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Planning Better Strategies for IT Operations

Doug Gilbert, CIO, ABM
Doug Gilbert, CIO, ABM

Doug Gilbert, CIO, ABM

Minimal Cost with Shift in Platforms
At ABM we rely heavily on the .Net framework and the SQL platform which form a critical portion of our IT operations. The  efficiency and productivity that we experience with these platforms come from the extensibility of the architecture that we  see in Microsoft. Migrating away from our previous Java platform to the .Net platform, we have been able to grow quickly as a company, while keeping our cost of growth relatively small.
"If one can understand what a Microsoft Solution can do out of the box, it becomes easier to gain value from it"
Recognize Microsoft’s Limitations
Microsoft Solutions are typically more intuitive than other solutions and so they can stand out during the evaluation phase.  Sometimes the reduction of robustness for ease of use  can cause future limitations with respect to scale and to better understand that, we have found it useful to talk to companies much larger than ours to try to predict these future  limitations. If one can understand what a Microsoft Solution can do out of the box, it becomes easier to gain value from it.  The question that arises is, whether the solution is going to meet the current needs or grow with the business in the long run.
IT Strategies in Sync with Microsoft
There are two major IT strategies that revolve around the Microsoft Foundation. First is the M-Power Solution, which is our  mobile delivery system of business content. This allows our service workers the ease to complete the majority of their back  office mundane administrative tasks, without using a computer, 100 percent mobile. Our second strategy revolves around  Predictive Analytics— with the integration layer, we consolidate information into a data warehouse. While we have many data  warehouse today, the one we refer to now is a combination of financial, operational and sales data allowing us to quickly  analyze the major portions of our business. The data that is being presented in our dashboards or SharePoint are written in .Net and SilverLight, and ultimately this data is delivered through the M-Power Mobile Device Solutions. While the source of  the information may come from many different data sources which may or may not be Microsoft Solutions, the repository or  delivery data is one hundred percent Microsoft Solutions.
Consistent Issue for Twenty Years with Microsoft
The lack of standard is the one issue that I have witnessed for twenty years and it is not something that can be fixed over  night. The issue pertains not only to Microsoft, but rather the entire industry. Typically from what I have witnessed,  Microsoft software is not the only provider that companies have in place for their business systems unless the organizations’  earnings are really small. Meaning that a typical mid to large sized company will be running software from many different  providers, including Microsoft. Microsoft, and the industry at large should continue to  play a major part in helping to promote a set of standard that everyone can easily integrate to. As far as other issues, years ago I may have referenced  stability issues with Microsoft products, but Microsoft has significantly improved in this area. Microsoft continues to  mature, and I hope that they begin to invest more heavily into the back-end engine of some of their products to make them  more robust, all while not losing the ease of use they do so well on the front end.
Foresee to Avoid Roadblock
With Microsoft—it’s important to understand the future limitations which could require a complete restructuring of the  solution. Try to foresee if the Solution is going meet your business needs through the next five to six years because the  worst thing would be, two years down  the line it hits a roadblock which you cannot overcome, requiring you to go back to the drawing board. The value we experience from the Microsoft solution goes back to the speed and ease which Microsoft platform  runs at—with very little overhead, extremely extensible, and has allowed us to continually add on to the infrastructure  without substantially increasing costs.
Expectation from Microsoft Products
Microsoft Azure, if it continues to mature, will be a major strategy for us at ABM in the next couple of years and Sharepoint  has also allowed our business to become much more collaborative. The integration to the Microsoft Office tools,especially on mobile devices, is key as it is the front end for all of our employees. With that said, today standards become an issue  for the different devices that we have to support. And while we have seen a tremendous value from SharePoint and fully expect gain even more value from it going forward we would like to see better integration with the .Net platform so we can more  easily push our own  internal web applications through it.Today the relationship between .Net and SharePoint can be a  cumbersome process, creating an almost “completion factions” feel between our .Net developers and SharePoint administrators.
Short Term Goal for CIOs
In the short term, we are really excited about SQL 2014, as it has the potential to have a very dramatic and positive impact  on our high transaction systems. The faster and easier we can get data into the systems without massive performance  degradation, the more impact it has on our analytics systems.

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