When Politics Prevent Innovation - Or... Still Fighting Battles and Losing Wars

John Savageau
 


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The objective is to beat the competition and make money. Everything a business organization does should be focused on that simple objective, with interpretation through various Vision and Mission Statements. However if we take a survey of how our organizations spend our energy, often that objective is lost in a web of internal politics and positioning. Of course competition is normally good – regardless of whether it is internal or external – to the point we do not lose focus on company objectives as the ultimate outcome of our competition.

We often use the phrase “winning battles and losing wars. ” That phrase really hits home when we record all the things we do, every day of our business lives, that result in a situation where we are struggling with more fervor for internal positioning then committing energy in activities to beat our competition. What does “winning battles and losing wars really mean?

Perhaps the sales and operations groups are having difficulty with product and contract provisioning. Sales of course wants to sign contracts, get acceptance, and quickly start customer billing – their commission depends on shortening the book to bank process. Operations is unhappy because the contracts tend to stray from the letter of a product or service. Thus, operations may dig their heels in and not expedite provisioning while the “bring the sales guys into line. ”

What is the result of this little battle? Of course, the customer does not receive service within the want date and the company does not get paid as quickly as they would with a fast implementation and acceptance. And I, as your competitor, will be aggressively spending my time eroding your market share. The customer is angry, the sales and operations people are angry, and your image in the industry is tarnished while the competition quickly moves to exploit your weaknesses.

Let’s use a different example. Your organization has the same challenge every other organization around the world has – a need for higher compute power, and a need to lower capital expenses on IT-related equipment. So we look into our bag of tools and determine a few relatively easy innovations could meet both objectives. You determine you can save money and increase compute resource through:

Server consolidation Disk consolidation/virtualization GRID computing Easy, right?

In Platform Computing’s recent study “Organizational Politics as a Barrier to

Implementing Grid Computing” 79% of company managers indicated that resource consolidation and virtualization should be considered high priorities for an organization’s IT planning, however 89% of the same companies indicated organizational politics and other issues could pose a major barrier in accomplishing consolidation.

Why? Operating units, managers, and individuals have an inherent desire to control their own resources. Moving an application to a consolidated server platform may result in the application user being denied the level of priority they believe is due them is cited as a major concern. In addition, if existing resources are identified as potential contributors to a virtualized disk or compute platform, there are strong concerns another division or operating unit could even grab priorities and deny processing at existing or desired levels.

An even greater concern may be the potential for losing additional operating budgets – resource consolidation by nature reduces the cost of doing business, thus it is expected individual units will require less funding than they currently receive.

Of course in most cases this is simply not true – however it is a strong perception.

Now let’s talk a bit more about GRID. You have probably heard about it – and have a nagging thought in the back of your head eventually you are going to have to deal with it. You know it is going to seriously disrupt conventional ideas about systems management and resource utilization, and it may be one of those thought s that you want to put out oif your mind until the last possible minute.

Let’s look at some simple GRID facts:

Properly employed GRID will greatly increase the amount of compute resource available to your company. In the article “GRID Computing, ” Royal Bank Insurance gives the example that actuarial calculation requirements were reduced from 18 hours to 32 minutes upon employment of their enterprise GRID. Monsanto claims in the same article they have reduced their new server purchase year over year by 90 percent Morgan Stanley, Charles Schwab, Wachovia, and others have announced consolidating enterprise desktops into an enterprise processing GRID With this level of enterprise adoption of GRID technologies, it is clear this is a technology we are all going to deal with within the next couple years. So if the statistics mentioned in Platform’s survey are true, there is potentially going to be a lot of organizational trauma. However looking at the money savings, it is very clear that the benefits of employing GRID resource virtualization within an organization are tremendous.

Thus the question should not be whether or not an individual or section will lose control of a small number of resources, but rather how much more work they can potentially do if their existing applications and strategies can make use of the compute power of the enterprise GRID. Once the power of the corporate compute resource pool is addressed and registered, all compute intensive applications within the organization will have much greater flexibility and have greater potential for building innovation into their product or service designs. With GRID resource, applications can be better written to solve problems and tasks, rather than simply be written against the limitations of a piece of hardware or operating system.

Just as email had a major impact on the way we viewed business communications, GRID computing will have a similar effect on how we approach business planning. As employees, leaders, and professionals now is the time for us to start thinking with long term vision – don’t think about winning petty battles within the organization – concentrate on winning the war. Your resources contribute to the success of the organization in winning the corporate and global economic wars.

(About the Author – John Savageau is a managing director at CRG-West, responsible for managing operations and architecture for several of the largest telecommunications interconnect facilities in the US, including One Wilshire in Los Angeles)

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