HCI: A Rock-Solid Foundation for Great Customer Experience

When agency IT leaders look to improve the customer experience (CX) of their services, they are likely to think in terms of cloud-based services, mobility and DevOps – all the hallmarks of a modern IT environment. But such solutions are of limited value if they are running on a legacy infrastructure.

The problem is that modern solutions require a flexibility and scalability that a legacy environment simply cannot provide. Agencies can try to make it work, but eventually that underlying infrastructure limits their ability to deliver high-quality CX.

“[Agencies] need to modernize that underlying core infrastructure, because that is where it all starts,” said Dan Fallon, Senior Director of U.S. Federal Engineering at Nutanix, a cloud computing software company. “If they stay in the legacy mode, they will never be able to free themselves to focus on the higher-level stuff, such as doing DevOps.”

In a traditional data center environment, compute, storage and network operate in silos, with each often managed by a different team. The siloed structure reduces an organization’s ability to reallocate or scale resources as requirements change.

That model worked in the mainframe days, when workloads were fairly predictable, but it is not a good fit in the cloud era, when agencies need increased agility. That’s why more agencies are turning to hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI).

HCI collapses the compute, storage, networking, security and virtualization functions into a single platform, with the full stack managed through software. This software-defined approach essentially renders the hardware invisible, enabling IT managers to shift their energy from managing hardware to optimizing the performance of applications and services.

One remaining headwind to digital transformation is the federal acquisition process. While HCI and other technologies enable agencies to add capacity quickly, the actual procurement of that additional capacity can take months.

With that in mind, Fallon said agencies might consider a managed services-based approach to buying HCI – paying for infrastructure-as-a-service through operating expense funds and not worrying about owning and managing the underlying infrastructure.

There’s one more factor, often overlooked, that can help or hinder agencies’ ability to boost their operations by leveraging HCI: the quality of vendor support. The industry standard for customer loyalty is the Net Promoter Score (NPS), which measures customers’ willingness to recommend a product or service to someone else.

On the most recent results, Nutanix scored a 92, on a scale of 0-100, and has maintained a score in the 90s for the last 4 years. But for Nutanix, it’s not about the score. It’s about the company’s customers getting the support they need.

“When you pick up the phone and call that vendor, you really want it to be a good experience and resolve the issue quickly,” said Fallon. “There’s little value in getting a bargain purchase price, if you end up spending the time and money you thought you were saving, trying to get the support you need.”

Takeaway: As both internal and external customers demand modern services, agencies shifting to a modern IT environment, based on a software-driven platform with world-class customer support, will be best positioned to pass on a world-class customer experience. Look for vendors who are ranked highly by independent industry experts in product, execution, and customer service and support.

This post is an excerpt from GovLoop’s guide, “The Top Government Innovations of 2019.” Download the full guide here.

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