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September 26, 2013

Cloud Computing: Vendors Selection parameters and Comparison of Deployment Model..

In my previous blog, http://www.infosysblogs.com/thought-floor/2013/09/risk_assessment_and_mitigation.html,

we explored the risks associated with Cloud Deployment and ways to mitigate them. Now let us compare the different deployment models i.e. Public Cloud, Private Cloud and Hybrid Cloud. Also we will try to explore the Parameters which can help in comparing the Cloud Providers and select the best one.

Vendor Selection Criteria.

Note: The scores are indicative. In this Example Vendor 2 has a better Score and hence correct choice.

 

Vendors/Parameters Vendor 1 Vendor 2
Level of Security (vulnerability, physical, personnel, attacks) 8 8
Level of data protection (while it is at rest and while it is moving) 7 8
Interoperability, Compatibility with other cloud vendors 8 8
Scalability offered 5 7
Cost per Unit 8 9
SLA offered 9 6
Ease of access  4 4
Level of Redundancy 6 5
Vendor's expertise in cloud  3 8
Level of Support offered while moving to cloud 1 4
Level of support offered during the engagement 2 6
End of service support offered 3 9
Compatibility with customer's infrastructure 8 7
Degree of vendor lock-in 7 5
Compensation offered in case of a SLA breach/data leak/compliance 6 6
Level of control offered to customer 4 2
Quality of internet connectivity 5 7
Investigative support 2 9
Ease of provisioning and capacity management 3 5
Suitability for customer's application (system architecture) 7 6
Success in providing service to any enterprise 8 6
Level of 24/7 Customer support  4 4
Any provision for telecom specific Domain 6 4
Third party security and compliance certification 2 7
TOTAL Score 126 150

 

 

Comparison of Deployment Model.

 

Deployment Model Public Cloud  Private Cloud Hybrid Cloud
       
Parameters      
Level of Abstraction High Low Moderate 
Tenancy Either a single-tenant (dedicated) or multi-tenant (shared) operating environment Single-tenant (dedicated) operating environment A combination of public and private cloud offerings that allow for transitive information exchange
Level of Security Low. No access to data in provider premise High. Full access to data is available  High. Full access to data is available 
Vendor Lock-in chances Depends upon the technology that the vendor uses High. Depends upon the technology used by provider. Depends upon the technology used by the vendor
Capital Expenditure Low. As most of the infrastructure is maintained by the provider High. The in-house infrastructure has to be prepared for deployment High
Operational Expenditure High. Continuous pay per usage charging  Moderate. Only one time setup charge is high Moderate 
Managed by: Third party Organization or third party Both Organizaiton and Third party
Level of Virtualization Depends upon the technology that the vendor uses It is basically providing intelligence over virtualization  Virtualization level is lower than that in private cloud
SLA Guarantee Difficult to Obtain Easier to Obtain and monitor  Easier to Obtain and monitor
Suitable for : SMB Enterprise Both
Data Privacy Low  High  Moderate 
Legal and compliant issues High since data may have to be stored on foreign land Low since data resides in our own data center Low since data resides in our own data center
Types of application Suitable Less mission critical application having less integration level Application dealing with highly confidential data  Application dealing with highly confidential data 
Infrastructure Owned by: Third party Organization or third party Both Organizaiton and Third party

 

Throughout my career, while dealing with clients and partners, I have seen that simple and small aspects of relationship make a lot of difference. These simple aspects are related to transparency and effective and timely communication.

In my first blog I would like to share the learning's about the most important aspect (in my opinion atleast) which is about the right governance and communication plan. This fact cannot be emphasized enough. Over a period of time, I have seen issues crop up for failing to put together a simple communication plan with the partners. Some of the fall outs of this can lead to misunderstanding of requirements, delays in getting a quote or simply put, failing to work together as a team when working on an opportunity.

When working with partner(s) on an opportunity, it is important to provide a heads up as much as possible. So the first step would be to put together a governance and communication structure in place.

The governance structure can comprise of

·         The team members working on the opportunity from both sides

·         A clear definition on the roles and responsibilities of the team members working on either side

·         A clear definition of the requirements and expected output from the partner(s)

·         The deliverables expected from the team members. For e.g. design, architecture, commercials etc.

The communication plan can consist of

·         The timelines expected in the opportunity

·         The progress to be made while working on the opportunity on a daily / weekly basis

The above aspects can at times sound very trivial, but it makes a huge difference in effectively working with partner(s). As I have seen, as soon as there is a large opportunity, we all get into frenzy and lose time in organizing resources and teams and working out requirements that we expect from the partner(s). In this melee, sometimes we fail to communicate appropriately with the partner(s) leading to misunderstandings and delays. The partner(s) needs as much time in organizing resources as we do. If the communication is abrupt and ad-hoc, it can even lead to a situation where the partner(s) might decide to engage with competition for lack of clarity.

So a valuable take away is to consistently execute the governance and communication plan when working with partners. A simple email or a phone call to keep the partner informed goes a long way in developing that trust in the relationship.

Do let me know your experiences and thoughts as well.

 

September 25, 2013

Significance of Records Management and Types of Retention Policies:

 

Guest Post by

Jitendra Kumar Singh, Senior Associate Consultant, MFGADT Online, Infosys

For Enterprises to have competitive advantage, it must design & implement Processes & Systems with specified decision rights & accountability for how information is created, stored, used, retained and finally disposed. A well designed Retention Management solution provides a cost effective means to cope with large volumes of content, adhere to rapidly changing compliance standards and effectively respond to Operational, Corporate and Regulatory needs.

Following are the key drivers for Records Management initiative:

o   Exponential growth in electronic content

o   Increased pace of regulatory change

o   A much wider range of Unstructured Content

 

Now let us look at the industry definitions from ISO and Gartner respectively.

                                                                                                                                               

Ø ISO 15489-1: Records Management is ... the field responsible for efficient and systematic ...control of records, including processes for maintaining evidence of ...business activities.

 

Ø Gartner 2007: Records management involves managing, and reducing the risks of, document retention and preservation. It includes people, processes and technology. Industry and government regulations have been early drivers for records management adoption, but discovery as well as risk mitigation are becoming more important drivers.

 

 

Best practices for Records Management:

·        Preserve the right information for the appropriate length of time

·        Archive vital information for disaster recovery

·        Establish ownership of Records management program

·        Integrate the policies throughout the organization.

·        Review and update the program continuously

 

Now let us look at the Record Policy Types:

1.      Aging Method:

       Chronological: This is standard date aging, so we would add the duration of the policy to "base date" or if no base date is specified the creation date of the object

        Event Based: This is conditional style aging, basically waiting for an event to happen before the promotion/disposition date is calculated. This type of aging method is generally used in conjunction with Linked type retention policies

2.      Types of Retention:

·       Individual: Each document will age individually using a date associated to the document.  Individual retention policies can be applied at the folder level and then all of the contents and sub-folders would inherit the individual type retention (each object has its own unique retainer and promotion/disposition date calculated).

·       Linked: Linked retention policies that are applied to a container object (they cannot be applied to individual document) will result in one retainer object being created for the container.  Thus a linked style has a retainer applied at the folder level and all of the contents within the folder are aged as a collective unitRecords Management system helps reduces IT administration and storage costs by enabling organizations to

ü Manage electronic files based on the value of their contained information.

ü Differentiate between files that must be retained and those that should be disposed of  Manage document disposal using a dedicated user interface that identifies "deletable" materials, maintain approvals to authorize document destruction, and destroy documents on a regular basis

ü Dispose of unofficial documents automatically as their expiration dates or retention periods expire

ü  Integrate approval workflows as part of the disposition process

ü Produce multiple reports detailing what is under retention or holds and projected disposition dates

How is Mobile Site different from Desktop Full Site?

 

Guest Post by

Jitendra Kumar Singh, Senior Associate Consultant, MFGADT Online, Infosys

With the advent of high end mobile handsets and high speed data networks it has become imperative for Websites to have a mobile version as well. The challenge is to make the mobile site as useful and informative as the Desktop Site. The mobile site should have all product ranges for the Mobile user's need in such a way that the user does not feel the urge to go to the full site.

 

Sites optimized for Mobile

The basic ideas are to:

·         Minimize features: Eliminate the things that are not core Mobile use cases

·         Reduce Content: Include only the most relevant information

·         Enlarge Interface Elements: To accommodate the touch screen usability.

The mobile site must have all range of products as the full site at the same time reducing the Word count and less information for each product in order to accommodate the real estate. If a user is unable to locate any product on the mobile site, he/she would assume that the company does not sell it and will go to other companies. Therefore Mobile site is not just a miniature version of Full site or a Zoom in version but it requires proper design to take full advantage.

While Desktop Sites are designed for Larger Screens and Mobile Clicking, the Mobile Sites are designed for smaller screens and Touch Screens / Finger tapping. Now let's look at the reasons why Mobile Site is different from Full Site:

1.       The Screen Size or the Real Estate is different:

The Desktop monitors are 19-inch to 24-inch, tablets are commonly 10 inches while the Smartphones are 4 inches. Therefore Mobile web pages need to have a different layout removing the sidebars and unnecessary pictures and collapse content into expandable widgets. Simple Zoom out will make the text unreadable.

 

2.      The Login pages will be different:

For e.g. the Login page of a bank will have only the Field for Username and Password in Mobile Site but in Desktop site the Login Page will have advertisements and also information about the other product and Services.

 

3.        Mouse Clicking is convenient that Finger tapping as there can be 'fat finger' problem:

The Mouse click on the desktop is always easier and more precise than the Finger Tapping. The Tap targets must be larger enough and also the menus have to be replaced with the large buttons and large taps.

 

4.        The URL for a Mobile site is different:

Mobile-friendly web pages include the letter 'm' in the link to their website where the users from Smartphones and tablets are directed automatically.

 

5.        Reduction or removal of Advertisements:

As the real estate in the Mobile Site is limited, the unnecessary advertisements are removed as it will annoy the users.

 

6.        The Checkboxes and small links will not be much acceptable in Mobile site:

Since the screen Size is small the Check boxes selection is difficult.

Thus we see that the approach for designing the Mobile Site and desktop site is different. Modern websites are therefore obliged to publish in both desktop and mobile formats, effectively requiring every web page to be designed accordingly.

 

Beauty as a Competitive Differentiator in Enterprise Applications

 A decade back, in 2003, my employer had spent nearly $600 just to get me trained and certified in SAP. That was the going rate to get into the elite club of consultant who has understood nuances of the market leading enterprise application. Those days the trend in the enterprise application world was to create big monolithic, functionally rich, ERPs.  Simplicity or Usability of the product was least of the considerations- as matter of fact the labels in initial versions of SAP were in German. The main focus was on addressing all foreseeable business requirements across all verticals and sub verticals in one go. One size fits all. The organizations were urged to change their business process to suit the architecture of those ERPs. They termed it 'IT- enabled business process reengineering- BPR'. Obviously this focus made the enterprise applications very complex to comprehend. This, in turn, created an assured revenue stream for the product vendors in the form of training and certification.
Over a period of time, the trend has completely reversed. The GenNext does not have time or inclination to undergo elaborate training in software applications. They want the applications to be intuitive. One does not need a user manual to understand how a face book or   LinkedIn works. The users of iPod do not depend on a user manual to understand how to use the application. They just know it - intuitively. This new reality has finally dawned on the enterprise application vendors. The functional richness in enterprise applications is a given- hygiene factor.  That is no more competitive differentiator. The new competitive differentiators are usability and performance.

This is precisely what Infor is attempting through 10x. Leveraging Beauty (for want of better term!) as a competitive differentiator. This is my key take away from the last week's session by Soma, EVP Global Product Development of Infor at New Delhi. Infor 10x unites a multi-purpose middleware platform (ION) featuring social, mobile, analytical, and cloud capabilities with Infor's suite of solutions. It also delivers a pervasive, in-context business intelligence embedded throughout role-based workflows and makes it easier to put the power of analytics to work for businesses.

It's very interesting to see how Infor attempts to adopt a game-changer strategy to thrive in the intensively competitive enterprise application market- currently dominated by SAP and Oracle.  The look and feel (or the beauty!) of the new Infor 10x was not designed by ordinary, mostly left-brained, Engineers. Instead they set up Hook & Loop - an internal creative agency with a singular mandate - create experiences people love! This energetic think tank is composed of a bunch of talented creative-writers, designers, developers, and filmmakers--all working together to achieve this mandate. And looking at the 10x features, I can say that they have met with a reasonable success in that.


Following the strategy of Salesforce.com which announced that Chatter will be its primary interface, Infor is also planning to use Ming.le as the UI for its applications. Similar to Chatter, Ming.le is not only a snazzy consumer-like social UI; it's also useful in sending contextual info to employees. (BTW, there are more similarities between these two self-proclaimed start-ups- They're both run by former Oracle executives and are poised to break $3 billion in annual revenue the only product companies to do that apart from SAP and Oracle.)

Being a distant 3rd in this ERP market, Infor also recognizes the need to coexist with the bigger brothers in the market. Infor 10x is equipped with ION technology, a proprietary middleware solution that serves as the cornerstone of the Infor technology platform. Designed with flexibility in mind, ION simplifies integration between both Infor and third-party applications to provide a sturdy foundation for growth. It is very evident that Infor is betting big time on ION.
With just around 6% market share in the ERP world, and the growth mostly driven by inorganic acquisitions, Infor is consciously attempting for image makeover from that of a holding company for older applications like BaaN, to one offering a modern technology platform and reinvigorated applications for various verticals and "micro-verticals" . They are also cognizant of the fact that they can't achieve all of that alone. They intend to crowd-source it from various partners. The partner program is an essential part of the solutions strategy at Infor. They are encouraging the SI partners to create micro-vertical solutions on top of Infor frame work, even if that means partners would get to keep the IP for such solutions.
If everything they claim happens as planned, I am sure Infor 10x is going to fundamentally change the way information is published and consumed in the enterprise. It is going to take the enterprise application user experience to an altogether different level.

September 24, 2013

Importance of building a Strong Social Media Presence and ways to create this.

 

Guest Post by

Jitendra Kumar Singh, Senior Associate Consultant, MFGADT Online, Infosys

For any industry to stay competitive in the current environment, it has become imperative for them to connect with the current customers and also to reach out to new ones in all forms of media.

Social media provides an easy channel for business to put advertisements as compared to traditional channels of Newspaper and TV and also engage with customers gaining their satisfaction and loyalty in the long run. A recommendation or a testimonial by a fan on Facebook or LinkedIn goes a long way in encouraging others to visit the Website. 

Once customers get some information regarding the Product or Service, Businesses can target specific audiences to convert with their specific offerings.  

Benefits to Businesses in having a Social Presence:

1.    Companies have direct access to the fans and customers in a cheap and easy way

2.    Social media has become the new search Engine where people search based on their interest and requirements

3.    Besides traditional search Engines like Google and Bing customers use Social media to find information on required products and services and also to review and discuss the offerings with other users

4.    Businesses can use this channel to enhance Customer Satisfaction by resolving the grievances and hence becoming more Customer friendly

5.    Social media presence enhances the Search Engine Ranking as Search Engines take this into account in their algorithm

6.    It provides a platform for Businesses to build relationship and have direct access to fans, supporters and users

 

Steps to take benefit of Social Media and increase revenue of the Business

1.    Connect to people on popular Social Media platforms by creating groups, forums and engaging with them

2.    Creating content of high quality and value which is interesting and interactive. The theme of the pages must be consistent

3.    Use the Promotional Pages provided by two most popular Social Media platforms i.e. Facebook and LinkedIn which is an inexpensive way for Marketing

4.    Inform the users about new product and services and also ask them about the feedback and comments about existing ones

5.    Use blogs and forums to let the users interact with each other and also in having a two way communication in real time between the Companies and the Customers.

With new Social Media platforms coming up every day, it is important for Businesses to have a Strategy in place and select appropriate Media to stay ahead in the competition.

September 17, 2013

Advanced Analytics for Manufacturing Enterprises

Business performance for manufacturing enterprises is directly dependent on the improvements in operational processes. Globalization has added lot of pressure on increasing profitability, productivity while maintaining high quality & all of this at a lower cost. Realistically this is only possible via agility, flexibility, strong data driven process control and flawless execution of operational processes.

Biggest challenge for any manufacturing enterprise is to utilize the loads of data assets producing data at every touch point right from sourcing raw materials, to shop floor process to inventory management and logistics of finished good. The key lies in gaining better understanding of the underlying data that aids in decision making process & embedding insights/discovery in the core manufacturing operational processes. Thank god advanced analytics comes to the rescue, however a careful and thoughtful implementation of right advanced analytical technique is needed to gain right understanding. This also means imparting training, and up-skilling the workforce to leverage, visualize, interpret and act on the information insights gained via advanced analytics.

Advanced analytics comes in 3 flavors, and addresses various decision makers and stakeholder needs. From KPI's, to identifying problems & providing opportunities to improve processes, to slicing-dicing information at shop/plant floor levels gives manufacturing enterprises power of data driven enterprise and thus stay competitive in environment. The flavors being:
1. Descriptive : Use of historical data to describe business, e.g.
a) Better understand historical demand patterns
b) Understand how product flows thru supply chain
c) Understand when a shipment might be late

Various descriptive techniques being used by various enterprises being Query/Drill down, Ad-hoc reporting, Standard reporting.

2. Predictive : Use of data to predict trends and patterns via statistical algorithms for prediction e.g.
a) Forecast future demands
b) Forecast the price of fuel

Various predictive techniques being Predictive modeling, forecasting, simulation, alerts.

3. Prescriptive : Use data to suggest optimal solution via optimization techniques e.g.
a) To set inventory levels
b) Schedule your plants
c) Route your trucks via alternate options

Various prescriptive techniques popular being Stochastic Optimization, Optimization, What-if to answer questions like "How can we achieve best outcome including the effects of variability?"

Traditionally manufacturers have been banking on "Univariate" analysis which allows for an individual variant / parameter / variable has been examined from every aspect, and holds good in most processes. However, in reality in manufacturing processes dependencies, relationships and impact of several variants on entire process chain is huge both in financial, productivity & inventory optimization aspects. There's always been a need felt by manufacturers to have a "Multi-variate" analytical capabilities, however a combination of tools, technology and decision maker capability to define the multi-variant problem has been a laggard in adopting this complex but effective mechanism. Majority of the solutions today can help with recognizing the problem occurrence, however what's missing is to help identify root cause, diagnostics, process improvement plan, embedded prediction capabilities, advanced visualizations for multi-variant scenarios. A major shift from Statistical Process Control (Univariate) -> Multi-variate SPC (MPSC) is required for manufacturers to address the above mentioned challenges and keep pace with changing global dynamics & competition.

In subsequent blogs I will try addressing Multi-variant problems, and techniques that can help resolve those problems.

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