Cloud and mobility driving business transformation

Today, IT organizations grapple with many disruptive transitions brought on by cloud computing and mobility. Easy access to public cloud-hosted services has allowed line-of-business (LOB) managers and even end users to make decisions on how they procure IT, the mobile devices that they use to access services and where they work.

Meanwhile, LOB owners see growth possibilities in extending solutions and services via the cloud to millions of mobile users worldwide while enhancing customer engagement and delivering unique customer experiences.

These expectations highlight the IT organization’s role and how it can balance between maintaining control and meeting the needs of the business, the customer and the employee.

Business-focused relevance

An international study by IT solutions and managed services provider Logicalis indicated that “CIOs must act now to take on a more strategic role or risk being pushed aside by LOB managers who are making increasing numbers of technology buying decisions”.

To free up time to play a more strategic role, the study noted that CIOs and their organization are:

  • Streamlining and optimizing their technology infrastructure
  • Handing more day-to-day management activities over to specialist managed services vendors
  • Increasing adoption of the cloud consumption model

With these priorities, as IDC associate vice president Chris Barnard commented, “Business innovation focused on creating a wider variety of solutions targeted at new business opportunities and challenges will drive a profound shift in the role of the IT organization.”

IT organizations have to collaborate with LOB owners and external service providers to help the business make and execute critical decisions better and faster than competitors and to produce more and better innovation over time.

Maximized potential

When Skipton Building Society, the United Kingdom’s fourth-largest building society, made strong advances in customer count, savings balances, and pretax profits, the IT department wasn’t keeping pace.

Complex processes, aging servers and a lack of agility affected development and testing of Skipton’s in-house mortgage and savings applications, which give the business its competitive advantage. This frustrated internal clients and affected Skipton’s ability to serve external customers as well.

To its goal of moving to a private cloud and maximizing potential from IT activities, Skipton uncovered root problems, documented its aspirations and identified the biggest service gaps with the aid of the Cisco Domain Ten framework. “We wanted to move to a private cloud, but getting there seemed like a Herculean task,” says David Miskell, solutions architect for Skipton. “Domain Ten showed us where to start.”

Using Cisco blade servers, Skipton achieved 90% virtualization, implemented its private cloud and automated server provisioning, which was reduced from a four-day process to less than a day. Its users can now consume the resources they need whenever they need them. Its IT organization now supports in-house application developments more effectively to serve customers well and preserve the company’s competitiveness.

Productive flock

With rich content and resources in the cloud, mobility solutions offer excellent opportunities to extend collaboration outside the corporate office on any device anywhere so employees can be as effective and productive as they have been inside the office.

At Finland-based Rovio Entertainment, known for the Angry Birds mobile game, employees are heavily dependent on wireless network performance in their daily work. But the company’s previous network, pieced together using disparate systems, could not provide the overall visibility, control and performance statistics that the IT team needs.

Rovio’s IT team of just five people manages the network and provides on-going support for 700 employees in offices around the globe. A cloud-based solution would allow the IT team to handle a distributed, world-wide deployment without having to physically be on-site to diagnose issues or perform basic maintenance, explains Kalle Alppi, IT director for Rovio Entertainment.

The Rovio team gained a unified view of all wireless networks and improved security, performance and analysis tools to support the business after deploying the Cisco Meraki wireless solution in four countries and the equivalent of 17 office floors. “[The solution] gives us many controls and reports to improve security and give better service to our business units,” Alppi adds.

Cisco Meraki solutions provide centralized management, device and application visibility, real-time diagnostics, monitoring, control and reporting without the cost and complexity of appliances or overlay management software.

This allows a small IT team like Rovio’s to configure thousands of devices, and run diagnostics or view reports with a few clicks. And with tasks such as RF optimization and VPN configuration automated by the cloud, and seamless firmware and application signature updates delivered over the Internet, IT teams can be highly productive.

Digital hotel

At Hyatt Regency Santa Clara, general manager Dania Duke saw an opportunity to transform the hotel’s Wi-Fi infrastructure from a cost center to a revenue generator “We quickly learned that to stay competitive in Silicon Valley, we need to have the fastest, best Wi-Fi available,” Duke says.

By deploying the Cisco Connected Mobile Experiences (CMX) to capture data and insights about guests’ location, and using Wi-Fi and analytics to enable one-on-one advertising, Hyatt Regency Santa Clara began creating personalized, consistent and unified mobile experiences for its guests. “We can notify guests on their devices that their guest room is ready, or that their car is at the valet,” says Duke. ““We can help people navigate or find others. Real-time alerts help us adjust staffing levels to match guest traffic.”

Insight into customer segment, preferences and location also boosted the hotel’s marketing effectiveness. The hotel has since increased revenues by up to 20% through repeat stays, and longer dwell time in its restaurant and bar.

Simple planning

The Cisco CMX solution also underpins an initiative by the University of New South Wales (UNSW) Australia in using the wireless network to collect information for facilities planning. Deployed in eight campus buildings, the Cisco solution detects the location of mobile devices on campus throughout the day.

The information does not identify the mobile users’ identity, but allows facilities planners to see the paths that students take across campus and provides a heatmap view of where they congregate. UNSW, one of Australia’s leading research and teaching universities, enrolls more than 50,000 students, from more than 120 countries.

UNSW uses the pathing and heatmap information to identify the popularity of eateries, arranging classrooms to minimize walking time, and selecting locations for video surveillance cameras. It also helps, the facilities team to better understand how students attend lectures across different subjects. “Cisco CMX can help us accurately predict when attendance drops in large lecture halls so that we can move the class to a smaller space,” says Sam Costello, manager of facilities systems strategy and delivery at UNSW.

IT-business teamwork

Indeed, as organizations strive to make better decisions, drive faster growth and achieve quicker returns on any investment, “IT is just trying to move as fast as they can,” says Mark Krischer, ‎Cisco’s senior consultant of Enterprise Networks for Asia Pacific and Japan. “We want to make IT organizations more relevant to the business by making it much easier for them to respond to demands and to deliver services quickly.”

And IT agility will also free IT operations to focus on solving customer, partner and business needs and ultimately innovate within IT operations.

But realizing these goals requires business and IT to work together. “This has to be a joint exercise because the business identifies the requirements and IT translates those requirements into reality,” says Dave West, CTO of Asia Pacific and Japan at Cisco. “IT needs the visibility on not just what LOB owners want to do today but also where they are heading.”

This is a QuestexAsia feature commissioned by Cisco.