What's Going On?
A few years ago, I read a book by John L. Peterson written in 2009 called A Vision for 2012. He makes this observation,
“It is interesting to be writing these words at a time of complete dependence on the Internet – which only became generally known about 15 years ago – and wonder how we will be communicating with each other in another dozen years.”
I think about this frequently. Technology reached the point where it can support just about anything that anyone wants to do. Look what has changed. Today, we are living our lives on the network and communicate with or through the ‘cloud’ all day. We are no longer tethered to either desk tops or data centers. There are demands for more uses of technology in our lives and at work and for more freedom to choose how we live and work. There is an insatiable appetite for data and new tools which seem to appear virtually every day. We are seeing fundamental changes in how we live, eat, travel, and work. And, the velocity of change makes it hard to keep up. And, what about the impact of the on-demand, self-provisioned culture that technology encourages?
What about tomorrow? And what about the role of the CIO – traditional or…?
Where has this left us? J. D. Wood, in his book, Consumption Economics, written in 2011 says that today IT operations cost too much, are burdened with too much complexity, and lack agility and flexibility. I would say that this description fits IT organizations snuggly. This is the world we have built, and it clashes with the velocity of change.
As CIOs deal with challenges, the often say “I don’t want to deal with the muck!” What is the muck? It is all that goes with providing IT service, for example the burden of selecting the right hardware and software, the procurement process itself, installation,security compliance, powering and cooling, managing data centers, keeping track of warranties, software licenses, and hardware maintenance contracts, refreshing technology; and on and on. The CIO of a large industrial firm said, “Our mission…has been to enable the operation of the business in as cost-effective and efficient manner as possible…networks and business systems that work all the time....which represents 80 percent of my job. When we start thinking of expanding the IT mission into big data and mobility, that’s a real stretch for us.”
But does it have to be a stretch?
CIOs want to add business value to their company or organization. But many are bogged down in the muck. It is hard, then, to focus on an IT business strategy that truly keeps pace with changes, doesn’t chase shiny objects (new technology because it’s fun), makes good use of time and people, emphasizes the right stuff, and reduces cost – andenables the company or organization.
Because of the quagmire that inhibits agility and flexibility, self-empowered employees and business units are taking the lead in many instances, often in spite of the IT shop. They find their own tools and use them either ‘with permission’ or without. And, now there is Bring Your Own Cloud. Techopedia describes BYOC as "a concept and trend in which employees are allowed to use public or private third-party cloud services to perform certain job roles. BYOC often involves the piecing together of enterprise and consumer software – both in the cloud and on the premises – to get the job done.” CIOs are finding themselves behind demand.
Thus a dilemma: success- and task-driven employees can use what the CIO provides, or use their own tools to do their jobs. Often they take the path of least resistance and do it themselves. CIOs must worry about their institutions, cost and management controls, and issues of compliance and regulation. It’s hard for them to be agile. But agility is the order of the day.
So, an uprising is occurring. A quest for simplicity and efficiency. Demands to use the same technology at work that we use in our personal lives. The organization faces a tough challenge, the process of reinventing itself: moving away from traditional ways of doing business to meet the on-demand, self-provisioned culture continues to grow.
There is a service-based alternative which has been available in different forms for several years. It allows companies and organizations to acquire infrastructure (computing and storage) and common business applications as a services. In my former organization, the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA), we called it smart sourcing. We turned to service providers to do that which we either didn’t have to do ourselves or chose to not do ourselves. CIOs can do the same: turn the muck over to service providers, professionals who know the technology, know how to deliver services governed by SLAs, can meet the availability requirements, and can scale services up and down to meet actual demand.
In other words, smart sourcing can free CIOs to concentrate on adding business value.
This is not outsourcing. It is a scalable service or set of servicesgoverned by enforceable SLAs which are paid for with operating dollars, and which cut capital investments dramatically. The service-based strategy makes output the goal, not the IT itself. DISA uses capacity-on-demand (CoD) to provide compute, storage, and network capacity for their Defense Enterprise Computing Centers (DECCs). In this case, the CoD service providers retain ownership of all equipment, place it on the DECC floors, and provide capacity as the output. The elastic service scales up and down as and when needed by DISA. It has simplified provisioning and dramatically reduced total cost of ownership.
Remembering John Peterson’s curiosity about how we will be communicating in another dozen years, CIOs have to prepare the way. They have to lead the charge to a service-based strategy so they can free themselves of the muck and keep their organizations and companies agile and relevant. And, themselves too.
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