Every Shade of Grey – The New Reality For CIOs


Every-Shade-of-Grey

It wasn’t long ago that the CIO mandate was simple to define.  The role was clear and operational, customers were internal and IT was transactional.  CIOs managed a necessary cost center; not yet the competitive differentiator it has become.  The role of business IT was “clear,” well defined, and not particularly ambiguous. It was black and white.

All of that has changed. The business technology role, and the decisions CIO’s face today are anything but black and white. “The cloud” is a metaphor for not only service and application delivery, but is equally descriptive of how hard it is to see what’s around the corner.  Grey is about as clear as the IT crystal ball gets today.

The digital era is here.  Are you ready?
The digital era is redefining everything it touches. It is transforming business models and disrupting established markets.  The momentum of trends like mobility, data and the Internet of Things (IoT) will continue to accelerate change.  Can you see the future impact to your business, or what you need to support it? Are you ready?

Ready or not, the IT mandate today is to be a strategic, outcome-focused partner within your business.  IT must approach technology systems as revenue catalysts, a competitive differentiator that defines success not by transactions, but by measurable contributions to revenue and efficiency.

There are many legacy barriers, however. Let’s pretend for a moment:

  • That the great recession did not occur
  • That past tech investments are capable of adapting to the digital age
  • And IT processes, skills and resources are keeping pace with transformational technologies and the expectations management and customers

This is a fantasy, of course.

The harsh reality is that for most enterprises, about 80% of IT spend is dedicated to keeping legacy infrastructure running and operational.  Managing the existing network is reactive and manual. It’s a bit like the story of the little Dutch boy and the dam. Duct tape is a great resource, but it’s a Band-Aid, not a strategy.

The infinite question – what’s next?
What’s the next major trend to impact your business, and will you be ready? “Will the decisions made today enable us to adapt and scale quickly? That’s the most important criteria.” said one CIO recently. “What is clear today is that being a customer-focused digital business is essential. The terminally grey question – one without a static or predicable answer – is how.”

While we may not be able to predict the ultimate impact of ubiquitous mobility or big data, we can predict the critical role of the new generation of intelligent network infrastructures to enable it.   Though the future of trends such as SDN and IoT remain hazy, it is clear that the network must be able to automatically adapt to them in milliseconds, not days.  It’s clear that the application economy will demand networks be more than just passively aware, they must be application fluent, intelligent and responsive.  Infrastructure must be designed to anticipate choked data flows and adapt automatically, not force administrators to react and respond to help desk tickets with little more insight than “the network is slow.”

For CIOs, one of the few black and white realities today is the need to be agile enough to adjust to the grey areas of a business landscape in digital transition.

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This article was originally created for Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise, appearing on their blog in July, 2015.

Open letter from a CMO to a CIO (and other IT leaders)


Dear IT,

You and I both know the history of our relationship has not been particularly close over the years. A decade ago we shared few interests, but things have changed. Where once we had little in common, today we need each other to be successful. I hope you agree.

Lately, I‘ve felt the need to share some disturbing and recurring visions I keep having. Understandably, your first thought might be “I hardly know you, why bring this problem to me?” Because you too are experiencing tremendous pressure and changes in your role as CIO, which tells me you can empathize. And frankly, I need to share it with someone who can appreciate my pain.

I hope you’ll hear me out.

I haven’t slept well in months. I keep having these disturbing dreams that when I’m at work, I have blocks of cement on my feet. Every time I try to affect change or adapt to changing customer trends, I can barely move. And, I’m not alone. My team is wearing lead shoes, as are so many others. The dream has different outcomes, but none end well. That’s when I typically wake up.

Again, you ask yourself “Why me?” Let me explain.

As I was reading Forrester’s Digital Business Imperative report the other day, I was painfully reminded of the growing impact digital everything is having on our personal and professional lives. Traditional marketing tactics are no longer relevant and plug-and-play is no longer enough for either one of us. As CIO, you appreciate the steep challenge of digital evolution; after all, you and your teams are on the front lines, defining and managing technology.  Lets be honest with each other, both our classical measures of value are barely relevant today.

Forrester pointedly states how urgently business leaders must harness digital technologies, not only to deliver the digital experience customers expect but also to increase competitive market position. Digital is transforming our business in every way, at a pace that feels like it’s almost overnight. Though the analysts refer to it as “transformation,” it feels a lot more like revolution.

How’s this for revolution – Gartner predicts that by 2017, marketing will control more IT budget and technology than you will? As a marketing leader I find that prediction staggering. I don’t mind telling you that we are not equipped to go it alone. Though I remain unconvinced of their prediction, I do know that we need each other to be successful. We need to work together. I’m convinced it’s time for a reset.

I’ve come to realize lately that we hardly know each other after all these years. In fact, I suspect that our perceptions of each other, our roles and our organizations, are fundamentally wrong.   Though our professional paths have been quite different, customers, technology and digital business are common threads redefining both our professions in ways we never imagined, and insisting we redefine ourselves. To be honest, I welcome the challenge.

Most important, we need to get ahead of the curve strategically, or we will slip further behind operationally and financially. There is a lot of change for us to manage and we cannot continue to bolt new technologies onto old models. So the question before us is how, when and where do we begin?

Sincerely,

Your new best friend,
Marketing
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This article was originally published on LinkedIn Pulse on June 30, 2015.