To get from my home to Winchester to interview Hampshire County Council CIO Jos Creese Google Maps suggested I take the direct train to Reading, change and then a direct train to Winchester. However Network Rail insist that I take an indirect route requiring two changes and take twice the amount of time.
I have done this journey once before and a very helpful guard on the First Great Western service that forms part of the journey, rolled his eyes and utterly agreed with me. He kindly explained to me the arcane rules of the rail networks that box travellers into geographic regions and rail networks. He, as a customer facing worker, wanted to advise and sell me a ticket that would enable me to take that direct and single change route via Reading, but the ticketing systems made this impossible and therefore the lives of the traveller and customer facing worker harder. The result last week was that I chose to travel by car, losing the rail network business and creating increased congestion and pollution on an already over stretched UK roads infrastructure.
Discussing business, society and technology challenges and opportunities with both Creese and Dheeraj Pandey, CEO of Nutanix, whom I met through a mutual contact, it was clear there is a tranche of the leadership world that see their role and organisations to be one of simplification. Wherever possible CIOs like Creese and CEOs want to simplify processes, lives and technology for the benefit of the customer or community. As a result these organisations remain sustainable or are challenging market incumbents.
For those of us in business technology leadership the constant focus must be on simplifying the technology processes to enable our users and customers to do their roles. But it is not just about keeping users happy, Creese explained that the skills for running datacentres and major enterprise applications like SAP are becoming harder and harder to find or fund. Simplifying processes enables the skilled staff to do more.
Pandey describes a need for the iPhone interface experience to permeate into the datacentre so that provisioning is easy and rapid for organisations. The Nutanix technology removes the need for storage to be a separate appliance in the datacentre and uses virtualisation methods to join processing power for applications to storage in the datacentre using Ethernet connectivity.
“VMware saves you on the compute costs, but not the network,” he says. The application is already proving popular with the US public sector for the power and cost savings it can deliver.
Hampshire was hit hard by the recent floods in the UK, which even the Prime Minister admitted were the result of climate change. The county council has an established mobile working practice and it was tested during the floods. With increasing demand for flexible working, rising numbers of extreme weather events, customers demanding mobile access to information services and now machine-to-machine computing, many CIOs are telling this title infrastructure has to be invested in. Infrastructure-as-a-service and new forms of virtualisation are bringing a cloud computing approach to infrastructure.
Returning to the iPhone analogy, Pandey says, the iPhone has inbuilt storage and whatever Apps a user choses to add to the device the App and the storage seamlessly find each other and cooperate for the user. That same simplicity is required in organisational datacentres.
Apps have simplified the use of data and the internet on mobile devices, organisations, like the train operating companies; need to engage with technology and transformative CIOs to simplify their businesses and offerings and in doing so they will win more customers. We see in the technology world that there is always a start-up looking at existing technologies and processes and working out how to simplify them and in doing so, VMware or Google-like, consuming large chunks of a market sector.