The CIO’s Approach to Christmas

iPad mini with Retina display
iPad mini with Retina display by Makoto SATSUKAWA is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

In the post-Christmas return to work, the CIO has a key challenge: “How do I integrate all of my employees’ new toys with our network and IT?”

To get some insight on how to solve this end-of-year problem, DataHive took some context from the beginning of the year. In January 2013, CIO Magazine’s 2013 State of the CIO Survey asked CIOs where they focus their time. CIO answers included the following. Each answer is followed by the percentage of CIOs considering this to be a major priority.

  1. Aligning IT initiatives with business goals (63%)
  2. Improving IT operations and systems performance (54%)
  3. Implementing new systems and architecture (50%)
  4. Cultivating partnerships between IT and business (45%)
  5. Cost control and expense management (40%).

Consider how these priorities fit into a consumerized IT world, and it becomes easy to see where CIOs are fundamentally misaligned with employees who are trying to get their jobs done with the best tools and technology in place.

1. Aligning IT initiatives with business goals – Aligned! Every employee is trying to use technology to meet their business goals. But is the CIO actually meeting with key business contacts who are trying to get things done? This doesn’t always mean that the CIO talks to other C-level executives, even though that may be the best political move to make. Rather, CIOs need to understand how the rank and file are using technology, then align those desires to corporate investments. For instance, rather than spend time and money on a mobile device policy, employees may rather be better served with a wireless networking investment and a secure containerization of applications and content. That way, employees focus on using whatever they want wherever they want to get work done.

2. Improving IT operations and systems performance – Misalignment! CIOs may wonder “how is this possible?” But in the real world, employees don’t necessarily care about optimizing performance for outdated products and services. CIOs may spend a lot of time tuning old servers and customizing legacy applications to be cost-effective. But if employees can get a twofold increase in productivity by using something else, they will buy that SaaS application or cloud service, regardless of whether it is IT-approved or its predecessor fully depreciated. Before focusing on systems performance, focus on whether the system is keeping pace with corporate progress or not. DataHive Consulting recommends a framework of considering which elements of your current systems represent key advantages, incremental advantages, the status quo, incremental weaknesses, or fatal weaknesses.

3. Implementing new systems and architecture – Alignment! In reality, more than 50% of CIOs should be focused on this need and DataHive hopes that this number rises in the 2014 version of this survey. But in a world where business models, selling and marketing channels, data sources, and decision-making processes continue to transform rapidly, it makes sense that companies increasingly need to adopt social, mobile, analytics, and cloud, all under a wrapper of security, identity, and compliance. However, the other side of the coin is that companies make the mistake of thinking that SMAC is an either-or proposition where IT needs to either support Snapchat and smart watches or email and laptops. Instead, technology needs to be fundamentally seen as a contributor to human productivity. Figure out what people actually need and implement based on the combination of business needs and user experience.

4. Cultivating partnerships between IT and business – Misalignment! When consumers buy their own technology, there is never a doubt that there is already strong alignment between the technology purchased and the consumer’s needs. If CIOs are still building partnerships, they are not being proactive to the business’ needs. As business technology needs continue to accelerate, these partnerships need to already be in place. Otherwise, CIOs will be left in the dust as other C-level officers buy their own technology and get their own resources to support these new technologies. If CIOs are spending a majority of their time still figuring out how business is working, they will not have enough time to actually select and support a technology strategy that will support the company. The 2000s were about “aligning business and IT.” Today, those are table stakes and IT needs to understand and support the customer.

5. Cost control and expense management – Misalignment! CIOs think of themselves as good stewards of tech budget, but consider how cost control works in the consumer world. On the one hand, most of us know how to maintain a basic budget and stay within those guidelines. However, the true cost-cutting champions are the extreme couponers of the world who plan ahead and use every trick in the book to reduce or even eliminate many of their grocery and other recurring costs. These tricks actually exist in the enterprise world, too, but the majority of CIOs still insist on simply maintaining a budget rather than bring in the advanced practices that can cut commoditized tech costs by 25% or more. Practices such as telecom expense management and cloud cost management are already bringing wireless, network, and cloud infrastructure costs down by using enterprise sourcing and procurement strategies that take advantage of loopholes, contract structures and competitor pricing. CIOs are all too often content to leave these cost efforts to internal staff who are seeking a 10% improvement rather than support a potential 90% transformative reduction. If you’re looking for examples of how this can occur, please set up a chat with us at connect@datahiveconsulting.com and we would be glad to spend a half-hour with you to see if you are missing a 90% opportunity.

To deal with consumerized technologies, CIOs need to put these tasks in order and prepare their environment for the oncoming onslaught.  DataHive recommends the following order:

  1. Aligning IT initiatives with business goals
  2. Implementing new systems and architecture

That’s it. This seems extreme, but this is how your users are thinking. If the CIO response does not fit these priorities, then the other priorities:

  • Cultivating partnerships between IT and business
  • Improving IT operations and systems performance
  • Cost control and expense management

become moot, and will lead your company to an Eternal September where you will never catch up. If you’re not familiar with the concept, this concept refers to the work that users of USENET, the first widely-used online bulletin boards, were forced to do every year. In the late 80s and early 90s, USENET users loathed September because it was a month where college students would discover USENET for the first time and all the other users would have to teach a new class of users how to use proper Netiquette.  For CIOs, Christmas is the new September.  It’s the beginning of a month-long set of demands from executives, engineers, and sales people to bring a new and foreign set of technologies into the office. If CIOs don’t respond or believe that they can ban these technologies, they start a shadow IT initiative that they can no longer manage.

For this reason, DataHive hopes to see that CIOs are able to focus on the capabilities that will help them to support employee technology needs more closely.  Although poor practices mean more business for DataHive, they also mean that there are more frustrated and under-utilized employees who are not able to complete basic work tasks. Rather than be a CIO that employees complain about at the bar, work on being a CIO who takes 2014′s key technology trends into account and supports the continued need for business transformation.

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