Most enterprises these days are well on the road to virtualized infrastructure and are ready to move into the fast lane with advances like software-defined networking (SDN); Big Data architecture; and converged, modularized hardware. But at some point, it’s worth it to stop and ask, is any of this actually improving business processes and services or merely changing the underlying support mechanisms?
Without question, there have been many success stories in recent years. At Barclay’s Bank, for instance, previous database environments would take about six weeks to process data from multiple small customers while the new Hadoop deployment can do it in about 20 minutes. Elsewhere, Hadoop is improving the performance of everything from data discovery to ETL offload to out-of-the-box application development.
This is all well and good, says CIO Today’s Jef Cozza, but exactly how will this translate into an improved customer experience or a more nimble enterprise? Paradoxically, advanced data architectures could end up hurting the business process if organizations fail to utilize them in the right way. Customer satisfaction across multiple industries is at a nine-year low, primarily due to the pace at which new terms and channels are introduced in the modern digital economy, which leads to confusion for both the client and the service provider. This is the primary reason why Microsoft and others pushing cloud and advanced enterprise capabilities urge the creation of “chief experience officers” and other executives who are tasked with looking beyond the technology to see how it is affecting business outcomes.
There is a cautionary tale here as organizations gravitate toward increasing automation and even artificial intelligence to streamline business processes, says ServiceMax VP Patrice Eberline: Abolish human-to-human interaction at your own risk. In the field services industry, which includes everything from the household appliance repairman to top-end industrial technicians, technologies like mobile communications, IoT and wearables are devoted to enhancing, not replacing, the personal touch. It’s simply good business for a tech to arrive on site fully aware of what the problem is and how to fix it. Enterprises that fail in this most basic concept run the risk of losing customers as they grow increasingly frustrated with impersonal, uncaring machines.
This dynamic applies not only to customers but to the knowledge workforce as well. Everyone is in favor of change, but when it becomes too rapid and too uncoordinated, it crosses the fine line into chaos. This is why the enterprise needs to keep track of all IT assets as infrastructure becomes more abstract and distributed, says BDNA President Walker White. Not only will this provide better security (you can’t protect what you don’t understand), but it allows key resources to be more easily directed to those who can make the most use of them while at the same time identifying under-utilized assets for possible termination. It’s all about finding the right value for the tools at your disposal and then ensuring that they are being used to improve the business, not just change it.
We’ve all seen the movies and TV shows where humans become enslaved to the soulless computer brain that enforces a dystopian nightmare based on cold, hard logic. We’re nowhere near that point, of course, and probably never will be.
But as both buyers and sellers become disconnected from one another simply because it’s easier to click a few mouse taps than have an actual conversation, commerce becomes less engaging and the ability to deal with unique situations or resolve individual problems will suffer.
And that is most certainly not good for business.
Arthur Cole writes about infrastructure for IT Business Edge. Cole has been covering the high-tech media and computing industries for more than 20 years, having served as editor of TV Technology, Video Technology News, Internet News and Multimedia Weekly. His contributions have appeared in Communications Today and Enterprise Networking Planet and as web content for numerous high-tech clients like TwinStrata and Carpathia. Follow Art on Twitter @acole602.