• 27 Jun 2017 by Peter Gladwish

    Business continuity planning plays a crucial role in most organizations. Downtime can occur due to several factors: Internet connectivity issues, power failures, terrorist attacks. Significant events such as the Y2K threat, the 9/11 terrorist attack, SARS, the Iraq war, and many others across the world have had a tremendous business impact. Risks have also arisen from natural calamities like earthquakes, floods, and hurricanes. These events have posed enormous challenges for businesses all over the world, and that’s how the idea of ‘disaster recovery’ or ‘resilience’ came into existence.

    The increased use of information technology, company network integration and supply chain globalization have helped reduce the risk of exposure for companies to a catastrophic ‘single point of failure’ disaster.

    Challenges and the changing landscape

    Businesses are facing more challenges to maintain an always-on environment even as interdependencies, new technology, and security risks are growing. Threats are everywhere – from virtual and physical data breaches to outages from power loss, equipment failure, and extreme weather events.

    Traditional approaches to resiliency are changing to meet the requirements of the current scenario. In a business environment where data increases exponentially and analytics are tied directly to consumer satisfaction, businesses cannot afford to have downtime. A holistic approach to resiliency is no longer an option.

    A way forward

    A good resiliency plan typically has the following components:

    1. Strategy, governance, planning, and communications: Strategy, organization, and processes to identify and mitigate areas of potential risk.
    2. High availability: On-demand access supporting continuous availability of IT infrastructure components.
    3. Continuous operations and backup-as-a-service: Non-disruptive backups and system maintenance coupled with continuous availability of applications and data.
    4. Disaster recovery (DR): Protection against unplanned or unscheduled outages through predictable recovery and restoration
    5. Facilities, data center operations and management: Relocate, plan, design, build, manage effective, lean, and resilient modular data centers.
    6. Resiliency communications: Incident, event, and emergency communications management with efficient mobile communications, tracking, and analysis.

    Using Hybrid Clouds for better resilience

    Many companies are now using Hybrid Clouds to position themselves better to deliver customer experiences that meet changing business requirements. Hybrid Clouds make enterprises fast and flexible, value-driven, and cost-effective. However, while the Hybrid Cloud can offer agility and flexibility to the enterprise, it can also increase the complexity of the environment, particularly to manage backup and resiliency across all providers. They can become difficult to integrate, monitor, manage, secure, and protect given the wide range of sources where workloads can originate.

    Delivering a consistent and predictable disaster recovery (DR) experience

    Resiliency orchestration is necessary to deliver a consistent and predictable DR experience. This modern management solution aligns Recovery Time and Recovery Point Objectives. It’s built on industry standards and can rapidly be deployed and automated for any event.

    Automated/Orchestrated DR has following benefits:

    • Helps reduce risk and increase visibility
    • Helps simplify and accelerate the DR process
    • Helps reduce deployment time, recovery time, and operating costs
    • Helps simplify DR testing exercises
    • Helps increase the availability of business applications

    How does orchestration help when tied to Crisis or Incidence Management?

    Integration of crisis and incident response workflows with IT DR orchestration on mobile devices enables real-time status tracking on activities and process compliance of all responders. It:

    • Enables quicker response to an incident/event to reduce or mitigate impact to your customers
    • Automates message escalation and distribution without manual processes, avoids log jams
    • Continues to run the business during major disruptions
    • Maintains regulatory compliance

    While most companies are aware of the need for business continuity and have some sort of disaster recovery plan in place, it’s always a good idea to rethink ways to ensure continuous business operations. Staying in pace with trends and getting the right plan in place at the right time will help achieve that goal.

    You can view the full presentation in the Research Section.

    For further information on this and other related topics, please visit the resources in the Research Section of the CORE website (available to members).

  • 14 Jun 2017 by Jason Bremner

    Simply put, the 3rd platform is the next BIG phase of the Information Technology revolution. It is built like mobile networking, cloud computing, big data analytics, and social networking technologies. The 3rd platform offers an innovative approach to create, sell, deliver, or consume products and services with increased agility, flexibility, and scalability.

    Adoption and outsourcing: Big Data Analytics (BDA)

    Big Data is an all-inclusive term for the large volume of semi-structured and unstructured data that organizations create in their day-to-day operations. While most companies collect and analyze data, very few leverage BDA to a significant degree.

    The BDA market is accelerating as companies have begun to harness data and make fact-based decisions to improve the way business is conducted. Outsourcing, which includes infrastructure management, software support, and specific BDA activities such as design, data mining, and decision support is still gaining ground in the market. Most organizations support their BDA activities internally; however, 20% of businesses are currently considering outsourcing.

    According to research from the International Data Corporation (IDC), over half of all organizations use service providers while implementing their BDA environment. Most of these organizations use 3rd party providers for end-to-end project delivery.

    BDA projects can be complex and hinge on the successful establishment of relationships and ease of operation that is critical to the success of long-term outsourcing arrangements. It is interesting to note that of the organizations that implement BDA internally, 10% leveraged a mostly cloud-based solution. IDC expects this percentage to increase in the future.

    Selection criteria

    Buyers typically want to deal with vendors who offer competitive prices and have a reputation for technical expertise. These and a successful track record are the three primary factors that need to be considered when choosing a vendor for BDA.

    Vendors need to demonstrate credibility through their people, quality of work, and past successes in the area. They must build their credentials in various mobile platforms and demonstrate thought leadership. Buyers would also do well to ask for references and roadmaps that will drive continuous improvement and ensure consistency of the support team.

    Provider preferences

    Buyers tend to prefer one of two distinct types of vendors – the first type is telecom-based providers whose core capabilities span devices and the network. The second type covers specialty firms that are focused on mobile environments and development. Specialty vendors are the go-to providers of managed BDA services. Many buyers prefer boutique firms with specialists in design, data mining, etc. Boutique firms can partner with and provide much-needed skills to SIs, while telecom-based providers can design and deliver mobile, IoT, and network-based solutions.

    Challenges and concerns

    The biggest challenge with BDA appears to be management philosophy. This, along with concerns over loss of control, is often an unwarranted objection that buyers use to explain their position. Security is also frequently a concern. Cost savings often comes up on the list of challenges, possibly reflecting the maturity of the market and the need to demonstrate a positive ROI.

    You can view the full presentation in the Research Section.

    For further information on this and other related topics, please visit the resources in the Research Section of the CORE website (available to members).

  • 25 May 2017 by Stanton Jones

    Excerpt from a presentation at the CORE Annual Conference in Toronto (November 8, 2016).

    You can view the entire presentation and video in our Research Centre.

  • 25 May 2017 by Brett Polloway

    In the era of enterprise applications, Service Level Agreements (SLAs) have become an essential part of the IT industry and are perhaps more complex than they ever were before. There’s a growing need within the industry to align IT infrastructure with business objectives and execute faster, and more affordable, outcome-based business strategies.

    In the past, organizations viewed outsourcing as an efficient way to reduce IT operating expenses. This led to the creation of offshoring principles based on definitions of how the maximum output could be achieved with the best rates, i.e. by investing time and materials in low-cost locations. With time, companies progressed to a more organized and goal-oriented SLA approach, focused on getting the job done within shorter timespans (weeks instead of months).

    To get us started on making a clearer link to business objectives, here is a quick primer on how to link SLAs to outcomes.

    What are SLAs?

    SLAs are essentially a contract between a service provider (internal or external) and the end user. This agreement defines the level of service expectations from the service provider. They are systems that explicitly define what the customer will receive.

    Characteristics of effective SLAs

    SLAs must have an impact on the business. They are best structured to be outcome-focused, measurable, specific and auditable. Effective SLAs provide traceability to business, balance quality and quantity, are achievable, objective, unique, risk-based, and have volumetric alignment with the appropriate financial levers.

    SLAs and outcomes

    An outcome is defined as a business result rather than a specific activity, task, or asset. SLAs serve as indicators of how far the desired outcome has been achieved.

    Business outcome-based contracting models are different from traditional IT services contracting models in that they don’t outline the technical or operational specifications of individual tasks. These models usually define end-client goals or business outcomes.

    A successful outcome-based model has a few key requirements:

    1. Products, services, or programs that can be clearly measured
    2. Mature buyers, established relationships, and a strong degree of trust
    3. Supplier’s control over end-to-end delivery of service

    Traditionally, IT services contracts were devised to pay either a fixed sum, or a fee based on the time spent on the work. This offered limited scope to bring innovation, thought leadership, or industry-specific knowledge to the forefront. Outcome-based business models give technology organizations a competitive advantage.

    Keys to creating successful business outcomes using your SLAs

    1. Unambiguous outcome statements must be clearly defined using SMART principles.
    2. Align SLAs with desired outcomes – you must be able to measure the inputs that drive the achievement of the outcome.
    3. Understand where outcome-based contracts make the most sense. This type of contract is not one-size-fits-all.
    4. Clearly define the roles and responsibilities of the service provider and how performance will be measured.
    5. Apply mutually exclusive/collectively exhaustive (MECE) principles to ensure completeness and avoid ‘double dipping’.
    6. Balance application of levers to reward the right behaviour.
    7. Simplify the framework. Complexity creates uncertainty and administrative overheads. Less is more when it comes to SLAs.

    Since both SLAs and outcomes are interlinked, improvement in one could well lead to an improvement in the other. To create new business capabilities and opportunities, organizations must view it as a holistic process that delivers business outcomes rather than just technology or a process solution.

    You can view the full presentation in the Research Section.

    For further information on this and other related topics, please visit the resources in the Research Section of the CORE website (available to members).