By Sue Holly-Rodway
It’s that time again―the dawn of a new year, and its accompanying surge of post-holiday, re-energised intention and commitment to improvement.
My team and I work in the shape-shifting world of technology, helping customers drive business transformation through IT transformation. And that can be challenging simply because today, technology is the business. As Jeff Immelt, CEO of GE Corporation, said, “If you went to bed last night as an industrial company, you’re going to wake up today as a software and analytics company.”
That makes the CIO and IT team central to shaping business strategy, including planning and execution. And of course, you still need to optimise the operation of core systems while reducing operational budgets as well. Based on our experiences over the past year, I wanted to suggest three resolutions to help you meet these goals.
Resolution 1: Put IT in the Driver’s seat
In order to shape successful business transformation, the CIO must be in the driver’s seat. By the end of 2015, act as the “Chief Innovation Officer,” and play a central, creative role in shaping business strategy where technology is the accelerator for growth.
We believe that many businesses still have a long way to go in recognising the central, critical roles of the CIO and IT team in guiding business strategy through expert understanding of how technology can drive growth. So what gets in the way? Often IT is seen by the rest of the organisation as old-fashioned and a roadblock to innovation and agility. All too frequently IT itself is stuck in the mindset that their job is just to keep the systems up and running—and let “the business” worry about the rest. For real transformation to happen, both of those mindsets have to change.
To be in the driver’s seat, the CIO must first be heard in the boardroom, proactively advocating IT-driven business transformation. In addition, the IT organisation needs to change focus from traditional, operational, project-based thinking to innovative, cross-organisational business growth initiatives where technology is central.
In 2015, the transformational CIO will be working to put more focus on innovation. That means sponsoring initiatives that assess the gaps between the current and desired state, and plotting incremental steps toward improvements that don’t disrupt the whole IT organisation. External advisory partners are really helpful in this area, where the challenge isn’t purely the capabilities of the technology, but people and processes as well.
Resolution 2: Drive the journey to the cloud
Nearly every organisation is at some stage of exploring cloud services, especially in terms of enabling innovative new business initiatives to fly―or fail―quickly. Cloud-enabled IT-as-a-Service (ITaaS) should be the natural domain of the CIO and IT, based on their years of experience putting technologies such as security, integration and connectivity at the centre of their strategies. Cloud strategies should be no different.
But this past year, our team has seen multiple examples of organisations lurching toward using so-called “open” or “free” cloud-based services, rather than having a well-thought-out strategy with an execution plan for robust, secure, cloud-based services to support the business as part of a wider technology capability, delivered or brokered through the IT organisation.
As the CIO, make a resolution to create and own the “travel plan” for your organisation’s journey to ITaaS through the cloud. This is a journey that can involve a number of potential potholes along the way – and like all successful journeys, it requires a well-thought-out plan, informed by experience, expertise and appropriate risk management.
An important part of preparing for the journey involves encouraging closer working relationships between the operations and development teams. In a recent VMware Europe CIO event in Barcelona, Spain, IT leaders agreed upon the importance of bringing these teams closer together to build more collaborative ways of working to deliver better outcomes for the business.
Resolution 3: Protect the business with proactive security investments
Today, almost every user in your organisation has one or more mobile devices, which they use—or would like to use—to access business-critical information and applications. The process of closing the gap between IT’s capabilities and end-users’ expectations creates serious cyber security implications that warrant the full attention of the business.
This has typically been regarded as the domain of risk managers, and has not been seen as central to business success. However, the speed of change in technology and the blurring of lines between external and internal IT requires the insight and leadership of the CIO and their technology experts and security teams to address it.
As CIO, resolve to convince the business that cyber security is a business-critical topic and one that merits proactive investment. My team and I have had many conversations on this topic with CIOs and IT leaders in EMEA this year. Elan Yanovsky, ex-CIO of Israel Post, and now part of the EMEA Accelerate Advisory Team, shares this view:
“Though much has been said and written regarding cyber security, this is still the largest threat for the CIO. Many organisations still believe this will only happen to others. Mobile, Cloud and Social push us―IT―toward interesting times but also closer to the hands of evil players. What happened to Sony recently can―and actually does on a daily basis―happen to others. See this infographic from Business Insider on the world’s biggest data breaches. The CIO needs to be allowed to invest more on understanding the threats, exposing the vulnerabilities, and preventing the usage of them. The technology capabilities, such a micro-segmentation in the network, which VMware offers through NSX technology, or managing mobile email through Airwatch mobile management technology, are now available. Now it’s not just an option, it is all about survival.”
In Europe, specifically, IDC predicts the passage of recent EU Data Protection Legislation will also require incremental investment in IT governance and security. The CIO has a critical role to play in guiding the business in the best ways to apply the time and money required to complete a full assessment of the organisation’s security vulnerabilities and take action to eradicate them.
These are just three ideas around goals which might help to reinforce your focus for 2015 – and whatever they are, all the best for a successful and exciting year!
Sue Holly-Rodway is VMware’s Senior Director for Advisory and Professional Services Business Development in EMEA. Sue has held this role since January 2014 and is responsible for driving the deployment of the skills and capabilities in VMware’s Advisory and Professional Services teams.