CIO · Cloud

Three key changes to look for in 2018

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2017 has officially come to a close and 2018 has already started with a bang. As I look forward to what 2018 brings, the list is incredibly long and detailed. The genres of topics are equally long and cover people, process, technology, culture, business, social, economic and geopolitical boundaries…just to name a few.

Here are three highlights on my otherwise lengthy list…

EVOLVING THE CIO

I often state that after spending almost three decades in IT, now is the best time to work in technology. That statement is still true today.

One could not start a conversation about technology without first considering the importance of the technology leader and role of the Chief Information Officer (CIO). The CIO, as the most senior person leading the IT organization, takes on a very critical role for any enterprise. That was true in the past, and increasingly so moving forward.

In my post ‘The difference between the Traditional CIO and the Transformational CIO’, I outline many of the differences in the ever-evolving role of the CIO. Those traits will continue to evolve as the individual, organization, leadership and overall industry change to embrace a new way to leverage technology. Understanding the psyche of the CIO is something one simply cannot do without experiencing the role firsthand. Yet, understanding how this role is evolving is exactly what will help differentiate companies in 2018 and beyond.

In 2018, we start to see the emerging role of ‘Transformational’ CIO in greater numbers. Not only does the CIO see the need for change, so does the executive leadership team of the enterprise. The CIO becomes less of a technology leader and more of a business leader that has responsibility for technology. As I have stated in the past, this is very different from that of the ‘CEO of Technology’ concept that others have bandied about. In addition, there is a sense of urgency for the change as the business climate becomes increasingly competitive from new entrants and vectors. Culture and geopolitical changes will also impact the changing role of the CIO and that of technology.

TECHNOLOGY HITS ITS STRIDE

In a similar vein to that of the CIO, technology finds its stride in 2018. Recent years have shown a lot of experimentation in the hopes of leverage and success. This ‘shotgun’ approach has been very risky…and costly for enterprises. That is not to say that experimentation is a bad thing. However, the role of technology in mainstream business evolves in 2018 where enterprises face the reality that they must embrace change and technology as part of that evolution.

Executives will look for ways to, mindfully, leverage technology to create business advantage and differentiation. Instead of sitting at the extremes of either diving haphazardly into technology or analysis paralysis, enterprises will strike a balance to embrace technology in a thoughtful, but time-sensitive way. The concept of ‘tech for tech sake’ becomes a past memory like that of the dialup modem.

One hopeful wish is that boards will stop the practice of dictating technology decisions as they have in the past with mandating their organization use cloud. That is not to say cloud is bad, but rather to suggest that a more meaningful business discussion take place that may leverage cloud as one of many tools in an otherwise broadening arsenal.

CLOUD COMES OF AGE IN ALL FORMS

Speaking of cloud, a wholesale shift takes place in 2018 where we pass the inflection point in our thinking about cloud. For the enterprise, public cloud has already reached a maturity point with all three major public cloud providers offering solid solutions for any given enterprise.

Beyond public cloud, the concept of private cloud moves from theory to reality as solutions mature and the kinks worked out. Historically, private cloud was messy and challenging even for the most sophisticated enterprise to adopt. The theory of private cloud is incredibly alluring and now has reached a point where it can become a reality for the average enterprise. Cloud computing, in its different forms has finally come of age.

 

In summary, 2017 has taught us many tough lessons in which to leverage in 2018. Based on the initial read as 2017 came to a close, 2018 looks to be another incredible year for all of us! Let us take a moment to be grateful for what we have and respect those around us. The future is bright and we have much to be thankful for.

Happy New Year!

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.

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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.

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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.

Business · CIO · Cloud · IoT

The five most popular posts of 2016

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While 2016 is quickly coming to a close, it offers plenty to reflect on. For the CIO, IT organizations and leaders who work with technology, 2016 offered a glimpse into the future and the cadence in which it takes. We learned how different industries, behaviors and technologies are impacting business decisions, societal norms and economic drivers.

Looking back on 2016, here is a list of the top-5 posts on AVOA.com.

#5: Understanding the five tiers of IoT core architecture

In this July post, I suggest an architecture to model IoT design and thinking.

#4: Changing the language of IT: 3 things that start with the CIO

This May post attracted a ton of attention from CIOs (and non-CIOs) as part of their transformation journey.

#3: IT transformation is difficult, if not impossible, without cloud

Another May post on the importance of the intersection between transformation and cloud.

#2: Microsoft Azure Stack fills a major gap for enterprise hybrid cloud

Only one of two top-five vendor-related posts digs into the importance of Microsoft’s hybrid cloud play.

And the #1 post…

#1: Is HPE headed toward extinction

This provocative post looks at business decisions by HPE and how they impact the enterprise buyer.

2017 is already shaping up nicely with plenty of change coming. And with that, I close out 2016 wishing you a very Happy New Year and an even better 2017!

CIO

Digital Transformation requires intimate knowledge of the business

 

IMG_3398Moving to a digital enterprise is not a trivial task. It is neither a journey nor a destination. The shift for an enterprise to embrace digital requires a cohesive effort on multiple levels. Technology plays a role, but only as a tool without context. And it is this very context or knowledge that provides the significance in value that comes from the digital enterprise.

SHIFTING TO THE DIGITAL ENTERPRISE

The digital enterprise is no longer an option for enterprises. The digital enterprise is a reality in today’s business climate. Technology plays a central role in business in so many ways. However, it is not only the technology choices we make within the enterprise that shift us to become a ‘digital enterprise’.

Shifting to the digital enterprise requires a shift in paradigm across the entire organization, not just Information Technology (IT). The technology itself only serves as a tool. How will you use this tool to further your business in terms of economic growth or business agility? And technology is not the only component. The business insights truly come from the data. Technology enables greater access to data and insights. But it does something else. Technology provides greater accuracy and faster business decisions which can lead to automation in business decision processing and responses.

Leveraging technology to enable businesses to do things no previously possible is part of the shift to the digital enterprise. Engaging the customer and providing significant insights requires technology in order to remain competitive in the global business landscape.

KNOWING THE BUSINESS…IN MULTIPLE DIMENSIONS

Shifting to the digital enterprise is not possible without an intimate knowledge of the business. To know the business, one must look from multiple dimensions. Those include the customer, the marketplace, the value chain, and the company operations. Each of these provide a unique perspective that when combined provide greater insights as to how best to engage and operate to increase business value.

In the end, the business exists to serve a customer. Yes, I said ‘a’ customer. We live in a world where industries are built by markets of one. Any given customer is a market of one. How does one get to know this customer of one?

As a company supports the needs of a customer, what does the value chain look like? The value chain may be a foreign concept to many. However, it is incredibly important to consider when looking at how to best provide business value. And, how specific changes will impact the overall value chain.

Understating how the company makes and spends money is a good start to better understand the business operations. It is surprising how little many in IT know about a company, their customer, value chain and business operations. One could argue that IT folks do not need to know these components. However, I would argue that unintended disruptions in one section of the value chain can have catastrophic consequences. Again, it comes back to context. In the digital enterprise, we can no longer work in a vacuum of silos.

LEADING FROM THE CIO

The Chief Information Officer (CIO) is uniquely positioned to lead the drive to the digital enterprise. Ironically, many CIOs are not well prepared to make this change today. Some may suggest this is the very reason that the CIO should not lead the effort. But before you start to throw kerosene onto that fire, I strongly believe there are good people in the CIO role today that can rise to the occasion with the right leadership.

Once you start to consider the silos of data across the enterprise, a leader needs to emerge to engage the different departments and their expertise. If you consider what is required to have a holistic view of the business and then marry that with digital technology, there is only one role that sits in that intersection; the CIO.

Shifting to the digital enterprise is an enterprise effort that requires cross-functional engagement across a number of disciplines. The shift requires intimate and a holistic view of the business. That very engagement, led by the CIO, will provide a significant differentiation for enterprises in any industry.

Business · CIO

Changing the language of IT: 3 things that start with the CIO

IMG_3184The Information Technology (IT) organization is going through a significant transformation. The transformation itself is not only disruptive, but confusing for many of the stakeholders including IT leadership, IT staff and those outside of the IT organization. Three years ago, I wrote about this in Transforming IT Requires a Three-Legged Race. The path through this tumultuous time is fraught with confusion, misdirection and significant potential for failure.

But fret not. As the top IT leader, the Chief Information Officer (CIO) is uniquely positioned to lead the organization through this transition. There are three things that will help turn the corner.

  1. REMOVE ALL REFERENCES TO ‘THE BUSINESS’

It is very common to hear IT staff referring IT and “the business” as if they are two different organizations. Unfortunately, this creates a culture of ‘us’ and ‘them’. As I discuss in Transforming IT Requires a Three-Legged Race, how IT refers to non-IT organizations is just as important as how non-IT organizations view IT. Today, they are seen very differently. That needs to change…and now. The CIO should see themselves as a business leader first, that happens to have responsibility for IT. Just this one mental change starts to create a waterfall of differences in both language and culture.

  1. DISCUSS VALUE IN MONEY TERMS…NOT TECHNOLOGY

Too many times, IT focuses on the value of change in terms of technology. And many times, IT staff find frustration in why business leaders do not understand their pitches. At the end of the day, the official language of the business is money. How does a change impact the organizations ability to change their financial picture? In the past, the focus for IT was on cost constraints (save money). Today, that has changed where IT provides greater leverage to business agility and economic growth. Note that both of these significantly leverage technology, yet neither mentions technology terms.

  1. FOCUS ON THE VALUE CHAIN OF THE CUSTOMER

There are many ways in which to discuss business agility and economic growth. However, neither are particularly important unless you first understand the value chain of the customer. To be clear, the customer here is the customer of the company…not internal users. When the CIO and IT starts thinking of itself as a business organization, so changes the perspective of who the customer really is. The customer, after all, is the one that provides said economic growth for the company. Ironically, IT is one of the few organizations in a company that historically has had limited interactions with the customer. That must change. In order for IT (and company as a whole) to succeed, the CIO not only needs to understand the customer, but also be engaged with the customer.

These three things provide a unique, but foundational shift in the way the CIO can impact change in their language and culture. Are these the only changes needed to impact transformation? No. However, these three represent a significant shift in the communications for the CIO and IT with other stakeholders.