Why CIO success comes down to just three things

Long gone are the days when CIOs had to talk up the size of their datacentres and redundant resources to be taken seriously. Now, their future hangs on three key drivers.
Written by Archie Hendryx Hendryx, Contributor

Of the many CIOs I have either met or for whom I have had the pleasure of working, all share the common concern of job longevity. When average time in post for a CIO is between only four and five years — and with trends showing that figure is likely to fall — it's no surprise that the role of a CIO requires instant success in minimal time and typically with minimal budget. Nearly every CEO's mandate for a CIO is for IT to be better, faster and cheaper.

Given that challenge, the three steps to success for any CIO are obvious. They are:

  1. Eliminate risk
  2. Improve cycle times
  3. Reduce cost

Of course, these three steps may involve subsidiary aspects, such as demonstrating how IT best serves the business, building technological confidence to the business and making IT more effective. But all these additional points ultimately fall under one of the three main headings mentioned above.

Step 1. Eliminate risk

First, by eliminating risk from your IT environment, you immediately address the business concerns of:

  • The revenue impact of downtime.
  • The revenue impact of performance slowdowns.
  • The impact on the brand value of the business.

Step 2: Improve cycle times

With a common business perception that legacy IT is too slow to deliver, improved cycle times are an imperative. This need requires a solution that can accelerate the following — and of course without risk:

  • Virtualisation and consolidation.
  • Refresh projects.
  • New application and service rollouts.
  • Private cloud initiatives.

Step 3: Reduce cost

The last and most obvious step also presents the biggest challenge, especially as customarily the last thing a new CIO can do is ask for a large investment to implement their new IT strategy. The business will quickly recognise a CIO's success if he or she can prove that during their tenure they reduced capex and opex as well as total cost of ownership.

So it's at this point imperative to remember that a CIO should not be concerned with buying technology from different silos and vendors but instead acquiring technology that solves specific business problems.

Long gone are the days when it was acceptable for CIOs to boast about the size of their datacentres and the large technology growth they had accumulated in an attempt to ensure everything was fully redundant. Instead, the key drivers are for simplification, standardisation and consolidation. This is where the concept of a converged infrastructure is key to a CIO's success.

Infrastructure more often than not fails to carry the same prestige or profile for the business as a key application such as SAP. However, infrastructure is in essence the heart and soul of a business — if the server or storage goes down, the application won't work, ultimately preventing the shipping and sale of your product, which is why the three steps to CIO success are all linked to a successful infrastructure.

How to eliminate risk

An integrated stack should entail a robust disaster-recovery and business-continuity system that can not only be tested and proven but also implemented and run with minimum complication.

It should also incorporate the de-risking of application migrations from physical to virtual platforms and, more specifically, key applications on which the business depends.

Moreover, this approach also creates a de-risked maintenance and operational procedure for the IT environment, which has been tested and validated, consequently eliminating any unplanned downtime.

In the past eliminating risk in this way has resulted in countless testing and validation procedures where every minute spent testing is a minute spent not growing the business. A true converged infrastructure can immediately resolve this issue.

How to improve cycle time

Delivering a predefined, integrated stack — or in essence a plug-and-play datacentre that's delivered and built fit for purpose in typically only 30 days — can quickly achieve an improved cycle time by reducing typical infrastructure delivery times by three months.

Having proven infrastructure in minimal time allows the application owners to roll out new services at a fraction of the time and consequently cost.

How to reduce cost

The key to this point is to link any proposed investment to a tangible return on investment that spans at least three years. Where most vendors have made the mistake of determining ROI based on virtualising a total physical infrastructure, this approach rarely works because most organisations have already virtualised to some extent.

Instead an incremental value needs to be formulated that is linked to the virtualisation of key business-critical applications.

Also, with an integrated solution across the stack, there's no need to manage multiple components of an infrastructure and consequently multiple failure points that preoccupy multiple silos. This approach encompasses a changing of the mindset of technology being a break-fix, reactive organisation where heroes are rewarded for extinguishing fires. Instead, the business adopts a proactive and preventive methodology, which is a feature of an always-on culture.

By streamlining the workforce to do more with less in correlation with application teams, opex cost savings can quickly be achieved by redeploying money from the back-end infrastructure to the front office, improving revenue, business value and productivity.

To conclude, technology's protocol is to enable the business. Ensuring success in these three steps enables a CIO to enable the business quickly — and it may also enable them to stay in their job that little bit longer.

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