A few months ago, Steve Rogers, Director of the IBM Center for Applied Insights, had a great discussion with Frank DiGilio, Distinguished Engineer and Chief Architect for IBM Cloud about how incorporating Cloud as a strategy can give businesses a competitive advantage. We’ll share excerpts and audio files of their conversation over the coming weeks.
Steve Rogers: Frank, have you seen examples of people using cloud analytics and big data together to address competitive advantage, address strategic questions, and/or scale analytics that they need pervasively throughout the enterprise?
Frank DeGilio: Yes, I think there’s a couple of businesses that I’ve worked with that are starting to do that.
I’m talking to a rather large retailer who is saying, “I need to be leveraging the value of my infrastructure. But more importantly how do I leverage a group of people who I have been largely anonymous in my environment and make their voice heard?” Which is kind of an interesting model.
Say I have a huge population who I don’t know by name or even a lot of their demographics, but I know buying habits and those buying habits are regional in nature. So, I don’t have all the data that I’d like because they’re a community that will remain anonymous primarily because they’re cash based buyers.
If I’m working with credit card buyers it’s much easier to keep track of stuff. But, if I’ve got a large cash based business I have to be a lot more creative in the way that I deal with the data because the data doesn’t have the specificity that would make it very easy.
So I have to leverage cloud. I have to leverage some analytics in some very different ways. So it’s not who they were or how old they are, it’s where they are regionally. It’s about what are the other things that they bought at the same time… what can I glean out of the data to understand the type of person whose making that purchase?
The data is extremely unstructured. You’re trying to draw connections on a very different scale. And I probably don’t have all the compute power I need to do that in house. And, if I do, I probably don’t want to dedicate it just to that.
So leveraging all of this stuff in a much more dynamic way is going to become important if I’m going to make any inroads into how do I market to this community differently.
Steve Rogers: So heretofore without big data you couldn’t gather all that without cloud?
Frank DeGilio: Yes, it’s very interesting because it’s different, it’s a completely different thing. We would never think about doing that, you know, five years ago you wouldn’t do that at all. It wouldn’t even be a thought. Now, suddenly, it’s how do I do this?
Steve Rogers: Yes. So returning to one of our other themes that we found with pacesetters about collaborating more deeply — they were 71% more likely to use cloud to collaborate across their organization and their entire ecosystem.
Although, there could be hidden hazards if you’re not thinking it through properly. One of the examples we saw of that collaboration was in development and operations. Pacesetters were 74% more likely to use cloud to improve their dev ops. But I’ve got a question for you. Are there other silos within IT that cloud helps to break down?
Frank DeGilio: Well it’s funny that you say it that way. I’ve maintained that the only way a business can move forward and be competitive is to remove the silos. Silos are the worst possible thing for business. And if you look at the way we collaborate today, what you’ll find is that we’ve already seen a big change in the way we communicate.
For example, when was the last time you talked to somebody on the phone in your business and not know when you pick up the phone what the conversations going to be about? Probably, if you’re like my company, that never happens because I use some instant message facility first. For us it’s Sametime right?
Nobody just calls me…they Sametime me first. So, when the phone rings and I pick up the phone I know who it is, I know what they’re interested in, and I have a set of information for them right away. So what we’re seeing is an increasingly tightly knit community that is not tied to, you know, that traditional phone call. What we’re seeing is people who are getting what they need in this space without the kind of interactions and the kind of time wasting that we had before.
Phone calls are much more efficient. I’m able to deal with a lot more stuff happening simultaneously because I see them in parallel and can make decisions about which ones I want to deal with now.
And this is the beginning of how this whole collaborative environment changes the way we interact with each other.
Steve Rogers: Yes. It’s almost as if information begins to defy gravity. In the olden days it would have come down from on high and cascaded but now it sort of can flow up, sideways, left, right so and I guess your statement there is true not only for IT but also business silos that might exist, yes?
Frank DeGilio: Yes. What we’re doing is we’re eliminating what used to be very serial and saying look here is everything that’s going on.
And you as a person whose trying to do some work can prioritize real-time what do I need to deal with next and where does it need to go and who can I connect together without a phone call without waiting for the right person to answer the phone whether they’re there or not.
I can start a conversation and know that I probably won’t get an answer from that person right away, so what else can I be doing? It becomes a way of doing business in a fundamentally different way. And it’s not like this is some future state this is what’s happening now. It’s changing the way we do our jobs.
Steve Rogers: Yes. And I assume it touches other parts of how we do things. You know, and as we looked at that pacesetter group in particular they indicated that cloud played an integral part in their mobile and their social and their data big data and analytic strategies and initiatives.
Have you seen examples in your client work of how people are linking these technologies together with cloud?
Frank DeGilio: Yes, you know, it’s interesting that you bring up the bring your own device or the mobile. Pacesetters, the people you’re talking about, are ones that can effectively adopt a bring your own device strategy.
And how do I deal with a world where the infrastructure is quite literally everywhere? In the old days we had IT in a data center in a nice raised floor area. Today the infrastructure is everywhere. It’s all the different pieces. And how we interact has become more dynamic because the tooling is more dynamic. The way we interact with systems is more dynamic. Mobile is going to be even more of a change in the way we do business than personal computers were over PCs.
Now, we’ll be able to leverage where people are, what they’re thinking, the way they’re dealing with the rest of the world, the way they’re dealing with their friends altogether in a very dynamic way. And that’s why you need something like cloud because you don’t understand what’s happening or where things are going today.
So, you have to make sure that your infrastructure can morph to what you need right now because what you need right now is now what you needed 20 minutes ago or even ten minutes ago. I need to be able to be that kind of flexible. Pacesetters get that. They know how to do that. They’re willing to experiment. They’re willing to maybe even trust their people a little bit more than in a traditional environment and they’re able to kind of build out. And that building out is something that is part of their competitive advantage. I’m leveraging the value of my people in the ways that let them be the most creative and not worry about the technology because I have the infrastructure managed in a way that it keeps up with the way people are working.
Next: Cloud and the broker CIO