|By Dana Gardner||
|March 23, 2013 10:15 AM EDT||
Welcome to the latest edition of the HP Discover Performance Podcast Series. Our next discussion examines how Achmea Holding, one of the largest providers of financial services and insurance in the Netherlands, has made large strides in running their IT operations like an efficient business itself.
We'll hear how Achmea rearchitected its IT operations to both be more responsive to users and more manageable by the business, all based on clear metrics.
Here to explore these and other enterprise IT performance issues, we're joined by our co-host for this sponsored podcast, Georg Bock, Director of the Customer Success Group at HP Software, and he's based in Germany.
And we also welcome our special guest, Richard Aarnink, leader in the IT Management Domain at Achmea in the Netherlands, to explain how they've succeeded in making IT better governed and agile -- even to attain "enterprise resource planning (ERP) for IT" benefits.
The discussion is moderated by Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions. [Disclosure: HP is a sponsor of BriefingsDirect podcasts.]
Here are some excerpts:
Gardner: Why is running IT more like a business important? Why does this make sense now?
Aarnink: Over the last year, whenever a customer asked us questions, we delivered what he asked. We came to the conclusion that delivery of every request that we got was an intensive process for which we created projects.
It was very difficult to make sure that it was not a one-time hero effect, but that we could deliver to the customer what he asked every time, on scope, on specs, on budget, and on time. We looked at it and said, "Well, it is actually like running a normal business, and therefore why should we be different? We should be predictive as well."
Gardner: Georg Bock, is this something you are seeing more and more of in the field?
Trend in the market
Bock: Yes, we definitely see this as a trend in the market, specifically with the customers that are a little more mature in their top-down strategic thinking. Let’s face it, running IT like a business is an end-to-end process that requires quite a bit of change across the organization -- not only technology, but also process and organization. Everyone has to work hand in hand to be, at the end of the day, predictable and repeatable in what they're doing, as Richard just explained.
That’s a huge change for most organizations. However, when it’s being done and when it has lived in the organization, there's a huge payback. It is not an easy thing to undertake but it’s inevitable, specifically when we look at the new trends around cloud multi-sourcing, mobility, etc., which brings new complexity to IT.
You'd better have your bread and butter business under control before moving into those areas. That’s why also the timing right now is very important and top of people’s minds.
Gardner: Tell us a bit about Achmea, the size of your organization, and why IT is so fundamentally important to you.
Aarnink: Achmea is a large insurance provider in the Netherlands. We have around eight million customers in the Netherlands with 17,000 employees. We're a very old and cooperative organization, and we have had lots and lots of mergers and acquisitions in the last 20 years. So we had various sets of IT departments from all the other companies that we centralized over the past years.
If you look at insurance, it's actually having the trust that whenever something happens to a customer, he can rely on the insurer to help him out, and usually this means providing money. IT is necessary to ensure that we can deliver on those promises that we made to our customers. So it’s a tangible service that we deliver, it’s more like money, and it’s all about IT.
Of the 17,000 employees that we have in the Netherlands, about 1,800-2,000 employees work in the centralized IT department. Over the last year, we changed our target operating model to centralize the technologies in competence centers, as we call them, in the department that we call Solution Development.
We created a new department, IT Operations, and we created business-relationship departments that were merged with the business units that were asking or demanding functionality from our IT department. We changed our entire operating model to cope with that, but we still have a lot of homegrown applications that we have to deliver on a daily basis.
Changing the department and the organizational structure is one thing, and now we need to change the content and the applications we deliver.
Gardner: How has all this allowed you to better manage all the aspects of IT, and make it align with the business?
Strategy and governance
Aarnink: To answer that question I need to elaborate a little bit on the strategy and governance department, which is actually within the IT department. What we centralized there were project portfolio and project steering, and also the architectural capabilities.
We make sure that whatever solution we deliver is architectured from a single model that we manage centrally. That's a real benefit that we gained in centralizing this and making sure that we can -- from both the architecture and project perspectives -- govern the projects that we're going to deliver to our business units.
Bock: Achmea is a leader in that, and the structure that Richard described is inevitable to be successful. ERP for IT, or running IT as a business, the fundamental IT processes, is all about standardization, repeatability, and predictability, especially in situations where you have mergers and acquisitions. It’s always a disruption if you have to bring different IT departments together. If you have a standard that’s easy to replicate, that’s a no-brainer and winner from a business bottom-line perspective.
In order to achieve that, you have to have a team that has a horizontal unit and that can drive the standardization of the company. Richard and Achmea are not alone in that. Richard and I have quite a number of discussions with other companies from other industries, and we very much see that everyone has the same problem, and given those horizontal teams, primary enterprise architecture, chief technology officer (CTO) office, or whatever you like to call those departments, is definitely a trend in the industry and for those mature customers that want to take that perspective and drive it forward that way.
But as I said, it’s all about standardization. It’s not rocket science from an intellectual perspective, but we have to cut through the political difficulties of driving the adoptions across the different organizations in the company.
Gardner: What sort of problems or issues did you need to resolve as you worked to change things for the better?
Aarnink: We looked at the entire scope of implementing ERP for IT and first we looked at the IT projects and the portfolio. We looked at that and found out that we still had several departments running their own solutions in managing IT projects and also budgets. In the past, we had a mechanism of only controlling the budget for the different business units, but no centralized view on the IT portfolio, as a whole, for Achmea.
We started in that area, looking at one system of record for IT projects and portfolio management, so we could steer what we wanted to develop and what we wanted to sunset.
Next, we looked at application portfolio management and tried to look at the set of applications that we want to currently use and want to use in the future and the set of applications that we want to sunset in the next year and how that related to the IT project. So that was one big step that we made in the last two years. There's still a lot of work to be done in that area, but it was a big topic.
The second big topic was looking at service management. Due to all the mergers, we still had lots of variations on IT process. Incident management was covered in a whole different way, when you looked at several departments from the past.
We adopted service desks to cater to all those kind of deviations from the standard ITIL process. We looked at that and said that we had to centralize again and we had to make sure that we become more prescriptive in how these process will look and how we make sure that it's standardized.
That was the second area that we looked at. The third area was more on the application quality. How could we make sure that we got a better first-time-right score in delivering IT projects? How could we make sure that there is one system of record for requirements and one system of record for test results and defects. That’s three areas that we invested in in the first phase.
Lots of change going on
Gardner: What have you have seen in the market that leads you to believe that ERP for IT is not a vision, but is, in fact, happening, and that we're starting to see tangible benefits?
Bock: Richard very much nicely described real, practical results, rather than coming up with a dogmatic, philosophical process in the first place. I think it’s all about practical results and practical results need to be predictable and repeatable, otherwise it’s always the one-time hero effort that Richard brought up in the beginning, and that’s not scalable at all.
At some point you need process, but you shouldn’t try that dogmatically. I also hear about the Agile versus the waterfall, whatever is applicable to the problem is the right thing to do. Does that rule out process? No, not at all. You have to live the process in a little different way.
Everyone has to get-away from their dogmatic position and look at it in a little more relaxed way. We shouldn’t take our thoughts too seriously, but when we drive ERP for IT to apply some standard ways of doing things, we just make our life easier. It has nothing to do with esoteric vision, but it's something that is very achievable. It’s about getting a couple of people to agree on practical ways of getting it done.
Then, we can draw the technological consequences from it, rather than the other way around. That's been the problem in IT from my perspective for years. Technology always came first and now we look for the nail that you can use that hammer for. That’s not the right thing to do.
From my perspective, standardization is simply a necessary conclusion from some of the trial-and-error mistakes that have been made over the last 10-15 years, where people tried to customize the hell out of everything just to be in line with the specificity of how things are being done in their particular company. But nobody asked why it was that way.
Aarnink: I completely agree. We had several discussions about how the incident process is being carried out, and it’s the same in every other company as well. Of course there are slight differences, but the fact is that an incident needs to be so resolved, and that’s the same within every company.
You can easily create a best practice for that, adopt it within your own company, and unburden yourself from thinking about how you should go for this process, reinvent it, creating your own tool sets, interfaces with external companies. That can all be centralized, it can all be standardized.
It’s not our business to create our own IT tools. It’s the business of delivering policy management systems for our core industry, which is insurance. We don’t want all the IT that we need in order to just to keep the IT running. We want that standardized, so we can concentrate on delivering business value.
Gardner: Now that we've been calling this ERP for IT, I think it’s important to look back on where ERP as a concept came from and the fact that getting more data, more insight, repeatability, analyzing processes, determining best processes and methods and then instantiating them, is at the core of ERP. But when we try to do that with IT, how do we measure, what is the data, and what do we analyze?
Richard, at Achmea, are you looking at key performance indicators (KPIs) and are using project portfolio management maturity models? How is it that you're measuring this so that you can, in fact, do what ERP does best, make it repeatable, make it standardized?
Aarnink: If you look from the budget perspective, we look at the budgets, the timeframes, and the scope of what we need to deliver and whether we deliver on time, on budget, and on specs, as I already said. So those are basically the KPIs that we're looking for when we deliver projects.
But also, if you look at the processes involved when you deliver a project, then you talk about requirements management. How quickly can you create a set of requirements and what is the reuse of requirements from the past. Those are the KPIs we're looking for in the specific processes when you deliver an IT project.
So the IT project is a vehicle helping you deliver the value that you need, and the processes underneath that actually do the work for you. At that level we try to standardize and we try to make KPIs in order to make sure that we use as much as possible, that we deliver quality, and we have the resources in place that we actually need to deliver those functionalities.
You need to look at small steps that can be taken in a couple of months’ time. So draw up a roadmap and enable yourself to deliver value every, let’s say 100 days. Make sure that every time you deliver functionality that’s actually used, and you can look at your roadmap and adjust it, so you enable yourself to be agile in that way as well.
The biggest thing that you need to do is take small steps. The other thing is to look at your maturity. We did a CMMi test review. We didn't do the entire CMMi accreditation, but only looked at the areas that we needed to invest in.
We looked at where we had standardized already and the areas that we needed to look at first. That can help you prioritize. Then, of course, look at companies in your network that actually did some steps in this and make sure that you get advice from them as well.
Bock: I absolutely agree with what Richard said. If we're looking for some recipe for successes, you have to have a good balance of strategic goals and tactical steps towards that strategic goal. Those tactical step need to have a clear measure and a clear success criteria associated with them. Then you're on a good track
I just want to come back to the notion of ERP for IT that you alluded to earlier, because that term can actually hurt the discussion quite a bit. If you think about ERP 20 years ago, it was a big animal. And we shouldn’t look at IT nowadays in the same manner as ERP was looked at 20 years ago. We don’t want to reinvent a big animal right now, but we have to have a strategic goal where we look at IT from an end-to-end perspective, and that’s the analogy that we want to draw.
ERP is something that has always been looked as an end-to-end process, and having a clear, common context associated from an end-to-end perspective, which is not the case in IT today. We should learn from those analogies that we shouldn’t try to implement ERP literally for IT, because that would take the whole thing in one step, where as Richard just said very nicely, you have to take it in digestible pieces, because we have to deal with a lot of technology there. You can't take that in one shot.
You may also be interested in:
- McKesson Redirects IT to Become a Services Provider That Delivers Fuller Business Solutions
- Investing Well in IT With Emphasis on KPIs Separates Business Leaders from Business Laggards, Survey Results Show
- Expert Chat with HP on How Better Understanding Security Makes it an Enabler, Rather than Inhibitor, of Cloud Adoption
- Expert Chat with HP on How IT Can Enable Cloud While Maintaining Control and Governance
- Expert Chat on How HP Ecosystem Provides Holistic Support for VMware Virtualized IT Environments
The true value of the Internet of Things (IoT) lies not just in the data, but through the services that protect the data, perform the analysis and present findings in a usable way. With many IoT elements rooted in traditional IT components, Big Data and IoT isn’t just a play for enterprise. In fact, the IoT presents SMBs with the prospect of launching entirely new activities and exploring innovative areas. CompTIA research identifies several areas where IoT is expected to have the greatest impact.
May. 26, 2015 09:00 PM EDT Reads: 4,822
The 4th International Internet of @ThingsExpo, co-located with the 17th International Cloud Expo - to be held November 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA - announces that its Call for Papers is open. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the biggest idea since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago.
May. 26, 2015 06:00 PM EDT Reads: 1,573
The Industrial Internet revolution is now underway, enabled by connected machines and billions of devices that communicate and collaborate. The massive amounts of Big Data requiring real-time analysis is flooding legacy IT systems and giving way to cloud environments that can handle the unpredictable workloads. Yet many barriers remain until we can fully realize the opportunities and benefits from the convergence of machines and devices with Big Data and the cloud, including interoperability, data security and privacy.
May. 26, 2015 05:00 PM EDT Reads: 4,724
The Internet of Things is tied together with a thin strand that is known as time. Coincidentally, at the core of nearly all data analytics is a timestamp. When working with time series data there are a few core principles that everyone should consider, especially across datasets where time is the common boundary. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Jim Scott, Director of Enterprise Strategy & Architecture at MapR Technologies, discussed single-value, geo-spatial, and log time series data. By focusing on enterprise applications and the data center, he will use OpenTSDB as an example t...
May. 26, 2015 02:00 PM EDT Reads: 6,357
The Internet of Things is not only adding billions of sensors and billions of terabytes to the Internet. It is also forcing a fundamental change in the way we envision Information Technology. For the first time, more data is being created by devices at the edge of the Internet rather than from centralized systems. What does this mean for today's IT professional? In this Power Panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists will addresses this very serious issue of profound change in the industry.
May. 26, 2015 01:15 PM EDT Reads: 698
Scott Jenson leads a project called The Physical Web within the Chrome team at Google. Project members are working to take the scalability and openness of the web and use it to talk to the exponentially exploding range of smart devices. Nearly every company today working on the IoT comes up with the same basic solution: use my server and you'll be fine. But if we really believe there will be trillions of these devices, that just can't scale. We need a system that is open a scalable and by using the URL as a basic building block, we open this up and get the same resilience that the web enjoys.
May. 26, 2015 01:00 PM EDT Reads: 6,851
We are reaching the end of the beginning with WebRTC, and real systems using this technology have begun to appear. One challenge that faces every WebRTC deployment (in some form or another) is identity management. For example, if you have an existing service – possibly built on a variety of different PaaS/SaaS offerings – and you want to add real-time communications you are faced with a challenge relating to user management, authentication, authorization, and validation. Service providers will want to use their existing identities, but these will have credentials already that are (hopefully) i...
May. 26, 2015 01:00 PM EDT Reads: 4,202
All major researchers estimate there will be tens of billions devices - computers, smartphones, tablets, and sensors - connected to the Internet by 2020. This number will continue to grow at a rapid pace for the next several decades. With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing IoT strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @ThingsExpo, June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City. Learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is as "IoT-Ready" as it can be
May. 26, 2015 12:15 PM EDT Reads: 1,943
Container frameworks, such as Docker, provide a variety of benefits, including density of deployment across infrastructure, convenience for application developers to push updates with low operational hand-holding, and a fairly well-defined deployment workflow that can be orchestrated. Container frameworks also enable a DevOps approach to application development by cleanly separating concerns between operations and development teams. But running multi-container, multi-server apps with containers is very hard. You have to learn five new and different technologies and best practices (libswarm, sy...
May. 26, 2015 12:00 PM EDT Reads: 1,850
SYS-CON Events announced today that DragonGlass, an enterprise search platform, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. After eleven years of designing and building custom applications, OpenCrowd has launched DragonGlass, a cloud-based platform that enables the development of search-based applications. These are a new breed of applications that utilize a search index as their backbone for data retrieval. They can easily adapt to new data sets and provide access to both structured and unstruc...
May. 26, 2015 12:00 PM EDT Reads: 1,789
An entirely new security model is needed for the Internet of Things, or is it? Can we save some old and tested controls for this new and different environment? In his session at @ThingsExpo, New York's at the Javits Center, Davi Ottenheimer, EMC Senior Director of Trust, reviewed hands-on lessons with IoT devices and reveal a new risk balance you might not expect. Davi Ottenheimer, EMC Senior Director of Trust, has more than nineteen years' experience managing global security operations and assessments, including a decade of leading incident response and digital forensics. He is co-author of t...
May. 26, 2015 11:00 AM EDT Reads: 5,608
The Internet of Things is a misnomer. That implies that everything is on the Internet, and that simply should not be - especially for things that are blurring the line between medical devices that stimulate like a pacemaker and quantified self-sensors like a pedometer or pulse tracker. The mesh of things that we manage must be segmented into zones of trust for sensing data, transmitting data, receiving command and control administrative changes, and peer-to-peer mesh messaging. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Ryan Bagnulo, Solution Architect / Software Engineer at SOA Software, focused on desi...
May. 26, 2015 11:00 AM EDT Reads: 3,911
SYS-CON Events announced today that MetraTech, now part of Ericsson, has been named “Silver Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9–11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York, NY. Ericsson is the driving force behind the Networked Society- a world leader in communications infrastructure, software and services. Some 40% of the world’s mobile traffic runs through networks Ericsson has supplied, serving more than 2.5 billion subscribers.
May. 26, 2015 10:15 AM EDT Reads: 1,136
While great strides have been made relative to the video aspects of remote collaboration, audio technology has basically stagnated. Typically all audio is mixed to a single monaural stream and emanates from a single point, such as a speakerphone or a speaker associated with a video monitor. This leads to confusion and lack of understanding among participants especially regarding who is actually speaking. Spatial teleconferencing introduces the concept of acoustic spatial separation between conference participants in three dimensional space. This has been shown to significantly improve comprehe...
May. 26, 2015 10:00 AM EDT Reads: 3,042
Buzzword alert: Microservices and IoT at a DevOps conference? What could possibly go wrong? In this Power Panel at DevOps Summit, moderated by Jason Bloomberg, the leading expert on architecting agility for the enterprise and president of Intellyx, panelists will peel away the buzz and discuss the important architectural principles behind implementing IoT solutions for the enterprise. As remote IoT devices and sensors become increasingly intelligent, they become part of our distributed cloud environment, and we must architect and code accordingly. At the very least, you'll have no problem fil...
May. 26, 2015 10:00 AM EDT Reads: 1,760
The Domain Name Service (DNS) is one of the most important components in networking infrastructure, enabling users and services to access applications by translating URLs (names) into IP addresses (numbers). Because every icon and URL and all embedded content on a website requires a DNS lookup loading complex sites necessitates hundreds of DNS queries. In addition, as more internet-enabled ‘Things' get connected, people will rely on DNS to name and find their fridges, toasters and toilets. According to a recent IDG Research Services Survey this rate of traffic will only grow. What's driving t...
May. 26, 2015 09:00 AM EDT Reads: 5,114
Today’s enterprise is being driven by disruptive competitive and human capital requirements to provide enterprise application access through not only desktops, but also mobile devices. To retrofit existing programs across all these devices using traditional programming methods is very costly and time consuming – often prohibitively so. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jesse Shiah, CEO, President, and Co-Founder of AgilePoint Inc., discussed how you can create applications that run on all mobile devices as well as laptops and desktops using a visual drag-and-drop application – and eForms-buildi...
May. 26, 2015 08:00 AM EDT Reads: 5,392
The Internet of Things promises to transform businesses (and lives), but navigating the business and technical path to success can be difficult to understand. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Sean Lorenz, Technical Product Manager for Xively at LogMeIn, demonstrated how to approach creating broadly successful connected customer solutions using real world business transformation studies including New England BioLabs and more.
May. 26, 2015 08:00 AM EDT Reads: 5,879
The recent trends like cloud computing, social, mobile and Internet of Things are forcing enterprises to modernize in order to compete in the competitive globalized markets. However, enterprises are approaching newer technologies with a more silo-ed way, gaining only sub optimal benefits. The Modern Enterprise model is presented as a newer way to think of enterprise IT, which takes a more holistic approach to embracing modern technologies.
May. 25, 2015 11:00 PM EDT Reads: 5,965
Every day we read jaw-dropping stats on the explosion of data. We allocate significant resources to harness and better understand it. We build businesses around it. But we’ve only just begun. For big payoffs in Big Data, CIOs are turning to cognitive computing. Cognitive computing’s ability to securely extract insights, understand natural language, and get smarter each time it’s used is the next, logical step for Big Data.
May. 25, 2015 08:00 PM EDT Reads: 1,887