One of the most common concerns for top executives lies in the main factors that will either make or break their companies. In simple terms they are looking for their “Competitive Advantages.” Although some might argue that nothing has changed, the reality is that in today’s heavily IT-infused operations, an organization’s Competitive Advantages might not even be related to its core competencies!
No one can dispute the relevance and importance of the supporting IT systems in the ultimate success of an organization. In a sense, all businesses are becoming IT-enabled businesses; or, at minimum, relying heavily on the presence of its related services. Thus, in order to gain or hold the “Competitive Advantages”, a successful organization must become not only proficient in their IT and information-related operations but also be the most innovative and forward-thinking kid on the block. In order to achieve such status, both business and IT leaders need to think like and/or model very successful IT companies such as Google, Apple or Amazon.
There are four distinctive traits that, when integrated into daily operations, can ultimately support an organization’s innovation and world-class operations. These traits are Portability, Elasticit, Scalability and Agility when it comes to IT solutions or services. Of course, no two organizations are the same. Therefore, the application and interpretation of the following will likely differ from one organization to the next.
A solution’s portability will be one of the most important aspects of enterprise IT solutions. Nowadays, many companies adopt various cloud systems to either augment or replace their existing and aging legacy information platforms. The promise of the Cloud-based solution lies in its enhanced scalability and flexibility. The reality, however, is that such promises can come with the hefty price of being locked with a specific vendor at best, not to mention having to deal with multiple environments. These issues could potentially bring more organizational headaches in the form of security, configuration, and compatibility issues. Nevertheless, Cloud systems are becoming the new de facto hardware of enterprise solutions. Regardless of which platform or technology an organization selects, one must remember that each solution comes with its own strengths and limitations, making the process of selection, implementation and interoperability even more challenging.
One could ask, then, if clouds are the hardware, what is the enterprise operating system? One of the technologies that followed Cloud Computing was Platform as a Service (PaaS). In a nutshell, PaaS provides a unified platform that allows IT operations to develop, run, and manage web applications without the complexity of building and maintaining the infrastructure typically associated with developing and launching an enterprise app. This essentially could be interpreted as the Operating System of the enterprise cloud. But not so fast! Most public cloud vendors have their own version of the PaaS that is not compatible with other private or public cloud providers.
To address this issue, one of the most innovative PaaS solutions lies in the Cloud Foundry. The Cloud Foundry provides Cloud agnostic platform that can be configured and deployed on many of the private and public cloud systems. This unique capability enables enterprises to view the cloud systems as merely a utility or service that can be leveraged to get the best performance or ROI. With this solution, enterprise applications can be designed, developed, tested, deployed, and scaled in a manner that was not (and is not in many current companies) possible.
Elasticity can be interpreted as the degree to which an IT system adapts its capacity to the workload and demands of an organization, both internally and externally. It is of the utmost importance for the system, processes, and human resources/experts to be able to systematically adjust the resources and bandwidth based on the immediate needs rather than on a fixed quota. Just as the concept of Just-in-Time (JIT) changed the manufacturing industry, so too can the concept of Just-in-Need (JIN) change enterprise computing by helping control the bottom–line cost when demand is low, and the performance and availability of services when demand is high by providing high degree of service scalability.
Scalability is the capability of a system, network, or process to handle a growing amount of work, or its potential to be expand or scale down in order to accommodate the growth or downtime. In today’s competitive organizations, IT systems and their related processes and procedures need to be truly scalable in order to support their elasticity. Scalability can only be sustained when organizations have the right set of technologies and procedures in place.
The concept of Agility can be related to the time-to-market or response time to an internal or external event or trigger. More and more organizations are adopting various techniques to help them become Agile in product development, design, and deployment. One caveat of achieving successful and maintainable agility is the systematic implementation across the organization which requires the adaptation of the modem DevOps and Continuous Delivery schemes.
The DevOps is all about doing the right thing in an agile, systematic, predictable and replicable manner. It includes creating capacity and precise alignment of the resources and their capabilities with organizational needs and expectations. A successful adaptation will require changes both in soft and technical skills that may ultimately result (for many organizations) in fundamental changes in organization and resource patterns, behaviors, expectations, compensation, and goals.
To conclude, the three concepts of Portability, Elasticity, and Agility are becoming increasingly integrated in successful and forward-thinking businesses and IT operations. In order to successfully adopt and integrate these principles, as well as the technologies to make them possible, you need to better understand the current organizational setup and future goals while maintaining the power to change both behavioral and technical issues within the organization.
Finally, always seek the professional assistance of trusted experts who can provide both technical and organizational coaching and guidance along the journey.
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