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The CIO Imperative: Think Business

March 3, 2014

This blog, Unleash the Promise of the Cloud, from our technology partner Cisco is as interesting for what it says as for what it doesn’t say.

Enrico Fuiano lays out the evolving model for IT services consumption, with the role of IT emerging as a services broker for lines of business. Provisioning cloud services as a complement to traditional IT operations, or the integration of both into the inevitable creation of hybrid clouds – the new normal – will be a pivotal function of future IT. This is the context for Cisco’s emerging cloud strategy, which will “capitalize on some of these market dynamics and enable IT to retain control, relevance and increase its strategic profile by leveraging the evolution of the World of Many Clouds.”

This blog sets the stage for discussing the actual strategy at a high level in a series of posts to follow. As a strategic partner, we look forward to learning more and bringing new capabilities from Cisco to our customers.

The post gives a nod to the fact that the business side is exerting more influence, if not pressure, on the IT side to get in the game. In order for IT to remain relevant to business, the writer says, it must become a change agent and strategic enabler. Future blogs may address this, but the fact that the CIO and the evolving business-technology jobs that will report to the CIO are not mentioned omits a strategic necessity for long-term success in unleashing the cloud, which is perhaps beyond the scope of the author’s intent.

The best outcome requires IT – more to the point, IT management – to contribute to the business strategy as a full-fledged member of the management team. “Agent” and “enabler” suggest that IT remains in a service role to the organization, not an active contributor to business direction and success. “Retaining control” implies defense mindedness ─ guarding turf─ at a time when the CIO and the CMO need to become joined at hip to create new products and services, earn the attention of the marketplace and win customers.

The onus here is on the CIO to speak and breathe business, and to view IT from the perspective of P&L and not cost.  This may well be among the biggest challenges of navigating the new normal. In a report entitled “The CIO Mandate: Engaging Customers with Business Technology,” Peter Burris of Forrester Research describes the opportunity ahead for CIOs and the organizations they serve, saying, “The increasingly crucial role that digital technologies play in customer engagement elevates the CIO’s role in business — if CIOs can move beyond the traditional IT focus on technology assets and adopt an expanded view that centers on customer experience and choice.”

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