Trends Impacting IT Infrastructure

By John M. Daane, DoIT (Director of Information Technology) at Emerald Coast Utilities Authority

John M. Daane, DoIT (Director of Information Technology) at Emerald Coast Utilities Authority

What do you see as a big challenge in technology to meet the challenges of your industry?

There are things that make every industry provider slightly unique, even if they deliver the same service or product. It is the nature of doing business and growing organically. Technology doesn’t seem to understand this. You are always asked to change the company to fit the technology, or you have to change the technology to fit the business. Both of these approaches are extremely difficult, expensive, and are more targeted towards failure rather than success. Technology has to become more flexible and adaptable. If every business changed their process to fit the application, then the nature of the business would become the same as others, and remove any competitive edge they may have.

If you were to write down a wish list, what solutions do you look forward to and your expectations from technology providers for the enterprise?

I long for solutions that do not require support, solutions that do not require SME’s that are so simple a 5-year old can use them and they never break.

I long for solutions that don’t bring problems in other areas – i.e: a new application that now creates vulnerabilities and requires extensive Firewall management.

I long for solutions that actually work–out of the box. I long for something new, not just a faster, or a “more bandwidth and data version” of the previous (2G – 3G – 4G - …). Something new to get excited about.

"Leveraging technology revolutions will create advantages for the early adopters, but it comes with great risk"

Organizations have to integrate data across the enterprise to have a 360-degree view of the customer, but it’s not an easy thing to do. What are your thoughts on getting this act right?

To get this right, you will need a very flexible application that can take multiple inputs from multiple sources and process them real-time into a visual analytical display. These systems exist but always seem to fail on the data not being accurate, therefore the analytics are flawed, and decisions are wrong. Human Business processes are too slow to generate a real-time view of the enterprise so increased automation and workflow management have to be stepped-up.

What specific types of technology will give leaders/ players within your industry the competitive edge?

Data Collection, analytics, reporting, and appropriate action, need to be “spot on”. Technology that provides assistance to the business in these areas will create better competition. Real-time data collection and business decisions that can be acted upon immediately versus waiting for the analysis or the customer to call are the way of the past.

Despite the advancement in technology and availability of some cool technology solutions, there isn't a day when we can say 'all is fine.' There are several pain points within the enterprise for which solutions do not exist yet. In your business environment what are some of the solutions which are not available or not up to the mark and if available, would have made your job easier.

A tool that is easy to use and that can help answer the “is it the network?” question. Data traversing the network is complex already, and when you add the multiple layers of hardware, software, hypervisors, operating systems, data bases, etc, it is very difficult to find the bottleneck or poor performing component. I have tried a few of these tools that claim to be able to do this, however, an advanced degree in the tool is required to get these tools to even work.

Can you share 1-2 things on what keeps you awake at night?

The next two generations of Tech workers frighten me. They don’t know how to make anything work. They are users and consumers of the technologies that have been created to date. I see this all the time when I interview candidates. Even the ones fresh from college lack foundational understanding. Troubleshooting skills to the smallest detail is foreign to them. Now having said that a lot of the technologies we work with today have become consumer grade and are discarded when they don’t function properly anymore. That consumer grade has not translated to data centers quite yet.

The cloud frightens me as well. As more people move their data and systems to the cloud, the greater the competition between cloud providers. This competition is going to drive prices down, which is a good thing, however, the bulk of the savings is in the human capital cost and lowest bidders will employ the lowest paid to beat prices. The cloud is going to become unstable and buckle under its own weight. The list of hacks and attacks is only going to get longer, and the cloud offers a great potential to gain lots of data quickly. The lowest paid support techs are no match for the hungry hackers.

There are several technology trends which you perhaps would be observing (big data, social media, mobile, cloud, IOT). Can you share with us 1-2 trends that will have significant impact on your enterprise business environment and your industry?

IoT is huge for our industry. So is mobility. IoT will help us gain better data, faster data, and allow better decision making. Mobility is useful to the end user as it allows them to work anywhere and report and receive information real time. The trend is again, better data, faster data, and better decisions.

Can you illustrate how technology is revolutionizing than ever thought before in 1-2 business segments in your work environment and is so critical for your business to succeed?

Leveraging technology revolutions will create advantages for the early adopters, but it comes with great risk. We try to stay behind the crest of the risk wave but still try to ride the wave. In my region, technology is slow to be absorbed and as a service provider, we have to maintain all forms of technology to meet the customers’ needs. This slows us down but we keep our eye on the future. Allowing the various components to communicate effectively, and deliver analytics that is beneficial is a great advantage. Automated responses to inputs are where the money is.

A final question, what’s your advice to a CIO/CXO starting out in your industry?

Get to know the business processes that are in use. Build relationships with your peers in the organization based on trust and integrity. Be honest and forthcoming with information, no matter how bad it is. Once they trust you, they will come. Speak in a way that everyone understands what you are talking about. It has no meaning to anyone in an executive team meeting if you mention that Layer 3 was not functioning according to design.

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