Business · Cloud · Data

How cloud is changing the business and IT landscape

 

Enterprises around the globe are facing disruption from a number of different directions. To combat this disruption, they increasingly turn to cloud computing.

Cloud computing is the single biggest opportunity for organizations to dramatically change how their business operates through changes in their Information Technology (IT) landscape. Organizations are evaluating ways to leverage cloud-based solutions in differentiated ways. As these organizations evaluate how best to leverage cloud, there are a number of factors to consider when moving into a cloud-based world.

SHIFTING HOW WE THINK ABOUT ORGANIZATIONS

The move for enterprises leveraging cloud-based technology causes more than just a shift in technology. It also causes a shift in how we think about strategy, organization and culture. In the past, enterprises were required to build their strategy, organization and support around the entire technology platform. There were few to no other reasonable options.

In the cloud-based era, those aspects change. Today, there are mature, viable solutions that allow the enterprise to leverage alternatives. By shifting functions that are important but not strategic nor differentiated, it allows organizations to shift their focus as well.

By making this shift, organizations are able to up-level conversations and focus on business outcomes rather than technology features. These changes open the door to other shifts as well.

CHANGING THE WAY WE WORK

Two of those shifts directly impact the advantage to a business and their customers. The first shift is leverage. Cloud computing provides leverage in ways not previously feasible. IT organizations now have access to a bevy of solutions and virtually unlimited resources. Prior to cloud computing, organizations were limited in their ability to quickly scale resources and leverage new technology. For many, cost constraints were a significant limitation to potential growth.

Beyond technology, cloud provides the organization with the ability to leverage the expertise of others. As mentioned, previous methods required IT organizations to be an expert across a myriad of strategic and non-strategic areas. With cloud, organizations can focus on those aspects strategic and differentiated for their business and customers. This shifts the organization and culture to focus more directly on solutions that provide business advantage.

The second shift is speed. Unlike past options that may take weeks or months for the availability of applications and resources, cloud shortens the time to a matter of minutes. As businesses are looking for ways to respond quickly to ever-changing customer requirements, this rapid flexibility provides the organization with the ability to respond in a timely fashion.

OPENING UP NEW OPPORTUNITES

Aside from speed, cloud opens up a whole new world of opportunity for organizations. Historically, there was a minimum cost of entry for many of the more advanced systems. Unfortunately, these costs were far outside the realm of possibility for Small and Medium Businesses (SMB). With cloud, SMB organizations now have access to the same solutions as the largest of enterprises. Essentially, this levels the playing field by lowering the barriers to entry of these advanced systems.

As organizations shift toward a greater focus on customers through quicker and more accurate business decisions, so does their reliance on data. At the same time, organizations are facing an explosion of data. Traditional reporting and analytics are collapsing under the weight of this new influx of data.

To combat the data deluge, organizations are increasing their reliance on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) to automate the insights gleaned from the data. While AI & ML require large quantities of data, traditional solutions are simply unable to provide the resources that AI & ML algorithms require. Again, cloud computing opens the door to organizations, large and small, to leverage these advanced functions.

BRINGING IT TOGETHER

The combination of cloud-based resources with advanced functions provide organizations with new opportunities to glean greater insights much quicker than previously possible. Cloud’s leverage provides organizations the ability to shift the IT landscape to focus on business outcomes and strategic initiatives rather than deep technical expertise.

In summary, cloud computing presents not only an alternative option for technology consumption, but a required pillar for tomorrow’s business.

 

This post is sponsored by:

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Business · CIO

Understanding the Network Effect in IT

When discussing the combination of Information Technology (IT) & network, one quickly runs to thinking about cabling, connectors, switches, hubs and routers. However, there is another type of network that has nothing to do with technology yet directly impacts the effectiveness of an IT organization. This type of network involves people, empathy, credibility and humility.

THE NETWORK EFFECT

Many enterprise organizations believe that the Chief Information Officer (CIO) or the senior most person in IT is the key person that engages with the rest of the company. That is only slightly correct as it ignores the impact from the rest of the IT organization. And it is this impact that actually has a more significant bearing on how those outside of the IT organization view the organization itself. What is at work here is the Network Effect.

How does the network effect affect IT? Let us assume that the CIO spends all 40 hours each week engaging with those outside of IT. Yet, their staff of 100 only spends 20% of their time engaging outside of IT. That would equate to (100 staff x 20% of time x 40 hrs/wk) 800 hours each week or 20x more time than the CIO.

While it is important for the CIO to carry a consistent and appropriate message when engaging with those outside of IT, the same is true for rest of the IT organization. The more people that engage with folks outside of IT, the greater the network effect. And from a numbers perspective, the impact is significant. So is the risk.

UPSIDES AND DOWNSIDES

Creating a consistent message and culture is a critical objective for any leader, not just the CIO. However, when it comes to IT, there are other factors that can turn a positive opportunity into a negative experience.

Most leaders understand the importance of credibility and empathy. This is especially true when considering the support nature of an IT organization. When moving further into the organization, these qualities are often less developed or immature. As a consequence, a potentially positive interaction can quickly turn negative in the form of diminishing credibility for the entire organization.

Each organization is unique in their culture, leadership, and way they engage. Whether it be the CIO or their staff, one should never lose sight of the big picture as it provides the context and guidance for everyone in the company. It is easy to get caught up in the situation and lose sight of the overall situation. Even the smallest actions can have a demonstrable impact.

Too often, IT folks try to mask transparency and quickly run toward solutions centered around their frame of reference which often comes from a siloed perspective. As such, they lack empathy in the user’s situation and how it relates to the big picture.

THE SOFT SKILLS

In IT, we tend to focus on the hard skills of technology with less emphasis on the softer side. Yet, it is those soft skills that can quickly turn a situation into either a positive or negative one. Showing genuine empathy to a situation without placing blame creates a very different perspective.

In the end, whether you are a CIO, leader of an IT organization or individual contributor, it is important to understand the impact of your actions and the actions of your staff. Even those interactions that may seem innocuous can have a resounding and lasting effect. It can lead to building credibility or tearing it down. And credibility is what provides the foundation for relationships, yet we often do not think about how our actions build or diminish it. Hence, the network effect creates a level of opportunity and challenge.

CIO

The difference between the Traditional CIO and the Transformational CIO

Over the past several years, the role of the Chief Information Office (CIO) has changed. If you are a CIO, do you know which type you most closely align with…or aspire to be? If you are working with a CIO, do you know the characteristics and why they are so important? The details are incredibly important regardless of your stakeholder status as a partner, customer, board member or fellow c-suite member.

The CIO’s job is hard and complicated. To gain a full appreciation of why, one needs to truly understand the anthropology of IT. That alone is worthy of a book. Suffice it to say that decades were spent creating the role of the CIO and IT culture. One cannot simply unwind decades of culture over the course of a couple of years. This is where my concept of the Three-Legged Race for transformation comes in. The CIO, IT organization and rest of the organization must work together for transformation to truly take shape.

THE TRADITIONAL CIO

When most of us think of a CIO, we are thinking of the traditional CIO. There are several characteristics that identify the traditional CIO. Many of the traditional CIO characteristics are centered around building an organization that supports technology. This makes sense, and fits well for organizations that have not started their digital transformation journey.

cio-characteristics-traditional

However, the role of the traditional CIO is in decline. As more organizations recognize the strategic value that technology plays, the demand for the CIO shifts from traditional to transformational.

THE TRANSFORMATIONAL CIO

The transformational CIO is a business leader first who happens to have responsibility for IT. To be clear, this does not mean a business leader that does not have experience leading IT. It means that the leader is highly experienced in leading business and IT, but focused on the business aspects as the driver for IT.

cio-characteristics-transformational

The characteristics of the transformational CIO are quite different from that of the traditional CIO. In general, they are business centric and less focused on technology. In many ways, unlike the traditional CIO, the transformational CIO is having the same conversations as the rest of the c-suite. Put a different way, if the conversation is not one that the CEO would have, neither would the CIO. Transformational CIOs are very much looking for business opportunities like that of the CEO or many of the other c-level executives. The transformational CIO is perceived by the other c-level executives as an equal. This is a dramatic shift from the traditional CIO. The key words here are ‘perceived by others’.

MAKING THE SHIFT FROM TRADITIONAL TO TRANSFORMATIONAL

At the risk of being over-inclusive, every enterprise will need to take the digital transformation journey. Technology is playing a more central role to every enterprise. Put a different way, technology is quickly becoming the strategic weapon for every enterprise. Think of companies that have disrupted different industries. In most cases, technology was central to their ability to disrupt their industry.

As part of that journey, every enterprise will need to rely more on a transformational CIO. However, that transition does not happen overnight. Recall that it is not just the CIO that must transition (read: Transforming IT Requires a Three-Legged Race). Transformation, much like culture changes, is a journey. There is no specific end-point or finish line.

cio-characteristics-full

One could ask, how does a CIO make the transition. For each CIO, the journey is incredibly personal and transformational in their own way. Shifting paradigms of thinking from traditional characteristics to transformational characteristics is not trivial. It requires re-learning much of what we have learned over several decades. Essentially, we are learning a new role. A new job. A new way of thinking. For those that do make the transition, the change is incredibly rewarding not just for the CIO, but the team they lead, the larger company they work for and ultimately the customers they serve.

DOES THE CMO OR CDO REPLACE THE CIO?

The transformational journey takes time, yet customers and executives want immediate change. How is this gap addressed? Speculation suggests that the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) or Chief Digital Officer (CDO) will replace the CIO and fill the proverbial gap (read: The CMO is not replacing the CIO and here’s why.). There is value in the CMO or CDO filling some or part of the gap in the interim. However, over time, the transformational CIO is well equipped and best suited to address these changes. The gap, while significant, is only a temporary phenomenon.

CIO CMO Transforming IT

The time to start the transformational journey is now. Time is not your friend. With any organizational change, it is a team effort. It may start with the CIO, but will require the support and understanding of the entire c-level leadership team and IT organization. For many traditional CIOs, that is easier said than done. The best place to start is to establish a vision that sets the tone and cadence. From there, examples and success will quickly change the perspectives of those that may have been skeptical in the past. In addition, those that lead the transformation journey will find the process rewarding on many levels.

CIO

Shifting the mindset from projects to products

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A recent post on changing the language of IT is getting quite a bit of attention among CIOs. Continuing the theme around changing the language and culture of IT, we shift gears to the mindset of projects and products. For decades, the IT mantra has been to complete projects on-time and under budget. While this may have worked well in the past, moving forward it inhibits the very core of how we deliver solutions on many different levels. Let us take a look at this a bit deeper to appreciate the challenges in project thinking and opportunities that come from a mindset shift to product thinking.

THINKING LIKE A PROJECT

The very core of project thinking considers a discrete ‘thing’, which is represented as the project and has a specific start, end and deliverable. Project thinking brings significant focus to the deliverable and parameters that support the deliverable. That can be a good thing. However, in practice, it often means too much focus. Yes, there is such a thing as too much focus. Have you heard of the phrase “Can’t see the forest for the trees?” Some of the same principles apply here.

Part of the problem has to do with timeframes. Projects can last from weeks to years. The longer the project, the bigger the issue. Over a period of time, dynamics change. Companies change. Their needs change. Even the very reasons for starting a given project may change…or worse, disappear. Yet, many still get stuck in the mantra of delivering the project on-time and under budget. Even if that means that the deliverables are no longer relevant or the needs have changed.

It is not just the project thinking that needs to change. Projects do not happen in a vacuum. The way budgets are constructed, management is organized, and objectives are set all center around project based thinking. Like many things in the complex world of IT, projects are only one facet of a broader ball of yarn that needs to evolve.

THINKING LIKE A PRODUCT

A good alternative to project based thinking is product based thinking. Many of the same metrics for projects apply to products. The one stark difference is that products evolve over time. Put a different way, products are constantly evolving (or should be) to remain relevant. Projects are very different in this way.

The constant change of a product forces a shift in thinking around remaining relevant through the different phases of the product development and lifecycle. Even the terms shift to an evolutionary focus.

By changing the paradigm to a product based one, the thinking changes in two ways: 1) There is a constant awareness to remain relevant throughout the development and shifting gears as needed and 2) products have an ongoing lifecycle process versus the start/ end focus on a project. The product based thinking forces a whole new set of questions like: How long will the product be in use (lifecycle)? What choices are implemented now in anticipation of future versions of the product? These two questions have a dramatic impact on choices made in the current phase of the product.

MANAGING THE LIFECYCLE

The lifecycle of a product can be applied to any application or service within an IT organization and their portfolio. For example, take something as benign and simple as Microsoft Exchange email. If Microsoft updates Exchange every 18 months and it takes the IT organization six months to plan an evaluation and/or upgrade, then every 12 months an evaluation is started to determine if the service (email) is a) upgraded to the latest version of Exchange, b) migrated to a different solution or c) retired from service.

In project based thinking, one might only be focused on the upgrade of Exchange irrespective of the implications to the lifecycle. There are also implications to the IT application/ service portfolio, but that is a whole discussion on itself.

MISSING THE LOST OPPORTUNITY

Are projects bad? No. But they are missing a vital component that is a critical component of products: Context. Whether it is the time that resources are committed to a project or the cost to engage the project, there is a value component that comes with greater insight to context. A project might miss a significant opportunity while a product could seize the opportunity. One side benefit is that IT portfolio management becomes a whole lot easier using this methodology.

Shifting the mindset from project based to product based creates a significant shift in the IT culture and thinking that aligns more fully with business value. It creates agility and engagement in ways not possible with project based thinking. As business value shifts, so does the product. As customer needs change, so does the product.

Moving IT from a project based methodology to a product based methodology is yet another significant step in changing the language and culture of IT.