A Playbook For The Unexpected

BrandPost By Rick Perret
Sep 18, 2020
IT Leadership

A closer look at strategic advantages of the mainframe

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Credit: iStock

Operating in today’s global economy is fraught with uncertainty. Whether it’s competitive, political, an uncontrollable global pandemic, or any number of other dynamics, these days you have to expect the unexpected – and be ready to respond. Some organizations have seen new areas of opportunity, while others are hanging on for dear life.   Businesses have undergone many changes over the last year, but in many respects, the onslaught of COVID-19 has accelerated trends that have been present for several years now.

I spent some time recently with Ray Wang, Founder and Principal Researcher at Constellation Research, to understand how executives are making decisions around key business and technology priorities given our new reality.   Ray also prepared a Post Pandemic Playbook of best practices for organizations outlining how to prepare for the unpredictable and the strategic advantages a mainframe platform can provide.

Rick:  Ray, you’ve spoken to many C-level executives recently, what is the tone of their concerns?

Ray:  I’ve gotten questions from hundreds of CxO’s over the months.  They’re focused of course on a unified response that can address their employees, customers and ecosystem partners.  In many respects this has catalyzed their view of risk management across different classes of risk, you know financial, information technology, supply chain and the like.  Like many of us, this is a new “game” without a pre-existing playbook to work from.  Like any major event, taking stock of what can help and hurt you is paramount to reacting properly.

Rick:  So is it time to hunker down?

Ray:  Not at all.  COVID has accelerated initiatives that have been on the books for a while.  In fact, a recent survey in Fortune magazine reported that 63% of CEO’s were accelerating their transformation initiatives.

Rick:  Great.  But, when you think of what’s needed to transform, it’s easy to overlook some fundamental things you take for granted.  You know, like a football team undergoing changes – the big focus is on the QB or RB – while the utility players get overlooked.

Ray:  Absolutely.  Using IT as an example, let’s take the mainframe.   It is at the heart of every transaction and interaction you have with your customer, your partners, everyone really.  It’s something you counted on for many years and it continues to deliver.  Yet it is often part of the core capabilities you need to deliver value to your end customers.  And during times like this, focusing on value you provide, and reliably delivering that value matters a lot.   Of course, there are other examples of resources within an organization with similar degrees of durability and predictability.

Rick:  It sounds like we’re designing, building and flying the airplane now.  How do we even start to think about addressing this challenge?

Ray:   At Constellation we have something called PESTEL.  It’s a method and framework to think through these problems.  PESTEL helps to define specific problems and actions.  A great case in point is the dominant work-from-home model that we’re seeing today.   There is a balance between people’s health and an organization’s ability to execute.  And it’s forcing companies today to make decisions such as offering the option for employees to permanently work remotely.  At the same time, companies are exploring new technologies that can address concerns such as work productivity, culture, and employee engagement. 

In total,  we’ve identified some 27 specific factors that need to be addressed.   Many of these are quite relevant when looking at the potential impact to your mainframe investment.  Factors such as the movement to open source, concerns with cybersecurity, hybrid cloud architectures, governance and compliance issues impacting privacy – are all impacting the mainframe today.   The good news is that there has been a lot of innovation in the area of mainframe computing to address these factors.

Rick:  That’s a lot of ground to cover.  I thought planning was dead.  Long live agile!

Ray:  You know, the days of 5-10 year plans sitting on the shelf gathering dust are past us. It really boils down to having a plan, yet building ways to make that plan more flexible over time. Some of it is how you design and build the plan itself, and sometimes it’s an organizational or cultural aspect that requires change.  We identified 10 best practices that you need to follow.  It’s all in the Playbook we created.

Rick:  Ray thanks so much for joining me today. 

For more information, watch this 5-minute video or access the playbook here.