I see a lot of presentations on technology initiatives but few really seem to get behind the “why” part of the new product or service. They are faster, better, and sometimes even cheaper, but each term is often arbitrary with very little connection to a problem that you or I might actually want to fix.
It was therefore refreshing to get a presentation from BMC that started with a problem statement, and one that does appear to address problems that the typically mid-market to enterprise staff are likely experiencing.
Because I think this is the way any product should be brought to market, let’s cover BMC’s messaging refresh for its BladeLogic Automation Suite.
Defining the Automation Problem
We often take automation for granted without rethinking through what we are trying to accomplish in the first place. In the typical mid-size to large company, you have a number of ongoing tasks that generally require some type of manual labor and over the last 5 years IT has been under strong pressure to reduce spending and staff. The opportunity to make changes has significantly increased, however, in server blade environments, particularly when you overlay virtualization, which allows several projects to more easily co-reside on a single blade.
The tasks are much the same, though; you just have a potential geometric increase in them. You still have to provision the job; you have to manage the overall configuration of the blade center servers; you have to deploy, patch and manage software; and you have to assure compliance and remediation.
We add to this effort to shift workloads to public and private cloud models in order to further reduce costs and increase agility, while limiting capital expenses — and with this you have the formula for a nightmare.
To net this out, the amount of work has gone up dramatically at the same time IT budgets, and particularly staffing levels, have dropped catastrophically.
Related Organizational Issues
Now what we’ve already covered is bad enough, but it is only the tip of this nasty iceberg and if you want the leading reason why it sucks to be a CIO right now, this is likely it.
IT organizations tend to be perceived as inefficient and they aren’t measured on uptime but downtime, and in a vacuum where the events, which are often not their fault, are virtually always connected to the perception of their performance. This is often the impression of either dedicated or internal service organizations: The user has no perspective of what the alternative would be and so takes for granted the good work and locks onto often unreasonable expectations of performance to judge IT incompetent.
IT systems evolve under often-conflicted goals from line managers and internal changes in managers in IT. That means you tend to have silos of very different technologies, vendors and levels of automation, and with it a high variance internally for automated tasks.
Broken process and communication loops both within and outside IT aren’t uncommon as a result. This is because not only are the user requirements and technological competence of the different groups widely varied, the people you have to hire to address them are at least equally different. This leads to communication errors and lower response times, driving increased dissatisfaction.
Now, we overlay this with rules that vary by industry and by organization with regard to everything from information retention to disclosure. And add to this the fact that the rules appear to be constantly changing. The result is, at a time of insufficient resources, we end up with insufficient coverage and an inability to either discover or resolve related problems timely.
BMC closes this argument with the point that few CIOs have a unified view of their shop. I might argue that is actually a benefit because unless this mass of problems was corrected, that unified view would scare them to death. I know security products, for instance, that provide a unified view of security exposures sell very poorly largely because they both put a target on the CIO’s back and encourage the CEO to pull the trigger.
The best way to showcase a solution is to showcase that the IT folks who use it are getting solid results. Here they showcased a number of companies.
For instance, Tom Faulkner, who is head of technology support and operations, talking about BMC’s BladeLogic automation solution, attests that he has implemented the full suite of deployment and monitoring tools. His measured results are a 50 percent reduction in resource requirements and a reduction in downtime, a 75 percent reduction in deployment time and a staffing reduction to one person to manage it, and a 60 percent reduction in disaster recovery time (critical due to ever-increasing natural events) — one computer-mediated communications standard, which both supports a best practice and provides for a better unified view.
Fabio Coatti, IT director at Dada, which now has 400 servers under this offering, attests to the following benefits (Note: Because numbers may be material, there is often resistance to sharing actual percentages and results): significant reduction in time and cost associated with server management. Dada is now able to strictly adhere to service-level agreements and better assure quality. It has eliminated many manual processes and scripting techniques. It has avoided severe financial penalties by better assuring regulatory compliance. And it got all of this though the implementation of BladeLogic for configuration, compliance and provisioning.
Other less detailed advocacy came from Edmunds.com, which said it was able to provision 95 servers in 2 days with this tool. Cisco cut provisioning from a turnaround of 24 hours to 20 minutes. Columbia reduced the time needed to change passwords from 60 hours to 5, and Virgin Mobile was able to do a full Tibco server build in 3 minutes.
In the end, the message is that IT is living a nightmare and that BMC’s BladeLogic solution not only can significantly eliminate the related problems, it actually has in a number of named accounts.
Wrapping Up: Selling a Solution
In the end, this is as much an example of how to present a solution as it is the solution itself. Without a defined problem, the solution has no framework to work against. And vendors generally aren’t trusted when it comes to talking about the benefits of a solution; other IT executives who bet their own job performance behind the tool’s use are.
The formula is a credible problem followed by IT-sourced confirmation that the product does more than meet expectations in mitigating it. Nice work for BMC’s team for creating a tool that reduces the massive exposures that IT executives enjoy and in providing a way to showcase it that is credible.