Planning Better Strategies for IT Operations

By 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.

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.

  “​If one can understand what a Microsoft Solution can do out of the box, it becomes easier to gain value from it”

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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