BoxWorks 2012: CIO role should be forward-thinking enablers

Executives from General Atlantic, Netflix and other tech companies discuss the evolving role of the CIO amid the growth of the cloud.
Written by Rachel King, Contributor

SAN FRANCISCO -- Now that cloud adoption has arguably become the direction in which most (if not all) enterprises are headed, that has a huge impact on the role of the chief information officer.

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Executives from General Atlantic, Netflix and other tech companies discussed what the evolving role for the CIO should be during a panel at BoxWorks 2012 on Monday afternoon.

Netflix's vice president of IT Mike Kail said that he needs to essentially be ahead of technology. He added that the priority is to enable engineers to get their work done without hassles.

"IT should be a service organization, not a cost center," Kail said. "We all need to be forward thinking and not just the CIO. The role of the CIO needs to be an enabler, not a blocker."

Michel Sergio, director of worldwide client operations at global digital direct marketing agency MRM, concurred by noting that his company now focused on helping its employees work better and how executives can enable them to do their best.

Sergio also quipped that he sees Box as "yoga for business" it has a flexible with a strong backbone.

But Gary Reiner, an operating partner at General Atlantic, acknowledged that there are real switching costs that are often overlooked amid the hype when it comes to cloud deployments.

"When you've got a system in place that you're just putting maintenance on, it's tough to convince a customer to rip that out and put in a whole new system," Reiner said.
He explained there are a couple ways to do it. Citing Box as an example, this includes starting out small by subscribing to various cloud elements rather than just one giant deployment.
Reiner said that the bottom line is the way a CIO would think is "'This is what we pay for maintenance versus what putting a whole new system would cost.'"
"That's why CIOs move a little slower," Reiner admitted, "It's very expensive to rip out existing stuff."

Equinix chief information officer Brian Lillie argued that most enterprises are "a bit late to the game" and haven't crossed the chasm into the "cloud-enabled enterprise."

Lillie commented that he feels "lucky" in comparison to competitors because he get to deploy and take advantage of cloud-based solutions from Box, Salesforce.com, and Workday, among others.
"CIOs can innovate. They don't have to be stuck," Lillie remarked, adding that the latest technologies are "just way faster and better than the crap of the old days."

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