Spend Optimization in the post-COVID era

Spend Optimization in the post-COVID era

Over the past two months, the entire world has been thrown out of gear on account of the  #CoronaVirus pandemic. As one can say, it literally feels like a bolt from the sky!

At the start of 2020, no one would have imagined that a virus would cause global mayhem in another 2-3 months’ time. Yet, we are right in the middle of it, contributing to the fight in whatever way we can.

There are some signs of hope emerging now and we are sure there is light at the end of the tunnel. We have suffered an immense loss of human life that can never be recovered. The economic loss is also severe and cannot be ignored.

While institutions like the IMF and World Bank have started projecting global economic contractions, enterprises and organizations have started to take stock of their losses. According to some projections, we may be looking at an average loss of 30 percent or more across industries; maybe more for some industries like travel and hospitality.

 Every business has these questions on top of their mind:

  • How would the businesses look like in the post-COVID era?
  • What will be the major challenges facing organizations recovering from the impact?
  • What are the new business realities that we face and what will be the ‘new normal’?
  • What will be the possible solutions or alternative strategies that businesses can implement?

Let us try to look at some scenarios and try to reflect on possible outcomes.

New initiatives will be deferred or put on hold

Remote workforce productivity and SaaS will see progress; On-Prem and CAPEX intensive initiatives will see likely impact. 

We believe businesses would like to preserve and conserve what they have while they come out of COVID forced lockdowns. New initiatives will likely see their budgets stagnate or worse, simply disappear, as executives contemplate if something is essential or necessary.

Unfortunately, this will also apply to the IT projects that are in the pipeline. 

Cloud service providers will grow and businesses will adopt SaaS aggressively

We all know what cloud-based services can offer to businesses and organizations.

Let us highlight some of the key benefits:

  • Reduction in current and projected ‘CAPEX’ and a move towards more predictable ‘OPEX’
  • Built-in resiliency
  • Reduced manpower required to ‘run’ the IT services part of the business
  • The flexibility of adding/removing services, users and computing resources
  • Anywhere access – key to enable and empower the remote workforce

The COVID impact will force organizations to recalibrate their options to run businesses. They are seeking answers to these key questions:-

  • How do I run my business without over-reliance on human resources?
  • How can the business remain resilient to events that are completely out of control?

The answers point to Cloud Adoption as a strategy. We believe it will be aggressively pursued across businesses, as there are clear advantages.

Remote work is here to stay

Didn’t we all literally start working from home overnight?

Most of us are still working from home as we write this. Do we assume that businesses were ready when most of their workforce had to work from home?

This situation presented unique challenges and in certain cases, opportunities. We see that businesses will embrace a more ‘remote’ workforce than ever before. They will implement tools and processes that enable the remote workforce to move more seamlessly and be more productive.  Empowering the remote workforce will necessarily mean adding or rationalizing IT and Security spend by investing in technologies like VPN and robust mobile endpoint management. 

The budget shock will have to be absorbed from already impacted IT and security budgets.

Threats to organizations, businesses, and people are increasing. Securing organization assets will become even more difficult and important

Organizations were already struggling with a perimeter-less network and a distributed workforce.  Remote work or work from home has pushed this to the limits.

We have already witnessed online threats like Zoom Bombing and Zoom data leak. Scams, Phishing, and  Ransomware attacks are on the rise with US-CERT issuing a warning.

The key question that businesses need to answer is: How do we enable employees to have access to enterprise systems, be productive, and yet secure their digital interactions?

We strongly believe securing the remote workforce will be the next big cybersecurity initiative across businesses.

Optimizing your security spend will be the key

We have discussed various challenges that the businesses will face post-COVID. We believe IT budgets will see recalibration or even potential impact.

As organizations review their entire spectrum of spend across IT and Security, they will be painfully aware that reducing the security budget is not an option. They will also need to be aware of what measures their ecosystem partners and security vendors are taking that directly or indirectly affect them.

So, what options do organizations have in such a case?

How would they manage their IT and Security budgets in this challenging environment?

We believe the answer lies in Security Business Intelligence and Spend Optimization, as a solution. CISOs will increasingly look at optimizing their security spend without compromising the security posture of the organization.

Security Business Intelligence will help CISOs achieve that objective by defining and tracking key metrics around their security spend.

Stay tuned and check back to know more about how ShiftRight plans to solve this puzzle!

We are all together in this fight against the COVID-19 pandemic!

For now, Stay Home and Stay Safe, everyone!!

Automation’s Impact on Product Management

First impressions.

Automation of different aspects of our current lives has changed (and will continue to change) many workplace roles and how things are done. The role of product management will also undergo a major transition due to automation.

Customer expectations of new products are changing drastically which in turn changes how products are conceived. For instance, as a driver, I care about in-car controls such as the steering wheel, lights, indicators, and wiper controls. This changes once I am sitting in the back of a ride-share or self-driving car; I do not care about driver controls but only about reaching my destination safely and on time.

The controls are necessary to help the customer achieve the end goal but they are not the product. There is a saying that when customers drill a hole, they are looking for a “half-inch hole,” not a “half-inch drill.” Controls without the necessary automation are a necessary evil, but do not serve a purpose toward the end goal or use case of the customer.

As we move toward automation, there are a few things that will have to change regarding how products are designed:

Decision Making Shifts to the Left

In product management, one of the key questions that need to be tackled daily is how a specific feature should be delivered to the customer. The usual answer is that we are not sure how the customer will use the product, or there might be a corner case where this feature might have to be used differently. Thus, the easiest solution is to create a “knob” and let the customer decide.

This phenomenon has resulted in a large number of product features that are available when we need them. The reality is that the majority of customers never use more than 5–10% of a product’s capabilities. This also moves decision making from the product manager to the user.

As the world moves toward more automation, decision making will have to occur earlier and cannot be left to the user. In an automated system, machines will make decisions in real time based on the available information. The responsibility of product managers and engineers will change: they will have to consider every possible scenario, and use machine learning (ML) and data to train machines to react to various situations. It is no longer sufficient to simply add a “knob” to a product; one will also have to consider the knob’s setting based on current conditions.

Value Proposition Shifts to the Right

Today when someone looks to buy a car for their own use, they care about brand, driver comfort, and capabilities available in the models. The opposite is true when it comes to ride-sharing: I do not remember even half the models in which I have traveled, as the goal was simply to reach my destination. As things become more automated, it will become more difficult to differentiate products based on controls/knobs, which had been the main area of focus until now.

If an automated product works and does its job consistently, users will be inclined to use it. In order to stand out, the value proposition will have to transition to higher-level functionality and focus on new areas that are important to the customer.

"In order to stand out, the value proposition will have to transition to higher-level functionality and focus on new areas that are important to the customer."

Sanjay Kalra

New Feature Requests Will Decline:

In my previous company, we focused on automation and removed a lot of manual knobs/rules, thinking this would help customers. The biggest surprise was that removing manual rules also helped us. If the customer has fewer knobs to tweak, consequently they will need fewer features. In the same example of the self-driving car, if I am not driving and using all the driver controls, I will not ask for enhancements to those controls. Even so, as products will continue to evolve in different areas, I am sure users will certainly think of new features to help them keep busy or make life simpler.

Escape Hatch:

The Boeing 737 is a perfect example of what can go wrong with automation. When the planes had problems, humans were unable to take control, with tragic results. It will be a long time before machines become perfect and reach the level where they are trustworthy in all scenarios. Any automated product being designed will have to take into account what happens in case of failure. How will humans be able to take control and accomplish some of the critical tasks that machines are supposed to execute?

Value Realization Will Have to Become Explicit:

One of the challenges in an automated world is that if things work as planned, you get used to them and stop noticing them. As there is no human interaction, the only time the customer realizes the value of the product is when the product stops working or has issues.

In an automated product, it will be critical to make sure the customer realizes that they are receiving value from the product. The pre-emptive messaging and regular interactions with the customer will become even more important. Customer Success will play a critical role in interacting with the customer on a regular basis to ensure “Value Realization.”

We are far from science-fiction machines designing other machines/products. Product managers in the new automated world will be responsible for making more decisions, not fewer. They will have to get used to working with ML/AI and data to help them do their job as decisions can no longer be left to the customer or made instinctively without supporting data.

Pain Killer - What type?

Pain Killer – What type?

When I was starting my company one advice, I received repeatedly was that build a pain killer and not a vitamin. The logic is that customers are willing to buy a pain killer at any price and from anywhere as long the new product is proven to be the solution to a pain point. In comparison a vitamin is like discretionary spending and people tend to procrastinate or all together skirt non-essential spending.

I agree with this general theory, but I didn’t get any insight about what kind of pain killer to build. There are two kinds of pain killers one for every minor aches and pain e.g. Tylenol which is available without any special prescription and is a part of everyone’s first aid kit. These kind of pain killers are not differentiated from one another and requires significant amount of marketing but have a simple use case which every customer understands.

The other pain killer for severe pain e.g. Morphine which is available only with prescription and it is required only under special circumstances. The product in this category are typically very differentiated but not needed every day, so customers need to be sold on the value of these especially when they have not experienced the extreme pain.

In security market too the same logic applies as zero day and sophisticated attacks which are like severe pain points which do not happen every day but common compliance or protection against known threats is needed by every customer.

The ideal solution in my perspective is to build a platform to be successful in long term but market specific common pain features like Tylenol to get early and large-scale adoption but have Morphine (as part of the platform) to differentiate.