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More Than a Handful: Seven Prime Risks of the Cloud

It’s never wise to jump into something new without learning about the risks involved. Cloud computing offers a wealth of potential for both empowering businesses and cutting costs, but as a new technology, it’s important for IT leaders to thoroughly understand the cloud’s inherent and specific risks in order to prepare companies for successful deployment.

Assessing the Risks

Risk assessment of any cloud solution should look at the many different varieties of services in the cloud, the differences in providers, and the needs of the given industry.

Specifically, decision-makers should consider these specific risk areas:

Compatibility

Cloud implementation must be carefully planned before deployment. If it’s not, there could be frustrating or devastating problems if existing systems cannot function and communicate with cloud services. Without ensuring full compatibility, businesses could face unforeseen costs for reverting to other systems, fixing the compatibility issues, and losing time that could be spent elsewhere.

Compliance

Any compliance issues in an organization’s industry or location must be addressed when deploying cloud services. This especially poses an issue when using cloud services located in another country or for organizations with very specific and strict compliance requirements. There are cloud solutions to fit almost all compliance standards, but the issues should be addressed in the planning phase.

Security

Virtual environments create security vulnerability risks for two main reasons: because more data is being transmitted across networks and platforms, and because organizations are housing data in a new physical location. A complete security assessment should precede cloud deployment, and a rigorous security management program should be in place over time. Communication between the company and the service provider is vital to monitoring ongoing security risk.

Reliable Performance

Some downtime will occur with any service, but the right cloud provider for a given organization will work to develop guidelines and service schedules that do not interfere with regular business. Service should be reliable and supported to mitigate any issue and provide near-perfect uptime.

Portability

If your cloud provider changes its service offerings significantly or if it goes bankrupt, will your business be able to move forward? Risk management for cloud services should stress the importance of portability, wherever possible, or a plan for easing the burden of your next big switch. Better yet, the cloud provider should appear positioned to provide service indefinitely.

Vetting Your Options

When you use a relatively new technology like cloud solutions, it can be difficult to assess whether you’re getting your money’s worth and whether your services are in line with what the market has to offer. Until cloud technologies and the market have matured and become more standardized, you should expect to put in some effort to regularly gaze at other providers and options while remembering the work it would take to shift gears.

Growing to Scale

Cloud gives businesses the power to disrupt markets and create new revenue streams. Will your provider be able to grow with you? Cloud services are generally very scalable, but not all providers are equally prepared for the task. Think about your future needs when choosing a provider; you can reduce some risk by being optimistic and finding a provider with robust, diverse services.

CIO 101: Systems Are Never Fully Secure

One of the biggest mistakes that a CIO can make is to assume that their systems are fully protected from security threats. It is a costly assumption that many CIOs make at some point; however, rather than repeat mistakes, like any leader, CIOs are better off learning from them instead.

Learning from Mistakes

Just a couple of months ago in Cambridge, CIOs from around the country gathered to participate in the MIT Sloan CIO Summit. While there, they were asked to discuss a significant failure that they had made during the course of their careers.

One of the most notable responses came from Fidelity Enterprise CTO Stephen Neff.

Neff discussed his time at Salomon Brothers and the early days of his career. He related how the firm had a double backup system that it relied upon; this ensured that the backup had a backup. The firm believed that this was sufficient coverage to protect their data. After all, while one backup could be corrupted or lost, the odds of corrupting two backups were considered to be so low that it wasn’t even a possibility.

Against All Odds

As it turned out, those odds were considerable. Upon review, it became clear that the mirrored site was corrupted, and the backup, which hadn’t been updated with crucial software, wasn’t backing data up at all.

The entire system wasn’t working properly. Fortunately, the problem was discovered before any major damage was done, and the data was able to be recovered from disks.

However, the experience taught Neff that no system is foolproof and that making assumptions such as those made at Salomon Brothers can lead to very costly mistakes.

As Neff said, “Stability isn’t a given. You might think your organization’s systems are stable, but you have to test them constantly to be sure.”

The Best Plans Go Fallow

Neff’s story illustrates that even the best security and backup plans can fall apart because of any number of factors. In this case, it was because of factors that were out of his control.

It also highlights what many IT professionals feel in the current environment that is promoting cloud-based solutions. For many, these systems represent an enormous risk because they operate out of their direct control. Stories like Neff’s underscore this concern, and it is something that each IT professional will need to address in terms of his or her organization’s specific needs and requirements.

Plan for Every Error

The bottom line is this: whether an organization is using internal or cloud-based solutions, it is important to factor in everything from human error to mechanical failures. Though CIOs can take steps to prepare for any eventuality, the truth is that all bases never will be 100% covered.

Things can and do happen. It’s important to ensure that an organization’s IT policies are consistent, constant, and always evolving. While not full proof, it is the best way to ensure that an organization doesn’t make the same mistakes that others have made.

Excellent Data Analysis: The Key to an Excellent Business Strategy

The overall success of a business depends on many factors, including leadership, vision, economics, competition, and analytics. But it is data that is the driving force behind a business’s success or failure.

According to Ovum Research, a business receiving poor quality data could lose revenue of at least 30 percent. Business leaders across the board are now recognizing the significance and importance of using high-quality data to ensure a successful business–and making changes to do so.

Smart Data Management

For many businesses, the answer is to invest in high-tech data processing applications and advanced predictive analytics to rein in the data and make it work for them. However, some businesses are finding that even the latest data processing equipment doesn’t help when the core data is a mess.

Expert business analyzers have found that there is a better way for companies to manage data; it’s called master data management (MDM). Although this isn’t a new concept, it has come to the forefront for many business leaders because of data’s vital nature.

Leaders know the importance of collecting data on customers, suppliers, products, location, assets, and employees. Although the overall success of a business depends on this critical data, it can be hard for managers to focus on it because of other priorities, business mergers, or siloed systems.

Smart Data Analysis

Eventually, though, it becomes glaringly obvious that there are gaps between what they do know about these critical data categories and what they should know. Such a realization compels leaders to start looking at these critical concepts:

  • Sales are optimized by knowing the customer, the product they purchased, the location of purchase, and the supplier.
  • Recalls can only be effectively and efficiently handled when the business knows where the defective part came from, where it went, and where the products are located.
  • Marketing new drugs requires knowing the researcher, the research site, compounds used, and test patient data.
  • Product models, date of manufacture, and location of manufacture play an important role in meeting regulatory reporting guidelines.

Many times, this data is easy to manage until the business begins to grow. The larger the business gets, the harder it can be to track the data. As the data becomes fragmented across applications, it’s harder to see the “big picture.”

Smart Adaptation

Moreover, the data keeps changing when the following occur:

  • Customer demographics change.
  • Suppliers move or change.
  • New products launch and old products discontinue.
  • Assets are gained or retired.

All of these changes result in inconsistent, scattered data that’s hard to find and possibly not accurate. This costs businesses time and money and can result in frustrated, overworked employees.

Adapting, forward-thinking leaders can take a different approach:

  • They can locate the data glitches.
  • They can focus on the process of receiving and storing data.
  • They can find a product that is designed to manage business data from one location (like MDM).

MDM can help a variety of industries achieve a streamlined method of data management by helping marketing teams optimize the cross-sell and up-sell process, helping the procurement team optimize sourcing, and helping the compliance team manage data needed to create regulatory reports efficiently. MDM brings all of a business’s data under one umbrella, resulting in the most up-to-date, accurate, critical business information possible to help businesses thrive and grow.

Despite the management style of choice, it’s clear that smart approaches to data analytics is what puts one business ahead of another.

8 Ways Businesses Are Innovating with Cloud

Many companies have joined the cloud to cut costs and enjoy easier scale, but the technologies that power the cloud can also help companies innovate within their own markets. When companies begin experiencing the benefits of cloud adoption, the savings and flexibility can be used to alter revenue streams or reinvent an entire industry.

Cloud propels innovation through intrinsic benefits and by inspiring and enabling changes. Here are eight important ways that the cloud fuels innovation:

Collaboration

When employees have greater access to and communication with each other, possibilities emerge for innovative ideas. Businesses even find new revenue streams. Cloud technology enables collaboration across different locations and departments more easily– within the building and across the globe.

Faster innovation

The most popular cloud solution, SaaS (Software as a Service) helps the vast majority of companies using the cloud get results faster than ever. The agility and scalability of SaaS encourages companies to experiment with transformative new projects and disrupt their market rather than simply gaining efficiency.

New revenue streams

Rapidly changing technologies fuel companies to quickly alter their own business models. While selecting from SaaS and other cloud services, companies are taking the new value added and applying it toward reinventing the business with new revenue streams added.

Making the jump from specialist to leader

In addition to collaboration and crowd-based information, the cloud also helps businesses search and discover specific talents and specializations. When you need a revolutionary thinker, the cloud helps you find the right person for the task. Cloud takes the value in a niche skill and brings its benefits to scale.

Sharper insight, better decisions

The cloud brings together big data and provides access to highly sophisticated analytics. In turn, companies can use this information in decisive moments to propel innovative ideas into successful projects. The cloud pulls people and ideas together and gives executives the information they need to move forward confidently on new projects.

More mobile tech projects

With mobile apps fully ingrained in both internal use and consumer platforms, companies need cloud to integrate IT, product development, customer relations, and other departments. Cloud technologies offer the perfect solution for generating better mobile products that change how business is done or create an entirely new model of the customer relationship.

No more red tape during development

Innovation can unfortunately be slowed down by clunky testing and deployment processes. Companies that are innovating quickly are doing so by using cloud-based tools to integrate IT development and operations teams, cutting the red tape and enabling productivity in innovative teams.

Engaging and learning from customers

The cloud makes it easy to interact with customers, creating a new font of information and the opportunity to test new products quickly. Innovation leaders are using cloud-based data to source ideas about what customers want next. Cloud solutions also serve as an agile way to test new ideas and engage customers during product testing.

Many companies are using the cloud for cost reduction without leveraging the technology to grow or disrupt the market. Increasingly, though, businesses in the cloud are finding the tools necessary to innovate in profound and fundamental ways.

Retaining the CTO and CIO Relevance in the Cloud Era

The cloud is changing how businesses worldwide do business. It also is creating a unique set of challenges and opportunities for the technology implementers within those businesses.

Traditionally, CTOs, CIOs, and other IT administrators were seen in a “back office” light. They were there to research and implement the technologies that the company needed to expand. However, cloud services are now moving IT services off-site. It’s easy for a company to start to wonder whether it needs an on-site IT department at all.

Rather than being a source of worry, this can be an opportunity for CIOs.

An increasing number of CIOs are discovering the opportunities inherent in cloud computing. Rather than threatening their jobs, the rise of the cloud brings opportunities to expand their role within a company.

A Truly Internal IT

IT administrators facing C-level execs who are interested in off-siting their computing services need to move quickly. These sorts of changes, once made, are often hard to undo.

Currently, very few strategic executives have a data or computer sciences background, which is where the opportunities lie. Smart CTOs who move quickly demonstrate their worth by deflating myths surrounding outsourced cloud services. Let’s look at how this might happen.

1. Administrative Delays

Every “layer” of cloud services adds at least one more layer of bureaucracy. When dealing with multiple cloud providers, systems incompatibility can create significant barriers to integration. Whenever there’s any trouble, someone is going to be on the phone with tech support.

The more that’s handled in-house, the more quickly trouble gets resolved.

2. Slowed Response Time

Corporate flexibility is a serious consideration today. Companies need to be able to respond to changes in the market or global news within days– or potentially even hours.

However, outsourced services are highly limiting in this regard. A company relying on an offsite advertising firm, for example, could have a workflow in place that runs in four to six week cycles. Conceiving and implementing new ideas quickly becomes nearly impossible in such a system.

3. Data Disconnection

A good database of client and lead information is one of the most valuable tools that a business can have. Ultimately, the company that understands its market best is the one that will find the best products and services to offer.

So, why would a company want their most useful database in someone else’s hands?

This is one of the big dangers of getting locked into hosted and offsite services. A company becomes disconnected from the data that it needs to make decisions. On the other hand, a CIO or CTO sitting on their own customer database can become a truly invaluable part of virtually any department’s planning.

4. Maintaining Strategic Vision

Keeping outsourced services “on the same page” can be a logistical nightmare for many companies. A cloud host is providing exactly the services listed in the contract– no more and no less. If strategy changes, someone has to make sure every affected cloud service is (and can be) brought in line with it.

A strong internal IT department will have the ties necessary to understand the strategic vision of a business. There won’t be a question of whether one proverbial hand knows what the other is doing, so long as an empowered CIO keeping communications flowing.

Evolve With Technology

Technology has a bad habit of creating “evolve or die” scenarios for businesses, but, in most cases, the opportunities are at least equal to the potential drawbacks.

Successful CIOs and CTOs will look to expand their usefulness to their organization. A strong in-house IT department can enable robust and responsive corporate strategies but only if IT admins can demonstrate their worth.

Integrated Technology: CIO Leadership Means Fostering Teamwork

Though some people whisper about the CIO role being cannibalized as businesses absorb IT functions into their general operations, some leading CIOs are seeing it as being the other way around. As technology becomes more important and more ingrained in business, the CIO can take on an even more important role in the boardroom—if he or she has the right touch for leadership.

Traditionally, the CIO has been more a more discrete figure among C-level executives. The days are gone when organizations would rely on the CIO to simply report about IT functions and then take things away from the meeting just to turn around and direct the IT department.

Now, the stars of CIO leadership are forging new relationships wherein the CIO and team are fully expected to understand and share a vision with the business side. This includes aligning objectives and projects directly and explicitly with business goals, and creating accountability for IT to work toward business outcomes while constantly communicating with business.

In short, today’s CIO leadership has a lot to do with fostering teamwork between IT and business.

Case study: IT integration in a leading business

The past CIO of Marriott International, Carl Wilson, has more recently become a CIO coach to tech leaders at major corporations. Among his legacies from his time at Marriott are the hotel chain’s forward-thinking moves to begin offering online reservations and to provide internet connectivity in its guest rooms in order to cater to business travelers.

It is no coincidence that Wilson’s career highlights include tech projects that directly catered to customer needs. Wilson ensured that teamwork was a valued quality among the IT department and other parts of the business. Thus, each side was ready to roll out technological improvements that brought value to the whole business swiftly and profoundly.

Not only did Wilson himself use his role as CIO to take on an integrated approach with other executives, but he made sure that business and IT colleagues were paired with each other at many levels of the business. In his model, both sides held responsibility for profitable and customer-benefiting outcomes. By keep an eye on customer wants and needs, Wilson had his team in the best position to understand situations and to respond efficiently.

Leading through change: the outlook for CIOs

The CIO’s role must change as fast and as fundamentally as the major changes happening in technology itself and in the broader business world. As colleagues on the business side become more tech savvy and capable of teamwork with IT, the IT team must keep up by developing their business acumen. For the CIO, this means evolving into more of a complete partner among the CxO level and heading up projects that coordinate IT and business together.

Today’s CIO is looking toward three major changes:

• The job is getting bigger. The CIO needs to be knowledgeable of P&L and other functions–not just the general business goals.
• Practice your public speaking. As the IT side comes to the forefront of organizational strategy, the CIO is being asked to give presentations and make more regular appearances in the boardroom. This might be new to the role, and preparation and training are key.
• Be proactive– not responsive. Rather than listening to other executives and then devising IT solutions to meet their needs, CIOs must bring their own ideas to the party.

Welcome to the T2 Blog

Hello and welcome to the T2 blog. As you can see, we’ve recently launched our new website and are very happy to share our new look with the world.

There are so many exciting changes happening in the telecom and IT world today that it makes my head spin. And we like to talk about how it affects us, and how it affects businesses like yours, so we will be sharing it all right here with you.

On this blog, we’ll be posting the newest, most interesting, and most helpful information we discover that will be most relevant to you and your business. Whether it’s telecom, IT, or business related news, you’ll find it here. We will also be talking, from time to time, about new services we provide and new things happening at T2.

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