CIO remains relevant
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Keeping the lights on is not enough for a CIO

When technology does not break it’s all good but when things go wrong it’s all hands to the pump.  It is vital not only for IT but for the organisation that their CIO remains relevant in the face of some serious industry disruption and change.  The business of IT should not just be about keeping the lights on, whereas that may have been a strategy in the past it certainly will not be good enough in this Digital age.  Organisations may require the CIO and IT (or what ever you are calling your internal IT team these days, e.g. IS or Business Technology) to guide them through periods of significant change or lead Digital strategies and innovation.

IT and the CIO as an enabler

IT must therefore be an enabler and leader of change and must ensure it can respond to the current and future needs of the Organisation by being flexible and agile. Its vitally important that IT and the CIO remains relevant?  If IT and the CIO cannot get to grips with this approach, then we may see a proliferation of shadow IT or IT being bypassed by the Organisation in favour of advice from outside influences that can help the Organisation consistently respond to and meet its business objectives.

To ensure the CIO remains relevant:

  1. Define a Clear Strategy

What does IT stand for and how will it support Organisational goals? How will it use the Cloud, automation or Digital services?  How can IT support the Organisation’s need to be more Digital, in a world where the need to be Digital or die is so prevalent? As Forbes (Cloud is the foundation for Digital Transformation, 2014) has recognised “Since 2000, 52% of companies in the Fortune 500 have either gone bankrupt, been acquired or ceased to exist”. The reason being these organisations have failed to keep up with the rate of change.

  1. Be Focused

What does IT see as its core business? Where will it add the most value to the organisation?  By having this clearly defined within IT strategy as part of supporting a wider Organisational strategy the answers to these questions will help clarify the most suitable technology solutions, in essence creating some guiding principles for making architectural or technology decisions.  For example, an internal IT team within an innovation venture (as part of a leading telecommunications company) may decide that managing an email service is not a core service because there are cloud solutions such as Office 365 or Gmail that can be consumed without the operational overhead of a traditional email service.

  1. Get the Foundations Right

The CIO needs to ensure that the IT basics are done correctly (e.g. network and application stability/availability) is the building block for creating credibility and stability. Without this in place an Organisation may, for example, having the best apps on the market but which are constantly unavailable and unusable by the Organisation and its customers.  Poor foundations mean that supporting Organisational growth will be hard for an IT team to achieve.  Getting the foundations right needs to be done in conjunction with setting a clear strategy and being focused on what is core to IT and ultimately the Organisation.

  1. Deliver

If the CIO and IT teams can’t deliver (e.g. on projects, service levels or advice in general) then you risk losing the trust of the Organisation and, more than likely, IT and the CIO/CDO will be overlooked for their advice to the executive team.  If you cannot consistently and quickly deliver to the needs of the Organisation then you may see a proliferation of shadow IT within the company, again a possible sign that IT is not being agile or responsive enough to meet the needs of the Organisation.  Above all get the basics right so IT can build on solid technology decisions and solutions that support the Organisation and its strategies (growth or otherwise).  If IT can’t deliver in its current guise, look at ways to enable this such as creating a separate innovation team that is not constrained by legacy, as has been shown by Spark New Zealand, New Zealand Post, Fonterra or Air New Zealand, where they can innovate on or away from legacy systems.

  1. Staying Current and ensuring the CIO remains relevant

It is vital that IT and the CIO stays up to date with industry and technology trends (Cloud or not? IoT, Digital, SaaS) and can demonstrate or at least has a view on how these can be utilised by the Organisations both now and in the future.  Being relevant and current reduces an Organisation’s need to look elsewhere for advice and technology solutions.  Staying current could also mean a review of how IT is structured, a CIO versus a CDO or a less siloed approach.  Digital is not one particular “thing” it’s more of a change in mind-set and a move away from the traditional to being more about an Organisations use of social media and analytics to drive decisions as well how it uses the “cloud” (SaaS, AWS or Azure) and having a mobile presence for its products, services and support. The strategies and subsequent use of social media, analytics, mobility & cloud by any Organisation must coexist.  For example it is no good just having a mobility strategy without the customer analytics or the ability for your customer’s to tweet or comment from the Organisations application.

Digital the only option?

If IT focuses on the above 5 key areas, IT can remain relevant and be an enabler to the Organisation in achieving its goals and strategies alongside (rather than having to go around) IT.  In this Digital era, it’s not only consumers that consume – Organisations are looking at options within this “consumption economy” as a way of focusing on core business and consuming the rest. Some great examples of this are Salesforce (CRM), Zuora (Billing), Remedyforce (Digital Enterprise Management), Box (document storage), Sumo Logic (Data Analytics) or Office 365 and Gmail (Collaboration).  Not going Digital is really not an option for many Organisations, especially if they still want to be loved by their customers or to remain agile so they can respond to, or even lead, market changes.

 “If the rate of change on the outside exceeds the rate of change on the inside, the end is near” ex GE CEO Jack Welch

I would be interested in hear from others, on how the CIO remains relevant in this digital or die era, any comments?

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