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CIOs and the rapid pace of change

CIOs and the rapid pace of change

In hundreds of conversations with CIOs over the last year, the rapid pace of technology change has emerged as one of their top issues – so how are they managing this multi-faceted challenge?

The pace of change has increased considerably with the innovation, commoditisation, and adoption of the cloud, mobility, and the consumerisation of IT.

The cloud in many ways is a key enabler of mobility and the whole consumerisation movement.

What used to be only capable by IT infrastructure teams, any part of the business can now put in place new cloud applications and services without IT even knowing about it. I don’t remember a shift as profound and dominant since client-server and the Web spelled the death of mainframes. With cloud as the main enabler for many other new technologies, let’s focus on how it is changing the way IT and the Business are adopting new technology, applications, and services.

Adoption of the cloud

According to Rightscale’s 2014 State of the Cloud Report, cloud adoption has now reached ubiquity – 94 per cent of organisations surveyed are running applications or experimenting with infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS); 87 per cent claimed to be using public cloud and 74 per cent have a hybrid cloud strategy.

Key benefits driving cloud adoption are (as responded by the percentage of participants in the survey):

• Greater scalability (>50 percent)

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• Faster access to infrastructure (50 percent)

• Higher availability (>45 percent)

• Faster time-to-market (~45 percent)

But with the benefits also come challenges:

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• Security (31 percent)

• Compliance (30 percent)

• Managing multiple cloud services (28 percent)

• Integration to internal systems (28 percent)

Read more: Expect tech spending outside the CIO’s department to rise in 2015: Forrester

• Governance / Control (26 percent)

While security concerns are down from last year, especially in firms who are more mature in their cloud adoption (5th vs. 1st for less mature organisations), only a minority of respondents have defined policies for choosing cloud providers (36 percent), implementing availability or disaster recovery (32 percent), and managing costs (29 percent).

The lack of governance enhances the security concern. With no governance and a lack of proactive focus of IT to help the business use the cloud in secure ways, it encourages rogue IT and hundreds of business users with iCloud and Box accounts holding company data unprotected and spread across the universe.

IT not only needs to respond with secure governance, but governance that enables the business and doesn’t slow them down. This is also where IT needs to learn sales skills from the business in communicating the importance of including IT to ensure security, integration, and disaster recovery of the businesses cloud initiatives.

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This leads us to the next facet of the pace of change issue: Rogue IT.

Rogue IT (or ‘If IT won’t help, we’ll do it ourselves!’)

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From CIO Magazine’s State of the CIO report for 2014, 40 percent of respondents stated that Rogue or Shadow IT was on the rise. Additionally, greater than 75 percent said that these “shadow” projects typically run into problems. At the end of the day, it’s still the job of IT to clean-up the mess.

The cloud, SaaS, and the consumerisation of IT have clearly put IT in a position of being forced to provide agile and cost effective service to the Business or they will watch the Business go around them.

IT leadership must evolve their approach to balance their passion for security with enabling the business.

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In her InformationWeek article on 6 IT Trends to Watch in 2015, Sara Lahav asserts that, “IT organisations will finally wake up to see that Shadow IT, BYOD, or BYO-anything are not being driven by consumer IT and cloud service providers, but by the IT organisations inability to meet stakeholder and user expectations across usability, cost, service, and agility.”

In a lunch meeting with a colleague and friend who works for a well-known SaaS partner, he admitted that IT was typically the last to find out he was implementing a solution for the business. While he stated he encourages his customers to bring IT in early, their refusal is driven by concerns that IT will try and stop them.

Most IT leaders have no intentions of undermining the business, but are passionate about their mission to protect the security of the company’s data and networks.

However, the above mentioned lack of governance is symptomatic of IT’s slower response to the business’ desire to take advantage of new technologies. IT leadership must evolve their approach to balance their passion for security with enabling the business. From the New Zealand regional version of CIO Magazine’s State of the CIO 2014 report, Robin Johansen, former CIO of Beca states, “The important thing to stop shadow IT getting completely out of control is to be the person who helps people get things done.”

CIOs must be open to the business adopting new SaaS and consumer IT solutions, providing the needed security, governance, and integration capabilities to enable this in a prompt and efficient process. If IT leaders don’t, the business will continue to go around IT leaving it at risk of eventual obsolescence.

The evolving role and skills for IT

Successful IT organisations are evolving their role as they become consumers of infrastructure and applications and focus more on business solutions and managing technology vendors. This is driving a fundamental shift from purely technical skills to technology management skills.

Sarah Lahav in her same article states that, “In 2015, the need for service integration capabilities, often called service integration and management (SIAM) or multi-sourcing services integration (MSI), will come to the fore.”

New hires for IT will be evaluated more on their interpersonal and negotiation skills than in the past. While the demand for exemplary technical skills will not diminish, they will move towards IaaS and SaaS companies rather than the mid-market and enterprise IT organisations.

Leading CIOs are proactively addressing this skills shift now through training for internal candidates and evolving their organisational roles and hiring. Do you have an organisational strategy to guide your organisational evolution?

As with business and technology strategies, proactive IT organisations need a definitive and measurable strategy to evolve their roles and skills to meet the needs of their business and technology strategies in the near future.

Now, more than ever, today’s successful IT organisation relishes their role as a change agent for technology, the organisation, and the enterprise as a whole.

Mike Booke is a CEO, former global CIO and recognised thought leader in how businesses can effectively use technology to grow revenues and profits. Contact him at mbooke@auroratechmgt.com or visit www.auroratechmgt.com.

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