Customer-centric approaches have always and will always define great organizations. The customer obsession continually guides their vision, mission, strategy and decisions and, within this context, technology is not treated as an end-result, but an enabler.

Where organizations get into trouble is when they prioritize technology over customers. Themes such as “cloud first” or “AI-powered” are misplaced, as these technology platforms only create value in their use in serving customers. This might sound overly sensitive, but for leading companies, customer obsession is never sensitive enough.

Power to the people
Power to the people – Thinkstock

People, not platforms

Too many technology leaders are overly focused on emerging technology and, consequently, neglect other existing business needs, platforms and the teams serving them. In turn, succumbing to the cloud-first notion that displaces the emphasis they should be putting on solving customer needs.

It’s not a platform choice that keeps enterprises from succeeding at digital transformation at scale; rather, it is a failure to put people first, to continuously deliver great ideas and innovations that solve the needs of the consumer.

Focusing on customers first often means unleashing dormant value in your existing modern systems. The mainframe is certainly one of them, with its power capable of being leveraged alongside that of the cloud to create a two-platform IT environment that delivers new business value to customers.

Two-platform IT: mainframe + cloud

Consumers largely don’t know or care that their mobile banking app is retrieving data from a mainframe and making it available on an app hosted in the cloud. They care that products and services are of the highest quality, are delivered with the greatest velocity and are making them more efficient when completing daily tasks.

Some platforms are better than others for managing the various components of that value-delivery process, but no single platform is the best for everything. In the case of the mainframe, history has shown that attempting unstable migrations of business-critical workloads to the cloud will likely cost millions of dollars and years of fruitless work, while putting the security of business-critical applications at risk. That’s why a hybrid IT strategy like two-platform IT is much more effective than a cloud-first strategy.

Both platforms run under the same Agile and DevOps processes, enabling a one-speed IT environment that is essential to empowering development teams to innovate at the same cadence, regardless of platform. The approach can help companies achieve sizable savings in both monetary terms but also in IT personnel’s time and energy. These savings have enabled IT teams to re-invest in activities that generate immense value for a business and its customers, with the following additional core benefits also on offer.

Data center simplification

IT teams are no longer responsible for the complexity of an in-house x86 environment. HR, Finance, Sales and other departments can take more ownership of their respective applications.

Through APIs and DevOps tool integrations, these basic business functions that are moved to the cloud can easily integrate with the mainframe and other systems if/when necessary to leverage them in driving new customer value.

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Cost Savings

According to research from Dr. Howard Rubin of Rubin Worldwide, mainframe-heavy organizations achieve cost savings that are approximately 14 percent higher than server-heavy organizations.

Additionally, migrating commodity services from servers to the cloud shrinks your data center footprint, reducing the affiliated costs (server hardware and software, cooling, electricity, 24/7 operators) required to maintain an x86 environment.

Speed and Efficiency

Speed and efficiency are key drivers for businesses looking to adopt a two-platform IT strategy. By moving basic, non-competitively-differentiating business functions from on-premise servers to the cloud and transferring responsibility from IT to individual business units, Two-platform IT localizes and streamlines decision-making for these groups who can now spin up projects without requiring a lot of resources.

This also unfetters IT from its previous “overhead” duties, meaning IT can focus on efficiently supporting those teams with fewer constraints. Without the need to upgrade servers—cloud service providers will manage that—and with mainframe maintenance and upgrades arriving faster than ever through IBM’s Continuous Delivery initiative, maintenance in general begins to accelerate.

IT Empowerment

With less in-house hardware to maintain, the talent and resources within IT who support the data center infrastructure have the opportunity to evolve with changing technology and reallocate some of their time and effort to learning new skills that have a more direct impact on customers.

Employees tasked with shrinking the physical data center aren’t going to be excited about coming to work if they sense they are working themselves out of a job. If the company encourages these employees to broaden their skillsets with new technology, they will apply their knowledge and experience to new, exciting and expanded responsibilities.

Two platform IT - best of both worlds

No platform alone is a panacea to the problems large enterprises face in the digital economy—not the mainframe, not the cloud. But blending these two platforms is often the best approach enterprises have when it comes to investing in reliable, available and secure technology that can be leveraged to increase the quality, velocity and efficiency of customer-facing innovation.

Cloud first isn’t the digital nirvana enterprises should be after - customers first is, and two-platform IT can help businesses reach it.