Towards the Agile Workplace

An interview with James Mercer, Solution Director for Virtual Client Services at Fujitsu Australia and New Zealand

What exactly do you mean by the term, ‘Agile Workplace’?

There are two aspects to agility in the workplace:

  • The agility of the workforce, and
  • The agility of the organisation in general

A truly agile workforce has the ability to access corporate systems and information from a variety of devices and locations. Access to corporate systems and data needs to be flexible enough to cater for employees varying work and life commitments. This typically means the ability to change devices and still be able to access corporate information at any time. We all find that the ideal device varies with what we are doing at the time. For example a mobile phone becomes our choice of device while travelling or between meetings. A tablet may be the choice at home, while the corporate PC or laptop is our chosen device when in the office. The key to agility in the workforce is to enable the same access regardless of the device that is being used at the time. 

An agile organisation needs to have the ability provide its workforce with the IT resources to meet its business needs at any point in time. This often means the ability to scale up and down in response to seasonal events. For example Christmas time is a big push for Retail organisations, while the end of the financial year is a big period for accountancy firms. An agile workplace must be able to scale ‘compute power’ up and down to meet the needs of users based on seasonal or unusual requirements. From a commercial point of view, consumption-based delivery models lend themselves better to this approach than traditional managed services models that rely on capacity to be forecast well in advance to accommodate all requirements – ultimately resulting in organisations paying for more capacity than they really need.

How are your customers embracing the concept? Do you see any patterns emerging?

We are seeing a lot of interest in Virtual Client Computing (which we brand Virtual Client Services (VCS)) – led by large enterprises. We are working with large organisations in transport, logistics, and financial services. We have had a lot of interest from all levels of government as well as support functions for government such as police forces. We are seeing this across Australia and New Zealand and I’m informed by my global counterparts that there is a significant demand worldwide.

The demand for VCS is definitely being led by large enterprises. It is clear that reducing costs is a major driver towards consumption-based services but there is also a clear requirement to be able to provide a more mobile experience for users.

There is a lot of talk about BYOD – does this approach have a place in the Agile Workplace and what challenges does this present for corporate IT departments?

 BYOD definitely plays a big part in the drive towards centralised computing, although many organisations are still struggling with the concept. What we will see is a change from managing devices to managing corporate applications and data. The technologies are becoming available to enable enterprises to manage applications and data regardless of the device. Currently there is still concern as corporates want to select and control devices but that mindset will change as the security around applications and data is improved through technologies such as the Citrix ‘Mobility Bundle’.

So do you think we are finally seeing the end of the PC in the corporate world?

We are still seeing good use cases particularly for people who work offline or who don’t have continuous access to communications infrastructure. People who travel a lot on trains or planes where the constant access to the network is not always guaranteed will still benefit from using a laptop. But for those who are always connected – whether it is by a telco data connection or Wi-Fi – remote desktops are fantastic. I can see that in a short time frame people will just go to work and log into a corporate device rather than carry their own laptop around. Alternatively PC’s and laptops may be replaced by lower cost devices such as Netbooks .When staff are away from the office users will be able to select the device or devices of their choice and access corporate systems securely – and all of these devices will have the ability to access to the same business applications and corporate data to allow the user to be productive. It will be less important to travel with a laptop and therefore promote more sustainable practices such as cycling or walking to work.

Of course there will always be a use case for people with specific needs to use a PC or laptop at work – for example high-end developers, and people who need access to bespoke systems, and legacy applications – so PCs will hang around for a while. But I think you will see a shift towards remote desktop computing with virtualised end-user services.

Is the Agile Workplace the domain of Gen Y? How will Baby Boomers adopt to this way of working?

Regardless of their generation, people will adopt a new approach to technology if they see value. The key for organisations to make the implementation of Virtual Client Services a success is to demonstrate to end users a superior service to the service they are currently using. Essentially we need to show people that there is no difference while they are in the office, but they have a much richer experience when they are out of the office. Our service provides a highly personalised, enterprise grade solution to ensure that users feel like they have been ‘upgraded’. Whereas traditionally people felt like they were being ‘downgraded’ by moving to a thin client.

What is the impact of Agile Working on corporate IT departments and what strategies do you recommend to make their lives easier?

In short, corporate IT are generally our biggest fans! A lot of headaches go away and it improves the agility of the organisation. It makes it easy for them to make changes and maintain policy. VCS has a significant impact on the corporate IT department and it is mainly all positive.

Firstly, computing is centralised so there is a much lower security risk than in a decentralised architecture. With a centralised approach it is also easier to encourage the use of best practices. For a large organisation it could mean the difference between having only a few hundred servers to manage as opposed to thousands  of Operating systems on PC’s- and most of the server images are copies of a Gold Build master – this makes managing VCS relatively simple to manage.

Software upgrades and adding new services is significantly easier. For example in the case of Microsoft Office instead of a gigabyte upgrade for each of several thousand PC’s the upgrade can be applied once and rolled out to the organisation almost immediately.

 

A perspective on technology trends for 2013

At Fujitsu, we believe passionately that innovation in technology is our route to secure a better future. We have an ambitious vision; we call it Human Centric Intelligent Society. Human Centric Intelligent Society is about building a better, more sustainable society through the power of ICT. It means putting people at the heart of the world, and using technology to deliver innovation into everything we do. It means powering business and society with information and bringing together the physical and digital to deliver greater benefit across society. And it means orchestrating technology from end to end to deliver greater understanding and control of the world around us.

In line with this vision we are pleased to announce our new Technology Perspectives website. Technology Perspectives is a collection of articles that represent the views and experience of key people from Fujitsu around the world including myself. We look at the many different ways in which technology is shaping our world in 2013 across a broad range of topics. We investigate the continually evolving relationship between the business world and technology, and the opportunities that will arise.

There is a wealth of information in this resource and I encourage you to read it and to use it as a reference for strategy and planning. We will spend some time on this blog during the year exploring some of the topics in more detail.

I would be very interested in hearing your feedback on this resource – please send any feedback to me via the comment form below.

Navigating your way through a smorgasbord of Cloud Choices

Over the last couple of years we have seen the Cloud market maturing with a range of new providers offering a variety of new services. It can be very complex for a customer wading through the various offers available.

Given that we have just released our yearly Australian Open Golf Video, which focusses on the theme of Cloud Choice, I have put together some scenarios of varying business requirements and made some suggestions as to the priorities for Cloud that would be important in each case:

If data sovereignty is important to you… Organisations such as Financial Institutions and Government Departments not only value data security and privacy, it is often a requirement for the operational aspects of their business. In this case the only Cloud that suits their requirements is one in which the provider can guarantee that their data is safe and secure and most importantly stays on-shore.  With many providers offering cloud services it is important to speak to your provider to understand exactly where your data will be located and whether they can guarantee that it will not be stored offshore. Specifying storage locations is in some ways contradictory to the very nature of cloud computing so it may be a challenge for providers who either don’t have or have a limited number of data centres in Australia.

If flexibility of capacity is important. Sometimes the biggest driver for a move to the cloud is the need for capacity planning. If you are about to experience a major fluctuation in your business – perhaps caused by seasonal factors or an increase in marketing activity, it is much easier to provision an extra server from your service provider than to procure and provision the capacity. Cloud models allow additional servers to be provisioned and de-provisioned in minutes as opposed to possibly months of planning, ordering, provisioning and testing required to provision the capacity in the conventional way. The ability to self-provision is also an important factor for some organisations and should be factored into your thinking when it comes to your choice of Cloud provider. In this scenario you need to be able to ensure that your provider has the ability to leverage its resources to offer you ‘capacity on tap’.

If you need optimum security and service level requirements for many key applications you may consider adopting a private cloud model. Private cloud allows IT infrastructure to be provisioned under an organization’s control, either on-premise or at a service provider’s facilities.

If you need flexibility in your cloud environment you may consider a hybrid cloud platform that gives you the best of local, global and private cloud platforms. For example, organisations using largely private cloud services can “burst” non-sensitive processing workloads to a public cloud to meet peak or highly elastic workloads. Or, they can split a workload across a global public cloud and a country-specific public cloud — depending on which elements of an application are publicly facing or involve the processing of customer data. Such a sophisticated orchestration means control over data location can be maintained, and governance can be shared across all different cloud types.

Whatever approach you take, you don’t want to go it alone. Cloud computing is not just about technology. Cloud offerings should start with a set of Enablement Services to guide customers through the complex task of responding to individual business needs. Enablement services help to consolidate customers’ on-site demands and other cloud activities with our end-to-end offering . You should also be able to pick up the phone and speak to your Cloud provider at a technical level as well as an account management level, to work with you to define your requirements and enable your transition to the cloud.

When choosing a cloud provider, you need utmost confidence in their ability to deliver. Your provider should also be mature in the marketplace. By this I mean that they should know how to support their customers across their whole business and not just their sales teams. It is the post-sales support and guidance from your provider that can make the journey to the cloud all the more seamless.

If you are already on the cloud journey and want to expand your organisation’s cloud footprint. You should not just consider your provider’s current cloud offerings but should consider their capability development roadmap and their cloud solution development activities. These activities should be across the range of IaaS; SaaS & PaaS offerings. No one can guarantee where Cloud computing technologies will be in 5 – 10 years time, so you need to partner with a provider that has a strong solution development capability. This is so you can be sure that your provider will be able to offer services in-line with where the demand for cloud is heading.

Needless to say, at Fujitsu we can offer our customers a complete range of choices of platform to suit every business need. We invested in a range of cloud platforms a number of years ago and continue to invest and innovate on these platforms. While some of our competitors are still establishing themselves locally we have been providing industrial strength Cloud solutions in Australia for over two years. If you are interested in reading further about the choices you have in Cloud I recommend that you download and read Fujitsu’s White Book of Cloud Adoption. This is an excellent impartial reference to help you to navigate your way through the smorgasbord of choices you have in today’s market.

 

Fujitsu Cloud keeps dogs fit and healthy!

Wandant Dog PedometerEvery week we are seeing interesting and innovative new ways that cloud computing is helping us in our day-to-day lives. This week was no exception, with Fujitsu announcing the release of the ‘Wandant‘ dog pedometer, which was developed by Fujitsu Laboratories.

The Wandant uses a combination of motion-tracking technology(and an associated cloud service) that supports health management for dogs—the first of its kind in the pet care industry. It uses the same sensing technologies developed for use in mobile phones incorporated into a tag worn on the dog’s collar, which automatically measures and records the number of steps taken, shivering motions, and temperature changes. This data is collected in the cloud and presented as a graphic on a website that reports trends in the dog’s activities that are easy to understand at a glance, facilitating management of the dog’s health and preventing obesity.

 As high-speed broadband becomes ubiquitous thanks to networks such as Australia’s National Broadband Network we are sure to see more cloud enabled innovation such as in this example.

Leveraging investments in legacy applications

In today’s throwaway society we often assume that when something is a few years old we need to replace it with a new one. This is certainly the case for many technology items such as mobile phones and laptops where we replace them every few years with the latest technology. But in the case of large enterprise applications there is too much development time and effort invested to even think about replacement. Often the core business logic of the application is sound, but as time moves on improvements are needed to take advantage of new developments, to meet the current needs of a business.

So what do you do when your mission-critical enterprise applications need an update?

The question sounds like it is crying out for a nice long technical answer full of jargon and complicated diagrams.

But let’s first look at WHY you may need to update.

In our experience the main reason for considering the modernization or even migration of some of legacy applications is business enablement.  Of course there are times when a technology is at end of life in a mission critical application that the business case for modernization is strongly technical but we find that the following drivers are equally likely to drive the need for such a project:

Not cool enough for Gen Y
Generation Y needs to be considered. (people born between 1981 and 2000), a generation that has never experienced green screens until they are thrust into the work force find it very difficult to adapt to what they see are archaic systems. Training becomes more difficult, time consuming and expensive and the attrition rate may well suffer. Also employees talking about how old the systems seem to be in any public forum is going to be damaging to your brand. The obvious and fairly quick alternative is one of the excellent re-rendering tools on the market. Not only can they make your systems looks new, connect well to the internet but they can also combine many applications in to a single seamless superset (known as a mash-up). Continue reading

How to address the burning question “will my data be secure in the Cloud?”

Cloud computing is transforming the way IT-based services are delivered to organisations. There are many clear advantages of moving to ‘the cloud’ – reduced capital expenditure, scalability and increased business agility to name a few.

For most organisations, therefore, the journey to cloud is no longer a question of ‘if’ but rather ‘when’, and a large number of enterprises have already travelled some way down this path.

Will my data be secure if I put it in the Cloud?

However, there is one overwhelming question that is still causing many CIOs and their colleagues to delay their move to cloud: ‘Will my data be secure if I put it in the Cloud?’

This question has been the subject of much media attention and expert debate including this recent article in SMH ITPro. Essentially there are too many factors to consider to make a general statement. Organisations need to consider what application will be used, the sensitivity of the information, and above all the credentials of the cloud services provider.

Security in relation to cloud should be treated the same as security in any major IT decision, with the correct checks and balances to ensure all necessary security and risk management measures are covered.

Businesses that are already deep into their cloud programmes are reporting that security, while an extremely important consideration, is not a barrier to adoption.
If you are interested in exploring this topic further, Fujitsu has published a very comprehensive white paper on the issues surrounding Cloud security and how Fujitsu deals with these. It can be downloaded from the following link: The White Book of Cloud Security

Traditional values feature highly in CIO’s cloud decision making

In our first blog post for the Fujitsu Australia and New Zealand Blog, Craig Baty – our Chief Technology and Innovation Officer provides an insight into what CIOs look for in selecting a Cloud provider.

It is timely that I was given the opportunity to write this post given that Fujitsu has recently announced a Cloud contract with one of Australia’s largest port operators – Asciano Ltd.  Asciano is in the process of transforming its ICT infrastructure and to them the Cloud with the assistance of Fujitsu – is a way to change  the way the company works, its service delivery and the way it interfaces with its customers.

So what decisions do companies such as Asciano and others face when embarking on a Cloud journey? The latest edition of Insights Quarterly, a joint research initiative commissioned by Fujitsu and Microsoft  conducted by independent firm Connection Research, provides a deep dive into the minds of almost 200 Australian CIOs.

From the research there is no doubt that CIOs view Cloud Computing as the future of ICT. As my peer at Microsoft, Greg Stone (Microsoft CTO) says “cloud computing has arrived, and will continue to grow in functionality and popularity. The idea of an ‘information utility’, where generic computing power is available on demand like water or electricity, is a much closer reality.”

Cloud has reached a certain level of maturity in the enterprise, to a point where almost every CIO is more than familiar with the traditional benefits of cloud. The research shows that lower operational costs, scalability, lower capital expenditure on ICT, and flexibility and elasticity were the qualities that CIOs rated highly as the ‘Advantages of Cloud Computing’.

 

Interestingly, when CIOs were asked about how they select a cloud platform, the above factors did not rate as highly as the support from the supplier, security of data, privacy and the reputation of the supplier. Continue reading