CIO’s Feel the Earth Moving Under Their Feet

The New Normal…Killing IT?

In his recent CIO Magazine article, Thomas Wailgum again emphasized a point I feel strongly about — IT must align with the business not with technology. In the 80’s and 90’s many an IT professional, from CIO to programmer, built a career around a technology they have mastered, feel comfortable with and often feel passionate about. I have seen IT Directors tremble with rage at the thought of bringing anything other than Unix-based solutions into the company. There are countless Java bigots now and legions of open source zealots.

The passion extends to applications such as ERP. I know many otherwise-reasonable CIOs who can’t imagine ever implementing software that didn’t originate in Walldorf or Redwood Shores.

Is the biggest really the best – especially after 25+ years? Think about General Motors and AIG. They were the largest in their industries. Did they generate meaningful innovation on a regular basis? Did they provide continuous value to their customers?

Do More with Less

IT departments are continually asked to do more with less. Each dollar spent comes under more scrutiny. It is becoming really difficult to maintain heavily-customized on-premise solutions, much less innovate with them.

Enlightened (or battle-hardened) CIOs know that they serve the business – whether it is manufacturing, health care, retail sales or whatever. They find the best fit, most cost-effective solutions from reliable vendors.

SaaS/Cloud Computing Can’t Be Ignored

More and more, the answer to the CIOs challenges lies in the cloud. On the surface, who would have expected the CIO of Inteva Products (the $1B+ spinoff of auto parts maker Delphi) to turn to the cloud for his whole IT infrastructure? Once the head of an SAP user group, Dennis Hodges could have outsourced the existing SAP infrastructure to a major SI and called it a day. Instead, he was convinced there was a better way for Inteva. Dennis replaced SAP and 30 other business applications with Plex Online. He put email and other services in the cloud as well.

On the other hand, other similar-sized manufacturers down the street from Inteva are struggling to support home-grown shop floor systems, monolithic ERP and a host of “bolt-on” applications.

My bet is on Inteva, with a lean, agile IT infrastructure focused on supporting the business needs — all at a fraction of the IT budgets of its competitors.

I’m just sayin’…

2 Responses to CIO’s Feel the Earth Moving Under Their Feet

  1. Great post Mark! Couldn't agree more about the IT aligning with the business instead of technology. Too often they're a disabler instead of an enabler. For the two decades I've been in the business, they've told their customers (their own company) what they can't do instead of what they can. It's about time there's a power shift back to the business needs! We're JUST beginning to see a shift, but fear and unknowns are still enabling far too much power in critical decisions.

  2. It does not matter what company you are running, the purpose of IT is to empower the business. While this might seem like common sense it is often lost not only on IT but also on the people in every functional discipline; from CEOs on down. If done right, IT professionals, while not subject matter experts, should become savvy business people in their industry. There is no place for allegiance to a particular platform, software or technology, only to finding ways to ensure the business achieves its objectives. Any CIO or CTO that thinks differently is missing the point of their reason for being. Those that understand it educate the organization and have an impact on the business.

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