The enterprise CIO needs a comprehensive strategic plan and quick

Originally posted @ Gigaom Research 10/20/2014

http://research.gigaom.com/2014/10/the-enterprise-cio-needs-a-comprehensive-strategic-plan-and-quick/

There are many who profess to know what goes on within the mind of the CIO and across the IT organization as a whole. The challenge is: If you have not been responsible for the role, it is increasingly difficult to truly understand the complicated world that encompasses enterprise IT organizations. Could they be simplified? In a word, yes. But that is easier said than done. One needs an appreciation for the demands coming from not just technology, but also from other organizations within the company and the IT organization itself. But even that statement does not provide the full depth of the complexity facing today’s CIO.

The CIO balancing act

Today’s CIO is facing a balancing act between legacy solutions, methodologies and the modern-day buzzword bingo. Whether from cloud computing, big data analytics, data center complications, new architectures, new programming languages or just simply (relatively) the changes in the business direction, the complication is far and wide. And even if a CIO agrees and wants to move to a new solution like cloud, there may be other limiting factors to consider.

IT as a strategic weapon

Strategy is not a new or foreign concept to the IT organization. The vast majority of CIOs and IT organizations have a well-defined strategy that outlines how the IT organization supports the company as a whole. At times however, strategy becomes a victim to the interrupt-driven nature of IT requests. Always being one to want to please, the latest request becomes the newest focus for the team.

One opportunity missed by many organizations is how to transition from being the “hero” to being the sought-after strategic weapon for a company. There is a big difference between the two and it resonates greatly on IT’s intrinsic value to the company. The modern-day CIO is shifting from problem solving to providing business leverage. That is not to say that the IT organization gives up the problem solving. It remains, but is table stakes in today’s IT requirements.

Spanning the industries

The shift in thinking is not relegated to a specific region or industry. Silicon Valley, including its wide geography from San Francisco to San Jose, is not alone in the opportunity. Neither are new upstarts in the web scale category. Every single industry and region has the same challenge. Recall that companies operate in a global economy and need to respond accordingly. Eat or be eaten. Even the incumbent is not immune to the changes sitting at the front door.

Cloud implementation v2.0

One way IT organizations are changing the conversation between IT and Line of Business (LoB) teams is in the introduction of cloud computing. Beyond the common use-cases (CRM, HRIS, Email, etc), the implementations vary greatly. One trend coming up is a move to ‘cloud implementation v2.0’. Organizations were quick to try cloud-based services with very mixed results. In many cases, the attempt was fairly haphazard. IT organizations are now stepping back and rethinking their approach to cloud in a more holistic fashion. Where does it apply, how, why and when? But it goes much broader than that.

Shifting gears to focus on data

In order to understand where to apply cloud, understanding the larger objective is critical. This is where data-centric conversations come into play. In the end, it is not just about the application and data, but also about the value to the company. Add in conversations like Big Data, Analytics, Internet of Things (IoT), Industrial Internet and one can see how the complexity just grew exponentially.

The clock is ticking…

The growing complexity for the CIO and IT organization does not translate to more available time. Quite the contrary. The demands that companies are placing on their IT organization are increasing exponentially. This is where a new strategic vision is needed. In order to respond in a timely manner, CIOs will need to rethink their organization, processes, focuses and technology in a holistic manner. It will take time to evolve to the new model. But timing is of the essence. The demand is here today and is only increasing.

What do cloud consolidation and disruption have in common?

Originally posted @ Gigaom Research 10/13/2014

http://research.gigaom.com/2014/10/what-do-cloud-consolidation-and-disruption-have-in-common/

One thing is for sure, we can expect to see much more of cloud consolidation and disruption happening in the IT space over the coming months and years. Recently, Cisco, EMC, HP and IBM have all acquired startups from the cloud space. And each of these acquisitions was disruptive in their own way.

Cloud, in theory, should not be that disruptive. However, the essence of cloud actually presents a compelling disruptive story that is intoxicating to those whom fully understand the potential. That being said, enterprise IT organizations will leverage a combination of traditional IT services and cloud-based solutions.

Not surprisingly, the recent cloud acquisitions sit closest to the current state of the traditional enterprise. Key to this strategy is to 1) expand the portfolio by offering new solutions and 2) evolve the enterprise (and provider) toward a cloud-based strategy.

Keeping score

For those keeping score, Cisco acquired Metacloud. EMC acquired Cloudscaling. HP acquired Eucalyptus. And IBM acquired SoftLayer. Based on the momentum, one could look toward IBM to make the next move. On the other side, with Cisco, EMC and HP going after private cloud solutions, there is a position to take that it is these three to watch. An additional factor to consider is that a startup may have a great solution, but not enough runway (money) to keep them afloat until the market is ready to adopt. Watch for more of these situations, as the overall IT market takes longer to adopt disruptive solutions such as cloud-based solutions.

Shifting the incumbents

Regardless of who moves first, second, third or fourth, the act of acquiring cloud-based solutions will create a shift in the provider’s overall strategy. For the enterprise CIO, one key to watch will be momentum among the cloud startups. Which solutions are up-and-coming and getting quite a bit of attention by early adopters? Two that come to mind are Docker and OpenStack. If OpenStack were a company, this would be the one to watch. In any case, enterprise IT organizations need to keep close watch of this area.

As enterprise IT organizations shift from traditional IT infrastructure to converged infrastructure and onward to cloud-based solutions, the incumbent provider must have an answer to the shift. Let it be noted that the incumbent need not provide all parts of the solution. This is where the ecosystem comes in to create value and fill the gaps in the strategy.

Leveraging innovation

Many ask why the incumbents do not innovate internally and build out their portfolio like they have in past years. With a vibrant industry of up-and-coming potential solutions, there are easier paths to success. Why take the risk and invest significant funding into a number of different strategies only to have one pay off? Instead, watch the space and acquire the right solution that has a proven technology and fits the model well. The key is finding the point when the solution is proven, but not so successful that it demands paying a premium.

For the CIO, this means keeping close tabs on how the cloud space is evolving regardless of the stage of adoption they are at. Cloud solutions impact organization, services, and processes in addition to technology.

Divesting leads to Consolidation

The big breakups of 2014 are leading to further cloud consolidation. Many of the large IT providers have simply gotten too big and too diversified. Divesting is essentially a healthy way to trim their portfolio and refocus the company in leading areas within their industry. Divesting also opens the door to an interesting side effect of acquisition opportunities.

Intersection of cloud consolidation and disruption

Each of the acquisition targets is disruptive in their own right. The market as a whole is also very fragmented with solutions solving a similar problem, but in very different ways. And each company does one thing and one thing very well. The opportunity to explode the solution comes with building out the ecosystem. For the startup, what better way than to sell to a larger organization that has several of the building blocks already integrated and productized. Plus, the alternative of heading toward IPO is just not as appetizing of an equity event as it used to be.

8 Reasons Not to Move to Cloud

Originally posted @ Gigaom Research

http://research.gigaom.com/2014/10/8-reasons-not-to-move-to-cloud/

Cloud-based solutions present the largest opportunity today for the enterprise, business, IT and the Chief Information Officer (CIO). Recent conversations have posed the question about cloud adoption in the enterprise. On the whole, just about every enterprise today is leveraging cloud in some form. It may be a simple application or a complex ERP system. Overall, however, the adoption is fairly anemic. With all of the reasons that drive enterprises to leverage cloud-based solutions, there are a number of reasons that may offer the CIO a moment of pause.

The moment of pause may be temporary or it may be a longer-term situation. In either case, it is important to understand the reasons why in order to respect the decisions. Disclaimer: Not all decisions may make sense to an outsider and some may be a bit irrational. Here are a few of the top reasons organizations may not move an application or workload to a cloud-based alternative.

  1. Application Readiness: The vast majority of applications in use today were never architected with cloud in mind. Sure, the application may have been virtualized, but is it really ready for cloud and offer the same SLA to customers? In one example, a major enterprise firm runs a business-critical app (non-virtualized) running on Windows NT on a tower Compaq Proliant server in their data center. The application cannot be virtualized, let alone migrated to cloud. Are there existing risks to how the application? Yes. But this example is not unique or rare.
  2. Security: The application or more importantly, the data is sensitive and a data breach would present a significant risk to the organization. An extreme example might be secure missions for the government or business-critical Intellectual Property (IP). That is not to say that cloud-based solutions are not secure. But the cloud-based offering that best suits the application may present a challenge (real or perceived).
  3. Cost/ ROI: Yes, cloud is not just about cost savings. However, the all-in cost to migrate and operate an application using cloud-based solutions may not outweigh the option of ‘do nothing.’ For example, if it costs $50k to provide $10k of value, why should it move? Do the other benefits of cloud provide the value? Maybe not.
  4. Priorities: There are risks to moving to cloud and activity required to do so. Does the priority of moving a specific application to cloud overvalue that of other requests coming from Line of Business (LOB) teams? For most IT organizations, their plate is already overflowing and cloud migration creates a conflict in priorities.
  5. Culture: Culture is a hard thing to change. It requires changing many moving parts including the CIO, IT organization, executive team and fellow business units. Bottom line: It does not change overnight. It requires strong leadership, vision and tenacity.
  6. Organization Capability: Is the IT organization cloud-ready? Meaning, how well has the organization truly prepared to consider a cloud-first methodology? As an example, have they adopted a DevOps methodology? Or does the organization look at cloud as simply a different form of virtualization? There are many aspects to consider about the team, their skills and processes before making the move.
  7. Market Maturity: Even if all of the pieces are in place and an application is a good candidate for cloud, the market offerings may not offer the level of maturity required. In tech terms, cloud is just entering it’s teenage years and still rough around the edges. Are there mature solutions in the mix? Yes. But also a number of rambunctious alternatives too.
  8. FUD: Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt. Yes, it is 2014, and it is well and alive in the CIO and IT organization. Is cloud a fad? It is easy to point the finger at FUD and most really despise this issue, but that does not change the fact that it is a reality in some organizations today.

With all of the negativity, there are a number of very valid reasons to hold off on cloud. Timing is everything. Three months from now, the landscape can change to present a different decision.

For those CIOs that see the promise that cloud provides, they will address many of these issues. Some issues may present a challenge for some time to come. Key is to consider the holistic view of cloud, and what it represents in terms of opportunities and challenges. In the end, business leaders do not care how an application is delivered. They just want it delivered. Aside from the reasons above, cloud still provides significant opportunities too.

Could Rackspace start the cloud vertical movement?

Originally posted @ Gigaom Research 10/8/2014

http://research.gigaom.com/2014/10/could-rackspace-start-the-cloud-vertical-movement/

There are plenty of other posts detailing whether Rackspace (NYSE: RAX) should sell or split. I detailed my own thoughts here back in May 2014. With the speculation continuing to twist in different directions, one thought got me thinking. Ideally, the board of Rackspace would do what they felt was best for shareholders. Maybe the current thinking of split or sell is too simplistic. Maybe there is a possibility that takes them from the muddled world of cloud infrastructure players to a relatively niche area that is ripe for the taking. This shift would put Rackspace in a unique position of differentiation.

Leading the cloud verticals

What if Rackspace shifted gears to focus solely on providing services to cloud verticals? We already know that Rackspace does a fine job of their hosting and cloud services. To that end, their ‘Fanatical Support’ is well respected in the industry. Put cloud verticals together with Fanatical Support and it may end up being a fine option for the future of a leading organization. There are still challenges between the hosting and cloud business revenue models to consider. But beyond that, there is a chance to delve into an area that presents a challenge for many would-be cloud customers.

Starting with Healthcare

Across the spectrum of industries, the financial performance of healthcare (+23.7%) has outperformed other industries in the past year with information technology (+22.0%) trailing closely behind. There are a number of use cases in which cloud computing could (and does) provide value to healthcare organizations. Even considering the compliance requirements of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), cloud services from IaaS to SaaS make sense. Creating a specific vertical of services that is centered around environments with regulatory issues such as HIPAA enable an easier decision for healthcare organizations as opposed to the alternative where they create their own cloud-based solution.

Fanatical Support pivots

One of the core tenants to Rackspace’s value has been their Fanatical Support. Over the years, their Fanatical Support has served as a key differentiator for the company. Considering the specialized needs of different verticals (like healthcare), it would make sense to pivot this support model from general-purpose support to specialized support for each vertical. Again, bringing support back into the fold as a core differentiator and building on their existing successes.

The value of specialization

In the general-purpose cloud market, the services are fairly confusing and muddled. Not to mention the drive toward razor-thin margins. Different cloud providers offer slightly different features, classes of services and ecosystems. By specializing on cloud verticals, Rackspace could lead the charge in building a specific ecosystem around specific verticals. It has long been discussed that cloud verticals is the logical next step for cloud maturity. Pairing their support model with the specialized services needed by each vertical would create a new level of differentiation and potentially different economic model. And this economic model would present an opportunity for growth beyond the general-purpose cloud solutions offered today. Add in the leadership that Rackspace covets in the OpenStack space and the interest only grows further.

Is Rackspace the only provider that could leverage this route? No. But considering the position that Rackspace currently holds and their suite of components, it would be an interesting approach to follow. And it might present an opportunity for the entire company to pivot without considering sale or split. Granted, there is still a good case to be made for going private too.

5 things to prepare the CIO for disruption

Originally posted @ Gigaom Research 9/22/2014

http://research.gigaom.com/2014/09/5-things-to-prepare-the-cio-for-disruption/

 

For years, IT organizations operated in a certain way. They provided a relatively standard service in a particular way. Of course, both of these evolved incrementally year over year. Over the past 5-10 years, that direction has changed pretty significantly. And it shows no sign of stopping anytime soon.

Data Center

10 years ago, if one said ‘death of the data center’ in a room of IT leaders, it would be seen as heresy. Today, IT leaders are actively looking for ways to ‘get out of the data center business.’ If you are one of the corporate environments not already thinking about this strategy, you are behind the curve. No longer is a physical data center a representative requirement to operate IT. Today, many options from colocation to cloud Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) exist to replace this functionality. Not only does it exist, many solutions are already mature and more sophisticated than traditional approaches within the corporate data center.

Organization

At the other end of the spectrum, the organization is undergoing a significant shift too. Traditional organizations thought of their ‘customers’ as the internal users of the organization. The focus was predominantly on the internal operations of the company. Development may have spanned externally to partners and customers, but in specific ways. IT organizations are shifting to determine who their ‘customers’ really are. The shift in thinking starts with a change in focus. And that focus is one of the preparations.

Partnerships

The way IT organizations interacted with ‘customers’ was typically as two different organizations. The discussion typically included a distinction between IT and ‘the business.’ To some, this appears as an us-and-them perspective. The two were seen as very different and therefore required a different level of partnering within the company. At the same time, IT needed to clearly understand how ‘the business’ operated and at times translate between business requirements and IT deliverables. Part of the changes over time created a means to clarify this partnership. However, changes to the perspective assist with the introduction of disruptive methodologies. For example, Shadow IT, to some a threat, can become a real asset.

Changes in customers and users

Consumption expectations for customers and users changed as well. Consumers became more technologically savvy and demanded more. Overnight, consumers become familiar, and more comfortable with solutions quicker than IT organizations could adopt them. The technology available to consumers rapidly became more sophisticated. The combination of these two drove a change in consumer behaviors. Consumers, and customers became more demanding of technology…and by extension, corporate IT.

Getting ready for disruption

So, how does the CIO respond to these changes in a timely and meaningful manner? Start at the top and work down. That means, start with a business-centric approach that takes the perspective of the true customer (the company’s customer) and work your way down.

  1. Business-Centric Perspective: Change the culture and perspective to focus on a business-centric approach. Stop focusing on IT as a technology organization. The CIO needs to be a business leader that happens to have responsibility for technology. Not the other way around. Instill this change within the IT organization that is both meaningful but also helps staff adapt to the changing landscape. This will take time, but must be a mission for IT.
  2. Adopt DevOps: A fundamental premise behind DevOps is the ability for IT to work more holistically across traditional silos (applications & operations). Brining the teams together to work collaboratively and effectively is essential to the future IT organization and their customers.
  3. Stay Flexible & Responsive: Customers expect quicker response to change. Instead of building a fortress that will withstand the test of time, build one that will adapt to the changing business climate and requirements.
  4. Engage Cloud: Cloud is the single largest opportunity for IT organizations today. Plan a holistic strategy to leverage cloud in appropriate ways. For many this will look like a hybrid strategy that evolves over time versus a haphazard approach.
  5. Challenge the Status Quo: Lastly, do not assume that the way things were done in the past will work moving forward. Many organizations struggle to find success with newer methodologies because they apply past paradigms. In some ways, it is almost easier to forget the past and think about how to start from scratch. Momentum can provide some resistance, but it is healthy to challenge the status quo.

Each of these steps provides a different perspective that helps shift the thinking around IT. It starts with the CIO and involves both the IT organization and the business organizations outside of IT. Each of these five steps provides the change in perspective to evolve the IT organization and value it provides.

IBM BLU Acceleration speaks to core business challenges with Cancun Release

Originally posted @ Gigaom Research 9/15/2014

http://research.gigaom.com/2014/09/ibm-blu-acceleration-speaks-to-core-business-challenges-with-cancun-release/

 

IBM’s BLU Acceleration is starting to make inroads in addressing common issues faced by enterprise IT organizations. BLU Acceleration is IBM’s in-memory database processing is based on DB2. In-memory processing provides significant performance advantages over traditional methods by eliminating the need to constantly read and write from hard drives. Instead, BLU Acceleration pulls the data into memory and performs the analytical processes within memory. This results in accelerated performance during analytical operations.

IBM’s Cancun Release of BLU Acceleration includes a number of new enhancements to the core product including support for Shadow Tables, Oracle & SAP and IBM’s POWER8 integration.

Shadow Tables

The Cancun Release provides the ability to conduct operations using tables on top of existing tables within the database. Interestingly, the Shadow Tables are column-oriented versus traditional row-oriented tables. This provides a second layer of capability without impacting the performance of core table structures.

Integration with Oracle and SAP

In different ways, IBM is providing greater integration with both Oracle and SAP. For Oracle, IBM is providing tools to migrate existing Oracle environments into IBM DB2 in order to retain existing work. This is key when considering a move from one database platform to another.

For SAP, IBM has provided greater integration with SAP BW (Business Warehouse) beyond the core offering. In doing so, SAP workloads can leverage BLU Acceleration with a number of enhancements. It will be interesting to see how this space evolves compared with SAP’s own in-memory solution, SAP HANA.

Integration with IBM POWER8 processor

The last of the Cancun Release enhancements provides optimizations that fully leverage the POWER8 processor such as concurrent multithreading and 128-bit register instructions. In doing so, IBM creates a powerful combination of tying software applications to engage specific hardware features and therefore optimizing the application for the hardware platform.

Migration Required

IBM BLU Acceleration provides a number of opportunities for in-memory database process. The catch is that it leverages IBM’s DB2 database. In order to leverage the benefits, customers will need to migrate from their existing platform (Oracle, SQL, etc) to DB2.

For organizations looking to enhanced performance in their Big Data and Analytics operations, in-memory processing is key. DB2 with BLU Acceleration is an interesting solution but may pose a moment of pause for non-DB2 customers when considering the requirements to migrate. For Oracle customers, the migration tools in the Cancun Release will help with this process.

CIOs ill equipped to manage the growing security threats

Originally posted @ Gigaom Research 9/7/2014

http://research.gigaom.com/2014/09/cios-ill-equip…curity-threats/ ‎

Security, or Information Security (InfoSec) as the more formal term, is going through a period of massive change. In recent months, the public has become keenly aware of the risks from Information Security. Public security issues at Target, UPS, Apple’s iCloud, Home Depot and the government’s Healthcare.gov website moved the security awareness front and center for the general public. When considering the reach of these companies, statistically speaking, it is highly probable that one or more of these issues has affected most in the US.

Public awareness

At a recent conference of CIOs, Chief Information Security Officers (CISO), CEOs and security experts discussed the challenges all companies face. One expert noted that security is a balance between privacy and security. While that may be true, risk also must be considered along with cost. One could argue that ethics may or may not play a role in the decision too. While somewhat unrelated, it does bring to mind the case study of the Ford Pinto. The decisions made can impact a great number of people.

Security’s big data problem

Today’s security problem has evolved from the days of firewalls and virus protection. Today’s security problem is far more complex and involves people, mobile devices, unsecure networks, complex applications and subtle footprints. These subtle footprints, while independently insignificant, point to a larger issue when considered with other data points.

Collaboration, whether within a company or across companies is key. Competitors within a single industry are even starting to collaborate on security issues. In addition, the volume of data being analyzed is really a big data problem. No longer are the days where just looking for a certain ‘signature’ will suffice. Threats are far more sophisticated, clever and adaptable.

Reducing the risk footprint

One way to break down the problem is to look across the enterprise and break down the risk footprint. The risk footprint is the area that is most sensitive to the enterprise. It may refer to systems, applications or data. Simply treating all systems, networks, applications and data equal, creates a fairly daunting problem. In addition, the problem is only getting more complex, not simpler. Reducing the footprint allows the organization to understand the varying degrees of risk and bring attention to those areas that need it. In many ways, it provides clarity for the organization to focus on the crown jewels.

Defining the crown jewels

As with any assessment, understanding what is critical is key. According to Alex Stamos, Yahoo’s CISO, “Nobody but Microsoft is qualified to run Exchange today.” One could argue with that statement in the past. Today, one would be hard-pressed to argue, as Exchange gets increasingly more complex and becomes more of a utility to companies rather than a strategic differentiator. It is those more sensitive areas that one needs to focus on.

New threat vectors

In addition to commercial applications like Exchange, the IT organization needs to consider (relatively) new potential threat vectors from open source software and Internet of Things (IoT). Open source software is not new. However, it is gaining wider appeal in the enterprise IT organization. According to Tom Reilly, CEO of Cloudera, “400 people look at commercial software versus open source where 4 million people look at it.” Even major companies such as Salesforce take an ‘open source first’ approach with software.

Open source is not the only new tool in the shed getting the InfoSec attention. IoT is both exciting and scary at the same time. Unlike traditional IT systems, networks and applications, IoT presents an exponentially complex problem for security. Concerns circle around IoT being built on a broken foundation that was not built for IoT. PG&E, the main power and gas utility in the San Francisco Bay Area is concerned about security and IoT with their smart meters. PG&E uses IoT to evaluate the validation of devices and data coming in to avoid fake power outages. Without validation, the ramifications could be huge. And that is just the start. What happens when IoT devices such as wearables become more commonplace, but not updated. Each of those could present a growing threat.

The sky is not falling

According to Yahoo’s Stamos, “There is nothing that Yahoo can buy today to solve the problems.” The panel of security experts mentioned that when considering threats from nation states, there are only 30-40 Fortune 500 companies that are keeping up.

With all of the concerns, one could easily become paranoid. It is good to keep a healthy degree of concern around security, but support innovation and new paradigms. Cyber security is not going away, it is just going to evolve. Today’s CIO and IT organization needs to understand, stay on top of and adapt accordingly.

Three harmonious factors that change the CIO octave

Originally published @ Gigaom Research 9/1/2014

http://research.gigaom.com/2014/09/three-harmonious-factors-that-change-the-cio-octave/

Wikipedia: The term harmony derives from the Greek ‘harmonia’, meaning “joint, agreement, concord”, from the verb ‘harmozo’, “to fit together, to join.

The future of the CIO role comes down to this very issue. Many speak of the demise of the Chief Information Officer (CIO). Yet, a growing contingent of folks sees the path to success for the ‘new’ CIO role. Make no mistake; the (old) traditional CIO looks little to nothing like the (new) transformational CIO role. Unfortunately, many in traditional CIO roles will never make it into transformational CIO roles. The leap between the two roles will prove too great for many.

While these changes may seem obvious, actual widespread adoption continues to lag. Companies and their business leaders are craving these CIO success factors, yet they remain illusive.

Shifting focus

For those looking to shift gears to a higher orbit, there are a number of core success factors that come to light. Each of these provides the alignment necessary to refocus the CIO role toward a business-centric role.

  1. Follow the Money: Focus on key areas that govern the flow of money both in and out of the company.
  2. Partner: Go beyond just the basics of partnering with fellow business leaders. Truly understand their objectives and propose ways to enhance or expand their opportunities. In order to partner, collaboration is a must.
  3. Communicate: Providing regular status reports will not cut it. Use communication vehicles to communicate the IT priorities and how they benefit both the company and the specific leader’s objectives.

All about business

At a CIO Summit last week, the executive recruiter panel addressed how CEOs and other business leaders in search of a CIO are changing their perspective and ostensibly, their wish list. Instead of asking the executive recruiter to ‘get me one of these’ with specific technical or leadership skills, they are looking for CIOs with greater business knowledge about their industry…and the ability to apply that knowledge.

Similar to other IT roles where someone has a certification (ie: CCIE, MCSE, ITIL, CISSP), the certification itself brings little to no value without the ability to apply it. A CIO in title may only bring limited value without the applicability. For the CIO, this means quickly understanding the industry, company, customers and how the flow of money takes place.

Follow the Money

Key to starting is in understanding how the company makes money. How does the ecosystem of money flow both in, and out, of the company? Which departments or divisions are key to driving both top-line revenue and bottom-line expenses for the company. What attributes are critical in maintaining this ‘engine’ of commerce within the company? A successful CIO will clearly understand the process, the players and the levers of opportunity.

Partner

Partnering today means building a symbiotic two-way relationship that mutually benefits both parties. This means that the CIO must build critical relationships with fellow c-suite executives across the organization. In order to accomplish this, the CIO must be open-minded and collaborative in nature. Walking in with a closed-minded, technology-centric agenda need not apply. One must possess the ability to reach escape velocity from the daily grind. In addition, the language used in these conversations needs to shift from technology to business. For many, this means talking about money and how it applies to the executive(s) at the table. Applicability of the conversation is key to the success of the collaborative process. The CIO needs to lead this conversation, which may push them well outside their typical comfort zone.

Communicate

We have all heard the phrase: Communicate, communicate, communicate. But is it the right communication? More is not always better if it isn’t the right content. Part and parcel with the collaborative nature of the relationship, the CIO needs to clearly communicate their priorities and how they benefit the company and/or the specific executive’s priorities. In some case, the CIO’s objectives may not benefit the executive in question, but that doesn’t mean it should be omitted. There is a level of appreciation in understanding (and respecting) the CIO’s methods of prioritization among fellow executives. This leads the CIO to greater credibility and buy-in.

CIO = Career Is Over?

In a word: Hardly. The role of the traditional CIO is at a state of plateau. However, the role of the traditional CIO is just getting ramped up. The business-centric transformational CIO will thrive and succeed beyond the current expectations. One trend that exemplifies this is the appointment of CIOs to corporate boards of publicly traded companies. We can only expect far more opportunities from the CIO as the momentum of this evolution takes firm hold.

Seven Things the CIO should consider when adopting a holistic cloud strategy

Originally posted @ Gigaom Research 8/25/14

http://research.gigaom.com/2014/08/seven-things-the-cio-should-consider-when-adopting-a-holistic-cloud-strategy/

 

As conversations about cloud computing continues to focus on IT’s inability at holistic adoption, organizations outside of IT continue their cloud adoption trek outside the prevue of IT. While many of these efforts are considered Shadow IT efforts and frowned upon by the IT organization, they are simply a response to a wider problem.

The IT organization needs to adopt a holistic cloud strategy. However, are CIOs really ready for this approach? Michael Keithley, Creative Artists Agency’s CIO just returned from CIO Magazine’s CIO 100 Symposium which brings together the industry’s best IT leaders. In his blog post, he notes that “(he) was shocked to find that even among this elite group of CIOs there were still a significant amount of CIOs who where resisting cloud.” While that perspective is widely shared, it does not represent all CIOs. There are still a good number of CIOs that have moved to a holistic cloud strategy. The problem is that most organizations are still in a much earlier state of adoption.

In order to develop a holistic cloud strategy, it is important to follow a well-defined process. The four steps are straightforward and fit just about any organization:

  1. Assess: Provide a holistic assessment of the entire IT organization, applications and services that is business focused, not technology focused. For the CIO, they are a business leader that happens to have responsibility for technology. Understand what is differentiating and what is not.
  2. Roadmap: Use the options and recommendations from the assessment to provide a roadmap. The roadmap outlines priority and valuations that ultimately drive the alignment of IT.
  3. Execute: This is where the rubber hits the road. IT organizations will learn more about themselves through action. For many, it is important to start small (read: lower risk) and ramp up quickly.
  4. Re-Assess & Adjust: As the IT organization starts down the path of execution, lessons are learned and adjustments needed. Those adjustments will span technology, organization, process and governance. Continual improvement is a key hallmark to staying in tune with the changing demands.

For many, following this process alone is not enough to develop a holistic cloud strategy. In order to successfully leverage a cloud-based solution, several things need to change that may contradict current norms. Today, cloud is leveraged in many ways from Software as a Service (SaaS) to Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). However, it is most often a very fractured and disjointed approach to leveraging cloud. Yet, the very applications and services in play require that organizations consider a holistic approach in order to work most effectively.

When considering a holistic cloud strategy, there are a number of things the CIO needs to consider including these six:

  1. Challenge the Status Quo: This is one of the hardest changes as the culture within IT developed over decades. One example is changing the mindset that ‘critical systems may not reside outside your own data center’ is not trivial. On the other hand, leading CIOs are already “getting out of the data center business.” Do not get trapped by the cultural norms and the status quo.
  2. Differentiation: Consider which applications and services are true differentiators for your company. Focus on the applications and services that provide strategic value and shift more common functions (ie: email) to alternative solutions like Microsoft Office 365 or Google Apps.
  3. Align with Business Strategy: Determine how IT can best enable and catapult the company’s business strategy. If IT is interested in making a technology shift, consider if it will bring direct positive value to the business strategy. If it does not, one should ask a number of additional questions determining the true value of the change. With so much demand on IT, focus should be on those changes that bring the highest value and align with the business strategy.
  4. Internal Changes: Moving to cloud changes how organizations, processes and governance models behave. A simple example is how business continuity and disaster recovery processes will need to change in order to accommodate the introduction of cloud-based services. For organizations, cloud presents both an excitement of something new and a fear from loss of control and possible job loss. CIOs need to ensure that this area is well thought out before proceeding.
  5. Vendor Management: Managing a cloud provider is not like every other existing vendor relationship. Vendor management comes into sharp focus with the cloud provider that spans far more than just the terms of the Service Level Agreement (SLA).
  6. Exit Strategy: Think about the end before getting started. Exiting a cloud service can happen for good or bad reasons. Understand what the exit terms are and in what for your data will exist. Exporting a flat file could present a challenge if the data is in a structured database. However, that may be the extent of the provider’s responsibility. When considering alternative providers, recognize that shifting workloads across providers is not necessarily as trivial as it might sound. It is important to think this through before engaging.
  7. Innovation: Actively seek out ways to adopt new solutions and methodologies. For example, understand the value from Devops, OpenStack, Containers and Converged Infrastructure. Each of these may challenge traditional thinking, which is ok.

Those are seven of the top issues that often come up in the process of setting a holistic cloud strategy. Cloud offers the CIO, the IT organization and the company as a whole one of the greatest opportunities today. Cloud is significant, but only the tip of the iceberg. For the CIO and their organization, there are many more opportunities beyond cloud today that are already in the works.

Cloud is now a boardroom discussion and more are requesting CIO adoption

Originally posted @ Gigaom Research 8/18/14

http://research.gigaom.com/2014/08/cloud-is-now-a-boardroom-discussion-and-more-are-requesting-cio-adoption/

Cloud computing and the board of directors may seem like an odd match. However, it is not the first time that executives and technology have met up. It may come as a surprise, but those magazines in the airplane seat back pocket are influential for technology. An airline publishes their magazine in which features about the latest innovation have influenced the direction of technology for years. The inflection point of a technology going mainstream often happens when it becomes the magazine cover story. An executive reads the article and asks when their company can leverage said technology.

Cloud goes mainstream

Using this methodology, cloud computing’s inflection point to mainstream took place in May 2009 when Continental Airlines (now merged with United Airlines) published a cover story on Russ Daniels, then HP’s Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, Cloud Services Strategy. Surprisingly, cloud was still very much in its infancy in May 2009. Corporate IT organizations were neither broadly discussing cloud nor planning wide-scale adoption. That was five years ago.

Fast-forward five years later to August 2014. Over the past several months an interesting trend in cloud is starting to emerge. While cloud continues to be a discussion point among executives, the board of directors is now raising the topic of cloud.

The Chief Information Officer (CIO) is already under pressure to adopt cloud among an increasingly complex IT portfolio. And now the board of directors is asking their CIO about cloud adoption. Ironically, the overall adoption of cloud continues at a rather sluggish pace.

Is the boardroom the right place to discuss a company’s wholesale cloud adoption? Probably not. Cloud does present the single largest lever for the CIO to help catapult the company forward. Which specific tools are used and how they are applied does affect business strategy. However, at the end of the day, cloud is still just a technology. Technology is a tool, not a strategy. Nor does simply employing cloud result in a magical business windfall. Connecting the dots between cloud and business is a bit more complex.

Upping the ante

The board of directors asking about cloud should not be a surprise. Cloud is a technology, but is widely used across both consumer and corporate worlds. Cloud also spans industries and geographies. In many ways, cloud represents a wide range of solutions to a quickly changing landscape. Conceptually, cloud is a broad solution to a number of problems. So, why should the board of directors not be interested in it? The problem is not that it comes up in a board meeting. The problem is in who brings it up: The CIO or a board member?

In a related vein, shadow IT is seen as a response to a discrepancy between needs and solutions. This is very similar to the questions being asked by board members today. The pace of business is increasing and companies are looking for ways to break free of the constraints. To some, traditional IT is viewed as a constraint that must change.

As IT pressure increases, so does visibility up the leadership chain to the board of directors. Customers are already making purchase decisions based on the technology of one company versus another. Companies and their respective IT organization must adapt to this changing customer behavior through the use of Social, Mobile, Analytics and Cloud (SMAC).

Seeking relief from the pressure

Change is hard. The world of IT is not getting simpler; it is getting far more complex. IT organizations see this first hand every day and are seeking relief from the building pressure. However, traditional approaches are simply not enough to keep up.

Relief needs to come from non-traditional means. In many ways, cloud presents a non-traditional approach to the norm. It is important not to underestimate the amount of momentum behind traditional IT approaches. Looking back at the anthropology of IT, one quickly understands why.

The challenge for today’s CIO comes down to a few key items:

  • Understand the Business: First and foremost, understand how the company makes money. It may sound simple, but understand the different value chains, opportunities and challenges. Look for opportunities to improve and/ or grow.
  • Executive Engagement: As CIO, engage peer executives and board members at a business level. Up-level the conversation from that of technology to business.
  • Balancing Innovation vs. Legacy: Strike a balance between quick adoption of new methodologies and management of existing legacy solutions. Specific to cloud, establish a holistic cloud strategy while maintaining a solid operational footing with legacy systems.
  • Challenge the Norm: Traditional IT approaches are not enough to turn the corner. Look for new, innovative ways that change the path of inertia.
  • Organizational Shift: Establish a vision that engages staff in the changes.

In specific terms for the CIO role, it could be more dramatic and mean the difference between relevance and extinction.