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Two Steps to Put IT at the Heart of the Business: How Senior IT Professionals Can Get the Business to Fall in Love with IT

Ed HoppittBy Ed Hoppitt

As Valentine’s Day approaches, I thought it appropriate to pose the question: “How do you move IT from being seen as a mere service provider, to being at the heart of key business decisions and initiatives in 2015?” Put in the parlance of romance, “How do you get the business to fall in love with IT?”

In the last few years, technology innovations and emerging business models have enabled competition in surprising new ways—and from surprising new sources. Now supermarkets are becoming retail banks, and Uber has a higher market value than Hertz and Avis combined. When technology enables a competitor to rise from nowhere in no time at all, it’s up to you, as a senior IT professional, to take charge of shaping the business transformation to empower your colleagues—and earn a place in the heart of the business.

But how do you make that happen? The road to IT romance starts with the following steps.

Step 1: Work on Your Image and Approach

If you’re going to woo the business, you’ll want to put your best foot forward. It’s not enough to transform your organisation; you need to be sure the business notices your new positive changes, and experiences the benefits of your efforts.

First, realise that perception of your organisation is everything, and being seen as a roadblock to innovation and agility will not get you that first date. Winning hearts and minds requires focussing on strategy over technology to contribute a fresh approach to achieving goals rather than the “same old same old.”

A large part of this entails transforming how you source and procure IT services. Most IT organisations are still focussed around complex hierarchical structures that simply aren’t agile enough to support a rapidly changing business environment. Hanging on to old delivery models—like old love letters—will only hold you in the past.

Here, the CIO’s leadership is critical in changing the organisation’s image from “gatekeeper” to “orchestrator.” You will need to champion a collaborative, hybrid sourcing model that allows you to draw on internal innovation—or leverage the dynamic new commercial ecosystem—based on the best solution to the challenge at hand.

Step 2: Contribute Something Meaningful to the Relationship

Having worked so hard to get a seat at the table, you’ll want to be sure you have something to offer once you get there. The following are three areas where you can add value to the business in 2015.

  • Hybrid: 2015 is going to be the year hybrid really takes off, becoming wholly integrated with enterprise IT. It will become key to be able to run a true Bi-Modal IT function, where “and” rather than “or” becomes the norm. No longer will a one-size-fits-all approach work, and the ability to be both a trailblazer of innovation for your business, as well as a safe pair of hands is critical going forward.
  • Internet Of Things (IoT): Internet Of Things (IoT): 2015 looks like the year IoT will become all pervasive. For example, British Gas has announced an IoT project called Hive, which allows customers to control their heating from a smartphone. When a commodity utility business unleashes software (a move driven by IT) as a differentiator, other markets (and competitors in the same market) will quickly follow. It is through taking the initiative and spotting that opportunity to use emerging technologies and then drive that change in your business and market that will bring success in this space. If, as CIO, you see an opportunity and seize it, the rest of the business can’t help but recognize IT as an orchestrator – not a gatekeeper.
  • Security: No company is going to accept a ‘Sony’ moment in 2015, and no IT executive is going to survive one. For too long, security management has lagged behind developments elsewhere in IT. Security needs to be at the heart of business, and that means it needs to be associated with workloads and data, not with the expensive proprietary hardware running complex software that doesn’t understand the constructs of the business.

This Valentine’s Day, do your best to help the business fall in love with you. They may not realise it yet, but you’re about to become the key to their future happiness—and survival. It’s time to get their attention and make some magic happen. Good luck!


Ed Hoppitt is a VMware EMEA Advisory Services & CTO Ambassador