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MSPs Have to Focus on Making Tech Easier, Not More Complex

Daniel Newman

Technology is constantly morphing from complex to simple and back again, usually because systems are used as designed one day and modified to do something else the next. Managed service providers (MSPs) that can embrace this modern landscape, manage complexity (by simplifying it), and match the pace of business tech innovations are well on their way towards starting off this new year on a very positive note.

Business owners tend to turn to MSPs to help them solve problems and take some of the load off of running their businesses. Thus, your products, services, and your brand story must convince clients that they are in the best hands possible. Here are a few trends to keep in mind as you develop a value proposition, build brand identity, and demonstrate why your offerings are the best solution money can buy:

Sometimes entrepreneurs need to go back to the beginning

When managing complexity due to mergers and acquisitions, there’s a demand to adjust to changing needs quickly. Unfortunately, the solutions are seldom practical or prudent. Teams are forced to use systems from a merger that may not be appropriate for the current line of business. For instance, Christopher Rence, CIO of Digital River, recalls orchestrating a strategic migration of data into a software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution:

“It required understanding some of the undocumented knowledge. We had to sit down with the programmer who originally wrote the integration scripts and ask him to create industry-standard processes and APIs so they could be reusable and repeatable.”

In this example, the solution was to go back and manage some steps that should have been documented in the beginning. Sometimes it isn’t about reinventing the wheel, but perfecting the current system.

Consolidation to simplify and save money

Simplification may be as simple as taking inventory of the technology and/or apps being used, and being able to provide a consolidated offering that saves both time and money for your clients. Take NBCUniversal CIO Atish Banerjea’s experience, for example: When he walked into NBCUniversal in 2012, he encouraged his team to create one advertising app that took the place of 19 individual programs.

This led to solutions for better inventory sales. The end result improved pricing and accelerated forecasting. Banerjea didn’t stop there, though; he saw an opportunity to consolidate Web-hosting providers. The organization had been using 200 Web properties that Banerjea’s team reduced to one all-encompassing platform, which saved the company tens of millions of dollars.

Manage application creep

A conscious plan must be in place to manage application creep – when applications are added instead of replaced to handle changing business needs. One way to mitigate this problem, for example, is by bringing enterprise architecture (EA) teams to budget meetings with inventory data from all units.

When one team proposes a new idea, an EA group can suggest an existing application that could work for this new challenge rather than incorporating another application to the inventory. Since keeping technology simple is more about courage than capability, a CIO must be diligent about finding outdated technology and addressing if it should be replaced or modified rather than added to.

Understand the best uses of cloud solutions

A major cause of complexity noted by many IT professionals is found in managing IT environments. The biggest pain-point is seen when mixing cloud and on-site systems. However, moving completely to a cloud system isn’t always the best solution.

Understanding which systems are best supported by cloud technology is one way to reduce complexity. Start with moving systems that aren’t essential to the core business to simplify monitoring and troubleshooting.

Develop a clear value proposition

Technology has added incredible depth to the way organizations function internally and how they connect with consumers. Thus, simplification must be a constant focus so innovation remains an asset rather than a burden to business.

When a company hires a managed service provider, it’s out of the need to simplify and save money. Focus on the cost-benefits of comprehensive programs that manage complexity, consolidate existing systems, and address issues like application creep. With a handle on the best uses of IT solutions, you can target clients with services based on usability and convenience. Highlight what you can provide and how you do it better, and simpler, than any other solution.

Learn what nearly 700 business leaders and team members think about organizational complexity in the Business Simplification In Technology infographic.

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About Daniel Newman

Daniel Newman serves as the Co-Founder and CEO of EC3, a quickly growing hosted IT and Communication service provider. Prior to this role Daniel has held several prominent leadership roles including serving as CEO of United Visual. Parent company to United Visual Systems, United Visual Productions, and United GlobalComm; a family of companies focused on Visual Communications and Audio Visual Technologies. Daniel is also widely published and active in the Social Media Community. He is the Author of Amazon Best Selling Business Book "The Millennial CEO." Daniel also Co-Founded the Global online Community 12 Most and was recognized by the Huffington Post as one of the 100 Business and Leadership Accounts to Follow on Twitter. Newman is an Adjunct Professor of Management at North Central College. He attained his undergraduate degree in Marketing at Northern Illinois University and an Executive MBA from North Central College in Naperville, IL. Newman currently resides in Aurora, Illinois with his wife (Lisa) and his two daughters (Hailey 9, Avery 5). A Chicago native all of his life, Newman is an avid golfer, a fitness fan, and a classically trained pianist

Innovation Without Boundaries: Why The Cloud Matters

Michael Haws

Is it possible to innovate without boundaries?

Of course – if you are using the cloud. An actual cloud doesn’t have any boundaries. It’s fluid. But more important, it can provide the much-needed precipitation that brings nature to life. So it is with cloud technology – but it’s your ideas that can grow and transform your business.USA --- Clouds, Heaven --- Image by © Ocean/Corbis

Running your business in the cloud is no longer just a consideration during a typical use-case exercise. Business executives are now faced with making decisions on solutions that go beyond previous limitations with cloud computing. Selecting the latest tools to address a business process gap is now less about features and more about functionality.

It doesn’t matter whether your organization is experienced with cloud solutions or new to the concept. Cloud technology is quickly becoming a core part of addressing the needs of a growing business.

5 considerations when planning your journey to the cloud

How can your organization define its successful path to the cloud? Here are five things you should consider when investigating whether a move to the cloud is right for you.

1. Understanding the cloud is great, but putting it into action is another thing.

For most CIOs, putting a cloud strategy on paper is new territory. Cloud computing is taking on new realms: Pure managed services to software-as-a-service (SaaS). Just as legacy computing had different flavors, so does cloud technology.

2. There is more than one way to innovate in the cloud.

Alignment with an open cloud reference architecture can help your CIO deliver on the promises of the cloud while using a stair-step approach to cloud adoption – from on-premise to hybrid to full cloud computing. Some companies find their own path by constantly reevaluating their needs and shifting their focus when necessary – making the move from running a data center to delivering real value to stakeholders, for example.

3. The cloud can help accelerate processes and lower cost.

By recognizing unprecedented growth, your organization can embark on a path to significant transformation that powers greater agility and competitiveness. Choose a solution set that best meets your needs, and implement and support it moving forward. By leveraging the cloud to support the chosen solution, ongoing maintenance, training, and system issues becomes the cloud provider’s responsibility. And for you, this offers the freedom to focus on the core business.

4. You can lock down your infrastructure and ensure more efficient processes.

Do you use a traditional reporting engine against a large relational database to generate a sequential batched report to close your books at quarter’s end? If so, you’re not alone. Sure, a new solution with new technology may be an obvious improvement. But how valuable to your board will you become when you reduce the financial closing process by 1–3 days? That’s the beauty of the cloud: You can accelerate the deployment of your chosen solution and realize ROI quickly – even before the next full reporting period.

5. The cloud opens the door to new opportunity in a secure environment.

For many companies, moving to the cloud may seem impossible due to the time and effort needed to train workers and hire resources with the right skill sets. Plus, if you are a startup in a rural location, it may not be as easy to attract the right talent as it is for your Silicon Valley counterparts. The cloud allows your business to secure your infrastructure as well as recruit and onboard those hard-to-find resources by applying a managed services contract to run your cloud model

The cloud means many things to different people. What’s your path?

With SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud service, you can navigate the best path to building, running, and operating your own cloud when running critical business processes. Find out how SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud can deliver the speed and resources necessary to quickly validate and realize solid ROI.

Check out the video below or visit us at www.sap.com/services-support/svc/in-memory-computing/hana-consulting/enterprise-cloud-services/index.html.

Connect with us on Twitter: @SAPServices

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Michael Haws

About Michael Haws

Michael Haws is the Vice President of HANA Enterprise Cloud at SAP. His specialties include Enterprise Resource Planning Software & Services, Onshore, Nearshore, Offshore--Application, Infrastructure and Business Process Outsourcing.

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Consumers And Providers: Two Halves Of The Hybrid Cloud Equation

Marty McCormick

Long gone are the days of CIOs and IT managers freely spending money to move their 02 Jun 2012 --- Young creatives having lunch and conversation. --- Image by © Hero/Corbisexisting systems to the cloud without any real business justification just to be part of the latest hype. As cloud deployments are becoming more prevalent, IT leaders are now tasked with proving the tangible benefits of adopting a cloud strategy from an operational, efficiency, and cost perspective. At the same time, they must balance their end users’ increasing demand for access to more data from an ever-expanding list of public cloud sources.

Lately, public cloud systems have become part of IT landscapes both in the form of multi-tenant systems, such as software-as-a-service (SaaS) offerings and data consumption applications such as Twitter. Along with the integration of applications and data outside of the corporate domain, new architectures have been spawned, requiring real-time and seamless integration points.  As shown in the figure below, these hybrid clouds – loosely defined as the integration of data from systems in both public and private clouds in a unified fashion – are the foundation of this new IT architecture.

hybridCloudImage

Not only has the hybrid cloud changed a company’s approach to deploying new software, but it has also changed the way software is developed and sold from a provider’s perspective.

The provider perspective: Unifying development and operations

Thanks to the hybrid cloud approach, system administrators and developers are sitting side by side in an agile development model known as Development and Operations (DevOps). By increasing collaboration, communication, innovation, and problem resolution, development teams can closely collaborate with system administrators and provide a continuous feedback loop of both sides of the agile methodology.

For example, operations teams can provide feedback on reported software bugs, software support issues, and new feature requests to development teams in real time. Likewise, development teams develop and test new applications with support and maintainability as a key pillar in design.
After seeing the advantages realized by cloud providers that have embraced this approach long ago, other companies that have traditionally separated these two areas are now adopting the DevOps model.

The consumer perspective: Moving to the cloud on its own terms

From the standpoint of the corporate consumer, hybrid cloud deployments bring a number of advantages to an IT organization. Specifically, the hybrid approach allows companies to move some application functionality to the cloud at their own pace.
Many applications naturally lend themselves to public cloud domains given their application and data requirements. For most companies, HR, indirect procurement, travel, and CRM systems are the first to be deployed in a public cloud. This approach eliminates the requirement for building and operating these applications in house while allowing IT areas to take advantage of new features and technologies much faster.

However, there is one challenge consumers need to overcome: The lack of capabilities needed to extend these applications and meet business requirements when the standard offering is often insufficient. Unfortunately, this tempts organizations to create extensive custom applications that replicate information across a variety of systems to meet end user requirements. This development work can offset the cost benefits of the initial cloud application, especially when you consider the upgrades and support required to maintain the application.

What this all means to everyone involved in the hybrid cloud

Given these two perspectives, on-premise software providers are transforming themselves so they can meet the ever-evolving demands of today’s information consumer. In particular, they are preparing for these unique challenges facing customers and creating a smooth journey to a hybrid cloud.

Take SAP, for example. By adopting a DevOps model to break down a huge internal barrier and allowing tighter collaboration, the company has delivered a simpler approach to hybrid cloud deployments through the SAP HANA Cloud Platform for extending applications and SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud for hosting solutions.

Find out how these two innovations can help you implement a robust and secure hybrid cloud solution:
SAP HANA Cloud Platform
SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud

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Marty McCormick

About Marty McCormick

Marty McCormick is the Lead Technical Architect, Managed Cloud Delivery, at SAP. He is experienced in a wide range of SAP solutions, including SAP Netweaver SAP Portal, SAP CRM, SAP SRM, SAP MDM, SAP BI, and SAP ERP.

How Much Will Digital Cannibalization Eat into Your Business?

Fawn Fitter

Former Cisco CEO John Chambers predicts that 40% of companies will crumble when they fail to complete a successful digital transformation.

These legacy companies may be trying to keep up with insurgent companies that are introducing disruptive technologies, but they’re being held back by the ease of doing business the way they always have – or by how vehemently their customers object to change.

Most organizations today know that they have to embrace innovation. The question is whether they can put a digital business model in place without damaging their existing business so badly that they don’t survive the transition. We gathered a panel of experts to discuss the fine line between disruption and destruction.

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qa_qIn 2011, when Netflix hiked prices and tried to split its streaming and DVD-bymail services, it lost 3.25% of its customer base and 75% of its market capitalization.²︐³ What can we learn from that?

Scott Anthony: That debacle shows that sometimes you can get ahead of your customers. The key is to manage things at the pace of the market, not at your internal speed. You need to know what your customers are looking for and what they’re willing to tolerate. Sometimes companies forget what their customers want and care about, and they try to push things on them before they’re ready.

R. “Ray” Wang: You need to be able to split your traditional business and your growth business so that you can focus on big shifts instead of moving the needle 2%. Netflix was responding to its customers – by deciding not to define its brand too narrowly.

qa_qDoes disruption always involve cannibalizing your own business?

Wang: You can’t design new experiences in existing systems. But you have to make sure you manage the revenue stream on the way down in the old business model while managing the growth of the new one.

Merijn Helle: Traditional brick-and-mortar stores are putting a lot of capital into digital initiatives that aren’t paying enough back yet in the form of online sales, and they’re cannibalizing their profits so they can deliver a single authentic experience. Customers don’t see channels, they see brands; and they want to interact with brands seamlessly in real time, regardless of channel or format.

Lars Bastian: In manufacturing, new technologies aren’t about disrupting your business model as much as they are about expanding it. Think about predictive maintenance, the ability to warn customers when the product they’ve purchased will need service. You’re not going to lose customers by introducing new processes. You have to add these digitized services to remain competitive.

qa_qIs cannibalizing your own business better or worse than losing market share to a more innovative competitor?

Michael Liebhold: You have to create that digital business and mandate it to grow. If you cannibalize the existing business, that’s just the price you have to pay.

Wang: Companies that cannibalize their own businesses are the ones that survive. If you don’t do it, someone else will. What we’re really talking about is “Why do you exist? Why does anyone want to buy from you?”

Anthony: I’m not sure that’s the right question. The fundamental question is what you’re using disruption to do. How do you use it to strengthen what you’re doing today, and what new things does it enable? I think you can get so consumed with all the changes that reconfigure what you’re doing today that you do only that. And if you do only that, your business becomes smaller, less significant, and less interesting.

qa_qSo how should companies think about smart disruption?

Anthony: Leaders have to reconfigure today and imagine tomorrow at the same time. It’s not either/or. Every disruptive threat has an equal, if not greater, opportunity. When disruption strikes, it’s a mistake only to feel the threat to your legacy business. It’s an opportunity to expand into a different marke.

SAP_Disruption_QA_images2400x1600_4Liebhold: It starts at the top. You can’t ask a CEO for an eight-figure budget to upgrade a cloud analytics system if the C-suite doesn’t understand the power of integrating data from across all the legacy systems. So the first task is to educate the senior team so it can approve the budgets.

Scott Underwood: Some of the most interesting questions are internal organizational questions, keeping people from feeling that their livelihoods are in danger or introducing ways to keep them engaged.

Leon Segal: Absolutely. If you want to enter a new market or introduce a new product, there’s a whole chain of stakeholders – including your own employees and the distribution chain. Their experiences are also new. Once you start looking for things that affect their experience, you can’t help doing it. You walk around the office and say, “That doesn’t look right, they don’t look happy. Maybe we should change that around.”

Fawn Fitter is a freelance writer specializing in business and technology. 

To learn more about how to disrupt your business without destroying it, read the in-depth report Digital Disruption: When to Cook the Golden Goose.

Download the PDF (1.2MB)

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3 Ways To Convince Your Workforce To Stop Fearing Digital Transformation

Paul Kurchina

Change of any kind – especially when it’s foisted on you without your commitment – can be dreadful. It may even resemble the return home from a disappointing doctor’s appointment. After shocking the doctor with high numbers across the board, your spouse replaces all of your most-loved foods (the leftover pizza from last night!) and beverages (the after-work beer and soda!) with kale, quinoa, and juice that looks like algae purged by a blender. Immediately, you resist: “How dare my loved one change my diet without my consent! I have no control! Why eat if I can’t be happy with what’s on my plate?”

That’s exactly how most employees view digital transformation initiatives. During the Americas’ SAP User Group (ASUG) webcast “The Only Thing to Fear Is Fear Itself: Embracing Change and Seizing the Opportunity of the Digital Transformation,” Keith R. Sturgill, CIO of Eastman Chemical Company and ASUG Board Chair, said, “in times of transformative change, great opportunities are invaluable. But, it also comes at a great cost because it’s not easy.” Sometimes the process is so daunting that we stop it, ignore it, and resume using our ingrained habits.

While technology-enabled, the real change behind digital transformation is all about people: how they work, collaborate, and make decisions. And changing people is always harder than implementing new technology. But, it’s not impossible once everyone – including leadership, employees, and partners – accepts these three realities of our digital world.

Reality check #1: Digital disruption is not just evolving. It’s already here!

Hearing from customers directly, reacting to what they want, and correcting what they don’t like at hard-to-imagine speeds is raising the bar high for every business. “Connecting people worldwide isn’t just allowing them to self-organize ideas and share opinions; it’s creating a new environment [in which] new business models can emerge. Just ask any growing business,” says Sturgill.

Just think:

  • Amazon is changing the face of retail without a single brick-and-mortar store
  • Airbnb is surpassing traditional hotels and motels without building a physical resort
  • Uber is upending the whole notion of taxi service without a single cab

However, it’s not as easy as setting up a website and creating a network of people, assets, and capital to support it. According to Sturgill, “it’s impossible to know the impact of what’s going to occur [in the future.] We can’t even begin to imagine how this is going to change the world. But without a doubt, it will be huge.”

Reality check #2: Decision making will never – and cannot – be the same

In the past, computers were set up with rules to inject automation and efficiency into business processes. Yet, they failed to support more difficult, complex problem solving such as predictions and forecasting that went beyond the scope of a predefined set of algorithms.

Our digital era is bringing about a new approach to decision making. Not just improving or accelerating decisions, but ultimately changing how they are made. Without the confines of codified decision flows, machine learning will soon consume and process an incredible amount of data to “understand” patterns and correlations. And as more data enters the systems, decisions on complex issues will likely become more improved and accurate.

“Machine learning algorithms will augment human insights, not replace them. Let people do what they do best – create, design, establish relationships and capabilities, and knit together insights to innovate with better judgment and unimaginable ideas,” advises Sturgill. “Think of your business as a decision machine.”

Reality check #3: The user experience (not technology) matters most

Like I said earlier in this blog, digital transformation is not about the technology you implement; it’s about your people. This is why the user experience will always eclipse corporate standards. From your customer to your workforce, consumer-grade technology is increasingly expected to become the norm – and it’s even happening to business-to-business (B2B) companies quicker than anyone realizes.

Most digital transformation strategies place a bright spotlight on the customer experience. By understanding what customers value and their unique preferences, B2B companies are using technology as a differentiator that gives customers a reason to engage and purchase from the business.

However, digital transformation does not end with the customer experience. “It is about people in your organization – talented, empowered, and passionate people. Employees should expect the work environment to be at least as good as their home computing environment. It should be as easy to order a new laptop at work as it is at home,” remarks Sturgill. “You need to commit to improving the work experience of your employees.”

Get your workforce engaged and passionate about digital transformation. Watch the webcast replay The Only Thing to Fear Is Fear Itself: Embracing Change and Seizing the Opportunity of the Digital Transformationin a series hosted by ASUG.

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