SDN Journal Authors: Daniel Gordon, John Walsh, Elizabeth White, Liz McMillan, Sven Olav Lund

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
DX World EXPO, LLC, a Lighthouse Point, Florida-based startup trade show producer and the creator of "DXWorldEXPO® - Digital Transformation Conference & Expo" has announced its executive management team. The team is headed by Levent Selamoglu, who has been named CEO. "Now is the time for a truly global DX event, to bring together the leading minds from the technology world in a conversation about Digital Transformation," he said in making the announcement.
"Space Monkey by Vivent Smart Home is a product that is a distributed cloud-based edge storage network. Vivent Smart Home, our parent company, is a smart home provider that places a lot of hard drives across homes in North America," explained JT Olds, Director of Engineering, and Brandon Crowfeather, Product Manager, at Vivint Smart Home, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Conference Guru has been named “Media Sponsor” of the 22nd International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 5-7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York, NY. A valuable conference experience generates new contacts, sales leads, potential strategic partners and potential investors; helps gather competitive intelligence and even provides inspiration for new products and services. Conference Guru works with conference organizers to pass great deals to gre...
DevOps is under attack because developers don’t want to mess with infrastructure. They will happily own their code into production, but want to use platforms instead of raw automation. That’s changing the landscape that we understand as DevOps with both architecture concepts (CloudNative) and process redefinition (SRE). Rob Hirschfeld’s recent work in Kubernetes operations has led to the conclusion that containers and related platforms have changed the way we should be thinking about DevOps and...
In his Opening Keynote at 21st Cloud Expo, John Considine, General Manager of IBM Cloud Infrastructure, led attendees through the exciting evolution of the cloud. He looked at this major disruption from the perspective of technology, business models, and what this means for enterprises of all sizes. John Considine is General Manager of Cloud Infrastructure Services at IBM. In that role he is responsible for leading IBM’s public cloud infrastructure including strategy, development, and offering m...
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...
Companies are harnessing data in ways we once associated with science fiction. Analysts have access to a plethora of visualization and reporting tools, but considering the vast amount of data businesses collect and limitations of CPUs, end users are forced to design their structures and systems with limitations. Until now. As the cloud toolkit to analyze data has evolved, GPUs have stepped in to massively parallel SQL, visualization and machine learning.
"Evatronix provides design services to companies that need to integrate the IoT technology in their products but they don't necessarily have the expertise, knowledge and design team to do so," explained Adam Morawiec, VP of Business Development at Evatronix, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
To get the most out of their data, successful companies are not focusing on queries and data lakes, they are actively integrating analytics into their operations with a data-first application development approach. Real-time adjustments to improve revenues, reduce costs, or mitigate risk rely on applications that minimize latency on a variety of data sources. In his session at @BigDataExpo, Jack Norris, Senior Vice President, Data and Applications at MapR Technologies, reviewed best practices to ...
"ZeroStack is a startup in Silicon Valley. We're solving a very interesting problem around bringing public cloud convenience with private cloud control for enterprises and mid-size companies," explained Kamesh Pemmaraju, VP of Product Management at ZeroStack, 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.
Large industrial manufacturing organizations are adopting the agile principles of cloud software companies. The industrial manufacturing development process has not scaled over time. Now that design CAD teams are geographically distributed, centralizing their work is key. With large multi-gigabyte projects, outdated tools have stifled industrial team agility, time-to-market milestones, and impacted P&L stakeholders.
Enterprises are adopting Kubernetes to accelerate the development and the delivery of cloud-native applications. However, sharing a Kubernetes cluster between members of the same team can be challenging. And, sharing clusters across multiple teams is even harder. Kubernetes offers several constructs to help implement segmentation and isolation. However, these primitives can be complex to understand and apply. As a result, it’s becoming common for enterprises to end up with several clusters. Thi...
"Infoblox does DNS, DHCP and IP address management for not only enterprise networks but cloud networks as well. Customers are looking for a single platform that can extend not only in their private enterprise environment but private cloud, public cloud, tracking all the IP space and everything that is going on in that environment," explained Steve Salo, Principal Systems Engineer at Infoblox, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Conventio...
In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, James Henry, Co-CEO/CTO of Calgary Scientific Inc., introduced you to the challenges, solutions and benefits of training AI systems to solve visual problems with an emphasis on improving AIs with continuous training in the field. He explored applications in several industries and discussed technologies that allow the deployment of advanced visualization solutions to the cloud.
The question before companies today is not whether to become intelligent, it’s a question of how and how fast. The key is to adopt and deploy an intelligent application strategy while simultaneously preparing to scale that intelligence. In her session at 21st Cloud Expo, Sangeeta Chakraborty, Chief Customer Officer at Ayasdi, provided a tactical framework to become a truly intelligent enterprise, including how to identify the right applications for AI, how to build a Center of Excellence to oper...
"IBM is really all in on blockchain. We take a look at sort of the history of blockchain ledger technologies. It started out with bitcoin, Ethereum, and IBM evaluated these particular blockchain technologies and found they were anonymous and permissionless and that many companies were looking for permissioned blockchain," stated René Bostic, Technical VP of the IBM Cloud Unit in North America, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Conventi...
In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Carl J. Levine, Senior Technical Evangelist for NS1, will objectively discuss how DNS is used to solve Digital Transformation challenges in large SaaS applications, CDNs, AdTech platforms, and other demanding use cases. Carl J. Levine is the Senior Technical Evangelist for NS1. A veteran of the Internet Infrastructure space, he has over a decade of experience with startups, networking protocols and Internet infrastructure, combined with the unique ability to it...
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 ...
"Cloud Academy is an enterprise training platform for the cloud, specifically public clouds. We offer guided learning experiences on AWS, Azure, Google Cloud and all the surrounding methodologies and technologies that you need to know and your teams need to know in order to leverage the full benefits of the cloud," explained Alex Brower, VP of Marketing at Cloud Academy, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clar...
Gemini is Yahoo’s native and search advertising platform. To ensure the quality of a complex distributed system that spans multiple products and components and across various desktop websites and mobile app and web experiences – both Yahoo owned and operated and third-party syndication (supply), with complex interaction with more than a billion users and numerous advertisers globally (demand) – it becomes imperative to automate a set of end-to-end tests 24x7 to detect bugs and regression. In th...