The Rise of the User Voice

by Nick Lippis

The public voice of IT business leaders has been muted over the past two decades. Part of this was due to corporate PR, legal, and mitigation teams forbidding IT executives from speaking in public. Part of the cause was the lack of forums available for IT leaders to collaborate and exchange successes and challenges. Part of the cause was old fashion thinking about what was strategic. But ONUG changed all that and its implications will be wide spread! Consider this a start. During the last ONUG Board meeting at Yahoo Headquarters, members of the board agreed that the direct exchange of information between IT business leaders at ONUG is of much greater value than industry analysts’ advice on trends. It doesn’t even come close!

User Lead Industry Narrative: IT business leaders have found their collective voice in ONUG and it’s taking on multiple forms. They use ONUG to communicate their version of an industry narrative through themes, use cases, working groups, presentations, etc. Whatever ONUG decides to cover is directly from IT business leaders, the ultimate in a user-led organization. If a topic is not covered, that silence also says a lot. Notice that there hasn’t been discussion of OpenStack at ONUG and other vendor-led open source projects.  

Yes, many ONUG Community IT leaders still attend supplier-led user groups – both large suppliers’ user conferences and advisory boards – but have limited time to talk to each other at such gatherings. The difference is that these meetings are orchestrated and controlled by the supplier. That is, the presentations, topics, keynotes, after parties, training, etc., are all controlled by the company organizing the meeting and thus reflect, nearly exclusively, that supplier’s technology investments and narrative of how the industry will progress. In other words, these meetings aim to influence customers’ buying patterns and habits to the benefit of the supplier and their ecosystem.

Is Infrastructure Strategic? This is a difficult question to be raised for those in the market-selling infrastructure. Infrastructure is as important as water, electricity, and energy. That is, infrastructure is a big market and many suppliers do and will continue to prosper by participating within it. But from an IT business leader point of view, what is strategic are their applications and how those applications automate business process, deliver value, and create competitive differentiation. IT executives need infrastructure to deliver this strategic value. But infrastructure doesn’t need to be highly differentiated and nearly all seek relief from its often costly and overly complex design. Thus, the ONUG Community, its corporate PR/legal/mitigation teams etc., have in effect agreed to aggregate their public voices in an effort to simplify infrastructure so that greater resources can be put into business applications. A key area of interest in the ONUG Community is the intersection between applications and infrastructure or how can infrastructure be simplified and better support the applications that depend upon it to deliver corporate value.

New User-Supplier Communications Link: IT leaders use ONUG to communicate in aggregate use case requirements directly to the vendor, cloud, and service provider communities. This last point has become especially important as the ONUG buying block of IT products and services is measured in the hundreds of billions of dollars. Spending on IT is some $3.5T worldwide this year according to analyst groups. Remember, the enterprise market spends more than twice as much on IT as service providers, increasing the importance and value of the ONUG Community.  This new communication channel between suppliers and buyers is key as it provides suppliers with a direct connection to the requirements of the large enterprise to ensure their engineering dollars are well spent on practical needed solutions.

The ONUG Working Groups serve as a vehicle for this dialogue. The working groups are the organizing principal to aggregate IT engineering talent and input into use case requirements from multiple industry sectors and deliver those to the IT industry at large. All ONUG Working Group output is open sourced and available to all on the ONUG website.

This new user-supplier communications link will only grow over time as ONUG seeks to use it to create markets that address enterprise requirements. An example of this is the SD-WAN market, which ONUG created back in 2013. Today the ONUG Community of IT business leaders is focused on the hybrid cloud infrastructure market and its sub markets. During ONUG 2017, the community is interested in creating a new security market, called Software-Defined Security Services, that secures workloads over hybrid cloud infrastructure. In addition, the software-defined enterprise needs a new comprehensive set of tools for monitoring and analytics of workload; be it hosted on or off premises. And a new generation of IT workers, called full-stack engineers that can program infrastructure and understand SRE approaches to management are needed en masse and will be trained in part at ONUG.

New Analyst Role: Before ONUG, IT business leaders received information about trends and technology assessments primarily from industry analysts. Now, ONUG Community members receive this information directly from each other. To hear directly from peers about how their experience with a technology or service or how they chose one approach over another is the best, most valuable source of information that IT leaders can gain. The ONUG Community is much like the DevOps community in this regard, in that each other’s experiences (rather than analysts or suppliers) heavily influence DevOps professional’s buying. Analysts will always have a role for pontificating, market segmentation, projecting spend, etc., but the days of analyst influence over what IT executives buy is coming to a close. In other words, IT consumption will be directed and influenced by ONUG IT business leaders.

ONUG is the collective user voice. This is good not only for the IT business leaders but for vendors plus cloud and service providers too, as it provides a forum for collaboration. This new forum or platform will enable buyer and supplier to effectively collaborate to usher in the cloud-based software-defined era.

ONUG Community members learn how their peers are becoming solutions engineers, integrating open, closed, and home grown software with start-up solutions, cloud providers services, and legacy vendors to deliver unique corporate value. The IT industry continues to become disaggregated, which offers IT executives freedom, choice, and options to create solutions for their corporations, but the price for this is that integration or solution creation is now the responsibility of IT. One of the most effective monitoring and analytics approaches I’ve seen stitches together solutions from Wavefront, Moogsoft, New Relic, ServiceNow, NetScout, and other components. The direction of the industry sees engineering taking place in IT departments, and the only place to learn and share these experiences is to be a member of the ONUG Community.

The ONUG Board welcomes you to be part of the community by attending ONUG Spring in San Francisco on April 25th and 26th at the UCSF Mission Bay Conference Center. Gap Inc., a quintessential San Francisco company, founded in the heart of the city during the midst of the 1969 Cultural Revolution, will host ONUG Spring 2017. Today, Gap Inc. is the largest specialty retailer in the United States, and is third in total international locations with some 135,000 employees and 3,727 stores worldwide, of which 2,406 are located in the U.S. The company operates five primary divisions: Gap, Banana Republic, Old Navy, Intermix, and Athleta. We’ll have some pretty awesome gifts to give away at this ONUG!


Author Bio

Nick Lippis pictureNick Lippis


Nick Lippis is an authority on corporate computer networking. He has designed some for the largest computer networks in the world. He has advised many Global 2000 firms on network strategy, architecture, equipment, services and implementation including Hughes Aerospace, Barclays Bank, Kaiser Permanente, Eastman Kodak Company, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), Liberty Mutual, Schering-Plough, Sprint, WorldCom, Cisco Systems, Nortel Networks and a wide range of other equipment suppliers and service providers.

Mr. Lippis is uniquely positioned to comment, analyze and observe computer networking industry trends and developments. At Lippis Enterprises, Inc., Nick works with entrepreneurs evaluating new business opportunities in enterprise networking and serves as an independent investor and advisor.

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