Implementing Technology That Understands Your Business

Michael Everly, CIO, D&H Distributing
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The technology marketplace is defined by a constantly evolving stream of features, new capabilities, and trends that promise extensive profitability gains. As CIOs, we have the tremendous responsibility of poring through this influx of solutions to decide which ones deserve our company’s purchasing dollars. However, as sophisticated as the constant watershed of innovation may be, it’s our task to make sure these systems serve our businesses, first and foremost.

After decades in the IT sector, the most frequent mistake I’ve witnessed on the part of corporations is the selection of technologies without a true understanding of their business goals. As cutting-edge as these products are, they are not always appropriate for the environments into which they’re being heavily sold. Rather than succumb blindly, we instead must make sure our executives are not swayed by the trend-of-the moment—that is, not without strategic consideration.

Any deployment of software or systems should not just provide advanced capabilities. Those capabilities must specifically address the business processes and objectives of the company. This cannot be accomplished without a thorough understanding of one's own goal as a unique organization.

  ‚ÄčCIOs need to strategically evaluate what platform is right for the company, as opposed to what current trends dictate  

To that end, we’ve established a major requirement for all IT personnel at D&H Distributing. They must understand the business. They must participate in a tour of our distribution warehouse centers. Our IT professionals need to realize they are not just building systems. They are enhancing the company’s ability to get merchandise from point A to point B and out the door as expediently as possible, in order to best serve our customers.

As CIOs, we all face challenges when our executives attend an industry conference, where they are exposed to vendors and marketing professionals whose job it is to pitch their latest wares, often with “wow factor” features. This typically includes doomsday predictions from those vendors about what will happen to companies that don’t adopt said technology. Conference attendees tend to return with demands to implement platforms that, despite their claims of forthcoming ubiquity, don’t always support our long-term objectives. We need to change that perception and explain what will or will not improve productivity and increase our bottom line. Sometimes this means embracing a trend. Other times it does not.

At D&H, for example, one of our industry advantages is that we are more nimble than our competitors. We require an infrastructure that can change and adapt, accommodating new directives with greater agility than a larger organization. To that end, we’ve embraced a virtualized server infrastructure. We maintain upwards of 800 servers, and close to 98 percent of those assets are virtualized. This allows us to rapidly scale and modify our capacity as-needed, without the acquisition of additional hardware.

And although cloud-based solutions are now the rage, both in the media and in the vendor community, businesses are still wary of hosting the entirety of their systems in the cloud. Models are gaining momentum, wherein businesses choose what functionality is best delivered as an on-premises service and which can best be accommodated by a hosted service. When selecting new applications, businesses must weigh the benefits of both. CIOs need to strategically evaluate what platform is right for the company, as opposed to what current trends dictate.

D&H has opted for a hybrid cloud infrastructure that provides greater control over how and where we deploy. Through this private cloud environment, we’re deploying CRM that’s integrated with our back-office systems. These solutions allow our business leaders to make wiser and timely decisions based on detailed customer data and real-time purchasing trends. It’s then our responsibility to make sure those systems are robust and stable, so they’re available whenever the business needs them.

D&H serves a community of computer resellers and integrators that sell into the small and medium size business marketplace. As such, these resellers play a crucial role in providing the consultation and guidance necessary to help SMB companies make informed and strategic technology decisions. Resellers need to help change the dialog between themselves and the end-customer, emphasizing business needs and making sure that the technology they sell is vested in a deep understanding of those processes.

In the end, the more we understand the end-goal of our businesses, the more we can tailor our technology choices to proficiently address them. And although we should demand nothing less than best-in-class technology, we must make those final choices according to efficacy, not hype. 

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