Ovum Industry Congress Europe Speaker Q&A: Ara Avakian, Global Reporting Initiative

Ara Avakian is Senior Manager Technology Solutions at Global Reporting Initiativeand he will be part of the following panel session at Ovum Industry Congress Europe, taking place in Amsterdam on 8 October 2014: To the Cloud and Beyond, alongside Belastingdienst and ONVZ. We asked Ara about his experience and projects, as well as his expectations from the conference. Here’s what he had to say:

Ara AvakianAra Avakian: At OIC Europe, I am most looking forward to hearing about how to transition to a data-optimized organization that is positioned to smartly capture, manage and capitalize on information. Despite new apps and enterprise systems some organizations still suffer from information silos, this may be due to insufficient buy-in or change management but an absence of easy to use tools may also play a part. I’d like to hear some examples of how organizations are transitioning and what their experiences have been.

Ovum: From a learning experience viewpoint, what has been your most valuable lesson in your working career, or your most successful failure?

AA: Over the years I have seen a number of technology projects initiated without first undergoing a rigorous review against organizational priorities. I’ve seen this occur across a variety of industries and with projects including enterprise software, websites and online tools. I’ve learned that projects often get initiated for questionable reasons and that simply because we’ve received earmarked funds or someone in upper management is driving an initiative isn’t enough. It’s clear to me that all projects should be reviewed as part of a formal process with upper management (during budget season) where they can be checked for alignment against organizational strategy and prioritized with a clear cost and realistic schedule. These are minimum requirements and if not met then the initiative should be put on hold until more information becomes available. In some instances it’s correct to push back – as long as one can articulate the reasons in clear business risks to upper management. For my own proposals I’ve found it’s especially important to ask the ‘5-why’s’. Is it strategically aligned? Is it providing value or is it just cool? Can the ROI be quantified? Is it a priority worth the resources, time and budget or are my energies best spent elsewhere?

Ovum: What one thing would you implement tomorrow if you knew you were guaranteed to succeed?

I’ve found there are never guarantees to success but put a different way, if I thought there was a high probability that the key success factors would be achieved, I would implement an app project to improve our stakeholder engagement and fundraising processes. A key output of these improved processes would be centralized data that could be mined, e.g., for new services. Right now we are using inefficient methods to keep track of the ways we engage with our international stakeholder base. Information is often isolated and unsearchable. This project would unify the data collection and information retrieval to one mobile app that would enable staff to enter information from anywhere in the world, view historical data and more. Barriers to developing such an app include learning curve, i.e., it would be our first app; prioritization, i.e., How would the app fit against a long list of prioritized proposals where we already have established subject matter expertise? – and funding, as a non-profit our funds are always tight.

Ovum: What has been the most rewarding project you worked on, and why it was rewarding?

AA: Our cloud email/Blackberry migration was by far the most rewarding project I’ve ever worked on. To give some background, we had been suffering for years managing on-premise email and Blackberry servers with a small support staff and 3rd party team. The email server had failed numerous times over the years, there was ever diminishing disk space and constant reminders to staff to archive and delete. The server had been upgraded numerous times, and required closely managed backups, maintenance and patching. Additionally, the Blackberry server occasionally required restarts. After analysis and considering we were a Microsoft shop I wanted to go with Microsoft’s cloud offering but had been unimpressed with BPOS. I was eventually impressed by Office 365 – namely the feature set, platform and simplified pricing. Upon its release I tracked performance and eventually in mid-2012 determined the time was right. The project ran very smoothly and I was quite pleased to see so many headaches disappear in such a short time.

You can view all of the topics to be discussed at OIC Europe on the event agenda, and you can discuss these topics and more with Ara, and all our speakers, by registering today (enterprise end-users can claim a complimentary pass).

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