has successfully gone live and business processes have matured, CIOs can embark on “continuous-improvements” projects to implement latest S/4HANA Enterprise Management innovations available at that time.

Source: -Five SAP HANA implementation tips CIOs should know

CIOs: Acquire new skills for technology management

CIOs should be seen as enablers and leaders of change in their business.

CIOs should be seen as enablers and leaders of change in their business. In this buyer’s guide, Computer Weekly looks at how the age of the customer requires IT leaders to
focus on both the business technology and IT agendas; why IT leaders need to use blogging and social media to raise their profile and build influence in their organisations; and how IT leaders can roll out projects ever more quickly without running unacceptable risks.

In this 14-page buyer’s guide, Computer Weekly explores:

  • Ways of acquiring new technology management skills
  • Lessons and literature for CIOs
  • How to role out IT projects faster, without running unacceptable risks
  • Case Study: How Atkins ramps up IT speed

Download the guide from: Computerweekly-Acquire new skills for technology management

10 highly valued soft skills for IT pros

Today’s IT pro needs both technical expertise and soft skills — that’s nothing new. But the scope of those in-demand soft skills just keeps growing.

Depending on which company you talk to, there are varying demands for IT technical skills. But there is one common need that most IT organizations have: soft skills. This need is nothing new. As early as three decades ago corporate IT sought out liberal arts graduates to become business and systems analysts so they could “bridge the communications gap” between programmers and end users. And if you look at the ranks of CIOs, almost half have backgrounds in liberal arts.

So what are the soft skills areas that companies want to see in IT professionals today?

1: Deal making and meeting skills
IT is a matchup of technology and people to produce products that run the company’s business. When people get involved, there are bound to be disagreements and a need to arrive at group consensus. IT’ers who can work with people, find a common ground so projects and goals can be agreed to, and swallow their own egos in the process if need be are in high demand.

2: Great communication skills
The ability to read, write, and speak clearly and effectively will never go out of style — especially in IT. IT project annals are filled with failed projects that were good ideas but poorly communicated.

3: A sixth sense about projects
There are formal project management programs that teach people PM methodology. But for most people, it takes several years of project management experience to develop an instinct for how a project is really going. Natural project managers have this sixth sense. In many cases, it is simply a talent that can’t be taught. But when an IT executive discovers a natural project manager who can “read” the project in the people and the tasks, this person is worth his/her weight in gold.

4: Ergonomic sensitivity
Because its expertise is technical, it is difficult for IT to understand the point of view of a nontechnical user or the conditions in the field that end users face. A business analyst who can empathize with end users, understand the business conditions they work in, and design graphical user interfaces that are easy to learn and use is an asset in application development.

5: Great team player
It’s easy for enclaves of IT professionals to remain isolated in their areas of expertise. Individuals who can transcend these technical silos and work for the good of the team or the project are valued for their ability to see the big picture. They are also viewed as candidates for promotions.

6: Political smarts
Not known as a particularly politically astute group, IT benefits when it hires individuals who can forge strong relationships with different constituencies throughout the company. This relationship building facilitates project cooperation and success.

7: Teaching, mentoring, and knowledge sharing
IT’ers able to teach new applications to users are invaluable in project rollouts. They are also an asset as teaching resources for internal IT. If they can work side by side with others and provide mentoring and support, they become even more valuable — because the “real” IT learning occurs on the job and in the trenches. Central to these processes is the willingness to share and the ability to listen and be patient with others as they learn.

8: Resolving “gray” issues
IT likes to work in binary (black and white). Unfortunately, many of the people issues that plague projects are “gray.” There is no right or wrong answer, but there is a need to find a place that everyone is comfortable with. Those who can identify and articulate the problem, bring it out in the open, and get it solved are instrumental in shortening project snags and timelines.

9: Vendor management
Few IT or MA programs teach vendor management — and even fewer IT’ers want to do this. But with outsourcing and vendor management on the rise, IT pros with administrative and management skills who can work with vendors and ensure that SLAs (service level agreements) and KPIs (key performance indicators) are met bring value to performance areas where IT is accountable. They also have great promotion potential.

10: Contract negotiation
The growth of cloud-based solutions has increased the need for contract negotiation skills and legal knowledge. Individuals who bring this skills package to IT are both recognized and rewarded, often with highly paid executive positions.

Source: TechRepublic-10 highly valued soft skills for IT pros By Mary Shacklett

10 resolutions for better IT in 2016

As you take stock of the past year and look at the challenges that lie ahead, consider adding some of these goals to your IT-improvement list.

What if CIOs challenged themselves and their IT staff members to come up with 10 resolutions for the New Year? Here are some goals that might make the list.

1: Improve listening skills

Try as it might, IT is fundamentally an engineering discipline. IT’ers like to focus on things and on words that are spoken or written at face value. Sometimes, though, critical listening kicks in and benefits everyone when IT’ers can “hear between the lines,” whether it’s detecting someone’s frustration or catching the expression of a hidden wish that the system could do something better. Listening skills continue to be a developmental area for IT.

2: Don’t be arrogant

It’s easy to dismiss a non-IT person’s idea if it isn’t technically feasible, but sometimes there’s a useful gem buried in the suggestion. Even if there isn’t, patience and respect for others’ input can go a long way toward dispelling IT’s reputation for sometimes being arrogant and aloof.

3: Avoid using acronyms

Unless you’re surrounded by a group of techies who use acronyms day-in and day-out, it is a good idea to keep acronyms out of conversations. They get in the way of clear communications.

4: Kick the tires on new technologies

Despite the number of IT departments that say they are “leading edge,” more than 50% of IT work is spent on system maintenance. At the end of the day, there is very little budget or staff time left to explore new technologies that could be benefit the company in the future. Don’t let this stop you. There are plenty of vendors out there that would welcome giving you a test drive of what they’ve got to offer—and to show you how it could potentially pay off for your company—even if you’re not immediately planning to buy.

5: Develop a strategy for reducing system maintenance

Even though system maintenance consumes such a large amount of the average IT department’s time, few of them have an active strategy for it. Whether it’s outsourcing applications to the cloud, improving quality assurance so applications fail less, or assessing the breakage levels of applications and replacing high-breakage apps, IT departments need to get on top of this area so they can free more staff to work on new projects.

6: Implement green IT in asset management

IT has already attacked data center carbon footprints by reducing the numbers of physical servers and storage devices/cabinets, replacing them with virtual counterparts. But there’s still more to be done for green IT. A prime area is asset management, which uses software to track IT hardware and software assets both inside and outside the data center. If asset management software is implemented to track asset use—and then identifies assets that are barely or no longer being used—IT can redeploy these assets or get rid of them. Another asset management area is building facilities and office space, a major energy consumption and expense item for enterprises. Many companies have been successful at saving money and promoting corporate-wide green initiatives when they’ve used their IT asset management software to track facilities utilization.

7: Commit to staff training and development

The first area to go with budget cuts is IT staff training and development. But with the advent of so many new technologies and projects, IT can scarcely afford to endure learning curves on every mission-critical project. If necessary, the CIO should be talking to the board and the CEO about the importance of investing in key IT personnel by offering proactive technology education and career growth paths. This encourages the most valuable IT contributors to stay with the company for the long haul.

8: Employ end users in QA

Quality assurance is an oft-neglected area in IT. Its task is to check out applications for conformity to technical and functional requirements, but what is missing in the QA process is an app checkout that evaluates the application’s fit with the business process it’s being inserted into—as well as the user experience and user-friendliness of the application. The best people to do the user-oriented checkouts are the end users themselves. This also engages users actively in the process of testing a new application and helps ensure their buy-in to the app.

9: Update your DR plan

IT continues to place regularly testing and updating disaster recovery plans on the back burner, due to the many projects and user requests that constantly flood the IT workload. Nevertheless, those who have actually been through a disaster will attest that there is no document more singularly important than the DR plan when things go wrong. A poor disaster recovery effort can harm a company’s business reputation for the long term—and it can also affect the jobs and careers of those who were supposed to be in charge of assuring that the company could meet any disastrous circumstance it faced.

10: Revisit your data retention policies

The big data age has swamped enterprises with more data than ever before, but not all of it is useful. Although it can be among the most dreaded of tasks, make it a point to revisit corporate data retention policies with business units across the enterprise on an annual basis.

Source: Techrepublic-0 resolutions for better IT in 2016 By Mary Shacklett