Two-Platform IT: Keeping Your Focus on Customers
Overview: Compuware’s Two-platform IT strategy, which keeps mission-critical systems of record on the mainframe while moving systems of engagement to the cloud, maximizes efficiency and focuses money and resources on processes that matter to customers. Two-platform IT was recently discussed by Dr. Mik Kersten and Gene Kim on Kersten’s podcast, Mik + One.
For years, Compuware has advocated a customer-first mindset — the belief that what customers value should be the foremost focus of an organization. While there may be a temptation to focus on updating, building, or replacing technology platforms, the real emphasis should be on solving the needs of your customers — the technological platform you use is simply a means to this end.
Compuware’s Two-platform IT strategy, which leverages the power of the mainframe and the cloud, is a great way to start. Instead of a data center crowded with in-house servers and a spaghetti-like clump of cords and cables, a Two-platform IT approach keeps mission-critical systems of record (i.e. proprietary source code or customer analytics) on the mainframe and moves the most basic systems of engagement (i.e. email, HR systems, or sales automation) to the cloud. The removal of complex x86 infrastructure saves space, reduces maintenance overhead, and simplifies the process of upgrading or changing processes housed on this infrastructure.
Compuware made the switch to Two-platform IT more than 5 years ago and stands as an example of the savings (an average of $4.7 million per year) and innovation the approach can provide.
In the inaugural episodes of his new podcast, Mik + One, Dr. Mik Kersten, author and Founder/CEO of TaskTop, interviews DevOps evangelist Gene Kim, who discusses his latest book, The Unicorn Project. Kim talks about the “Five Ideals” laid out in the book, the fifth of which is “Customer Focus.” Kim discusses the insights he and Dr. Kersten gained in Detroit during a visit to Compuware headquarters, where they toured the company’s data center and saw firsthand the impact a Two-platform IT approach can have.
Kim describes the Compuware data center as containing two mainframe computers, with the rest of the floor space covered with outlines of where server racks used to be. Each outline contains a “tombstone” describing the business process that used to be housed there and how much money was saved by moving it to the cloud.
This, according to Kim, highlighted Dr. Geoffrey Moore’s notion of core — business activities that create an advantage in customers’ eyes — versus context — processes that keep a company in business but aren’t of concern to customers. Core activities, those that the customers value, should be prioritized above all else, according to Kim. He says, “I think the takeaway really is when we can unflinchingly ask ourselves,
“Are we doing things that customers value? If not, should we really be doing it at all?”
By taking this approach, Kim says, Compuware was able to take millions of dollars in general and administrative cost that was going toward server housing and maintenance and instead invest it in providing more value to the customer through innovation.
The benefits of Two-platform IT go beyond the data center, though. With technical responsibility moved to XaaS providers, sole responsibility for the business functions provided is transferred to individual business units. This streamlines decision-making and budgeting for those units and frees IT staff to concentrate on other organizational needs. Additionally, sensitive information is stored on the mainframe, adding a layer of reliability and security that can’t be matched by in-house distributed systems.
You can listen to the Mik + One podcast and learn more about Kim’s Five Ideals at projecttoproduct.org (discussion of Compuware’s Customer Focus begins at the 18:15 mark of the second episode).