With new ideas disrupting the digital landscape, how are enterprises adapting to these changing realities? What are the keys to handling the transformation unleashed by companies such as Uber and AirBnB?
In the first episode of the PCM Canada Access IT Podcast series, PCM Canada’s Raza Hussain talks with Hewlett-Packard Enterprises’ VP of Strategy and Business Development John Dathan about the four key areas enterprises should focus on to help them weather disruptive transformation.
- Digital Disruption and the ‘Idea Economy’
- Dealing With Digital Disruption
Raza Hussain: This is the first among a series of podcasts that we have launched this year. Our listeners would be familiar with the Kozy IT and human resources IT podcast, but I’m lucky enough to be the host of our new Access Podcasts, which giving you, the listeners, access to latest business, marketing, and IT intelligence from our partnering community.
The Access Podcasts are aligned to our latest Access-branded activities, which includes an email news bulletin and hosted symposiums. I’m Raza Hussain and I lead a great team of marketing and communication experts at PCM Canada, which represents two powerful Canadian brands, in Acrodex and Tiger Direct Canada. I’m a marketing and IT enthusiast who is looking for ways to share valuable content to our audience, hence the Access Podcast was born with the goal of bringing you timely and relevant content in tandem with our partner community.
Our first podcast is sponsored by Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, or HPE, who brings an important discussion topic to the table: business transformation, particularly covering subtopics such as digital disruption and the idea economy, transforming to a digital business, and thoughts around HPE’s four transformation areas that we’ll expand on today.
I’m joined by Mr. John Dathan, VP of strategy and business development at HPE. John has years of industry experience and experience as a thought leader. I know this because I looked at his following on LinkedIn, and a lot of people really care about what he has to say. We’re thrilled to have John join us. John, do you want to say hello?
John Dathan: Hi. Thanks for having me.
Raza Hussain: No problem. No problem at all. If course, HPE has been providing years of service and products to customers all over the world, whether that is computing, networking, or software. Acrodex and now PCM Canada has been a longstanding platinum partner of HPE, partnering with them on maximizing value to our clients.
With that, I’d like to formally welcome John and thank him for joining us. Welcome again, John. What I’d like you to kind of start off with is kind of give a bit of your background as a business leader, very briefly so that the audience know where you’re coming from.
John Dathan: Okay. Thanks, Raza. John Dathan. I’ve been in the industry, I’m coming up to 35 years, so I really grew up in this industry and have been focused on networking for the majority of that. Since I joined Hewlett-Packard, which became Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, it really challenged me in different ways. I’ve expanded from networking to storage to compute, now looking at our cloud strategies. I’m really quite invigorated by the things that are going on in this marketplace, and we’ll talk more about that.
Raza Hussain: Excellent. Thank you so much. For our listeners, John delivered a great presentation yesterday at our Access symposium. Much of the topics that we’re going to talk about today is what he delivered to the audience in attendance. We figured that John being such a great thought leader, this would a great way to get his message across to our broader community.
Now John, in strategy and business development, what does that mean to HPE? More importantly, when you wake up in the morning, what do you think about before you leave for the day?
John Dathan: I would say the biggest thing that I think about is the changes that we’re going through. Everybody’s going through it, but in Hewlett-Packard Enterprise and the company transforming to deal with a whole different kind of market, and the biggest change is really around consumption and the rate of cloud adoption, the way that we’re doing traditional IT products, which are now services? That’s really the strategy piece of my role, and how do we work with our partners to deliver what they need to deliver.
Digital Disruption and the ‘Idea Economy’
Raza Hussain: That’s excellent. I know in your presentation yesterday, you talked a little bit about the idea economy and digital disruption. Can you describe to our listeners what digital disruption and the idea economy is? How is that, or why is that important for companies and customers to be aware of today? More importantly, how does that tie back to the advent of technology such as the cloud, as an example?
John Dathan: Yeah, absolutely. Really, we call it the idea economy. Some folks call it the digital economy. Really, with everything becoming digital, it has completely changed the way that we’re looking at business problems. We see that as both opportunity and threat for almost every single industry that’s out there. People talk about this new style of business and new style of IT. They often use the examples of Uber and Airbnb. I think those are because those are the consumer brands that we use, but they do represent how an idea can completely disrupt an industry. Where in the past, being the incumbent, being the one with experience was an advantage, today, in fact, it can be a disadvantage.
If you think of the taxi industry, could they come up with an idea that says, “We’re going to marry cars that have capacity with people that have a desire to be somewhere? And use our smartphones as the device to get that there?” The answer is yes, but their IT wasn’t capable of doing it. Many of them, in fact, are still using CB radios. When we talk about disruption, it’s completely putting an industry on its ear.
The Airbnb example, we as a society have decided that Airbnb is more valuable from a market capitalization than most physical hotel chains. Throughout history, we’ve always talked about, “You can’t go wrong with real estate.” Well, maybe today you can, because it’s that idea economy that says, “We’re going to connect people who have the ability to rent space to those that want to rent space.” That connection is more valuable than the physical space itself.
That’s what the idea economy is, and that’s how we have to look at it. At Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, how do we help our customers in all segments deal with that changes?
Raza Hussain: That’s excellent. I read a lot about that stuff as well. It is amazing that value is placed on entities that don’t own any assets, which is a scary thing. I particularly enjoyed one of your examples around the financial institution. Maybe you can expand a little bit around what types of consequences could a company undertake if they’re not acknowledging or being aware of changing times? Can you think of any examples?
John Dathan: If you [look] at it as a trend rather … the length of tenure for customers today really is considerably shorter than it once was. I think the current stat is somewhere 11 and a half years. If you think of companies that haven’t adapted, I saw a chart the other day. You think of Kodak, companies that were very, very strong in their field that didn’t change with the times, it’s exactly what we’re starting to see today in this day and age.
Raza Hussain: Excellent. For those listeners that are just joining us, I want to remind everybody that I am here with Mr. John Dathan, VP of Strategy and Business Development at HPE. We do thank HPE for sponsoring this podcast. HPE has been transforming how they do business, and they in turn want to enable their clients through their partner network, which includes Acrodex. We want to enable our customers to go further faster, right?
Dealing With Digital Disruption
Now John, I want to kind of bring it back to, from your perspective, of course, how is HPE focused on the digital transformation today?
John Dathan: We announced a strategy at our Discover Conference in June of last year. There are four areas that we think are absolutely key, in terms of dealing with all of this transformation. There are other areas, but we think that these are the four that are the fundamentals. It starts off with transforming to a hybrid infrastructure. We then talk about how do you protect the digital enterprise? How do you empower and how do you enable workplace productivity?
For folks that are trying to get all this by listening, if you think of Gartner five years ago, they released a four industry trend that they saw. That was around cloud, security, big data, and mobility. I 100% agree with them, in terms of what they’re saying. There’s similar and there’s parallels to our transformation areas. The difference is cloud is absolutely a trend that a CIO or any organization has to deal with, but transforming to a hybrid infrastructure is what we think is the overall strategy. Cloud is an element of that, but it’s not the overarching strategy. You can kind of go through our four transformation areas. Same thing that security is an element of protect, but protect goes that much deeper.
Raza Hussain: Excellence. Now for our listeners who may not be completely informed, hybrid infrastructure is defined as what, John?
John Dathan: Hybrid infrastructure. We have a lot of ways today, and today you would look at an environment and we would call it traditional. Where we have typically inside of a data center, we’ve got a stack that is dedicated to serve a single function and it’s there on a perpetual basis. You move that spectrum and you start to have virtualization and orchestration, where you’re starting to take advantage of how do you have a single server that serves multiple purposes. You then continue and shift over to where you say, “I want to have a cloud-like experience, so I’m going to build a cloud in my own environment.” Or you can have it as a managed virtual private cloud, so you can buy services from organizations to do that. The far extreme is what’s most seen in the news and the paper today. It’s the public cloud. It’s Amazon and Azure and others.
A hybrid strategy is, “Okay, how do I figure out where my workloads are best served and what is best for my company? I’ll take advantage of all of those five elements, not just, say, I’m all traditional or I’m all cloud.” We believe the answer is looking across that spectrum to best serve the needs.
Raza Hussain: Awesome. You’re obviously talked a lot about different technology stacks and different technology providers: Amazon and Microsoft, et cetera. I highly doubt that’s the way that the new businesses should be thinking, right? I would like to ask you, when you’re sitting down with a customer, what are the things that you’re most interested in learning about them before positioning a solution that makes sense?
John Dathan: One of the biggest shifts in how we as IT providers, and whether that’s Acrodex or HPE, we need to be looking at what is the outcome that the customer is trying to achieve. It typically comes from a line of business that says, “I need to accomplish something,” and then we work it backwards from there to say, “Okay, how do we meet that need?” It’s really that outcome that is the important element of deciding how to best serve it.
As an example, if a customer says to me, “I need to get this application into production fast. I need a vehicle that’s going to drive revenue or it’s going to save cost,” whatever that application is doing, I might suggest, “Well, the absolutely fastest way to do that is to use a hybrid conversion platform.” Right? It comes, it’s ready to go, we can get it up and running in days, not weeks or months. We can do that.
In other cases, they’re going to say to us, “You know what? We really have a cost problem. We want to have a new devops platform.” Well, that might be an ideal situation for using the public cloud. We really look at it at the workload and the outcomes level so that we’re helping them make the right decision. By the way, some of those decisions, when they look at them hard, is if you work at the workload, do you really need that workload anymore? There’s lot of applications that exist because they’ve been going on. Or you know what? Maybe it’s best served as a SaaS. You shouldn’t be in that business anyway. Right? Why would anybody have their own CRM tool today when you can use things like Dynamics for Microsoft or you can use Salesforce.com.
Raza Hussain: That’s right. No, that’s good. Then you know what? You’re effectively really transforming a business from that standpoint. It’s all based on outcome conversations.
I like how you talked about security, right? As HPE calls it, protect. Why is that important to consider when transforming a business? Any comments on that?
John Dathan: Well, we think that protect, it’s really about business continuity. Any business today, or the vast majority of businesses today, the business is the network. When you look at this is how we communicate with our customers, with our partners, if the network and the IT organization isn’t running, you’re effectively out of business. That’s why we think it goes beyond security when we talk about protect. It includes what is your strategy around redundancy? What is your strategy about backup and recovery?
People are dealing with such volumes of data today, they’re having to re-look at their backup and recovery windows. As an example, if and when something happens and you have to do a recover, if that takes longer than your capability to do so, then literally, the company is out of business until they get that rectified.
Raza Hussain: That’s correct. It’s really important to note that in a day and age where digital disruption is a focus, that determined amount of time that you’re spending recovering, competition could spin up and literally overthrow you. We see evidence of that happening today, and I find that particularly fascinating. It’s good to note that HPE is focused on that as one of its core pillars.
You touched base on a little bit of data. It’s no secret that this is the most amount of data that’s existed in the history of time today. Why is it important for companies to start thinking about data and data management?
John Dathan: First of all, I think we’re just scratching the surface. It’s estimated by 2020, there’ll be 100 billion devices that are out there. That’s the centers and everything along the way. When you start to think about how we use that, the amount of data that will be coming at us … The challenge isn’t going to be how do you capture the data, because that’s what those devices are going to do. It’s how you turn that information into insight, which you can turn into actions.
When we talk about empowering a data-driven organization, it really has to be that. It’s, what are the actions that you hope to get out of it? Part of the challenge for folks is you’ve now got several types of data. Most of it today is going to be unstructured data. It’s not the tools that people have been using to look inside of their own organization or trends inside of an ERP or things of that nature. They don’t even apply. This is an area that I think is just very much scratching the surface on what people can and will do.
Raza Hussain: Exactly. John brought up a great point in yesterday’s talk, that this kind of trend towards big data is culminated with the advent of the iPhone, which actually is celebrating its 10th anniversary next month. I don’t think Steve Jobs 10 years ago … You know what? Actually, Steve Jobs was a visionary. He probably wasn’t expecting where we are today, because mobile technology has completely transformed the way that we consume data.
It’s now a management issue globally, right? It’s how we can leverage, but really proliferating it on a global scale. It is accelerating the amount of data that we are consuming, and you can see all the SaaS applications that have been built around mobile technology and the fact that how everyone basically can’t live without their cellphones. Because of that, there’s a constant stream of data that is now being generated that needs to be stored, managed, and accessed all over the world.
Enabling a Productive Workplace
I do want to touch base. I know we’ve been talking about a lot of the backend infrastructure that would go into supporting some of these business transformation endeavors. In your opinion, what’s the actual consequences to the end user? I know HPE talks about empowering the workforce. How does this translate to an end user, John?
John Dathan: The phrase we use is, “Enabling a productive workplace.”
Raza Hussain: Yes.
John Dathan: I think that’s absolutely key. We are an infrastructure company, and we build infrastructure to be able to deliver these kinds of services. Effectively, the end user is still the last mile. We can have the most efficient hybrid infrastructure. We can have the degree of protection that we need, but if basic connectivity isn’t there, then we really don’t have what it does. We look at it in terms of the tool sets that go with it. We look at how do you make people more productive? In a world that your professional life is completely intertwined into one single lifestyle, we need to make sure that what we’re giving people is the most efficient way to do that.
As an example, I work one city, I live in another city, I travel for business. We removed phones from our desktops about 18 months ago. We are 100% Skype for Business. That has saved the company significant dollars. In Canada, for example, the business case was less than 14 months to justify the upgrade that we needed to do it. Now, we’re able to work collaboratively from any location. We bring in people to different conversations. We forward things. We absolutely work differently by using these tool sets. When we talk about enabling a productive workplace, that’s what it is. It’s basic connectivity or basic wireless. That’s just table stakes. It’s what’re the things that can make you more productive?
Raza Hussain: That’s right.
John Dathan: Another example of that is using some of the assets that HPE offers around self-service. Three years ago, if I need a service from IT, I would place a call, I’d log a ticket, I would do all of these things today. Today, probably 95% of the things that I need to do with IT are completely self-service. I’m doing them on my schedule, on my time, at my convenience. I can ask for whatever I need in terms of mutuals, or I can do upgrades or fixes by using these self-service tools.
IT gets the advantage of less costs. I’m happy that they get less costs, but I have to tell you I’m far happier that I get to control that aspect of what’s going on with my productivity.
Raza Hussain: Absolutely. As we do convert, and I want to go back to the example of the iPhone, is that it’s changed the way that we interact with each other culturally, right? The work culture, as an example, has evolved just like you were mentioning. This probably going to drive, for example, my parents’ generation crazy, where they already come at me for not having a landline. Imagine if I drop a cell phone number, too, and they have to Skype me wherever I am.
That seems like the trend, and that seems like the most efficient way to work collaboratively, because can’t share my screen when I’m on a cell phone, but I can share my screen and work in tandem with somebody across the country on Skype. I find that fascinating, that HPE … It’s nice, right? You’re practicing what you preach, but you’re also realizing some great cost benefits from collapsing your telephone infrastructure.
Now, what I do appreciate is what you said yesterday, John. Was around how there’s no more work-life balance, it’s work-life harmony. As you put it, it’s not work-life balance, it’s just life.
John Dathan: Yep, yep.
Raza Hussain: The infrastructure that is in the background that may not be exposed to the end user is definitely the driving engine behind your ability to transform the way you work. I know and in your experience, and you can touch base on this, is that you’ve been in the industry for a long time. How is it different from working 23 years ago?
John Dathan: Oh, massive difference. I think the easiest way to realize how important this is to us is to simply take it away from us for a few hours. I actually do a lot of travel by train, so there’ll be times that I lose connectivity because of where the train tracks are located. You realized quickly how dependent we are on this to effectively run our business lives, which is combined with our personal lives, when you lose that capability. 20, 25 years ago it was a completely different world. We were ecstatic to have any form of connectivity. Today, we simply can’t function without it.
Raza Hussain: Absolutely. For our listeners to note too, through technology, you and I are not in the same room right now, but we’re able to record this podcast through Skype, which is something 23 years ago would never happen. It is changing the way even I’m working today, as this is something you and I wanted to do, but we don’t necessarily need to be in the same building to do it.
John Dathan: Virtual meetings are the norm. What I find actually interesting is that I’ll be involved in meetings inside of an HPE office. It’s actually easier for us to use a tool like Skype than it is to find a meeting room, and disrupt ourselves, and lose that time. We’d rather slice up a time and say, “Okay, I’ll be in that meeting and I’m fully engaged, but I’m only there for the time that’s needed. I’ll participate at in it as virtual meeting, even though in fact, we’re physically in the same space.”
Raza Hussain: Excellent. Okay. I wanted to wrap this up with a couple of concluding statements, then I’ll give the floor back to John for a couple of statements as well. Again, HPE has graciously sponsored this podcast. I’ve been chatting with John Dathan, VP of Strategy and Business Development at Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, talking about business transformations and HPE’s four core pillars around business transformation. John, do you have any concluding statements that kind of sum up here?
John Dathan: First of all, I’d just like to thank you for the opportunity to share HPE’s point of view. We really do believe that this idea economy is changing things. We as a company are changing dramatically so that we can be as agile and as quick as we need to be to respond to our customers’ needs. We do drink our own champagne. We believe that we’ve got to transform to hybrid IT. We have to protect our digital enterprise. It’s essential that we enable a data-driven organization, and finally, that we’ve got a productive workplace for our workplace, which is distributed all around the world.
I’d like to thank you for that opportunity to share that. Acrodex has been a great Canadian partner for many, many years. We’re excited about the acquisition by PCM to broaden that relationship, and we look forward to doing lots of good stuff for our collective customers.
Raza Hussain: Excellent. I appreciate that, John, and we do appreciate your time as well. For our listeners, keep in mind that we are running a few hyper-converged campaigns at the moment, so feel free to reach out to our reps. You’ll be able to find a link at the end of this podcast page, where you can get in touch with us and find out how you can start the beginning steps of transforming your business.
Thank you again, John.
John Dathan: Thank you.
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