I just finished reading a fairly good article on the risks CIOs in the UK are feeling as a result of the broader rush to adoption of cloud based services in their businesses. Interestingly enough, it’s not the traditional concern associated with being disintermediated, rather it’s about cloud creating issues relative to connectivity that they can’t effectively plan for.
Every Problem is really an Opportunity in Waiting
In the article the author Bill Boyle says that “almost 48 percent of UK CIOs say that the lack of control over cloud services has made it difficult to predict bandwidth requirements and manage their organizations network effectively – 76 percent of CIOs are concerned that their network will prevent them from meeting business objectives. Furthermore these CIOs are afraid that these problems are already creating strain in their relationships with the CEO, CFO and CMO”.
There’s no doubt that a failure to manage infrastructure requirements effectively can and eventually will have severe consequences to the business, so on that point I agree with the author.
Why I think this is more of an opportunity than a problem
Imagine no CIO, Imagine no religion, we all just get along. Yeah, could happen. However, in the case of “no CIO” we would be living in chaos and we certainly wouldn’t be getting along with each other. Here’s a short scenario of no CIO:
Each organization, in fact potentially each person in a company is buying their own IT resources. There’s no framework for data integration, there is no department wide or cross functional value derived from data. Each application, each PC, laptop, and phone is an open access point to the rest of the world. Consultants would run rampant helping you understand how to buy more, while not sharing what they’re doing with other consultants let alone the executive committee. Costs balloon across the entire company because there’s no one managing licensing, scale, vendor selection, or cross functional projects. Of course there’s no disaster avoidance or recovery plan and there is likely no strategic plan for technology adoption, there goes any hope of using IT as a differentiator. Need I go on? This scenario already a nightmare of gigantic proportions.
The very fact that cloud is impacting the network is a perfect reason for the CIO to take the bull by the horns (the fiber by the connector) and make lemonade out of lemons. Turn that frown upside down as it were. There are myriad ways to get in front of this issue, but get in front of it you must. This is your opportunity to demonstrate how having a good CIO is the difference between functioning and not, between innovating and dying on the vine. Use the bully pulpit of your position to create process around the adoption, management and measuring of the use of technology. Demonstrate how IT can provide additional value on top of any canned solutions that you buy through helping with negotiations, data integration, and project planning. The opportunities are endless. Whenever I took on a new leadership role in IT I always thought, I’m so glad the person before made it so easy for me to be successful. This is your opportunity to be successful again, by effectively positioning yourself as the savior not as the roadkill.
Steps to take
Understand and capture the risks – report on it to management. Be transparent and communicate regularly, ideally in face to face conversations. Keep in mind that this isn’t an opportunity to complain about the risks, but rather to discuss how you plan to mitigate them and derive value from the results
Create a roadmap for providing leadership and governance, not control and restrictions
Fire the IT staff that won’t change and hire ones that will embrace owning a services based organization, not a technology based one. This means you have to change as well, appropriate training and reward systems are key, see below:
Identify a few areas for skunk works – A handful of your resources working on projects that are meant to provide true innovation and consequent differentiation to your business
Identify and implement a handful of tools that allow for improved visibility to new solutions being introduced by non-IT staff
Think Shepard not Sheriff
Find partners that can reduce your dependence on fixed assets like data centers and a hard to change connectivity map, see below;
Think Innovation not cost center
If you can do the majority of the above you’ll have positioned yourself to be the department everyone needs and looks for advice from, not the one everyone makes jokes about. This really is about leadership, it’s not about technology, and it’s not about schedules or controls. You might have to change the minds of the executive staff regarding where IT fits, but it will help if you’re upfront with the current situation, transparent with how you’ll make the change, and can demonstrate what the future will look like.