Five Lessons Learned So Far From Avnet’s Big Data Implementation

Earlier this year, I outlined eight critical elements for big data success as our own big data journey gained speed. Now that we’re a couple of quarters further along, I wanted to share a few of the lessons we’ve learned along the way.

1) IT’S NOT JUST ABOUT SPEED

There’s no question that the migration to SAP’s HANA platform based on in-memory computing has delivered some incredible jumps in performance for Avnet so far.

With HANA in place, we’re seeing query response times that are 5-6 times faster than our previous business intelligence platform could deliver, and some complex queries are coming back 15 to 20 times faster than before.

While this kind of improvement validates the platform investment, by itself it only represents a minute portion of the potential benefits a big data platform like HANA can bring.

Speed creates an environment for capacity and scalability; now we have to work closely with the businesses to convert that potential into measurable value for our employees, customers, suppliers.

2) THE “FOUR Vs” ARE GAME CHANGERS

At Avnet we talk about the “four Vs” of big data: Velocity, Volume, Variety and Veracity. Speed is certainly one area of improvement, but it’s also about the quantity and disparate sources of data that are now able to be processed using SAP HANA.

From Avnet’s perspective the veracity—or accuracy—of the data and results are essential as we look to standardize metrics and seek out “one version of the truth” across all of our businesses worldwide.

The combined improvements we’ve seen in all four dimensions to date require an entirely new paradigm of thinking to ensure we take these capabilities to their fullest potential.

3) MANAGING EXPECTATIONS IS ESSENTIAL

Big data, like cloud computing, has such high visibility and universal application that it’s easy for any business or function leader to see the benefits of applying the technology to his or her own area of influence.

But big data is a longer-term, enterprise-wide journey, and laying the groundwork for future success goes far beyond the IT aspects as I’ve discussed before.

There’s a real excitement around big data at Avnet, so properly setting and managing expectations with business colleagues has been much more important with this initiative than many other IT rollouts.

Rusty Murdaugh, Avnet’s vice president of Financial Planning & Analysis, recently alluded to this fact in his guest post.

4) IMPLEMENT A GOOD CHANGE MANAGEMENT STRATEGY

To help ensure that expectations and excitement are grounded in the reality of your big data rollout, be sure to devote strategic and tactical resources to execute a sound change management campaign as well.

We’ve had a great deal of success at Avnet standardizing on the ADKAR® change management model from Prosci. ADKAR stands for Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability and Reinforcement. Every employee has to go through each phase in sequence to truly maximize the intended results of the change.

From the perspective of Avnet’s big data journey, we’re focused on supporting our employees as they move through the all five stages of ADKAR, laying a proper foundation for our future training initiatives.

5) MOBILITY IS MANDATORY

Having the ability to request and view reports anywhere, anytime has been one of the most requested features of our big data rollout. Avnet’s leaders spend most of their time on the move, either between meetings or traveling. Looking at a full-size monitor is a rarity, and traveling with paper printouts are a nuisance to many.

So when it comes to designing our end reporting capabilities, we’ve been heavily focused on ensuring that our business leaders are able to request and view analytics reports on demand through their tablets or smartphones.

After all, the data is only of value if it’s delivered in a timely basis in a way that the audience can easily understand.

I’ll be sure to check back in with a new list of observations and lessons learned as we get a bit further along in Avnet’s big data journey.

We’re building a strong foundation for future performance at Avnet through hour big data initiative, and there’s a tangible excitement in the businesses and IT team as we roll this capability out across the globe.
- Steve

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Avnet EM Enters the Avnet Design Zone for the Engineer’s Perspective

Regular followers of Behind the Firewall and my Tech Trends video series know that a few IT trends have had my attention over the last year or so:

My goal in these posts and videos is to clearly explain up and coming trends and show you how we’re applying them here at Avnet by sharing our best practices.

In all of these cases, the rubber meets the road at the engineering level, where the real implementation work happens.

If you’re looking to dive into the next level of detail on any of these topics above and many more, I’d like to recommend a visit to Avnet Design Zones, a thought leadership content series curated by Avnet’s Electronics Marketing business.

The content there covers Big Data, the Internet of Things, and many of the technologies that are top of mind for me, as well as Automotive, Defense & Aerospace, LEDs and much more.

If you’ve ever come across a topic here on Behind the Firewall that left you wanting more, consider visiting the Avnet Design Zone and bookmark the site or subscribe to have future content sent directly to you when it posts.
- Steve

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VIDEO: Mobile Security Trends with viaForensics

http://avnet.me/64341

What mobile hacking tactics have security experts most concerned? Why isn’t mobile antivirus effective? What should every company with a BYOD policy do to keep their mobile devices secure?

Andrew Hoog, CEO of mobile security firm viaForensics, discussed these topics and more at our recent Avnet IT Security Summit. So I  sat down with him afterward to briefly answer these questions for the broader Tech Trends audience as well.

CLICK HERE or on the image above to access this brief 2:30 video.

Special thanks to Andrew (follow him at @ahoog42 on Twitter) for taking the time to speak and participate in this year’s Summit.

- Steve

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The CIO in 2014: Adapt or Die


Over the last decade, a number of changes to the business landscape have steadily worked to take IT out of the CIO’s control. Consider:

  • Managed services has reduced—or eliminated—the need for many companies to own and operate their own data centers.
  • Cloud computing has taken core application development and maintenance functions and outsourced them to a host of third parties.
  • Bring your own device (BYOD) has democratized the selection, procurement and upkeep of corporate PCs and mobile devices.
  • A recent string of high-profile data breaches has promoted IT security—previously an item on the CIO’s staff meeting agenda—to a board-level issue, subject to a whole new degree of scrutiny and oversight.

It’s clear that the skills that got many of us into the CIO role years ago are not the same set of skills that will keep us in the role in the years to come.

TAKE THE “ADAPT OR DIE” QUIZ

So with that in mind, how well are IT leaders adapting to the changing needs of the CIO position? I recently had an opportunity to speak to a panel of fellow CIOs, and I reviewed the following quiz with them. Feel free to take it and see how you fare.

But there’s one important catch, however: you can’t assess yourself. You have to answer the questions the way your business colleagues would rate you.

Some of this response is baked into the business you’re in, of course. But if most of your value comes from infrastructure and maintenance, it might be time to update your definition of success.

In today’s business world, there are no IT problems; there are only business problems.

The more you incorporate the metrics of your business into your own planning and dashboards, the more you’ll align your team with the rest of the organization.

Following up on question #2, it’s impossible to know what the business metrics are unless you actually ask the business leaders themselves.

Since the best strategies and organizations are able to adapt to market forces quickly, chances are the business priorities and goals you discussed last quarter have probably been updated since then.

As CIO, you should be an integral part of C-suite meetings. And, if you don’t already have them in place, get a regular cadence of 1:1 meetings established with your business colleagues.

While setting an example for your team is essential, the actual execution will happen among your managers and individual contributors.

So if the business leaders don’t feel like their teams are collaborating with yours on a regular basis, it’s a warning sign your team might be too insulated to be effective.

These last three questions are more of a reflection on you as an individual rather than your team as a whole.

One way to determine how aligned you are with the overall needs of the business is to consider how frequently you volunteer to solve business problems by leading new companywide initiatives.

These initiatives may have minimal association with IT, or none at all. The important part is that you’re proposing them and offering to lead them.

While question #5 may be indicative of your involvement in the broader business, question #6 should give you a sense of where you stand among your peers in the C-suite when it comes to who the CEO trusts to get the high-value work done.

If your CEO frequently looks to you to launch and execute new initiatives, congratulations. If you’re passed over frequently—especially for non-IT related initiatives—you likely have some work ahead of you.

Think back to your last executive leadership or board meeting: did you only perk up when it was your turn on the agenda, or were you engaged throughout? Were you actively involved in the discussions, or just responsive to technical questions?

In years’ past, many CIOs were content to sit in the back of the room and speak only when spoken to. Today, technology is integrated into every facet of business, so it’s up to us as CIOs to be knowledgeable about every aspect of the business as well.

Otherwise, you may be missing a golden opportunity to deliver value.

THE FINAL TALLY

So how did you do?

If your average score was a three or better: chances are you are keeping pace with the rapid evolution of the CIO role.

If you had a few ones and twos mixed in: you know what you need to work on.

If you averaged a one or a two across all seven questions: that’s a pretty strong call to action. It’s time to adapt quickly or … you know the rest.

- Steve

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