CIOs are, these days, under constant pressure to help, guide, cajole or even force the operating divisions of their businesses to work through the pains and aggravations of digital transformation. But getting this to happen even remotely smoothly is only half the story; CIOs might know clearly what they want to achieve, and have a pretty good idea of how to go about it, but achieving it depends just as much on the vendors as it does the CIOs, and it has to be said that not all if them are persuaded to invest in.
Getting a view of transforming business users from a vendor’s perspective is enlightening therefore, as a conversation with Andreas Toerek, Director for Business Lines Enterprise at systems integrator Computacenter, demonstrated. Transformation is also the watchword for the vendors if they are to remain relevant and complementary to their existing customers, let alone attract new ones:
Our cloud and data center businesses are not new, but our go-to-market approach is. Now we are finding that users are looking for a much more consolidated, holistic approach.
This is intended to cover helping, indeed accelerating customers into and through digital transformation and into using the Public Cloud. Indeed one of the primary goals now is to enable the move to multi-cloud and the modernisation of both data centers and their management, particularly when it comes to managing workloads, contracts and annuity payment processes.
Though targeting the EU sector many of its customers are global, so the company has had to build up global reach in order to provide local support for global projects. It is also finding a growing need from customers for VAR type services from customers as their cloud operations start to grow, That is why Computacenter acquired FusionStorm, a technology sourcing and consultancy operation, in the USA.
Your transform means my transform
Its primary market, financial services, continues to grow fast. And while it has a relatively small number of customers all are relatively big. Platform and hybrid sales are quite high, though the trend is towards the digital workspace sector, though enterprise infrastructure has been the star of the last four years
The company is addressing four main areas – Digital Me, which focuses on the workspace element; Digital Power, the provision of compute resources; Digital Connect for all the networking aspects: and Digital Trust, possibly the most important aspect of consulting on, building, and with the growth of cloud services increasingly managing, projects out into production
It is interesting to consider that the challenges Computacenter now face are, at the top level, pretty much the same as its customers. The speed of change continues to ramp up, which means that the company and its customers both have to match much quicker go-to-market cycles. Both now face increasingly disruptive competitors, particularly from smaller businesses that are more agile at exploiting cloud services, while the importance of knowing where their data is, who is using it, and what they are using it for, is vital if any business is going to be able exploit it and monetise it effectively, even if that does just mean effective internal billing between departments and divisions.
There is an interesting touch of enterprise reality in some of the company’s view here, for he talks about what it calls the evergreen environment. The reality is that there will always be legacy applications that need to be accommodated as infrastructure even though environments change and develop. This naturally points to hybrid multi-cloud becoming something of a standard baseline for all enterprise environments.
`Digital transformation’ is not going to be a transitory, passing phase followed by a period of settled, unchanging operations. In this view of the world, there will always be `legacy’ applications, many of which have not yet been thought of, let alone developed.
The bridge across diversity
Despite the growing diversity of IT requirements across enterprise departments he sees the CIO remaining the main stakeholder in ensuring businesses become more flexible and agile. This is because there are contradictory requirements in play that need to be brought together. On the one hand there is the need to service the different business models operating in different parts of an enterprise, often at different times of their individual operational cycles. But there is also the need to ensure the overall common business objective is not just met but fulfilled.
To meet this diversity, Computacenter now tackles the subject from both ends. It can provide full multi-cloud management and control, equally suited to the small and medium-sized business community and the departmental/divisional requirements of large enterprises. And for those companies it can also provide consultancy, plus project development and management services, to meet such requirements as that over-arching unification of business objectives.
It is also now a Gold Partner of Service Now through its recent acquisition of Team Ultra as one of its key planks of a full service management capability.
But the company is looking wider as well, and is looking to grow its channel partner community, as well as add to it roster of management support partners. Toerek says:
Our aim to have multiple partners covering the same market sectors in order to offer customers choice and vendor independence. It is also important because all clouds and services may well find a role with any and all of our customers. There is currently an explosion in the uptake of public cloud services by customers, and hyperscale is also now taking off.
Such developments are raising a whole new set of challenges for CIOs, not least being learning the new ways of managing expenditure in the cloud – it is something many will not have experienced before, and some estimates suggest that enterprises waste around 35% of their cloud budgets in this area. To this end Computacenter now gets involved in consulting with customers on the negotiation of service contracts with the major cloud service providers.
Other challenges include managing governance and compliance issues across a new operating environment, covering off the new security issues that the cloud opens up, the lack of – or over-specification of – cloud resources and expertise (especially when it comes to then operating in a multi-cloud environment) and the all-important management of the legacy migration process.
To help customers with such problems the company has started to create a range of frameworks, where the skills and expertise of staff, plus some of the internal software tools they have developed can be re-used by customers. In addition, it has a range of best practice methodologies available for such tasks as cloud migration:
We see one of our important roles in being able to close the gap between a customer’s operating reality and their best intentions of what should happen. This can be particularly important when they start attempting to scale up existing pilot projects. Our primary drive is to avoid being prescriptive and instead work with what choices the customers have already made.
This means it already has close working relationships with both Amazon AWS and Microsoft Azure. It is also now working with Google but he admits they are not yet as advanced down that road as with the other two.
The challenges facing CIOs are well and deeply covered, particularly here in diginomica, and digital transformation is an area where user businesses – and the vendors that serve their needs – no need to work in even closer, longer lasting partnership. Yet the vendor side of the equation, and how the transformation process affects them, has tended to be restricted - not least by the vendors themselves – to coverage of the latest technology and its capabilities. There is no doubting the importance of that, but it misses an important point. As Computacenter demonstrates here, the ability to be long term partners willing to help, counsel and manage business process delivery rather than just deliver `technology’ is now becoming one of the key skills required.