The first day's Technical Architecture track kicked off with
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Conference report Adaptive IT – managing the marriage of business and computing 22–24 June 2004, London UK eema’s 17th conference brought together the world’s leading experts to explain how the component parts of an Adaptive IT strategy fit together to enhance business processes. The conference was sponsored by Hewlett Packard and Microsoft and was divided into two tracks: Strategic Management and Technical Architecture. Keynote addresses In the first keynote address, Peter Vanderfluit, of Hewlett Packard highlighted the fact that there are no IT Projects, only business projects with an IT element and, additionally, that the trend towards operational support within IT budgets must be reversed – otherwise innovation will stagnate. Michael Emanuel of Microsoft followed with the second keynote address highlighting the need for intelligent IT components. In the final keynote address, Leo Steiner, IBM, noted that the theory of Adaptive IT has been around for many years but the technology has lagged. He noted that we have reached a crux where business pressure is mounting at a time when technology is maturing into practical solutions. There then followed a lively debate led by Patrick Gannon, OASIS. Though lively, the panel was mostly in agreement that IT needed to move more towards a business focus and build flexible, reusable ‘services’ adaptable to business needs. Strategic Management The first of the strategic management tracks revisited many of the issues addressed in the opening plenary and showed through vendor and user case studies how these are applied. Kevin Brearley (Micro Focus) looked at how financial organisations are approaching modernising their legacy business applications, 75% of which are running on COBOL with the inherent inflexibility associated with expensive updates and the cost of downtime. He observed that 22% of CIOs now report to the company CFO (double the previous year's figures) and that 70–80% of the average IT budget is 'business as usual' placing an imperative on minimising risk whilst reducing costs and general business transformation. Chris Tofts (HP Labs) challenged some general preconceptions about agility by asking how much a risk reduction strategy is worth and how the balance of agility versus optimality may be assessed and measured. For any given situation, agility can be defined from many different perspectives: what is good and how much is enough? Steve Malde (BT Global Solutions) spoke of the changes being undertaken at BT that are saving the company £5B through cross-industry practices and the lessons learnt that are being applied in best practices with BT's customers. John Alexander (HISL) pointed out that technology is often a constraint and not an enabler, and that IT services often spend 70% of their time digging one hole, and the remaining 20/30% digging the next hole. He spoke of the need for 'holistic process redesign' to further the elimination of functional silos and the associated legacy costs, and that a variable cost/pricing model is fundamental to the acceptance of a new model, which will be comparable to the today's telephone business model. The alignment of business and IT Michael Munro (Cisco Systems) discussed the challenges facing Cisco, a company of 35,000 employees, who currently have a return of US$657K with 38% operating expenses and are striving to reach US$750K revenue/employer with 35% operating expenses. A perceived crucial part of this process centres around an alignment of business and IT involving both the CIO and the CEO; and to understand the criteria that are to be used they have instituted a business process operating council (BPOC) chaired by a senior vice president. One of the issues addressed is out-tasking versus outsourcing and getting the right balance of control and monitoring which ultimately is the arbiter of a successful partnership. So far, Cisco has put in place a number of governance mechanisms and now faces the exciting and daring journey to execute on its strategy. Proliferation of websites Finally, Roger Hazlewood (Unilever), described the nightmarish discoveries made by the Global Infrastructure Organisation at Unilever when it started to investigate the proliferation of websites worldwide associated with Unilever and its many well-known brands. Because of the evolution of the website as an extension of marketing rather than a function of IT, each brand had developed its own site, using its own set of third party partners, with varying degrees of security and with little or no cross-referencing. The result was a massive overspend and overlap of investment. Over an extended period of time, the team, with corporate sponsorship, were able to rein the free-form activity associated with presenting Unilever through the web to a policy-driven, cost-effective process that still enables the brands the independence it requires but also protects the umbrella Unilever brand. Overall themes The overall themes that came through during the course of the afternoon were that the process of achieving an adaptive or agile organisation is a matter of negotiation or 'dancing' between business and IT involving the highest levels of management, with a requirement for a thorough and ongoing understanding of criteria and dependencies and a deep understanding of the impact of 'events' on a business. As one speaker said, quoting the Harvard Business Review (May 2003), ‘IT doesn't matter’. Bringing living technology to the digital world On the second day, Theo Smit of Philips Semiconductors demonstrated an interesting parallel between the rate of change in the high tech chip manufacturing business and the IT infrastructure and processes which manage it. The design and manufacture of silicon chips for the consumer electronics market is characterised by huge capital and plant costs, extremely short time to market for new products and very short product life (both 2–3 months). Presented as a case study of the business challenges posed by the need to respond in such a demanding market with rapid product evolution, this presentation showed the development of Adaptive IT based around a ‘virtualised’ datacentre and a set of flexible application development processes. These had enabled a reduction in application development and deployment time from 18 months to 1 day and a reduction in the growth rate for IT expenditure from 18% annually to 3%. High levels of redundancy and contingency were used in all aspects of the architecture. The final message revolved around the people issues in a fast changing business. The ability to accept change as a normal part of the working environment is key for every employee. Commercial risks and implications of Adaptive IT Many of the other presentations indicated the need for a ‘business dashboard’ to give real time visibility of operational indicators. Francois D'Haegeleer of TIBCO EMEA demonstrated with a comprehensive set of screen shots how this had been achieved in several of their client companies allowing them to fine tune their IT assets to respond to the business needs. Conversely it was also possible to review the impact of IT operational failures on specific business processes and therefore prioritise the responses and minimise impact. The granularity which was possible in monitoring and tuning to the very edges of business process was impressive and showed that each process could be terminated to generate a further business opportunity. The presentation included a comprehensive breakdown of adaptive techniques which work and those that don’t. The use of open source to achieve Adaptive IT Eddie Bleasdale of netproject presented the case for open source approaches citing the recent trend away from client server (mainly proprietary) architectures and the growth of thin client approaches. These were viewed as analogous to a return to a centralised mainframe approach. Some of the benefits of open source such as access to and ownership of source code, standard interfaces, etc. are well known and widely adopted. This presentation reviewed some of the EU and Global projects and initiatives (e.g. Mozilla and GNOME) which were taking the ‘open’ message into all areas of IT. The benefits of shared code versus proprietary lock-in were discussed with vigour, raising the issues of version control, support etc. in live deployments. Technical Architecture The first day's Technical Architecture track kicked off with a presentation by Bill Pugsley, MD of Perwill plc, in which he outlined his thoughts on the role of the Enterprise Service Bus methodology to provide a means of implementing Adaptive IT independently of the technological base of the underlying applications. Paul Allen, Principal Web Services Strategist with Computer Associates, then shared his thoughts on managing expectations for the effective use of a service-oriented architecture. The formal presentations concluded with James Bryce-Clark, Manager for Technical Standards Development at OASIS, who summarised the use of standards to create e-business implementations, the distinctions between open and proprietary standards and the range of Web Services and service-oriented architecture standards that are currently available. Following these sessions, Ian Curtis, Director of Enterprise Marketing for HP, Michael Emanuel, Director of Management Products for Microsoft Corporation and Geoff Forrest, Head of Sales at BT Transform, each gave short presentations of their company's offerings that are aimed at helping organisations adopt and implement Adaptive IT, and participated in a panel discussion of points raised by the audience. Grid Computing The Technical Architecture track brought together an eclectic range of presentations. For example, delegates heard Matt Schofield of the London Technology Network talk about Grid Computing. The mission of the London Technology Network is to help UK businesses gain access to the technology research that is going on in the capital’s Universities and Research Institutes. Matt talked about the three types of Grid computing that companies are currently looking to the Universities for help with – computational (where specific resources are reserved for intensive workloads); scavenging (CPU cycles are ‘scavenged’ from idle servers and desktops); and data grids (a collection of resources dedicated to managing data within an organisation). He also outlined some of the issues for grid computing: • Parallel computing – resource reservation, provisioning • Quality of Service/charging • Security & permissions • Infrastructure development trial applications. The full presentation had information on which Universities are working in these areas. User collaboration IBM is very keen on the concept of user collaboration as the cornerstone of the Adaptive Enterprise. So keen, in fact, that Stuart McRae came directly from an overnight flight to tell us about it. The aim of collaboration is to make more people more productive. Stuart suggested that we are in the ‘third wave’ of collaboration. Where the first was about personal productivity and the second about creating virtual teams, the latest wave is about connecting people to business processes. He contends that service oriented architectures are the arteries of an on- demand organisation. We need to rethink IT from the user’s perspective and provide them with an easy way to access the information they need. Portals plus collaborative applications are the key. Portals bring applications together in a single user experience and help to manage the costs associated with rich client environments It is important, however, that the user experience can be easily adapted to the specific role. We need to make sure that they have the right tools for the job. Security An important component of Adaptive IT is, of course, security, and Bart Vansevenant from Ubizen talked about a security foundation for Adaptive IT. As he explained, Adaptive IT compounds the problems of a disappearing perimeter, leaving more applications exposed to threats from outside. Traditional security architectures, with a straightforward DMZ, are no longer adequate. Bart went on to outline ‘Transaction Zones’, a DMZ that is tailored to the specific type of transaction. For example, customers would require differing levels of authentication to trusted business partners who might have access to more sensitive applications. Identity and access management become critical at two levels: to prevent malicious attacks and to ensure that users comply with acceptable use policies. It is important to complement infrastructure level controls with application level controls. Identity management Beverley Holdsworth from Royal Mail gave a taste of the complexity of identity management (IDM) in a large and diverse organisation. In a challenging business environment including increasing competition and recovering from large losses, Royal Mail is trying to cope with a number of conflicting factors: • Increasing numbers of users as more business processes go online • Increasing expectations on IT, from all parties including customers, business partners and the regulators • The increasing exposure to threats that comes with greater dependence on IT. Beverley outlined the importance of identity management in coping with all these issues and explained how Royal Mail is tackling it with a combination of technology and business process. She gave us an interesting example of starting the IDM process at the recruitment interview. By taking a photograph using a PDA, the line manager can make sure that the same person turns up to do the job, eliminating identity fraud by professional ‘interviewees’. This is the marriage of business and computing on the ground. Closing Plenary The closing plenary kicked-off with a presentation from Dick Raman, TIE Holding N.V., who posed a question as to whether the solutions already exist within current integration technologies. Howard Wright, Royal Mail, followed with an informative look at aspects of creating agility and reacting to change. Peter Abrahams, Bloor Research Ltd., wrapped up the closing session, looking at his vision of a joined-up and flexible future. In summary, eema’s highly successful conference highlighted the need for a marriage of business and computing and there was much enthusiasm for the subject from all concerned. Keep an eye on the Adaptive IT focus area on the eema website for future developments!