Changing roles: the CIO as transformer

The speed of change in the technologies available to organisations over the last five years has been astonishing. In enterprise organisations across EMEA, there is widespread recognition that IT has become an enabler of business and a key force in driving innovation and new ways of working.

As a direct result, the role of the CIO has fundamentally shifted; IT now has a place at the top of the table, advising the Board on strategic business investments.

The continued rise of new technologies, which fundamentally change the way businesses operate and engage with their customers, are responsible for this dramatic renaissance for the IT department.

Garter calls this the ‘Nexus of Forces’, the ‘convergence and mutual reinforcement of four interdependent trends which empower individuals as they interact with each other and their information’. These are macro technology trends that are, in no small part, responsible for revolutionising enterprise business today.

We are of course talking about trends such as social, mobility, cloud and information (or data). They have disrupted existing business models and the relationship between IT, the wider organisation, and its customers.

Lines of business and end users now essentially make their own IT decisions in many cases. Business leaders see these new technologies as representing a significant opportunity to innovate, improve efficiency, and provide differentiated customer experiences in highly competitive marketplaces.

CIOs should, in theory, rejoice at the CEO’s newfound interest in cloud. They should be delighted that the CFO wants to know how exploiting big data and business analytics will drive process improvement. And the chance to sit side-by-side with the heads of sales and marketing to plan the rollout of a social CRM system that will revolutionise the company’s customer engagement model is surely an opportunity too good to miss.

The challenge, however, is ensuring that repeated adoption of the ‘next big thing’ delivers maximum benefit and optimal value to the business.

>See also: The evolving CIO: change or suffer

Expectations surrounding what can be achieved through transformational IT projects – such as cloud, mobility, social, and data implementations – are high. And the vendor community is by no means innocent when it comes to fanning the flames of hype and over-promise.

That’s not to say that these macro technologies can’t deliver the huge savings and efficiencies advertised on the box, but the promise of improved business performance, and other such benefits are being undermined by infrastructures unable to support leading-edge technology.

As a result, expensive applications that are being deployed across the business are failing to maximise their potential, at a substantial cost to the company in many organisations.

Recent research commissioned by Riverbed Technology amongst EMEA CIOs in ten countries showed that in the past 12 months, over four in ten (44%) new applications deployed have failed to meet their performance expectation.

In many cases, there is a disconnect between what the Board wants to achieve and what can be delivered using existing infrastructure. The same research found that in only 6% of cases are Board-level executives fully mindful that new technology innovations can be hampered by poor infrastructure or network performance.

1 in 4 getting it right

However, Riverbed has identified a significant minority (25%) who are utilising technology effectively and transforming their investments into high business performance. This group, which Riverbed has coined ‘the transformers’, is leading the way when it comes to technology investment.

>See also: 5 trends that will make or break the CIO in 2014

Rather than constantly adding new applications onto existing infrastructures, transformer organisations recognise the importance of a high performance application infrastructure to the potential of cutting-edge technology.

Not only are these companies enjoying greater productivity across the business, but they also expect ROI to be realised in a shorter timescale. 70% of transformers expect ROI on most or all new technology innovations within two-to-three years, compared to 57% of non-transformers.

A key factor is that when looking to optimise the value of technology investments, transformers prioritise consolidation and new architectures over other factors, whilst non-transformers prioritise maintenance and ongoing operations. As might be expected, transformers are therefore more likely to have already completed (36%) or be currently implementing (41%) a data centre consolidation project than other companies.

The transformers appreciate that technology is integral to business performance and, as such, are more likely to consider technology as a driver of innovation (66% compared to 40% amongst non-transformers).

Critically, however, network performance is ‘front of line’ amongst IT departments. Over half (53%) of transformers are delivering a high performance IT infrastructure for business applications as a core part of their role, compared to 31% amongst non-transformers.

Educating the Board about the power of IT to transform the business is a battle only half-won. Judging by the findings of the transformers report, the challenge now is to secure the right levels of investment across the IT function and develop a balanced IT operation that combines innovation with consistency.


Sourced from Brent Lees, senior product manager at Riverbed Technology

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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