Why isn’t being a CIO fair? Because you have to pay attention to both IT and the business, and the business only has to pay attention to the business. It’s like you have twice the work.
It’s even worse than that, though. Your colleagues on the business side don’t really care what you do. They just want to make sure what you do enables them to do what they need to do – without interfering with their ability to do it. They don’t care about infrastructure – they just want it to be reliable. They don’t care about security – they just don’t want their data hacked. They don’t care about technology – they just want to be innovative. But CIOs have to worry about all of that – the technology and how it affects the business.
I’m thinking about the inequity CIOs face because I recently spent a few weeks meeting with customers across the U.S., Europe, the Middle East and Africa. I was lucky enough to see a nice cross-section of today’s IT challenges, talking with executives at various levels within IT, working at companies of various sizes and in multiple industries. Many of these executives have simply gotten over the idea of IT being fair. It’s like saying doctors have to deal with being on call at night – that’s just the way it is in this line of work.
These CIOs have moved to a new level of understanding, of acceptance, to a new place where they don’t talk about how difficult IT is, they just focus on how they can best serve the business. It’s all about transformation, about delivering agility. Some of it is about reducing cost at the same time, but most of it is creating a stage upon which the business can perform, where nobody sees or cares what IT is doing behind the curtain.
Here’s what three transformational CIOs are doing to make the business more agile:
One CIO I met serves a global builder of ships, of all sizes and configurations. In order to serve customers better, the company needed to design quickly, get those plans approved, and begin construction. That required follow-the-sun operations with a combination of in-house and outsourced design, which meant that shared design tools had to be accessible from anywhere in the world. The CIO oversaw the creation of a highly virtualized network with automated access to design applications (and appropriate security based on roles). The result: reduced design-to-build time for customers around the world while maintaining security and privacy for their sensitive data.
Another CIO leads a financial services firm, part of an industry that’s besieged by distributed denial-of-service (DDOS) attacks from hackers around the world. In order to provide the highest level of protection, this CIO deployed a state-of-the-art virtualized architecture – while also rethinking how virtualization and security should work together in specific zones to create better data protection. The architecture incorporates new application design that takes into account both cloud computing and security, in such a way that data is protected. The result: more uptime and protection, with reduced risk of attack. The implementation has been so successful that the CIO is sharing it with other CIOs in the region.
Savvy CIOs are collaborating with their business counterparts on how technology can enhance revenue. At one manufacturer I visited, the CIO is working with the business to expand revenues through new value-added services. The IT requirements included improved connectivity to the cloud and mobile access from anywhere. He supported the effort by ordering significant data center consolidation in order to improve operational efficiencies, driving down costs through virtualization and creating a standardized software-defined data center. The result: more innovative services, competitive differentiation, higher revenue, and deeper customer engagement.
These are all examples of how CIOs moving from defense to offense and transforming their IT roles in order to better align with the business and drive change. What’s the common thread here? The infrastructure – the stage on which the business performs. These CIOs understand the needs of their business. They understand how to link technologies such as cloud and virtualization to make change happen. It’s still not fair that CIOs have to make those transformational connections, and do it without the satisfaction of knowing the business understands and appreciates what it takes to make transformation happen. But these CIOs have been able to improve agility, as well as increase revenues, reduce risk, or both. What they lose out in fairness, they gain in results.
Ramin Sayar is senior vice president and general manager of VMware. He blogs regularly about the ongoing challenges customers face in a changing IT world.
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