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HP Software's community for IT leaders // November 2012
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Tapping the cloud for innovation

The head of HP’s Cloud Services Innovation Center discusses how new technology helps Ops leaders deliver new ideas.

The business wants innovation in every area of the organization, including Ops. But the Ops team’s main charge has always been to maintain stability and performance—not exactly goals that invite innovation and experimentation. So how can Ops leaders satisfy both demands? We talked to Dr. Chris Coughlan, manager of the HP Cloud Services Innovation Center in Galway, Ireland, about how Ops leaders can balance sustaining the business with delivering on new inspirations.

Q: How can a VP-Ops balance the need for stability and high-quality service with the pressure to constantly innovate?

A: Sometimes it’s easy and sometimes it’s not, but it’s always crucial. It requires a lot of looking ahead at new technologies and imagining how they can be applied to solving some customer problems.

An example of that is a project that we did with GS1, the Global Standards Organization, to create a global system for product recalls. The problem was that any time a product needed to be recalled because of a safety issue, it would take weeks for the supply chain to sense and act on the problem. If the issue is really serious—say, tainted food that could cause serious illness or death—every minute of delay in removing that product from the supply chain is critical. We saw an opportunity to use the cloud to remove that delay. We created a cloud-based solution that organizations can use to issue recall notifications to their trading partners immediately. Because all parts of the supply chain are connected via this cloud-based system, there’s no more delay.

Q: So you recognized that the cloud had potential beyond how anybody was using it at the time?

A: Yes. We knew the cloud could be a tool for collaboration among different parts of the supply chain, and that’s exactly what it’s become. So in that case, we balanced the need for stability with the pressure to innovate by keeping focused on solving an existing need. When technology is new, it’s not always good to innovate purely for innovation’s sake. It’s better to make sure your innovation is tied to an existing need. 

Q: How can the cloud help the Ops team be more responsive to the innovation that’s already happening in the business?

A: The cloud is an anytime, anywhere technology in a lot of ways. It gives you a kind of flexibility that a normal infrastructure can’t. So even for an organization that isn’t comfortable moving a lot of their infrastructure to the cloud, at a minimum they can, for example, use the cloud for testing. That can speed up testing of new solutions, which ultimately speeds up the process of moving some of the business’s innovative ideas into production.

Q: What about using the cloud to enable innovative ideas that originate in the Ops department?

A: Absolutely. Because when you use the cloud, you’re moving from the CapEx model to the OpEx model—you have fewer capital expenditures on physical infrastructure. When you’re spending less, you’re less constrained by your budget and have more freedom to experiment. Finally, the cloud enables greater productivity and agility, better teamwork and communication and collaboration, and these things are all necessary for fruitful innovation.

Q: People are still talking about the cloud as a novel way to enable innovation. But the cloud isn’t so new anymore; how long will that perception last?

A: Not long at all. We’re all now getting used to working in the cloud. And the more important point is that the Xbox, PlayStation, and Nintendo kids of today—who have been gaming in the cloud for years—will be coming into the workforce as developers, sellers, and buyers of tomorrow. They’ll expect the cloud, and they’ll be arriving with new, interesting ideas for how to use it. The more we take advantage of the cloud as a tool for innovation, the better we’ll be able to attract the talent of tomorrow and invent the services of the future.

For more on IT innovation, in the cloud and in-house, connect with the experts at HP Software Professional Services.


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