Are We Living in a One Horse Town?

A Vision from Down Under
By Michael Poole

Now, living as I do in Australia and being of a certain age, I can recall spending my holidays on a sheep and wheat farm in, what we Australians call, “the bush.” For those not acquainted with that expression, “the bush” is anywhere outside of a major city and typified by a lack of lights on the road and the possibility of a surprise meeting with a kangaroo on the same unlit road around dusk – which has a similar effect as our northern cousins meeting an elk.

So, in those days, there was a always a “country town” within one to six hours of most farms. The town near my uncle’s farm was pretty close, a one and a half hour drive along dirt roads, and consisted of one “pub,” Police Station (we are descended from convicts), Church and combination Petrol (Gas) Station/General Store/Post Office.

The next town was four hours away and about the same size except that it had an additional pub.

Now, going to town was an event. Usually undertaken on Saturday morning, we all dressed up in our nearly best clothes – not Sunday best, as it was a Saturday. The kids piled into the back of the “ute” (pick-up) and ate dust for an hour and a half. Brushing ourselves off after arriving in the town, the family split up to carry out each one’s appointed task.

Uncle, of course, had to fulfill his civic duties and always attended a meeting of the local farmer’s committee. Strangely these meeting were always held in the pub. They were thirsty work!

Aunt and the rest of us went to the General Store. There was an amazing range confectionery displayed on the counter-top, but surprisingly, other categories of items like food, hardware, etc. had little variety or choice. If you wanted flour, the choice was easy – there was just one brand and two types: plain and self-raising.

As there was only one General Store, of course whatever we needed had to chosen from what it supplied. There was little chance of getting a better deal by comparison shopping, and even if we knew that there was an alternative product that was better, if the store didn’t sell it, it was just too bad.

We sometimes suggested to Aunt that we could go to the other town and buy the better product, but she never did – she didn’t want to upset the store-keeper – and anyway, if he wasn’t supplying it, there must be something wrong with it.

I think back to those days when I go to the supermarket and have such an array of products to choose from. I even have a vast array of supermarkets and on-line stores to choose from.

So, what has this got to do with our real focus in this blog?

Well, I also remember those days when I talk to CIOs and IT Managers who are grimly holding to a Single Vendor “strategy.”

There has been a continued debate, not just in the IT community, on the topic of Single vs Multiple vendor implementations.

So what are the things that should be considered when deciding between these strategies?

Flexible to Innovation: When solutions are built upon open standards, enterprises have the ability to adopt new solutions, as their businesses grow and need change, or as new and improved solutions become available. Since a multi-vendor strategy is inherently an open-standards strategy, vendors must continue to innovate in order to create competitive advantage, driving new advances that result in higher performance solutions.

A single vendor with a broad portfolio of products will by its very nature always have products that lag behind others due to resource allocation, disparate product lifecycles, and shifting areas of focus. Furthermore, a single vendor strategy results in a lockout strategy for any competing vendors, even when they offer a superior solution. A multi-vendor network strategy based on open standards doesn’t demand you to sacrifice innovation or flexibility. In fact, innovation and flexibility are its byproducts inherently.

Who has the Advantage: Many organizations justify a single-vendor strategy because they feel they have the advantage when dealing just with one vendor. However, this is not the case as the figure below shows. In fact, by giving preference to a single-vendor, the advantage is shifted to that vendor. Strangely, this is one of the objectives of any vendor – to lock the client into a solution set and making it difficult if not impossible to to change vendors or introduce new technology that is not supported or supplied by the vendor.

The vendor Influencer Curve
Gartner’s Vendor Influencer Curve advocates a multivendor approach to based on clear business/IT objects,vs the single vendor trusted adviser approach favored

 

Single Vendor Myths
Limits Complexity: Many vendors, who claim to provide everything an enterprise needs to meet its technology requirements, have actually built solutions through acquisition with products that weren’t necessarily designed to work together. Superior Support: With diverse and varied products, support is provided by generalists with broad experience vs specialists with deep knowledge. Lower Operational Cost: In addition to often requiring increased support costs for aging technology, selecting a single vendor to provide products for all areas may actually increase costs due to the limited ability to negotiate pricing as well as support aging technology. Acceleration of Innovation Adoption: With a single vendor, enterprises are actually limited to innovations. Increased Operational Efficiencies: A vendor wouldn’t source all its materials from a single vendor due to the increased risk of relying upon a single source. Why should an enterprise customer be any different?

Reducing Risks and Costs: While relying upon a single vendor poses a significant risk for enterprises, a multi-vendor strategy actually mitigates this risk by reducing exposure to a single vendor’s decisions, from arbitrary product rationalization and service discontinuation to pricing increases. But the risk reduction benefits of a multi-vendor network strategy don’t end there. A single vendor strategy puts the enterprise at the mercy of a sole source that can increase costs through mandatory upgrades, compulsory support programs, and equipment packages that include products that don’t necessarily meet your needs. But, a multi-vendor strategy actually promotes cost reduction.

Leveraging Expertise: No vendor understands your business and network requirements as well as your technical staff. To move forward with a single-vendor strategy is to abdicate control over the decisions your technical staff is trained to make, and place the control of your network destiny directly into the hands of a third party. By giving you the ability to select solutions based on your business drivers, not your vendor’s, a multi-vendor strategy ensures that you are at the helm of your network.

Specialized Support: Today’s complexity requires that technical support be delivered by experts with deep knowledge in specific areas. Since single vendor strategies are designed around broad product portfolios and supported by generalists who sacrifice depth for breadth of knowledge, finding the right person with the right answer can take time. Multi-vendor strategies ensure that you have access to specialists with a focused expertise necessary to effectively resolve issues, minimizing the impact of interruption to your organization. When you develop your network requirements to support your business strategy, and not to support a single vendor’s point of view, the enterprise is positioned not only for the future – it is positioned also to win.

Generating Returns from IT Governance, Risk Management and Compliance (GRC)

IT Governance, Risk Management and Compliance Enables Competitive Differentiation, Cost Reduction and Growth.

By Nancy Nafziger

No one can deny that IT departments are under constant change. This is a huge challenge considering that IT departments are consistently under pressure to deliver greater number of services faster, with more approvals, more complex processes, budget cuts, and to top it off, greater regulatory requirements.

How does IT keep up with the demands of increased operational efficiency and governance, risk management and compliance mandates at the same time?

Wikepedia defines, Governance, Risk Management, and Compliance or GRCas the umbrella term covering an organization’s approach across these three areas. Being closely related concerns, governance, risk management and compliance activities are increasingly being integrated and aligned to some extent in order to avoid conflicts, wasteful overlaps and gaps.

Wikepedia’s Diagram: GRC Frame of Reference

IT governance, IT risk management and IT compliance are three well-defined disciplines that, in the past, existed in silos within large organizations.

Michael Rasmussen at Corporate Integrity, LLC defines GRC as follows:

  • Governance is the culture, policies, processes, laws, and institutions that define the structure by which companies are directed and managed.
  • Risk Management is the coordinated activities to direct and control an organization to realize opportunities while managing negative events.
  • Compliance is the act of adhering to, and demonstrating adherence to, external laws and regulations as well as corporate policies and procedures.

Rasmussen continues, “GRC is an approach to business. It is about individual GRC roles across the organization working in harmony to provide a complete view of governance, risk, and compliance. It is about collaboration and sharing of information, assessments, metrics, risks, investigations, policies, training, and losses across these business roles and processes.”

A successful integrated GRC strategy uses a single set of control material, mapped to all of the primary governance factors being monitored.

What are the three most common individual GRC roles?

  • Financial GRC. Relates to the activities that ensure the correct operation of all financial processes, as well as compliance with any finance-related mandates.
  • IT GRC. Relates to the activities that ensure the IT (Information Technology) department supports the current and future needs of the business, and complies with all IT-related mandates.
  • Legal GRC. Relates to tying all three roles together via a legal department and Chief Compliance Officer.

What exactly is IT GRC?

  • Using IT to manage the various Governance, Risk Management and Compliance Management processes of an organization.
  • Ensuring proper governance, risk management and compliance management of all IT systems and processes that support the business operations.

Implementing a unified IT GRC approach, and managing the associated processes coherently will create operational efficiencies, provide visibility into IT processes and ensure accountability. IT plays a significant role in integrating GRC process.

Okay, so how does IT keep up with the demands of increased operational efficiency, governance, risk and compliance mandates and reduce costs—all at the same time?

Daniel Magid outlines the Top Six Cost-Cutting Strategies for IT Compliance:

  1. Encapsulate compliance processes into an automated system
  2. Create structured, controlled software development processes
  3. Apply Best Practice Methodologies
  4. Collaborate, Collaborate, Collaborate
  5. Develop Specific Compliance Reports/Templates
  6. Bring on New Technology

In my opinion, encapsulating compliance processes into an automated system and bringing on new technology are most important.

Magid continues, a strong software compliance solution should: 

  •  Establish repeatable, automated compliance and change processes.
  • Link change lifecycle workflow to Best Practice Methodologies .
  •  Include Compliance-related report templates supporting standards.
  • Create centralized management and visibility of IT assets, and progress reporting for auditing and performance improvement.
  • Provide a collaborative communication infrastructure that ensures IT services and software initiatives support overall business goals.
  • Reduce IT costs by ensuring project teams build the application correctly the first time around.
  • Enable communication between stakeholders of all changes in projects, and ensure appropriate notification, reviews and approvals.
  • Provide a secure, visible repository of all application artifacts.

If you are looking for a way to manage your IT GRC processes now is the time to implement a request management system and an advance workflow engine such as Kinetic Request and Kinetic Task. With this powerful system you can automate your IT GRC processes such as: 

  • Audit and Risk Processes. Includes the processes necessary for establishing internal audit and risk teams, conducting internal audits, and audit reporting.
  • Configuration Processes. Includes all the processes required for hardware and software configuration.
  • Human Resources Processes. Today’s IT organization mandates a detailed description of the IT organizational structure and additional hiring practices such as security requirements. This HR process starts with the hiring process and moves through training, job descriptions, job performance, and the end of a staff”s job cycle (job transfer to another department, promotion, or leaving the organization).
  • Operational Processes. Includes everything from roles and responsibilities though help desk processes, managing IT configurations, capacity management, allocating costs, accountability, and all other processes that keep an IT organization on track.
  • Acquisition Processes. Includes the processes necessary for planning and the documentation crucial for acquiring new software and hardware.

Kinetic Request and Kinetic Task enable you to reduce costs, streamline your IT GRC processes, improve IT efficiency and gain full control of complex GRC approvals and tasks.

 

Transform Actionable Online Calendars into Meaningful Information

By Nancy Nafziger

An online actionable calendar has the greatest chance of success when a calendar-publishing tool can be configured to create any type of customized calendar.

There are many examples of customized calendars that can be created with a calendar-publishing tool such as Kinetic Calendar, from IT help desk calendars to consumer testing schedules

Kinetic Calendar lets you easily create, manage and view BMC Remedy data in a calendar format for virtually any purpose.  Actionable online calendars enable effective communication of changes and other events across functional groups within an organization.

Kinetic Calendar is built for multiple uses. Common examples include: Release Management, Outage Calendars, On-call Support Scheduling, Training Scheduling, ITIL Process Reviews, SLA Monitoring, Vacation, and Facility Resource Management.

Thinking outside the box, here are four more compelling calendar-publishing tool applications:

  • Visibility into IT governance related activities. With a calendar-publishing tool, you can visually display critical compliance information and provide easy 24/7 access to it for all users. An actionable calendar will display a complete and accurate view of compliance information. You can also display compliance events in a daily, weekly or monthly calendar format. To learn more check out the Kinetic Calendar Video—Visibility Into Governance Activity.
  •  Visibility into location-based changes. Today’s large organizations often have multiple locations and they need to display location-based activities or events during a certain period of time on a calendar format. For an overview of how to use Kinetic Calendar to provide location-based change information check out the video—Location-Based Changes.
  • Visibility into Asset Management information. A calendar-publishing tool can provide visibility of BMC Remedy asset information in a calendar format. For quick tour of how to get visibility and control of production go live management, support contract management and warranty management, check out the video—Managing your Assets.
  • Visibility into Change Management. Actionable calendars enable better control over change management processes by providing users a way to configure any BMC Remedy data information to display in a change calendar format. Calendars can be published online for any number of user groups and tailored to meet their specific visibility needs into the change management process. To learn more check out the white paper—Better Visibility into Change Management.

In most organizations, it is imperative to have visibility to critical time-based information in an online calendar format. However, this doesn’t mean that all organizations have exactly the same needs. Think about your own applications for online calendars. How can you transform actionable online calendars into meaningful information for your organization?

Kinetic Data’s Employee Works to Promote Big Brother Big Sister Program Awareness

By Nancy Nafziger

Benjamin Christensen is a Big Brother Big Sister  volunteer with an inspiring story.

Twenty-seven-year-old Ben is the Big Brother to Arthur and came into the preteen’s life four years ago. The Big Brother Big Sister of the Greater Twin Cities located near Kinetic Data’s office in St. Paul, MN helped connect the two.

“I’ve since come to find out that I’ve gotten more out of the program than I think I’ve actually put into it with Arthur and so that’s been quite an experience,” Ben says.

“Ben has been a good influence on my life, I wasn’t getting into trouble, but I’m pretty sure, if Ben hadn’t come along, I’d end up like a friend of mine and he’s gotten into the cigarettes and weed and stuff like that.” Arthur says.

“Everyone can use a mentor at any age.” Ben says.

Ben and Arthur do many brotherly activities together. Ben taught Arthur how to play cribbage and create a resume. They often shoot hoops. Ben continues to focus on helping Arthur with his academics. They are working on improving Arthur’s GPA so that he can expand his college opportunities.

Ben and Arthur’s Big Brother relationship has been mutually beneficial. Arthur will always be part of Ben’s life. In May, Arthur had the honor or being a groomsman in Ben’s marriage to a Big Sister he met through the program.

Being a Big Brother or Big Sister is one of the most fulfilling things Ben has ever done. This experience has given him the opportunity to help shape Arthur’s future.

Lastly, Ben’s volunteer work hasn’t gone unnoticed. In August, Mpls.–St. Paul, MN News Channel KARE 11 awarded Ben the 11 Who Care Award! This program recognizes outstanding volunteers in the community.

To hear Ben and Arthur’s story, check out KARE 11’s video and story.


A Must-Read for Defining a Service Catalog Item

By Nancy Nafziger

What is service catalog item and how is it fulfilled? For me, there are four basic components included in the delivery of a service catalog item:

1) Service Catalog Item—name or description of a service.

2) User Portal—a self-service portal that provides a list of services that an organization provides to its employees or customers.

3) Workflow—is a delivery plan defining how the request of a service catalog item is fulfilled.

4) Integration—how the service catalog integrates with enterprise applications.

The following article is a must-read, it provides a simple example describing how the basic components, service catalog item, user portal, workflow, and integration all snap together via a configuration process to fulfill a service request. The article details how a task tree and Handlers can be used to map out and accommodate tasks like an approval process or integration with enterprise applications in HR, Procurement or IT. Data within these applications can be used to move the service item through to completion for actions such as ordering a laptop and phone, provisioning network or application access, and registering new assets in IT.

Anatomy of a Service Catalog Item, by Brett Norgaard

When presented with a rather simple-looking service item in a service catalog, what is really behind it? An appropriate analogy may be that of a duck moving swiftly along in a pond barely disturbing the surface, yet underneath the water, the webbed feet are churning away. The same combination of simplicity and strength is required of today’s service catalog items. The demands of self-service, interactivity, integration, ease of use and moving service catalogs beyond IT make it essential to know the make-up of a successful service item.

A New Way to View Any Enterprise Resource

Many organizations still use a mix of online and offline tools to schedule different types of resources such as people, meeting rooms and equipment. This mix makes it difficult and time-consuming to coordinate resources and avoid conflicts (like two groups needing the same room or same projector at the same time).

Wouldn’t it be great if there was a resource schedule calendar that could help you schedule almost any type of resource? One that could be used by any and every department within an enterprise? And that automatically flags scheduling conflicts? And what if could also let you not only view schedules, but search for resources (such as a technician in the organization certified for underground cabling)? And what if it also could be connected to different databases and applications, like BMC Remedy, so there was no need to store duplicate resource information in multiple systems?

Kinetic Schedule - Enterprise Resource SchedulingWell, now there is. Kinetic Data this week officially released Kinetic Schedule, an enterprise resource schedule calendar designed to address the challenges inherent in scheduling resources—everything from technicians to meeting rooms—in a vast enterprise setting. In addition to all of the above, this graphic web-based tool:

  • Allows schedulers to quickly view and manage resource scheduling, no matter what applications store the source data;
  • Provides immediate visibility to multiple data sets from multiple sources, in one view;
  • Enables creation of multiple calendars for specific needs and groups;
  • Combines data from multiple sources into a single calendar;
  • Customizes to incorporate company branding; and
  • Lowers costs by providing more efficient and faster customer service.

For all of the details, check out our press release about launching Kinetic Schedule at WWRUG here. Kinetic Schedule makes viewing and coordinating schedules for facilities, equipment (owned or rented), technical specialists—almost any enterprise resource—faster, easier and less painful.

Service Providers Balance Factory IT by Enabling IT for Service Catalog Success

By Brett Norgaard,

Service Providers can leverage an article in the McKinsey Quarterly, “Reshaping IT Management for Turbulent Times” as you build your case for a configurable, streamlined, re-usable, secure service catalog offering for specific market segments.

The article discusses two models—Factory IT and Enabling IT. And, these two models can work together. An intentional focus where appropriate can allow you to make a business case for each and to differentiate your offerings—here’s how…

First of all, Factory IT is about using configurable products where appropriate (p. 2) atop a standardized platform. This allows you to restructure and continually improve processes. The Master Library (Service Items, Handlers, and Themes/Brands) along with a portfolio management/curator emphasis will allow you efficient re-use of the library across all of your clients. Streamlining key processes like transitioning new clients and the provisioning of tailored service catalogs are two key examples. This configuration strategy also reduces the risk inherent when modifying source code to tailor each client’s experience. The article mentions service catalogs specifically as a way to achieve efficiencies (p. 3).

Next, Enabling IT looks for new sources of value and includes a willingness to test (sense and respond) as well as close collaboration. Again, a configuration-based, low risk strategy affords this type of innovation to occur. This kind of innovation rewards partnership with people who can provide the business requirements based upon specific objectives and market knowledge. Rapid prototyping and iterative development are what happens in Enabling IT (p. 6). Mistakes are encouraged…again, a configuration-based strategy allows for this. With Kinetic Data’s configuration architecture, you can test all you want before registering a service item into the service catalog. Enabling IT supports an organization’s innovation culture—communicate, sense, respond, categorize, test, certify and register service items that can be used across the client base. The Kinetic Task Community is a good starting point to review a set of existing handlers addressing integrations with virtual resources, directories, and enterprise applications.

The article concludes (p. 8) with, “The combination of functional productivity and business value creation, will likely be a major competitive differentiator; the first step in delivering this value is to ensure companies have the right leaders in place for each effort.” A sound architecture, a configuration-based strategy, and an understanding of Factory IT vs. Enabling IT affords service provider leaders with low risk/high reward options for Service Catalog success.

Service Provider Innovation – Three Easy Pieces

Industry analysts covering service providers at Gartner and Forrester Research monitor the evolving structure of outsourcing deals on a constant basis. These analysts report an interesting trend – innovation is included as a deliverable in an increasing number of deals.

What can a service provider do to ensure a constant stream of innovations that can be delivered to their clients?

There are three related pieces to address this that service providers using Kinetic Request bundled with Kinetic Task can adopt. The first is re-purposing service items developed for other clients, demonstrations, trade conferences, RFPs, etc. In our last service provider blog post on enterprise value, we explored the enterprise value that accrues to service providers by capturing, replicating, and re-deploying useful service items. Service items configured using Kinetic Data’s architecture contain a task tree that is a visible representation of the actual service item. It is abstracted from the branding and theming so as to be re-usable and is portable (see series of blogs on Service Item Portability) so it can run in any BMC Remedy environment version 6 or greater. Inventions designed for one purpose or client can be captured, re-branded, zipped up, installed, tested, and registered for another client. Innovation number one.

Service Innovation GoalsIn a related move, an existing service item can be cloned and modified, creating a new innovation. An example of this might be to add a robust approval process for service/product requests that goes down different paths based on data collected such as dollar amounts or urgency. A well planned master library will include this approval process as a task handler that can be pulled into any service item, connected, configured, tested, zipped up, installed and registered as a new service item. Innovation number two.

Since Kinetic Data service items are made up of configuration data with no programming change to the underlying service platform source code, playing with, testing, and experimenting are encouraged and do not pose a risk. This kind of sense and respond innovation can happen reactively or proactively without the time, cost and risk of programming. Service innovators need only a business process analyst level of familiarity in order to sense and respond their way to new service items. Innovation number three.

Service innovation can come in many forms. Having a configuration driven, portable approach with an eye towards re-using service items and their component parts to modify existing service items is one easy way to achieve your service innovation goals one piece at a time.