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.

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