How to Sell the CEO on Change

By Ken Bylsma

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In this second article in a six-part series, we look at why a converged infrastructure may make sense for your organization and provide some guidance on how to sell your decision in-house to the business folks.

Most IT departments spend 70 percent of their time putting out fires and only about 30 percent responding to the needs of their business users. You might think, “There must be a better way.”

If you could get your servers, storage and network assets working effectively together under one operating management system behind a single pane of glass, your entire IT infrastructure (as well as your IT staff) could be humming along. Load balancing would be automated, downtime would be minimized and your team would spend less of its time holding the data center together by sheer force of will.

Pitching your CEO or CFO on a common modular infrastructure of virtualized compute, memory, storage and network resources, however, ain’t gonna cut it. Few CEOs and CFOs will respond enthusiastically today when you sing the praises of “a common, wired-once, virtual I/O network.”

The so-called “converged infrastructure” has these attributes, but outside of the IT department, converged infrastructure tends to sound like another request for money for some trendy new technology.

CEOs and CFOs have their own parameters that every request for funds for technology has to meet, which, if you translate it out of their arcane financial jargon, comes down to “What’s the bottom line?”

This article looks at how you can articulate the business case for a phased approach to implementing a converged infrastructure in terms that CEOs and CFOs can understand and appreciate. The bottom line for the business side: It’s a whole lot easier for you to give them what they want.

Crossing the great business/IT divide

CEOs and CFOs have been talking about their vision of aligning IT with the overarching business goals of their organizations for as long as IT professionals have been talking about their vision of “utility computing”, a.k.a., a converged infrastructure. In translating their respective visions into a common language you find, in fact, that everyone on both sides of the business/IT divide has been talking about the same thing.

CEOs and CFOs who have been reading about the financial merits of cloud computing in their trade magazines are already half sold on a converged infrastructure. Finance types are naturally attracted to idea of cloud computing because they recognize economies of scale in the cloud model. They look at cloud and see shared resources, on-demand provisioning, and the ability to re-deploy capacity somewhere else as needs change. It sounds like pay-as-you-go, and it is music to their ears.

You can use the same list of benefits to support implementing a converged infrastructure that your CEO has read about for cloud computing. For example:

Position of strength

You can add that a converged infrastructure can be implemented incrementally as your budget and resources allow. And, with virtualization, which saves your CFO lots of money, you’ve already done most of the work.

Experience with a converged infrastructure also puts you in a position of strength if you subsequently decide to move select systems into a public cloud and need to negotiate terms with a cloud provider. Having a cloud in your own data center, you’ll already know what you need, and how it works.

The primary risk associated with implementing converged infrastructure is doing things in the same old piecemeal way. Sprawl can happen much faster with virtual servers than with physical servers. Instead of thinking about adding a new server for a new application, think adding capacity, even better think shared capacity. Instead of thinking three-year lifecycle, think on-demand. Instead of thinking that business guy who was just in my office is out of his freakin’ mind, think self-provisioning (within guidelines that you establish, of course).

You have to think differently are you won’t realize all the benefits of converged infrastructure.

There is more to a functioning converged infrastructure than innovative technology. To truly align IT with business everyone -- including IT -- has to understand the business requirements. Communication between IT and the business side, as a result has to be much better than it has been in the past.

In fact, communication within the IT department has to better than it is in most IT departments. Implementing a converged infrastructure requires breaking through the feudal dynasties that have grown up around the server, storage, and networking specialties that exist in most IT departments. A key step in converging the technologies is converging the competing cultures into a single well-coordinated team.

Look for the third article in this series: Breaking Down the Walls for more on how to convince your server, storage and networking specialists it’s in their best interest to get along. There’s a what’s-in-it-for-me for each of them, too.

Ken Bylsma is the director of HP Storage & Software Solutions at Logicalis, an international provider of integrated information and communications technology solutions and services, where he is responsible for building solutions around HP Storage and Software products. Mr. Bylsma has been with Logicalis twelve years. Before joining Logicalis he held positions in sales and marketing with EMC and Sun Microsystems where he managed their reseller channel in the Midwest.