Driving Greater Value Through Enterprise Architecture

July 31, 2013
Two of our core tenets at Long View are Competence and Value, and this is why I recently found myself representing our company at the world’s leading event on the topic of Enterprise Architecture (EA), the Gartner Summit, held in National Harbor, Maryland. Ensuring competence and delivering value in Information Technology (IT) requires that we are engaged in the conversations taking place at the leading edge of our industry. IT is often seen to be reactive, a connector or safety net for business. We link everything together; ensure its security, performance, and permanence, and then work to help businesses deliver to their goals. But the true value IT can deliver comes in much earlier than this, in the business planning. Enterprise Architecture starts with the observation that, at a base level, any modern business is a system of processes that work together to achieve goals. The larger the business, the larger and more complex the systems involved. Take something like Amazon, for example. Ordering a book online is a minor miracle of process interaction. You make a click of your mouse and a series of events occur, rippling down a long line of systems that eventually ends in you receiving whatever it is you bought. EA is the thinking that proactively optimizes the process of that purchase, and looks out for ways to safeguard it as well as optimize it in the future. At Gartner I was able to attend two jammed packed days of keynotes, tutorials, interactive workshops, and roundtables with a who’s-who of IT and EA professionals. The EA discipline is evolving and exists in a bit of a grey area, loosely defined, still often seen as just part of the infrastructure connecting business together. However, what the Gartner Summit was best able to demonstrate is a strong clarity of what Enterprise Architecture can do to proactively drive value, introducing the idea of business outcome oriented Enterprise Architecture. By bringing IT to the planning table at the earliest stage possible, businesses can avoid a common cycle where IT is playing catch up to strategy. Instead, we should be looking to help shape and define that strategy from the onset, road-mapping and setting direction, not following. This is what’s next. The business rockstars of the future are an emerging hybrid of business acumen and IT know-how, able to integrate technology with business requirements. At Long View we want to stay at the leading edge by continuing to provide this EA exposure to our people and by helping our clients recognize where EA can optimize their business.
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The IT Tipping Point: Cloudy with a chance of Big Data

July 30, 2013
Gartner (Laura McLellan, Vice President Marketing Strategies) has predicted that by 2017 the CMO will spend more on IT than the CIO. Has IT’s time passed? I have spoken to many people that have expressed concern (some overtly and some subtly) over the role of IT as companies move to adopt cloud services. For those with a vested interest in the continued success of IT this is a valid concern – cloud will be and is today disrupting the status quo. However, if you broaden your view the consumption of cloud services can be viewed as a necessity that allows IT to refocus resources on services that are directly connected to delivering the capabilities your company requires for future success. The real question is “Is IT willing to deliver the innovation required to capitalize on the opportunity?”.  “Operational efficiency is now relegated to table stakes. You still need to deliver on it to stay in business but it doesn’t drive competitive advantage.” If we look at the significant projects that made our organizations more efficient (ERP, CRM, etc.) they generally standardized and improved business processes allowing the business to deliver better results. These improvements initially provided a competitive advantage but today the playing field has been leveled. Virtually all competitors are using the same (or similar) software packages to implement best practices. Operational efficiency is unlikely to provide competitive differentiation in the market and as everyone has implemented the same best practices they are good candidates to be deployed as a cloud service. To some, this validates their fears of the decline of IT but it also provides tremendous opportunity. To find the opportunity you need to ask yourself the question “If every organization has implemented the same set of best practices how can organizations differentiate themselves in a competitive market?”. Operational efficiency is now relegated to table stakes. You still need to deliver on it to stay in business but it doesn’t drive competitive advantage. The next phase will be to differentiate by making better business decisions. Decisions based on intuition or gut feel are just as often poor decisions as they are good ones. Consistently making great decisions is what is going to separate the superior organizations from the mediocre. To do this involves making informed defendable decisions based on all available data to understand what options are available, the likelihood of success with each option and the risk factors that could alter the outcome. This approach has been branded Big Data. (A name I feel does a disservice as it is not representative of all the ways organizations may use data for decision making. Big Data can be small.) “Organizations with a strong enterprise architecture team should already have researched big data technologies and stay abreast of the continued innovation. “ For IT to increase its relevance it must overcome its reputation (valid or not) of slowing down the process and making it more difficult to achieve success. Speed and agility are valued and IT must be perceived as a group that can accelerate the process and deliver results. Today, business groups outside of IT are being targeted directly by product and services vendors offering “big data” solutions. The value proposition is to deliver what existing corporate IT systems have been unable to provide. Generally, these business groups are embracing Big Data solutions to:
  • Provide previously unknown insights hidden in the data
  • Reduce decision latency
  • Identify new products/services to monetize data assets
Although the majority of use cases are directly targeted toward a business unit outside of IT (such as marketing) there are use cases where IT is the beneficiary of big data applications (eg. HP Operations Analytics). From an IT perspective, Big Data usually means evaluating and adopting new technologies. IT Organizations with a strong enterprise architecture team should already have researched big data technologies and stay abreast of the continued innovation. Gaining further experience by using big data technologies within IT or participating in a PoC/pilot (provided there is no perception of slowing down the project) can create valuable expertise to draw upon to support business groups. Repurposing existing legacy technologies tends to fail for one of the following reasons:
  • The current technology does not deliver the capability required to perform the analysis or operate on the diversity of the data.
  • The current technology cannot complete the analysis quick enough.
  • Scaling the current technology is cost prohibitive.
“…every vendor seems to be branding whatever solution they have as Big Data to get attention.” Just like the cloud domain, every vendor seems to be branding whatever solution they have as Big Data to get attention. While this approach may be successful the unfortunate reality is that platforms that were not purpose built for big data tend to be more costly, less performant and companies with these systems find that analysis at scale can be impossible or unaffordable in these legacy systems. Big Data platforms (eg. HP HAVEn) are purpose built for big data. They tend to follow a federated model integrating capabilities as required to ingest, store, process and analyze the data. “Focus investment in areas that help your organization differentiate itself against its competitors.” As organizations embark with big data one of the challenges can be finding people with the right mix of skills. The individual needs to have an understanding of the business, the technology and the available data. They need skills in statistics/analytics but also be creative enough to explore new, different and unorthodox ideas. As you look for these individuals turning to outside talent is an option but internal candidates will likely have knowledge of the business that could take time to develop. In my travels I have met some great candidates for this type of role within IT. If a job rotation through marketing or another business group can be arranged they become even stronger candidates and can help improve IT’s brand elsewhere in the company. Striving to achieve competitive advantage is becoming more not less intense. Under the right leadership IT has a great future. As the business shifts towards delivering competitive advantage through improved knowledge and better decisions, IT will need to evolve to maintain relevance and contribute significant value back to the business. IT must be willing to let go of services that no longer provide differentiation. If these services are still required to run the business, explore alternate delivery models. Focus investment in areas that help your organization differentiate itself against its competitors. Where is your IT organization focused? HP Big Data Solutions
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Just Doing It. Supporting Our Community at Denver’s Highland Running of the Bulls

July 26, 2013
I work in IT, it’s 9:00am, and I’m running down the street with fourteen of my co-workers, trying to escape a large group of roller derby women that are trying to whack us with whiffle bats. And I paid to do it. Ok, let me back this up. You’re going to need a bit of history. I know that out there, beyond our walls and our field, there exists a certain stereotype of what IT is like, culturally. But the great thing about Long View is that while we can certainly admit to some qualities inherent in being IT professionals, we’re definitely not that easy to pin down. We’ve taken a very deliberate approach to fostering and building a community of fun within our offices.  My 9:00am roller-derby-whiffle-bat-story a case in point. Recently we put together a Community Relations Committee to discuss and communicate out the things we found many of us were already doing in our communities.  We kicked off the formation of the committee with our first event on July 13, the Denver Highland Running of the Bulls. 2013 was the third annual occurrence of this unique event. Inspired by the running of the bulls in Pamplona, Spain, the Highland Running of the Bulls is a fundraiser that raises money for Denver’s Tennyson Center for Children, an organization whose aim is to help children and their families overcome abuse and neglect. In Pamplona, participants in the event dress all in white with red accents. And then bulls chase them. In Denver, we also dressed all in white with red accents. Only we were chased by members of the Rocky Mountain Rollergirls team. With whiffle bats. So we had to run pretty fast. The course is only a kilometer long, which is less than a mile, but it’s long enough! About 300 people donated funds to help this year and there were 15 of us from the Long View Denver office taking part. We met up beforehand in our whites and reds and we all lined up together, thinking we’d stay close. That didn’t last long - once they set us loose, it was every man or woman for themselves. I’m not sure what’s scarier, being chased by the bulls of Spain or by the roller girls of Denver. The run finishes off in a street that’s lined with patios, many of which were local businesses that sponsored the fundraiser. They were all filled with cheering people as we came running into the final stretch. It was definitely a lot of fun and a rewarding feeling knowing that all of it was supporting kids in our community. This was just the start of things in our Denver office. What’s next for the Community Relations Committee? You’ll just have to check back here to find out. In closing, this might seem like it goes without saying, but for me, one of the best things about working at Long View is the people I work with. It takes all types to do what we do, and to have found so many individuals that possess the same sort of spirit is a pretty cool thing.
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3 Tips every IT staff should consider as they move to Converged Infrastructure

July 23, 2013
We know that there are major IT shifts every 10-15 years and we have all seemed to successfully survive at least one or more of the recent trends:  mainframe, client server computing, and the birth of the internet.   The next wave of changes rapidly approaching is all about cloud, mobility and big data.  Today many of you are evaluating products and solutions that promise IT convergence to help you handle this wave of change.  Another critical factor to evaluate is the actual skillset of the IT staff. Explore this topic with Helen Tang, HP Converged Infrastructure Solutions, and Patrick Eitenbichler, HP Expert One, as they discuss the impact this New Style of IT will have on people and skills. Listen to the 3 tips on how your IT staff can plan for new skills in IT convergence and Cloud to handle the challenges mobility, big data, and Cloud may present. Long View has two client engagements for addressing these market changes; the Maturity Model Assessment and the Envision Workshop. Click here to read more. Expert One Certifications can help you succeed in the New Style of IT. Learn more now.
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An Extraordinary Time

July 17, 2013
It goes without saying that the floods that struck southern Alberta just two weeks ago created a lot of difficulty and hardship for people living in the impacted areas. Our Calgary office was closed when the power grid for the downtown area went down. And we were shut out for almost the entire week afterwards as the City of Calgary worked to restore power. That week will be remembered by all of us for a long time. I was truly proud to be a Calgarian and felt both inspired and moved by the extraordinary lengths Long View employees, as well as friends and family, went to in order to help others recover. Our response in Calgary had three equal, and just as important, parts to it. The first was to look after our staff, some of who were displaced. The second was to ensure our clients were up and running. And the third was to see how we could help in our communities. The Thursday before the flooding, we were closely watching the changing weather forecast.   That afternoon, we told employees in the Calgary office they could head home early because reports of the flooding were coming in. The next morning, when we all saw the images of our city under water, we assembled a team to help coordinate our efforts to this unique situation. Twenty-one Long View employees were forced from their homes. We quickly set up an intranet discussion board that Calgary staff could access remotely. People offered up things like carpooling, babysitting and housing. When the power came back on and we were able to get into our building, we quickly realized that our staff might have a hard time getting into the downtown core.  So we arranged a Long View bus from the south part of the city to get them to and from our office. Meanwhile, as we were looking out for our team, we were also doing everything we could for our clients. Members of our Managed Services team worked around the clock to make sure all impacted systems were safely powered down, and then powered back on once we had services. A lot of Long View customers were also forced out of their offices due to the flooding and were working remotely, so our consultants with expertise in remote access systems like Citrix were kept pretty busy keeping everyone connected. I’m happy to say we didn’t miss a step, and noticed that more than one client decided to make the switch to our Cloud and OnDemand technology. Above and beyond our desire to help our own staff and customers, was our desire to help impacted communities. Once we had home base secure, we gave Long View employees carte blanche to get out into affected areas to help with clean up and restoration. We had people rolling up their sleeves and cleaning out basements in Bowness, Mission, Roxboro, and all along Elbow Drive. I’m hoping that we don’t ever see anything like that again. But seeing how the Long View family came together to help each other, our clients and our communities, was something I will never forget.
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The View From Here – Gord Mawhinney, CEO

July 1, 2013
I Made One Phone Call Welcome to my inaugural blog post. I will do my best to keep it short and interesting, the former being significantly easier than the latter. As our head count steadily climbs past 1000, it becomes harder to have the kind of personal relationship with each employee I would like. My hope is this blog will help to bridge the gap, giving you a window into my thoughts, and hopefully an insight or two as we move through this experience together. With that said, I’d like to share a little bit about the journey that brought me to this place. I believe my career over the past two decades has been preparing me for the type of role I am about to assume. Not that I’ve always been able to articulate it, but throughout my career and before I had one, leadership has been a passion of mine. At age 9 and much to my mother’s chagrin, I was the ringleader of a group of kids that was constantly in trouble. Not sure what the statute of limitations is there, so I’ll keep hush about the specifics. You’ll be pleased to hear I reformed shortly thereafter, but my passion for the power of teamwork remained intact. I was an ardent participator in student government. At 22 I was given HR leadership responsibility for more than 1000 people. From there I went to IBM and from there I became an entrepreneur. I was the international president of the Entrepreneurs Organization(EO). I then sold my business to Bell Canada, and immediately thereafter went to work for them in an executive capacity. You may find this surprising, but at that time, with the sale of my business right on my heels, I still felt like the most important work of my career was in front of me, not behind. When it came time to choose where I’d go next I did not do any research, I didn’t take a single lunch, and I didn’t so much as shake hands with a recruiter. I made one phone call. That call was to Don Bialik. I had gotten to know Don years prior at IBM and then in EO and finally at Bell when I attempted to acquire Long View on behalf of Bell Canada. Of course he turned us down. But what he gave me turned out to be far more valuable. He showed me that a company could achieve marked business success while still maintaining a strong sense of humanity. Don was an individual whose ideals I admired, and whose values were very much in line with my own. In that meeting I knew Long View was a place where I could thrive without ever having to compromise who I am. I came to work for Don and a few years later, well, I guess you could say the rest is history. I am deeply grateful to Don for giving me this opportunity and for creating a company I am truly proud to be a part of. As my first blog post comes to an end, I’m reminded of a quote that a friend shared with me a while back. Darwin Smith was the CEO of Kimberley Clarke for close to twenty years. In that time, the company became exponentially more profitable and saw returns far beyond what the market would’ve predicted. When asked what the key to his success was, Smith said “I never stopped trying to be qualified for the job.” That is the sentiment I bare in mind as I embark on this journey. I have been given an immense opportunity, in return I give you my word I won’t ever stop trying to be qualified for it.
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Peering into Big Data’s Crystal Ball

June 12, 2013
Until now, it’s been a fanciful idea revolving around tarot cards and crystal balls. But thanks to the advent of Big Data, we may soon be able to predict the future. As Long View’s Practice Director of Storage and Data Management, I am always keen on identifying and staying on top of industry trends, including those that include virtualization and converged infrastructure. Recently, I attended EMC World 2013, a partner conference held in Las Vegas in early May, along with seven other Long View representatives — and I was particularly intrigued by a keynote session I attended called Cloud, Big Data and Trust. Thanks to a big industry push that we’ve seen over the past couple of years to virtualize storage, we’ve arrived in the era of Big Data — essentially, the capacity to collect enormous amounts of data, and then harvest value out of that data. What does this mean in the real world? The possibilities, frankly, are endless. Big Data means using existing data patterns to anticipate events in the future. It could apply to matters of national security. It could mean increased safety in the auto industry, with an analysis of driving patterns. It could even mean anticipating consumer behavior — if there’s less RFID activity in the fridge, the water’s getting turned off, and the furnace is being turned down, it’s because the Smiths are probably going on vacation. What does the arrival of Big Data say to me from a careers perspective? First of all, if you want to specialize in storage, you’ll need to be a virtualization expert as well. And secondly, if you’re looking at a career in data management, you’ll need to understand math — particularly analytics. In fact, because of Big Data, I can see analytics-based careers opening up in areas like finance, science, and security, just to name a few. By identifying the correlation between certain behaviors — whether it’s people, genomes, or computer viruses — IT professionals will be able to predict and possibly avoid certain events. Still think this is the world of science fiction? Think again. Because Big Data is where the smart money’s going. We heard at EMC World 2013 that 90 per cent of Fortune 500 companies are using some form of analytics today. That’s a huge number. And it means that companies are leveraging big data to transform their business. None of this would be happening, of course, without virtualization of storage, which gives us the capacity to manage massive amounts of data. Those Fortune 500 companies I mentioned are tracking 100 billion real-time events every month. And one engine on a passenger plane, on average, racks up 30 terabytes of telemetry data during a transatlantic flight. From where I’m sitting, Big Data has enormous applications . . . and presents big opportunities for IT professionals.
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New VP Edgell Blazes an Impressive Career Trail

June 4, 2013
Across the North American IT industry, we’re already known at Long View as a great place to move your career forward. And when I think of career development, Phil Edgell has a great story. Phil was recently named our Vice President of Service Delivery. He became Long View’s 30th employee in 2002, working as a client-based Citrix consultant in Calgary. Since then, Phil has made incredible strides in just over a decade. Our President, Gord Mawhinney, pointed that out recently when he announced Phil’s appointment to this newly created Vice President’s role. “Phil is the first example at Long View of someone beginning their career at Long View as a consultant — and through hard work, and a focus on personal and professional development with success in many roles, now joins the Executive Team,” Gord wrote. “At Long View, career progression and a no-regrets career are very important. I trust that Phil will be the first in a long line of many to come, who have such a progression within Long View.” I couldn’t agree more. Competence is one of Long View’s core pillars, and we take that seriously. Our Learning and Development group, led by the incomparable Nathania Parnetta, works with Long View employees to actively source training and certification opportunities — and pays for that professional development. Phil, for example, both started and completed his Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree from the University of Calgary’s Haskayne School of Business while at Long View. In 2007, he was asked to focus on business development by spearheading the establishment of a new Long View branch office in Vancouver. He held titles of Sales Director and, most recently, Director of B.C. Operations — which he’ll keep as part of his new portfolio. Phil is quick to credit our company’s bold, enterprising environment for his success. “Long View has always given me the opportunity to take a little risk, and stretch myself. And once you’ve proven that you can produce results, they just keep giving you more and more opportunity,” says Phil. “Long View has given me both the support and the space to execute on ideas and plans. “I also think that Long View believes strongly in staff advancement opportunities. They’ll look internally for somebody before they take that search to the marketplace.” Hats off to Phil, and his appointment to our Executive Team. He may be the first to chart such a course within Long View, but I know he won’t be the last.
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Ten-hup! Capt. Sun Developing Leaders with Cadet Corps

May 28, 2013
Julie Sun is helping to shape our leaders of tomorrow. And for that, I think she deserves a heartfelt salute. During the work week, Julie is a crackerjack Service Desk Lead in Calgary, helping to solve Long View client issues. But on evenings and weekends — out on the parade square, as well as the forests and the rolling hills of southern Alberta — she’s Capt. Sun. Since 1997, Julie has been an officer with the 2137 Calgary Highlanders, the largest Royal Canadian Army Cadet Corps unit on the Canadian prairies. After spending three years as the unit’s Commanding Officer, Julie is now the Deputy Commanding Officer (DCO) and Training Officer of the 2137 Highlanders. As Director of People Services, I see countless examples of a caring culture at Long View, with members of our team working hard to strengthen the fabric of their community. In my mind, Julie is a prime example. Besides promoting physical fitness, and generating an interest in the Canadian Forces, the Canadian Cadet movement aims to develop good citizens and future leaders among youth aged 12 to 18. And for most of her time with the 2137 Highlanders, Julie has been responsible for developing and rolling out the corps’ training plan from year to year. “The kids get so much out of the program. They develop leadership, teamwork, interpersonal, and communication skills,” says Julie. “I got introduced by my brother more than 15 years ago, and I’m still doing it because I love seeing how much the kids grow during their time with the program.” The Army branch of the Canadian Cadet corps focuses on adventure training. Under Julie’s direction, the 2137 Highlanders gather in the classroom one night a week. Then, they put that education to good use throughout the year with weekend training exercises revolving around themes of search-and-rescue, navigation, and survival camping. The 2137 Highlanders also have their own pipe-and-drum band, and the corps offers complimentary music lessons to any Cadet who aspires to test their musical chops. This past spring, Julie and other officers with the 2137 Highlanders took a dozen Cadets to Europe for a battlefield tour. It’s an event organized every three years by the corps as a reward for longstanding membership in the 2137 Highlanders. The group visited battle sites from the First and Second World Wars including Normandy, Dieppe, Vimy Ridge, Ypres, the Somme, and Passchendaele, and also toured the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp where Anne Frank died in March 1945. “We wanted to show the Cadets what war looks like through the eyes of both soldiers and civilians,” says Julie. There are more than 7,500 Cadet instructors like Julie across Canada, and she has no plans to step back any time soon — because she knows how much of a difference she’s making to the lives of our future leaders. “It’s really satisfying talking to the kids who were once part of our program,” says Julie. “They’ve told me: ‘You know what? Cadets really taught me about public speaking, about working with others, about how to be a leader.’ That is really rewarding for me.” (Photo of 2137 Calgary Highlanders during European battlefield tour, in the spring of 2013, courtesy Julie Sun)
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Student Capstone Presentations: The Start of Something Special

May 23, 2013
These go-getters have their eyes on the prize. And we’ve definitely got our ears to the ground. As Long View’s Director of People Services, I want to ensure that we continue to bring the best people available on board — not only to ensure Long View’s core pillars of Integrity, Competence, Value, and Fun, but also to perpetuate our special workplace culture. And that’s why I’m excited to tell you all about a couple of events we recently attended for the first time — events that will strengthen our partnerships with post-secondary schools, and give us a leg up in recruiting the best and brightest among the next wave of IT professionals entering the workforce. Last month, members of our Long View team attended similar “capstone presentation” events at two technical institutes — Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) in Edmonton, and SAIT Polytechnic in Calgary. In both cases, students presented their final-term projects to members of the IT industry for discussion and review. Recruiter Jenn Bishop from our Edmonton team flew the Long View banner during NAIT’s capstone event. Systems administration students had been asked, as part of their final projects, to establish an IT consulting firm, design a network/server infrastructure, and make a presentation to industry contacts. Jenn had an opportunity to ask these graduating students about their projects. She also held on-the-spot mock interviews, traded information, and walked away with some new connections to some future superstars. Meanwhile, recruiters Chelsea Balsdon and Sonya King from our Calgary team provided a Long View presence during the IT Capstone Project Showcase at SAIT Polytechnic — as graduating students in the Information Technologies (IT) program pitched their final-term projects to an industry audience. Once again, our recruiters were able to exchange business cards, collect resumes, and keep tabs on some of the more exceptional IT students about to enter the workforce. “It was a great opportunity for us, and other employers, to see students in action, as they showcased their own innovative ideas and hands-on projects,” says Chelsea. A recruiting advantage, and promotion of the Long View brand, aren’t the only potential benefits for Long View out of these initiatives. Because of these connections, we also now have the opportunity to shape post-secondary curriculum by sharing our needs and our experiences as an IT industry leader. By definition, a capstone is the final piece of a hard-won achievement. But in these newly established relationships, I see the start of something special. (Photo of SAIT Polytechnic's IT Capstone Project Showcase courtesy Chelsea Balsdon)
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