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Reshaping Enterprise IT for a New Era

ActiveState presents a presentation with Tim Crawford, who explains how enterprise IT can reshape organizations to meet new requirements and challenges.

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Enterprise IT is going through more change today than during its entire history. Long associated with back office functions, IT has now become the primary driver of today's business offerings. This idea, expressed as part of the Stackato vision, was the main theme of a recent Cloud Luminary Fireside Chat, featuring guest luminary Tim Crawford, CIO Strategic Advisor at AVOA.

[Sign Up for the next Fireside Chat with Bernard Golden]

In the one-hour webcast, Tim Crawford and host Bernard Golden discussed how enterprise IT can reshape their organizations to meet the requirements of their new role. Some of the topics they discuss are how IT organizations are reacting to this change, considerations regarding existing staff and tooling, and which, if any, prescribed models of change, such as DevOps and Gartner's bi-modal IT, have proved to be effective.

Below is the full recording and a recap of the discussion.

About the Guest: Tim Crawford is an internationally renowned thought leader in the areas of IT transformation, innovation, cloud computing and Internet of Things (IoT). He has served as CIO and other senior IT roles with global organizations such as Konica Minolta/All Covered, Stanford University, Knight-Ridder, Philips Electronics and National Semiconductor, and is currently an advisor to global enterprises in various industries such as airlines, financial services and healthcare.

The Changing Role of IT

Bernard Golden: Everyone feels that there’s a new wind blowing through IT. Some people are anticipating it as a breath of fresh air and some people are dreading it as a hurricane...The role has really changed and they are no longer out of the limelight. They’re in the spotlight in a way and being expected to really help companies do business...For years you heard IT CIOs saying, “'I want a seat at the table. I want to be in the conversation. I want to be there when the decisions are made." I said, "You've got to watch out for that because when you’re at the table, people are also going to turn and look at you and go 'What’s the answer?" That’s a lot less comfortable. Does that changing role of enterprise IT align with your perspective?

Tim Crawford: It does. It’s funny. One of the things I’ve heard, like you, for years is how do I get a seat at the table and my response quite often has been, "If you have to ask that question, you probably don’t deserve it because you don’t understand what it takes." Here’s the thing. It’s not just about getting the seat at the table or being engaged with the other lines of business outside of IT, but it’s also understanding how they work. You can’t just sit in this IT silo and operate in a tangent or separate from the rest of the organization. IT needs to operate as a business unit just like any other business unit within the company. That has changed quite a bit over the last few years. We’ve really needed it for more than a decade now, but it’s really as you said, come into the limelight.

I think a lot of that comes from the fact that companies have to compete by leveraging technology today. It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in. It doesn’t matter what your size is. You could be a small organization, you could be a large established publicly traded company. The reality is technology has to be part of your core. And IT has to be able to play at that level. That for some is a pretty jarring change in a short period of time. Some have risen to the occasion, and that’s great, and others are still struggling. They know they need to make the change but aren’t sure how to navigate that. And then, frankly, there are some that they just don’t get it. They think it’s a fad. They think it’s all smoke and mirrors. Frankly I feel for those folks. I don’t think they realize reality yet.

The Third Platform and Its Impact

Bernard: We often refer, at ActiveState, to something that IDC came out with called the Third Platform. What they said was it’s the confluence of social, mobile, big data analytics and cloud...the interesting part of about their assessment was, they said that in every industry, one-third of the top 20 companies were going to be disrupted by some new entrant coming into the industry using the Third Platform, or re-energized incumbents using the Third Platform...IT is no longer just an enabling or supporting function or cost center. It is the way companies do business. You said some people really embrace it. Some people don’t get it. What’s your sense of percentages or proportions and do you see trends in that?

Tim: I think that (the Third Platform) also talks to the people who get it and the people who don’t get it. From a Third Platform perspective you could say the taxi industry is the competition to Uber, and Uber is disrupting the taxi industry. But who would have thought that actually Uber is disrupting other industries too and some of those folks don’t even realize that they are being disrupted by Uber. The car rental industry. The actual dealership...they're selling vehicles that are being disrupted by Uber because now it’s easier to just hop into a car and have someone take you places.

There are a lot of ancillary pieces in the ecosystem...it’s important to understand what is your ecosystem. I don’t think that folks really broaden their horizon and that’s where I come back to the Third Platform and suggest that there are a number of folks that think about social, they think about mobile, but unfortunately they’re only thinking about the mechanics of it. They think about, "How do I engage mobile devices?" I had a conversation with an IT leader just a couple of weeks ago and I was talking about mobile, and they said “We’re looking at mobile. We’re trying to figure out how to enable our employees, our staff to be able to get their email and connect to their email and documents via their tablet and mobile phone.” That was their mobile strategy from IT. You talk to the folks outside of IT and that is not even table stakes. They’re looking at "How do we engage the customers that are living on these devices?". They’re trying to engage from a mobile platform with the company and really struggling with it. But IT is taking a completely different perspective on it. We have to think beyond the mechanics. We have to think beyond the obvious. We have to put ourselves in the role of the customer and the customer for IT is not the role of the internal user. It’s the customer of the company.

Role of Marketing in Digital Transformation

Audience Question: How do you see the role of the CMO in digital transformation impacting IT and the CIO?

Tim: I have a very strong opinion on this. I think it’s a hysterical when we talk about the CMO...we talk about the CMO is going to replace the CIO. Every single CMO that I’ve had a conversation with about that, not a single one wants responsibility for IT. They don’t. They do have it because they need it because it’s the only way to get done what they need to get done. But it’s almost like a necessity at this point. It’s not because they want it...

I wrote a piece just a few weeks ago...talking about these trends between the traditional CIO and the transformational CIO and how the CMO is stuck in the middle of bridging the gap temporarily. One thing to be careful about is when you put two data points on a chart, does that dictate a line? If you are just looking at the two data points and saying that some of the spend is moving from IT to Marketing, then yes, you can make the conclusion that IT is moving to Marketing. However, I believe that you have to look at it more in depth to understand why it’s moving to Marketing and how this will need to transform and change, and then you get a very, very different, picture. I do think that Marketing is getting involved. I think Marketing is also pushing the transformation within IT and I think that’s a great thing for all the parties involved.

Bernard: I would say it a little bit differently. I think that Marketing is the antenna of the change. It is the scouts of what’s going on with IT. It’s the first place that this new model of engaging customers and clients, it’s the initial place that most companies experience that. We need to engage with people the way they want to engage with us. We need to make an easy to do business with us 24x7. We need to be able to mine the analytics of how people interact with us, what they do with our websites. It’s the earliest entry point for this new model of IT.

I guess what I’d say is I don’t believe that it is all of the place where this new model of IT will happen. I don’t think the CMOs will become head of IT. I think they may fund a ton of IT...The CMO will say, “I’m going to write a cheque. I need a new demand generation thing for leads and I’m going to write a check for 2.5 million bucks for that.” But that person is not going to say “So the first thing I had to do is go off and hire an enterprise architect to design the infrastructure.” I think every offering of every company is going to become smart and so the product itself, the service itself, characterizing it just as Marketing, I think in a way is putting blinders on. I think it’s going to be the first place, not the only place you’ll see this change. Hope that helps with the question.

Tim: I completely agree. Using a marketing term...Marketing is just the pointy end of the arrow. It's the pointy end of the arrow, but it is not the whole arrow. There’s a lot that sits behind it. They just happen to lead the charge.

Bernard: Or skewer the CIO.

Using Bimodal IT to Respond to IT's Changing Role

Bernard: Let’s talk about organizational response. There are many prescriptions for this...Gartner prescribes something they call bimodal IT. They basically say bimodal IT is you have two IT organizations. One is the traditional IT, very stable, static, internal, you might call them systems of record. Then you have another IT organization you set up. It looks like a Netflix or whatever. It’s very agile. It’s very rapid. It has DevOps in place. Maybe it’s going to be using public cloud computing. That’s a model as well. What do you think is the right way to go about it? What do your customers have to say?

Tim: Some are actually trying to head down this path of bimodal IT and with mixed results. The challenge is when you build two different IT organizations, they will compete against each other. Then you have the haves and the have-nots. You get the guys and gals that are in the organization dealing with the legacy footprint and the systems of record that you talk about, wanting to be like the innovators and they see the other side of the organization and go, “They get all the cool toys and I’m stuck here dealing with all the old stuff.”

I think it creates a cultural problem within the organization but it also creates another problem too which is, the last time I checked, and every time I look around at organizations that are thinking about going down this path, these two must connect at some point. Either organizationally from a process standpoint, technologically from a data perspective, so these two have got to be able to work together. I think part of the problem is, now we’re starting to try and put these different modes in boxes and building up clear boxes around them. I think that’s just asking for trouble as we go down the road if we don’t have a clear way to reintegrate and bring those two closer together.

Bernard: It’s interesting...I was at the Gartner AADI (Application Architecture, Development and Integration) conference where they discussed it pretty extensively. My tweet was that this was Gartner throwing in the towel on traditional IT getting with the program. They said they’re not going to get fast enough, we need to set up a different team. Basically it’s saying, I don’t have enough time to get the existing organization to behave differently enough, use different enough tools, have different enough process. I don’t have time for that. I can’t wait so I’m going to set up another organization.

I thought exactly the same thing, which is not so much on the organizational resentment or personal, “I’m hurt because I’m not one of the cool guys.” But every one of these systems of engagement needs to tie with system of record in some sense. I want to find out what’s going on with my balance. I want to engage with someone. I want to submit a trouble ticket, whatever it might be. They need to have transactional records and that goes back to systems of record, that goes back to "Type 1" IT in Gartner’s thinking. I think the notion you can just have two separate organizations is somewhat naïve, but I also interpret it as Gartner saying the pressure from the business side is such that they can’t wait for IT leadership…They can’t have five year program and then in five years we’ll be ready...Uber is coming after me today. It’s an understandable reaction. I felt like it was a bit glib maybe, but quite understandable.

Tim: I get the reason why you might want to do this right out of the gate. Build an organization that can respond to that immediate threat from competition or trying to go in a different direction. You need that today. You can’t wait for IT to evolve culturally. And keep in mind we spent 30 plus years building this culture. We’re not going to unwind that ball of yarn overnight. But if you do that and don’t have a plan to integrate down the road, that’s where I think you come into trouble. I think that’s the shortsightedness of this concept about bimodal IT.

I can think of one organization that did actually go down this path where they started creating a separate organization of innovation, but the CIO has a very, very clear strategy to reintegrate these two down the path. There are certain triggers that they’re looking for as ways to designate when to bring them together, but the point is they’re looking for the opportunity to bring them together. They’re not looking at it as, “I have my traditional IT, I have my innovative IT and never shall the two meet, other than maybe technologically for data purposes or integration.” I agree. I think naïve is a great word to use.


Bernard: Let's talk about DevOps...Where have you seen that work? Where have you seen it not work? What some of the issues with it? What’s your take on it?

Tim: This is going to make some people happy and some people it’s going to piss them off. My take on DevOps is that you can’t please everyone. IT is complex. Let’s just call out the elephant in the room. It is complex. It’s not well understood outside of the IT organization and the other problem is we kind of did it to ourselves. As IT orgs we made ourselves more complex and created silos in the process too. But DevOps specifically, I think it solves some problems, but it is not the panacea magic pill that makes everything go away. And it’s not so prescriptive where you just take DevOps off the shelf, you bring in folks that understand DevOps, apply it and all of your problems go away. It doesn’t work like that. You can’t just apply DevOps across the organization either. It’s like any of the other standards. I've said the same thing about ITIL and some of the other standards that have come up. Quite frankly the same argument that a lot of folks are making with DevOps today, the same arguments have been made with ITIL and some of the other standards.Tim Crawford on DevOps

I’m not saying that DevOps or ITIL is not valuable. I think it's immensely valuable when applied appropriately. And that’s the key. You have to apply it appropriately. I don’t mean taking it and applying it everywhere like a piece of bread with some peanut butter and hopefully it works. The same thing for other standards that have come before it. I think it’s important to look through it and say, “What pieces can I leverage that will give me competitive advantage, that will help me advance in the ways that I’m hoping to achieve that addresses business strategy and the rest?”

But just taking it off the shelf and applying it, and expecting some magic wand to come out and all of sudden your worries are gone, I think that again maybe naïve is the theme of the show, but I think that’s very shortsighted. It’s a far more complex situation than that.

Bernard: If you didn’t sufficiently tick off people, I’ll weigh in and get the rest of the crowd. We say DevOps automation is absolutely critical. The concern that I have sometimes is that it is viewed by many IT organizations as, "We’re going to get more internally efficient...I’m able to spin up virtual machines" and all that, and yet they don’t necessarily say, "How do I go from a developer’s fingers to new functionality being delivered to my users out in the correction system, in a streamlined fashion."

If I can draw an analogy, virtualization at one point was touted as, this is going to enable companies to work much faster because you don’t have all this hardware, you don’t have to set it up. I think in reality it ended up making system administration more efficient and got adopted as, "This is going to make our infrastructure more cost effective." It got an internal IT optimization kind of focus rather than, "How do we enable the streamlining to deliver more business functionality?" Let’s face it, it’s a lot easier to say, “I’m going to get better utilization out of my servers" than "I’m going to restructure, re-engineer my process.” But my concern is that DevOps may end up being interpreted that way by lots of organizations: "We’re going to be able to spin up infrastructure. We optimized the server utilization. Now we’re going to optimize system administration utilization, but we’re not going to deliver stuff faster." I see sometimes it ends up being an inside baseball or inside the beltway approach, rather than how are we going to streamline the entire application life cycle.

Maybe I sufficiently ticked everybody off. But I think if you’re not figuring out how (to) deliver more functionality, more quickly, to the business end of things, DevOps I think runs the risk of being seen by company executives, meaning CMOs, CEOs, CFOs, as, “That’s just another set of toys that the IT group wants. I’m not going to support it. I’m not going to fund it. No thanks.”

Tim: It’s going to have a chilling effect. If we are playing, as you say, inside baseball, and we start saying, “DevOps will help us in terms of delivering solutions more quickly” and then we aren’t able to deliver that, it’s just another nail in the coffin. It’s not going to help us, it’s going to hurt us. I think that’s unfortunate because there are a lot of opportunities where DevOps can really help, but how it gets applied, and here’s the killer question that doesn’t get asked enough: Why? Why are we applying it? Where are we applying it? How are we applying it? But, why? If we start asking that why question, I think that starts to evoke a more holistic conversation around, “We’re going to do it in this one piece, that’s great, but here’s why this is important and here is how it’s going to help us at a higher level.” Once we’re able to understand that, what we actually apply and what we actually do becomes more meaningful, and it becomes much more valuable, and...becomes more successful in terms of changing the tide. Just applying it without understanding that holistic impact...you’re right, it’s inside baseball again.

Can Existing Personnel Make the Shift?

Bernard: The question is, can existing enterprise IT personnel make the shift or does it require a new staff with new skills and attitude? I’ll tell you, I see responses all over the map to this. I see some organizations, people are just really hungry to embrace change. But I see other organizations...I still get comments from people on my CIO.com blog, where people say, "No company will ever allow any of their important data to be stored outside their own data center." I can see maybe you might have said that in 2008, but in 2015...It doesn’t align with the reality, but more that, somebody with that attitude and you know what that person is probably like at work. They’re probably very resistant to change. The question is, can existing enterprise IT personnel make a shift? What have you seen? What do you think about that?

Tim: Like you, I’ve seen it all across the map...One extreme which is all the way from IT leaders that have told me, “I’m not going to try and do a full court press on cloud because I’m not far from retirement, and therefore I don’t want to buck the boat and I have a lot on the line here.” This is reality. You can’t make this stuff up. To the other extreme where there are teams of folks and IT leaders that are doing some amazing things. Those are the folks that I just to want to continue working with because it’s really refreshing to see a CIO or an IT leader that they get it. They understand the value. They’re having the business conversation. They’re starting to evolve their team and their staff, and you’re seeing the fruits of their labor. It’s hard work, but it actually pays off. Unfortunately, that’s the minority today. The majority are sitting in this middle flock of folks, that they know there some change that they have to do, but they’re not necessarily in tune with what they need to do or how they need to do it or how fast they need to do it, and so they’re muddling their way through it.

I do see that trend shifting to the right, away from the left to the extreme of this new stuff...DevOps, cloud, whatever. We’re not using it, or like you said, how many times have I heard the comment that we have to keep our data in our own corporate data center. Then I start bringing up the questions around Salesforce. “Do you use Salesforce?” "Yeah we use Salesforce.” “Is that not important data? Is that not business critical data?” “Of course it is.” “Is that in your data center?” “No.” “What about ADP? If your executive compensation or staff compensation got out, would that be critical to your business?” “Absolutely. We can’t share that data with our competition.” “That’s sitting in your data center too, right?” “No.”

The reality is, I have personally worked with financial services organizations, publicly traded ones as well as health care organizations, and their objective is to leverage cloud and get out of the data center business. They have figured out how to do it in such a way that they are not violating the regulatory compliance requirement, but they’re still able to take advantage of the opportunities that these new emerging technologies bring to the table. To me, it’s not a technology problem. It’s a cultural problem. It’s a mindset problem. It’s a paradigm shift. That’s what we got focus on. That’s what we got to get people talking about.

Bernard: When we talk to our customers who are often in a midst of a process and trying to accelerate their application life cycle work with our product, they go, “What are the best practices? How should I go about this? What are your most successful customers doing?” What we say is identify launch groups or launch teams, the eager beavers, because every organization has a continuum of personnel. Some are, like what you just said, "If I just sit still for a couple of years I can retire," all the way to people who are like, "I want to do things differently or I have I done things differently at other companies or I’m not willing to living with the status quo." Find people like that and launch with, and then the change will be driven through the rest of the organization. It’s pointless to try and find somebody who is resistant and go to him and say, “I’d like you to change.” They are not. They’re going to be forced to change or they may retire early.

Tim: But Bernard, who suffers? Let’s talk about this for just a quick minute. Who suffers because of that? It’s not the CIO. It’s not the IT organization. It’s the company itself. The company itself gets held back and suffers because of these issues. And that’s the piece that we’ve got to elevate the conversation and the awareness to realize that you can’t just do that. You've got to move.

Bernard: I think that many IT organizations are really stressed because they recognize that they’re being asked for change. I think they're stressed because they feel like they got a lot of competing priorities. I feel like they may not recognize...how pressing a priority this is and how quickly it’s going to accelerate to become priority number one. Let’s face it. If you’re the IT person in a taxi company and you think, “I’ve got upgrade my ERP. I need to bring in a new phone system. I need to do this, I need to do that and by the way, I’ve got to figure out how to streamline the entire experience."... That person may find they’ve got an updated ERP system just in time for their company to go bankrupt. I think that senior IT management may not recognize it or they may actually…I find sometimes they confront challenges which is kind of the sandwich. The top recognize the need for change, the bottom recognizes it, but the people in the middle...If you’re somebody who spent 15 years clawing your way up the storage group hierarchy and you’re now director of storage arrays and somebody comes to you and says, “We’re going to get out of this business. We’re going to start using one of the cloud providers." That person may feel threatened and they may be the most resistant. May not be the top, but for sure I think change is going to get forced into IT organizations much more than they may recognize.

Tim: But it can change and let me give you a specific example. A healthcare organization, I was brought in to help transform. The very first meeting I had with the staff within IT, one of the senior folks stopped me mid-presentation and turned to the others and said, “Why are we doing this? We know we need to do. We just need more money and we can do things ourselves internally.” And one of the folks said, “Let’s hold on. Let’s hear what he has to say. Let’s hear him out.”...so we went through. And I had an opportunity to do some one-on-one discussions with this individual. Fast forward a couple of months further into the project, and we’re making the presentation on our plan to the executive team: the CIO, the Chief Administrative Officer and a few others. I start into the presentation and again the same individual interrupts me and I’m thinking, “Oh crap! Now how this going to play out?” He was actually the biggest cheerleader in the room...He turned straightaway to the executive team, and he said, “We really need to listen to Tim. We need to think about how we go about this. Yes, this is going to be hard. Yes, it’s going to require change for us, but we need to figure out how to do it.”

That’s not a pat on a back for me. That’s not why I’m bringing it up. I’m bringing it up because there are a lot of folks that would look at this type of challenge and say, "I just can’t do it.” The reality is it can be done but you got to understand what are some of the hurdles in front of you, respect those and whether you’re within IT or you're a provider to IT organizations, you've got to respect it. There’s not enough of that respect happening, but when you respect it and understand it, you have better information to be able to address it. And it can shift, and it has shifted.

How Are Vendors Helping with IT's Changing Role?

Bernard: We’re doing a victory lap on ticking off people. Let’s talk about vendors. I’m sure you’ve worked with many organizations...where somebody says, “We’re an IBM shop.” “We’re a Microsoft shop.”...might be Oracle, might be SAP, whatever it is, and they kind of go, “That’s our model for how we run IT. That’s where we take our strategic direction from.” Really what we’ve been positing is this enormous sea change in what IT is. It’s an identity shift or identity crisis. It needs to have a very different approach. Are existing vendors helping with this? Trying to help with it? Resisting it?

Tim: Some definitely are bringing value to the table and those are the ones that I really cherish and wish that others would model after. There are a large number of them that are really struggling right now. They built some really clever interesting solutions, but they’re having trouble getting traction in the enterprise space. These are both startups as well as established enterprise organizations. I’m using that same statement to cover a pretty wide swath of the software and provider world, which is to say they understand there is something they need to do, they’re just not sure how to do it.

I’ve had conversations just from the last couple of weeks with...large household name companies, some of which we’ve talked about, all the way down to really prominent startups. The reality is that they have something in common, which is they’re struggling to bring clever solutions, valuable solutions to market and get the engagement. The engagement piece is where things fall off. I think one of the problems is...they build these beautiful highways...We’re building these beautiful highways, but what we’re not doing is, we’re not building the on-ramps. The companies that are building solutions are not thinking about how does an end user, how does the company start to leverage their solution? How do they get from where they are today to their solution and what is the process they need to go through? That process quite often is not just one step. There’s a sequence of things they have to go through.

Bernard: It's interesting you bring that up because when I joined the company about a year ago we looked at how our customers were successful with our product, where their pain points were, where their bottlenecks were. And we recognized that typically it wasn’t per se about the product or how do you use the product, but it was more about how do I bring this into organization and adjust our processes and evaluate what kinds of application to do and design practices. And we created a set of prescriptive best practices. Here’s a cookbook of how to go about this.

For example, one of the things that we always talk about is, have the right people in your evaluation and adoption task force. It’s not good enough to say, "I got developers who love it" because you’re going to have enterprise security people who need to be consulted, need to understand it, need to be comfortable with it and need to sign off on it. And if you try and bypass them, that’s just putting off the pain because you’re going to have that conversation at some point. So we say, engage them early, and leverage us, we’re part of it, so that we can help you describe the solution and make sure that it addresses all the security requirements. That’s just one example. Your point about, "How do I adopt this product successfully? How do I transform my processes?" We realized our customers really needed some services and some help in those areas because this was a very dramatic change. Again, this is the new world of IT. This is a very different kind of role, very different kinds of technologies, but also a very different kind of evaluation, measurement and so forth. There’s a whole lot of change going on and organizations often say, “Help me understand the best way to do it. Help me be efficient about it."

But...We've Always Done It This Way

Tim: One of the comments I’ve made in the past and I’ll say it again because it does bear repeat. It’s almost better if we were to go back and say, “Let’s forget about everything we’ve learned over the last 20-30 years and let’s just start off fresh.” Because many of the challenges that I see in organizations today, come back to something that they’ve done in the past. We’ve always done it this way. This is what we’re familiar with. They’re trying to fit everything into a box that they know. They’re not trying to say, “We don’t have a box for this. What do we do? What should the box look like? Do we even need a box? Should it be pre-formed?” That’s a different way of thinking, but it’s not that typical way of thinking that IT organizations tend to go with. That’s part of the problem here is that changing these paradigms is, it's not trivial, but it’s got to happen otherwise we will continue slog through this conversation. Bernard, we could have had this conversation several years back, right?

Bernard: We probably did.

Tim: There’s nothing new today. How much of it do you think will change in the next, say 24 months, 36 months? Can we still have the same conversation based on what we’ve seen over the last two to three years? I would argue that we could.

Bernard: I think the difference is there’s increasing enormous pressure from the rest of the organization to change behavior. If you ask IT, “What is your plan?” Many of them will say, “I’ve got a 36 month plan or a 60 month plan...five years from now.” The rest of the organization cannot wait that long [because of] the Third Platform. If you’re an incumbent in some industry you’ve got huge problems.

An example is, and not to pick on them, if you were a hotel chain like Hilton, you used to think, “I compete with Hyatt. I compete with Marriott.” The biggest thing is, “What’s my banquet service?” With the rise of Airbnb, all of a sudden you’re competing with every spare bedroom on the planet. It’s a very different experience. There isn’t a time scale to, “I’m going to get comfortable with the change.” It’s like “I've got to change now.”...If you have a heart attack and your doctor says, “If you don’t do this you’re going to die,” it’s amazing how motivated people are. And that is the position enterprise IT is coming into with many organizations.

Three Action Items for the CIO

Bernard If a CIO came to you and said, “Give me three action items, give me three things that I ought to go do.” With number one of course being engage AVOA, but what would numbers two through four be...Do you have anything that you can recommend in that area?

Tim: Some of these should be straightforward, but I’m saying it, so it probably isn’t as straightforward. The first thing is, understand how your business operates. Understand how your company works. How do you make money? How do you spend money? I don’t mean if you’re a clothing manufacturer that you sell shirts. What I mean is, what does the supply chain look like? How do the products get manufactured? How do customers engage in being able to purchase those products? Are they looking up in their mobile device? Are they looking up at Amazon? Are they going into brick and mortar stores? Are they paying via credit card, cash? What is their average spend? What is their demographic? Start to understand how a company makes money, understand how the company spends money. That’s the first step. Part of that is going to be understanding what your business strategy is. When the board of directors get together and they discuss what the strategy and objectives are going to be for the next 12, 24 months, 36 months, what does that look like? So, you can start to prepare yourself to engage in that.

The second thing is, understand who your customers are. Who are they today but also who could they be? Maybe there are some opportunities. For example, using that same retail example. Maybe today you’re focused on brick and mortar stores and the rest of the organization is like, “It’d be great to engage via mobile devices, but we don’t know how to do that.” We don’t trust IT to be able to really truly partner with us to be able to do it. Understand how customers' behavior is changing for your particular industry and your particular market too, because whether you’re in the US vs EMEA vs APAC, that also plays another factor. Culture is a big piece in customer behavior.

Then the third piece is, take a holistic view of your existing assets. What I mean by that is if you’re the CIO, if you’re an IT leader and have responsibility for a piece of the organization, dig into that and just step back and say, “Let me try not to be jaded about what I think I have today, in terms of organization, in terms of process, in terms of technology.” But take a step back and say, “What would others say?" If you’re the CIO, "If I brought in a peer to look at this, what would he or she say about where I am today? Someone that doesn’t know me, someone that’s not my friend, someone that will tell me exactly what their candid opinion is of it.”

I think if you go after those three pieces regardless of where you are in the organization, regardless of your current state of maturity and I don’t mean that as a derogatory [term]...I mean that as, organizations go through a maturity process, and if you start to tackle those three pieces, you will be a lot further along than the masses. I would start there.

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Published at DZone with permission of Mike Kanasoot, DZone MVB. See the original article here.

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