CIO Dilemmas: Bridging IT Stability and Business Agility

January 29th, 2007 |
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Our series of podcasts continues, examining the changing demands on the CIO. In this fourth installment, Frank Buytendijk, vice president for corporate strategy at Hyperion, discusses the dilemma of bridging IT stability and business agility. Frank applies his unique perspective to the vexing problem faced by so many of his colleagues.

Transcript:

Host: Paul Lancour – PodTech

Guest: Frank Buytendijk – Hyperion

Paul Lancour – PodTech

I’m Paul Lancour with PodTech.net. In this series of Podcasts, CIO Dilemmas, Frank Buytendijk, Vice President for Corporate Strategy at Hyperion says if CIOs are going to find real solutions for their organizations, they need to examine the underlying problems more closely. Frank has distilled this down to four common dilemmas, each one to be examined in a separate Podcast. In this Podcast, we examine the dilemma of bridging IT stability and business agility. In speaking with Frank, I said an organization needs to be organized and infrastructure needs to have some structure, so how can any organization remain agile and flexible?

Frank Buytendijk – Hyperion

You can invest in building like an enterprise wide architecture, infrastructure that in the end should leverage the investments by making sure of all the changes that you need to do to follow the business, you only would have to do once, so in the end it will create a very agile situation, because you have an infrastructure that you can use and reuse all over. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel anymore, but working in that direction gives you the disadvantage that you have to wait up to three years before you have any results, and the business can’t wait that long.

So, the opposite thing is that you just go for servicing the business with all kinds of agile and small little solutions. One of the project, which each will have a Return On Investment within six months, and you’re going to be the total hero for the business users and the best CIO they’ve ever had, until you hit that point after two years where it’s just patch work that you created, and patch work was nice in the 70s as a blanket on your bed, but please, not in my systems architecture.

The Return On Investments that you created in every small little project is completely countered by this huge total cost of ownership of the patch work, results after a year or two. So, both options by themselves are just not good, and that’s the dilemma, what are you going to do? So in the end, that dilemma needs to be solved, and this is one of those cases where you can even argue, is this a dilemma, is there a difficult choice of some sort, I don’t think in the end it’s a dilemma, you just need to do both at the same time, there is no choice, you have to do both. The question is how of course.

Paul Lancour – PodTech

Well, then let me ask you, how do you do it?

Frank Buytendijk – Hyperion

Well, I think the key is doing things actually at the same time. So, you need to have a long term view and a short term view. I would like to compare this to ice skating, if you will, and as you hear from my accent and perhaps I’m a Dutchman, ice skating is a really important sport in my country, there’s even huge tours in the winters that are over 200 kilometers long. If you win one of those tours, the children will learn about you in the history books, that’s how important ice skating is in this country. Ice skating is a really funny weird sport. Think of it, you make a stroke with your left leg, you make a stroke with your right leg, and the result of that, you go forward very fast, isn’t that funny, and that’s exactly how we should create a long term solution and a short term solution in our organization as well.

On the short term side, let’s say, on the “This is intelligent” side, we make a stroke to the left, we create a scorecard with a number of strategic performance indicators that will give us a little bit of focus, what we should aim for in terms of objectives, and in terms of how to create the processes to reach those objectives. Then we do a stroke to the right, we implement some parts of the architecture, content that will create the basis for the focus that we had to the stroke to the left, that will teach us what is difficult and what is easy to achieve, so that can help us re-prioritize a short term project, let’s say again on the BI side, and put in something else, that will give us more of an expanded base and real life user feedback that will tell you of the infrastructure that you’re implementing.

At the same time, it’s going to be scalable or manageable and functional enough, so you can expand on that, and then you go to the left, you go the right, you go to the left, you go to the right. As a result you basically create a situation where you do both in a manageable way. You don’t have to wait for two or three years and just hope you did the right thing, and nothing changes in the beginning, right, and it’s not about hoping that your patch work somehow will form an architecture in the end, so that’s how you solve it.

Paul Lancour – PodTech

Is this what you’d refer to as a portfolio strategy?

Frank Buytendijk – Hyperion

Yes, because in most cases there’s not a single solution that can do everything for all. You can’t have a huge ERP system that at the same time is going to be incredibly flexible to meet all the special needs of the user, that’s the more infrastructural approach. You can’t have short term projects, you can’t have, let’s say ABI system that also takes care of your transactional environment, because that’s simply not what it does. The idea is to create the portfolio in what is called an ecosystem. An ecosystem — in the world of business software there are four ecosystems, they’re called MISO. In this case that doesn’t refer to soup, it refers to Microsoft, IBM, SAP and Oracle, and those are the four big ecosystems in the world of business software.

So, what you need to do in a portfolio is figure out in which of these worlds you belong, it can be one or it can be two of the worlds or maybe three or maybe you have all, and see how you can create the short term or the more flexible or the more business oriented solutions within those infrastructures, or even spanning those infrastructures. People think that they are an IBM shop or that they are an Oracle shop or they are an SAP shop, but did you know that more than 66% of cases of large enterprises, they have two or three or more of these ecosystems in house or they need to be bridged, and that’s the idea of a portfolio. How do you create a small set of strategic standards that you work with, that fit in that ecosystem or bridge the ecosystems that you have.

Paul Lancour – PodTech

So, you have multiple ecosystems, as you say, but you also need to have an overall strategy, how does that solve the dilemma we’re talking about?

Frank Buytendijk – Hyperion

What I tried to point out is that it’s not easy doing both at the same time, because there’s no such thing in many cases as a single ecosystem, and a single system in which you can do things. You need to look how to connect these various vendors and technologies that you’re using, your portfolio. Another thing that we discussed earlier in the Podcast is that by definition solving one dilemma actually immediately leads to a new dilemma. In terms of the first Podcast, the synthesis that you try to create between the thesis and the antithesis becomes the new thesis, immediately leading to a new antithesis that will be the theoretic process; try to make that a little bit more flexible in this case.

So, you figured out a way how to do both at the same time, how do you create that infrastructure that spans the heterogeneity of your system’s landscape, while at the same time creating (Inaudible), and we pointed out the need to do both at the same time. So, if you find a way how to do both at the same time, the new dilemma immediately is, how do we manage that, because doing two things at the same time of course is harder to manage and it’s harder to align, than doing one thing at the same time.

I tried to point out also how you solve that particular dilemma that brings me again to the ice skating metaphor, it is almost like that old riddle, how do you eat an elephant one spoonful at a time?

Paul Lancour – PodTech

If it wasn’t difficult of course, it wouldn’t be a dilemma and we wouldn’t be talking about it.

Frank Buytendijk – Hyperion

We would all be out of job, wouldn’t that be a horrible thing.

Paul Lancour – PodTech

Well, thanks very much for sharing some of you insights once again with us.

Frank Buytendijk – Hyperion

Thank you very much, and we’re going to continue our discussion in a new dilemma, next week, same time, same place, same channel, see you there.

Paul Lancour – PodTech

Our next Podcast in the series deals with the dilemma, bridging IT service delivery and business focus. Get in on the conversation, check out Frank’s blog at www.blogs.hyperion.com/frankb. You can also see more at www.smartbi.hyperion.com. Thanks for listening.

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