Brought to you by VANTIQ
Episode 12
Cloud Transformation is Not a Fixer Upper
Technology advisor and consultant Jo Peterson focuses on how cloud transformations are central to digital transformation – and even works her hero Joanna Gaines of HGTV’s Fixer Upper into the conversation.
Blaine
Mathieu
Chief Marketing +

Product Officer, VANTIQ
Jo
Peterson
VP Cloud Services at Clarify360

Blaine: Joining me today is Jo Peterson, VP Cloud Services at Clarify360. Jo is a 20-year veteran in the technology field with stints at MCI, Intermedia Communications, and Quest Communications in both pre-sales, technical, and selling roles. She holds an MBA and a Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Systems. Jo was also a 2018 CRN Woman of the Channel, listed as a top 100 cloud influencer on social media, and is a prolific public speaker.

Thanks for the time, Jo! We really appreciate you joining us today.

Jo: Thanks for having me. I’m excited to be here!

Blaine: All right! Well, we’re definitely excited to have you. I know you’re aware, our very first guest on VANTIQ TVwas a friend of yours, Tamara McCleary, and the CEO of Thulium. And now, we’ve got one of her friends on! So, we’re really excited to have you.

Jo: I’m happy to be here. It’s going to be tough following in her footsteps. She’s a social media icon.

Blaine: Yes, tough, active follow, a lot of energy, but we will make it happen. I know you’ll make it happen. So, tell us a bit more about yourself and about Clarify360.

Jo: Thank you for the opportunity! So Clarify360is a next-gen IT consultancy. We focus on a couple core competencies: cloud, security, connectivity, and collaboration. 60 to 70 percent of our revenue is generated from the holdings of private equity firms.

What’s different about us is that we’re all engineers. We go in and we help solve problems that could have been inherited in the firms that these companies buy, these private equity firms, buy. We’re a resource. We become an adjunct to that staff. We help them realize savings, which is always important in the private equity environment. We help them reengineer so that they can do more with the same.

And then we also help with Greenfield deployments. So, perhaps there’s a new technology that they’re not utilizing that they really feel might boost productivity or whatnot. We’ll come in and vet that, both from an engineering standpoint and a financial standpoint.

Blaine: Private equity tends to be focused on turnarounds or restructuring. Do these companies need your services because they haven’t quite figured out the cloud yet or how to transform themselves?

Jo: It could be that or it could be that they had not looked at some of the newer technologies and so maybe were doing things in an older way. An example might be many large organizations do a refresh of desktops and laptops every three years. Depending on how large the organization is, that refresh can be a multi-year process. And so, for the last 20 years, they’ve always bought hardware.

Maybe, the financials and then some of the softer costs, like number of FTEs, might lead them down a path where they could go to a hosted desktop solution. We’ll help them sort through that. That would be a good example of maybe a newer technology replacing an older one where it’s an operational expense, not a capital expense. That might be an example of something we might do.

Blaine: Interesting. You do write a lot, tweet a lot about a topic called “cloud transformation”. What does that mean?

Jo: Cloud transformation is not one size fits all by any means. Let me say first, I’m always in favor ofdoing what’s right for the customer. I’m not about pushing a particular agenda or technology. Maybe it means that, for your particular vertical, you might need to keep a larger percentage of your infrastructure in physical assets.

It could be regulatory constraints that perhaps have you in that situation. It could be that you’ve spent a whole lot of money on hardware and you are not able to financially sink the cost yet. It could be a lot of things.

So I sit on your side of the table and I want to do what’s right for you as the customer. Just because technology is cool doesn’t mean that you’re able to adopt it or it makes sense for you – keep it simple.

Blaine: Is it fair to say that cloud transformation is digital transformation enabled by a transition to the cloud and away from on-prem technologies and solutions to the cloud?I don’t want to put words in your mouth. How would you describe what the relationship is between cloud transformation and digital transformation, more widely defined?

Jo: I think there are parallel swim lanes. It’s interesting that you say that. I’ll say this about digital transformation the same as I’ll say about cloud transformation: it is as much about the financials and the technology as it is about your culture.

If culturally, you don’t have executive support. you’re not ready to make the transition. You’re built in silos that don’t talk to each other. It’s great to have that idea, but it’s not going to happen. The same thing happens with cloud. Unless you’re ready to adopt cloud and everybody’s bought into it, it’s not going to happen.

Or you’re going to get shadow IT occurring. You’re going to get departments like marketing who do their own thing because they feel like maybe IT is a bottleneck for them and they need to get something done. Sometimes, what they’re going to do works and sometimes it doesn’t. It really depends on the culture.

Blaine: Yup. Now, in talking to a lot of CIOs, especially over the last year, I have definitely seen many of these folks (often from fortune 500 companies or Global 1000 companies) are in the middle or somewhere through a cloud transformation: moving their infrastructure to the so-called public cloud, moving applications.

But in many cases, they’re not actually transforming the business. Just moving from one location, an on-prem data center or a self-managed data center into the cloud, could maybe save some costs, maybe increase efficiency. But, it doesn’t necessarily, fundamentally transform your business, your business model, the way you generate revenue.

Are you seeing cloud transformation projects that are actually transformative to the company? Or maybe in a way to ask it is what percent of these projects that you see are actually transforming the way the company operates or potentially transforming versus just moving things from one place to another place?

Jo: It’s a really good question. I think you’ve seen adoption in certain verticals of cloud quicker than others because it did have such a strong business impact.

Let’s talk about the software industry. That’s a great example of a whole dev ops movement and the reason that people want to cloud early. By going to the cloud, they could literally change how fast they got a product to market. So, it was transformative in terms of the business, absolutely transformative. You’ve seen major retailers and software companies go down that path for their mobile sales, software releases, all kinds of things. The bottom line was revenue generation and speed to revenue generation, and that’s what the cloud did for some of these companies.

Blaine: Interesting, interesting. So tell me more about some of the keys to a successful digital transformation via a move to the cloud. What have you seen in the real world? What are the secrets?

Jo: Well, I don’t know that there’s secrets. I think that it comes back to how fast you are willing to move as an organization and whether or not you see value. One of the questions that you asked me, maybe I’m jumping ahead, was what was an interesting project we were working on. Right? Is it is it OK if chat about that one right now?

Blaine: Absolutely!

Jo: We work with a global contract research organization that serves the pharmaceutical industry and biotech industry. Their customers are customers that are looking to outsource their clinical trials process. The firm is super technologically advanced and they were super early adopters of IoT. They actually started using the cloud to do some of the crunching of the numbers of the clinical trials that they got in first. That was sort of how they used the cloud. They found that the cloud speeded up their processes and they could get reporting back to the clients faster.

Then, they were early adopters of IoT, which we’re helping them with because, in the clinical trials, they found out that they had to collect data, however the data points were collected. The IoT allowed them to transmit that data faster. A really interesting marriage, to me, of the use of cloud, the use of IoT, some emerging technologies, to really, at the end of the day, speed up the deliverable to the client and thus speed up the revenue to the company and thus maybe win more contracts because they were so advanced over some of their competitors. It is a really nice story about how technology changed the way they did business.

Blaine: That’s a great story. You mentioned speed and moving faster, that relates to something we talk a lot about on this series about the notion of real-time business and the fact that you can, as as you said, take in data feeds from third party data sources. It could be IoT devices. And then, use that to enable actions to be taken in real time. Do you see that as being core to the notion of digital transformation and cloud transformation?

Jo: Absolutely. And, one of the questions you asked for an example: I’m from Southern California and the entertainment industry is a huge deal here in Southern California. It creates lots of revenue. It creates lots of jobs for people. It’s uses lots of technology.

It was holiday time last year and I’m sort of cruising through some articles and I read this one about Disney announcing its intent to acquire 21st Century Fox. I was like, “whoa!” That was a 52.4 billion in stock deal. Why would they want to do this? Then, it became clear to me that they were not only trying to reinvent Disney for digital future, they were trying to effectively compete against other digital agents such as YouTube, Amazon Video, Apple TV, Facebook.

They weren’t just changing the technology through this deal. They were changing the go to market strategy. They were going to be able to get to the consumer first. That’s a game changer. So, that’s the use of technology to change how you reach your audience. And that’s huge.

Blaine: Yeah absolutely. Another area that we’re seeing this change happen is in gathering data I think closer to its source. In this case, closer to where it’s created in the home, even, or at the consumer end. When we were talking before, we were talking about the edge eating the cloud. Since you’re focused on cloud transformation, I wonder if now you’re expanding that concept to be edge and cloud transformation. What is your thought on the edge?

Jo: Such a great question because again, parallel swim lane stuff is going on, particularly in certain verticals. But, we’re also seeing it in energy and we’re seeing it in transportation. The thing is there that when you have more fixed assets that are distributed, it becomes a science problem. It becomes a physics problem is what it really becomes.

The cloud is really great at central processing, but when we move those assets out disparately, we have latency issues, distributed processing, real-time processing issues. We have all these things come up. What’s occurring is that we have separate networks that are being created for these devices. These networks function differently. They are organized physically differently, but they still have their bandwidth associated with them, processing associated with them, all the things that you think happen in the cloud.

As these mature and grow, we’re going to see distinct expertise occur around these separate networks.

Blaine: Really, really interesting. What are your thoughts on the future of artificial intelligence and the ability for people and machines and systems to work collaboratively together?I imagine, through some of your clients, you’re hearing more and more about that everybody wants to be an AI company these days. What is your general thought on that?

Jo: You’ll probably laugh at my response on how I think about it. I think at the end of the day, AI is going to foster better decision making. If it becomes a tool for humansto have the ability to look at a number of scenarios and then choose the scenario that best fits the business, that’s not a bad thing. It’s going to do this rationale for us. It also might take away some of the more redundant work that could be done.

So, I’m smiling because one of my favorite shows on TV, which is leaving, sadly, is Fixer Upper. [laughter] There’s a lady on the show by the name of Joanna Gaines and she’s a designer. She has this design software and she has a couple come in and she sits with them at her kitchen table. She says, “Oh hey. Here’s the design I’ve created with all the inputs that you’ve given me. What works for you?” And then, “Oh by the way, we’ve got some options to tweak some things.”

I sort of think of humans and AI in that very simplistic way of working together. She has the ability to change things on the fly in real time to meet the client’s needs. But, it was her genesis and her thought that went into this design. It was her idea.

In a product situation, you might have a product manager that has a number of good ideas for a particular appliance or piece of software, feeds them into some AI-assisted tool, it spits out a couple variations, and then you, as a business, can sit down and say, “Hey that one works for us and that one is a little too far fetched.” Whatever it is. We’re early and it’s fun. I think that there’s great collaboration that can happen.

Blaine: Interesting, interesting. Well, I do watch the show and I’m also said that Joanna Gaines will be going away. But, it’s interesting you bring her up because obviously she’s an incredible designer who happens to be a woman.

You’re a very successful technologist, obviously, who also happens to be a woman. As you know, women in tech is a very hot topic these days. It has been for years and it seems to just get hotter, not less hot.

I’m sure you get asked this a lot but how did you get to where you are today and how do you feel about the state of women in technology today?Big question.

Jo: Big question, right? I’m so excited by it, Blaine. I know this is a little dorky, but I get excited when I see a lady CIO. And sometimes, I’ll see her pop up on my LinkedIn feed and I’ll just connect with her and I’ll be like, “You know, you don’t know me. That’s OK. I think it’s awesome that you’re a female CIO.” Sometimes, they’ll connect back with me.

I really do think it’s awesome because, when I started doing this, there were no female CIOs. Maybe there were like a couple somewhere in the US that I didn’t know about. They weren’t prevalent. That’s for sure. So, it’s growing and changing. I think that what’s really, really important is to have an advocate along the way. It may surprise you when I say this, but my best mentors were guys. My best advocates were guys, my male supervisors that saw that I had talent, skill, believed in me, trusted me, or they saw that I worked really hard, whatever it was, they were kind enough to be an advocate for me.

I think an advocate sometimes is different than a mentor. I think sometimes they’re the same. But I would tell young women not to just look for another female to follow. Look for those resources that are around you that are willing to see your talent and are willing to help you along the path because we learn from all people. It doesn’t matter what their gender is.

Blaine: Yup. I think that’s very good advice.

Well, let’s go to one of my favorite parts of the conversation where I give our guests a chance to call bullshit on some aspect of conventional wisdom. Is there something where the gurus and talking heads are saying X and you actually think it’s Y?

Jo: Oh god. I want to call bullshit on the fact that cloud is not secure.

Blaine: Oh! Thank you. Tell us more.

Jo: I just hear so many people say – Back to the cultural thing that we were talking about earlier, if you want to keep your stuff, if cloud frightens you, maybe it frightens you for good reasons and maybe it frightens you because you’re afraid to lose your job or because you’re not up to snuff yet on cloud stuff or maybe there’s really other better reasons, to say that it’s not secure is not fair.

A lot of the cloud breaches that we see are about human errors that occur like a storage bucket wasn’t secured or someone didn’t properly set up the authentication. At the end of the day, it’s not the provider’s fault. At the end of the day, if you didn’t set up HA (high availability), that’s kind of on you.

In many cases, cloud is more secure than on premise. Here’s why: they have multilayered security defense in place. With a legacy system that is older, you may not be able to have multi-layer defense just because of the age of the thing. There’s controlled access. If you haven’t set up controlled access on your cloud, whose fault is that? Everybody can get in there and do it. It’s about governance and that comes from you. There is cybersecurity expertise that’s built in.

The last thing is that these cloud providers in order to have PCI compliance, in order to have HIPPA compliance, they are thoroughly and frequently audited. I would tell you to really consider your position if you don’t think that the cloud is secure. If you go with a reputable provider, they are absolutely secure.

Blaine: Where do you experience that we are in that acceptance of cloud as being a viable solution in the market for significant enterprise applications? Are we still in the early days or has everybody drunk the Kool-Aid and it’s just the final stages now of the later adopters moving to a cloud-based transformation?

Jo: I think that the security, the concept of it not being secure, is getting better because it is secure. I think that, depending on the vertical, there is migration to the cloud. But, the idea that everybody is already in the cloud is just not true. It’s just not. For whatever various and sundry reasons, it’s not. I think that now we’re getting to a point where we’re starting to look at the next phase which is optimization. Optimization is not only cost control, it’s a number of things. So, that’s where I think we are.

Blaine: Yep. My experience agrees with that entirely. We’re moving down the spectrum, but we still, absolutely have a long way to go. I’m always surprised because, at the company I work for, the platform we provide could be run on prem or in the public cloud as a service. Of course, we feel it would be so much easier and more efficient for our clients to buy it as a service running in the public cloud on top of AWS, Azure, or whatever the case is. But, it never ceases to amaze me how many are still not quite there yet for various reasons. But we’re getting there. We’re getting there.

Well, to bring us home. I’d love any key takeaways or tips for either a business or a technology leader that is trying to drive a real-time cloud transformation in her business. What are some final tips or takeaways?

Jo: I’m going to go back to something we talked about before. I really believe this. Where I see it work best is when everybody’s on board, executive sponsorship, and that the silos are all sitting at the same table.

Somebody said to me, “Is it the CIO that drives digital transformation or is it the CEO? Or is it the CMO?” I said all of them. They all better be at the table and they all better be talking to each otherbecause you can effectively, as a CMO, really affect your silo, right? But, that doesn’t mean that it’s going to have any ripple waves across the rest of the organization. If you’re not serious about it, you shouldn’t have me at the table.

Blaine: Well, I think that wraps it up. I would definitely want you at my table if we were trying to do a cloud transformation of our business. So, Jo, thanks so much for today! Great chat!

Jo: Thank you so much! Take it easy.

Blaine: You’re very welcome.

Those interested in hearing more of Jo’s thoughts can follow her on Twitter @digitalcloudgaland also check out her personal web site at jopeterson.net.You can reach out to me anytime at realtime@vantiq.com.

Jo: Thank you!