SDN Journal Authors: Liz McMillan, Elizabeth White, Yeshim Deniz, Pat Romanski, TJ Randall

Related Topics: @CloudExpo, Containers Expo Blog, Agile Computing, Cloud Security, @DXWorldExpo, SDN Journal

@CloudExpo: Article

Help for the CFO: Pinning Down Your Vendor

Perhaps the CFO can take some time to line up with the others and ask some CFO-oriented questions

A recent article by Rob Livingstone on CFO.com [1] attracted my attention. In the article, Rob talks about the need for a tighter, ongoing working relationship between your company and its IT vendors for "as-a-service" technology-delivery models. We have in previous blogs also discussed the changes required in the everything-as-a-service (XaaS) movement. Clearly, Rob's target audience here is primarily the CFO, and Rob's suggestions are intended to help financial officers focus on some of the vendor selection issues that are emerging as the technology evolves, and as the customer-vendor relationship evolves in parallel. It is also worth noting that this lack of foresight and adaptability is a leading cause of project failure throughout IT history and not just with as-a-service technology delivery models.

As a billing vendor, I look at this from the other side of the negotiation fence, but nevertheless I find I'm pretty much in agreement with Mr. Livingstone.

The article contains a number of useful reminders, some of which I may return to in a future blog. However, for today, I've picked out a couple of Rob's comments, because they happen to resonate with discussions we are constantly having with our customers and prospective customers. They both address adaptability and flexibility, important tag words for us here at MetraTech.

RL: Adaptability is key. Adaptable, responsive organizations win business and can respond to changes in the commercial, regulatory and security environments. It may be a problem if either your or your vendor's business is based on inflexibility and process compliance.

Process compliance a problem? That could be a surprise to some Financial Officers, but I see what Rob is getting at. The problem is not that systems deliver process compliance, because to an extent they should all do that; the problem arises when systems are designed to comply with one specific way of doing business, and can't be changed.

A dominant focus on "Can this system support our way of doing business?" can get in the way of understanding "Can this system help us evolve better ways of doing business?" It is possible to buy a system that is perfectly tuned to the way you (and many other companies) do business today, but is completely incapable of supporting any of the ways you might want to do business tomorrow.

Many, if not most, "traditional" billing systems fall into this category. They were generally designed with a specific industry in mind, with a well-understood range of products and services that would be delivered and charged for according to a generally understood set of process best practices. Best practices, in some cases, that pre-dated the concepts of cloud, just-in-time logistics, low-touch customer service, mass customization, agreements-based billing, subscription billing, and behavioral billing, for example.

These are software systems that seem to behave like hard-wired systems. Making minor changes to the process is slow and risky. Making major changes requires a skilled software development team, possibly working for months to achieve modest improvements.

We have all found that the systems that provide the best environment for process improvement are those that make it easy for business users (not the IT department) to quickly and safely implement substantial changes to the method of working as business needs evolve. Naturally systems that are flexible in this way require more effort and thought initially, as they do not come all nicely programmed with a standard (that is, hardwired) way of working.

This is a tradeoff that is often lost in a focus on compliance with current process compatibility alone. Good point, Rob.

RL: What's the purpose of your contract? Encapsulating in your vendor's contract every possible change scenario that could occur in your business or technology environments is problematic. Stitching up a restrictive contract with your vendors could be counterproductive in an agile, volatile environment.

With a traditional system, there doesn't appear to be any option for a CFO other than to insist that all possible future scenarios are described in detail. After all, no system can do everything for everyone, can it?

Actually, we can get pretty close, providing we understand the limits of the functional domain of the system under investigation. In the functional area of billing and compensation, which is where our MetraTech product lives, we believe we are there. Instead of the RFP asking, "Can you bill for product/service type A, B, C ..." in a long, specific and tiresome list, the RFP can much more easily and efficiently ask the vendor: "Can you capture and bill for any event for which billing data can be captured? State any exceptions."

This approach gets round the other problem with painting future scenarios in detail: no one knows exactly what the future will be like, what technology, regulations and cultural changes will change our schemes no matter how well we plan.

Modern billing systems, like ours, are designed to be completely agnostic to process, product, service, customer organization. I think ours is the best of the bunch, but of course I may be biased a little. Every CFO should know that these ultimately flexible capabilities are out there, and use that knowledge to write RFP and contract verbiage that seeks out the best and most flexible, not the least inflexible examples of the old school systems.

Having saved the CFO hours of slaving over RFP and contract wording by this suggestion, we have more to offer. The typical financial officer is, as we all know, on a quest for perfection. While others around them are asking, "Can this product help me do my job?" the CFO often is focusing on "Can these guys deliver what they say they can?" Now that we've made it so much easier for the CFO to get an answer to that question, perhaps the CFO can take some time to line up with the others and ask some CFO-oriented questions. There is now an opportunity for the CFO to address some specific pain points of revenue analysis, revenue recognition, assignment of supplier costs along the complex value chain, true product/service profitability, customer value profiling, and more. If you're a CFO steering the list of topics in an RFP, how about indulging yourself by including a few questions around your own job?

[1] August 26, 2013, Rob Livingstone, "Time to Dust Off Your IT Vendor Strategy". http://www3.cfo.com/article/2013/8/it-value_technology-as-a-service-livi...

More Stories By Esmeralda Swartz

Esmeralda Swartz is VP, Marketing Enterprise and Cloud, BUSS. She has spent 15 years as a marketing, product management, and business development technology executive bringing disruptive technologies and companies to market. Esmeralda was CMO of MetraTech, now part of Ericsson. At MetraTech, Esmeralda was responsible for go-to-market strategy and execution for enterprise and SaaS products, product management, business development and partner programs. Prior to MetraTech, Esmeralda was co-founder, Vice President of Marketing and Business Development at Lightwolf Technologies, a big data management startup. She was previously co-founder and Senior Vice President of Marketing and Business Development of Soapstone Networks, a developer of resource and service control software, now part of Extreme Networks.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.

@CloudExpo Stories
In his keynote at 19th Cloud Expo, Sheng Liang, co-founder and CEO of Rancher Labs, discussed the technological advances and new business opportunities created by the rapid adoption of containers. With the success of Amazon Web Services (AWS) and various open source technologies used to build private clouds, cloud computing has become an essential component of IT strategy. However, users continue to face challenges in implementing clouds, as older technologies evolve and newer ones like Docker c...
HyperConvergence came to market with the objective of being simple, flexible and to help drive down operating expenses. It reduced the footprint by bundling the compute/storage/network into one box. This brought a new set of challenges as the HyperConverged vendors are very focused on their own proprietary building blocks. If you want to scale in a certain way, let's say you identified a need for more storage and want to add a device that is not sold by the HyperConverged vendor, forget about it...
"MobiDev is a software development company and we do complex, custom software development for everybody from entrepreneurs to large enterprises," explained Alan Winters, U.S. Head of Business Development at MobiDev, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
22nd International Cloud Expo, taking place June 5-7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and co-located with the 1st DXWorld Expo will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud ...
The next XaaS is CICDaaS. Why? Because CICD saves developers a huge amount of time. CD is an especially great option for projects that require multiple and frequent contributions to be integrated. But… securing CICD best practices is an emerging, essential, yet little understood practice for DevOps teams and their Cloud Service Providers. The only way to get CICD to work in a highly secure environment takes collaboration, patience and persistence. Building CICD in the cloud requires rigorous ar...
@DevOpsSummit at Cloud Expo, taking place November 12-13 in New York City, NY, is co-located with 22nd international CloudEXPO | first international DXWorldEXPO and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world.
"We're focused on how to get some of the attributes that you would expect from an Amazon, Azure, Google, and doing that on-prem. We believe today that you can actually get those types of things done with certain architectures available in the market today," explained Steve Conner, VP of Sales at Cloudistics, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Sanjeev Sharma Joins November 11-13, 2018 @DevOpsSummit at @CloudEXPO New York Faculty. Sanjeev Sharma is an internationally known DevOps and Cloud Transformation thought leader, technology executive, and author. Sanjeev's industry experience includes tenures as CTO, Technical Sales leader, and Cloud Architect leader. As an IBM Distinguished Engineer, Sanjeev is recognized at the highest levels of IBM's core of technical leaders.
As Cybric's Chief Technology Officer, Mike D. Kail is responsible for the strategic vision and technical direction of the platform. Prior to founding Cybric, Mike was Yahoo's CIO and SVP of Infrastructure, where he led the IT and Data Center functions for the company. He has more than 24 years of IT Operations experience with a focus on highly-scalable architectures.
JETRO showcased Japan Digital Transformation Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo® at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. The Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) is a non-profit organization that provides business support services to companies expanding to Japan. With the support of JETRO's dedicated staff, clients can incorporate their business; receive visa, immigration, and HR support; find dedicated office space; identify local government subsidies; get...
Dion Hinchcliffe is an internationally recognized digital expert, bestselling book author, frequent keynote speaker, analyst, futurist, and transformation expert based in Washington, DC. He is currently Chief Strategy Officer at the industry-leading digital strategy and online community solutions firm, 7Summits.
Bill Schmarzo, author of "Big Data: Understanding How Data Powers Big Business" and "Big Data MBA: Driving Business Strategies with Data Science," is responsible for setting the strategy and defining the Big Data service offerings and capabilities for EMC Global Services Big Data Practice. As the CTO for the Big Data Practice, he is responsible for working with organizations to help them identify where and how to start their big data journeys. He's written several white papers, is an avid blogge...
DXWorldEXPO LLC announced today that Dez Blanchfield joined the faculty of CloudEXPO's "10-Year Anniversary Event" which will take place on November 11-13, 2018 in New York City. Dez is a strategic leader in business and digital transformation with 25 years of experience in the IT and telecommunications industries developing strategies and implementing business initiatives. He has a breadth of expertise spanning technologies such as cloud computing, big data and analytics, cognitive computing, m...
In past @ThingsExpo presentations, Joseph di Paolantonio has explored how various Internet of Things (IoT) and data management and analytics (DMA) solution spaces will come together as sensor analytics ecosystems. This year, in his session at @ThingsExpo, Joseph di Paolantonio from DataArchon, added the numerous Transportation areas, from autonomous vehicles to “Uber for containers.” While IoT data in any one area of Transportation will have a huge impact in that area, combining sensor analytic...
Bill Schmarzo, author of "Big Data: Understanding How Data Powers Big Business" and "Big Data MBA: Driving Business Strategies with Data Science," is responsible for setting the strategy and defining the Big Data service offerings and capabilities for EMC Global Services Big Data Practice. As the CTO for the Big Data Practice, he is responsible for working with organizations to help them identify where and how to start their big data journeys. He's written several white papers, is an avid blogge...
Charles Araujo is an industry analyst, internationally recognized authority on the Digital Enterprise and author of The Quantum Age of IT: Why Everything You Know About IT is About to Change. As Principal Analyst with Intellyx, he writes, speaks and advises organizations on how to navigate through this time of disruption. He is also the founder of The Institute for Digital Transformation and a sought after keynote speaker. He has been a regular contributor to both InformationWeek and CIO Insight...
Michael Maximilien, better known as max or Dr. Max, is a computer scientist with IBM. At IBM Research Triangle Park, he was a principal engineer for the worldwide industry point-of-sale standard: JavaPOS. At IBM Research, some highlights include pioneering research on semantic Web services, mashups, and cloud computing, and platform-as-a-service. He joined the IBM Cloud Labs in 2014 and works closely with Pivotal Inc., to help make the Cloud Found the best PaaS.
It is of utmost importance for the future success of WebRTC to ensure that interoperability is operational between web browsers and any WebRTC-compliant client. To be guaranteed as operational and effective, interoperability must be tested extensively by establishing WebRTC data and media connections between different web browsers running on different devices and operating systems. In his session at WebRTC Summit at @ThingsExpo, Dr. Alex Gouaillard, CEO and Founder of CoSMo Software, presented ...
In a world where the internet rules all, where 94% of business buyers conduct online research, and where e-commerce sales are poised to fall between $427 billion and $443 billion by the end of this year, we think it's safe to say that your website is a vital part of your business strategy. Whether you're a B2B company, a local business, or an e-commerce site, digital presence is key to maintain in your drive towards success. Digital Performance will take priority in 2018 for the following reason...
I think DevOps is now a rambunctious teenager - it's starting to get a mind of its own, wanting to get its own things but it still needs some adult supervision," explained Thomas Hooker, VP of marketing at CollabNet, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at DevOps Summit at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
What's the role of an IT self-service portal when you get to continuous delivery and Infrastructure as Code? This general session showed how to create the continuous delivery culture and eight accelerators for leading the change. Don Demcsak is a DevOps and Cloud Native Modernization Principal for Dell EMC based out of New Jersey. He is a former, long time, Microsoft Most Valuable Professional, specializing in building and architecting Application Delivery Pipelines for hybrid legacy, and cloud ...