A topic that’s popped up repeatedly during the Interop conference in Las Vegas this week is IT’s role in contributing to overall businesses strategies.
Two of the keynote addresses on Wednesday — one by Deloitte CIO Larry Quinlan and the other by Cisco CIO and Senior Vice President Rebecca Jacoby — tackled this subject from different yet complementary angles. Quinlan took the stage and jazzed up the audience with a talk about how instilling a passion for technology in employees is not only possible but essential in the modern workplace. When IT cultivates the possibility and excitement of technology, the bottom line always benefits.
“Many IT organizations are hated,” Quinlan warned. “People devise a million ways to get around IT.” If people don’t want to deal with IT, then how can IT get a true seat at the decision-making table?
Quinlan’s solution is for IT leaders to alter their dictatorial approach to technology deployments by taking the wants (not just the needs) of those they serve into consideration. This will instill a passion for technology that hopefully fosters an appreciation for the role of IT.
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As an example, Quinlan explained how Deloitte made a big mistake when it invested in mobility. It paid for people’s mobile devices (good idea), but the organization got a deal on one particular device and bought it in bulk (bad idea). Instead of getting kudos for providing employees with mobile devices, the IT team received hate mail for not giving users a say in which device they got.
Ultimately, people want some control over what technology they use at work. At Deloitte, employees now get to choose their own device (mobile and notebook), which has made them more invested in the technology the company uses and deploys. This IT seems “cool” to the user and makes it more likely the IT team will be included in larger strategic discussions since it collaborated in this instance.
A New Model for IT
Cisco CIO Rebecca Jacoby has never had so much fun at work. That’s because it is not just about technology, it is about how the business can gain a strategic advantage through technology.
“We need a new model in IT,” she said, because even when IT is good at deploying technology, it isn't necessarily good at telling business partners about that good work . Sound familiar? “We want to be viewed as that organization in the company that really is a catalyst for change,” Jacoby said.
If the senior executives, including the CEO, don’t really understand how IT is bringing technology to the table to create strategic advantages, then IT is going to be “lost in the fog.”
Responding to a Shifting Landscape
It’s difficult to overstate the impact of the Internet on the way we do business. E-commerce, in particular, has completely upended the way products and services are sold. Jacoby calls it “the killer application” of the Internet.
The idea of a connected ecosystem, which the Internet laid the groundwork for, really blew “up to new proportions with the pervasive presence of the mobile cloud,” Jacoby said. Now, the cloud has become a “foundational piece of how we are delivering IT” today.
A few years ago, we were talking about the cloud as a foundational structure for data centers. “But it is really beyond that” now, Jacoby noted. “It is really about when the infrastructure delivers the IT to both individual consumers and to enterprises.”
The next step in that connected ecosystem’s evolution is in the Internet of Things, or, as Cisco prefers to call it, the Internet of Everything. It is a new inflection point in the connected ecosystem where IT needs to prepare to provide IT deliverables that run business as a service similarly to how Salesforce.com operates as a third party in the CRM space.
If you are not transitioning to the cloud and getting ready to deliver services as a service, you are already behind in the Internet of Everything, Jacoby said.
“We need a new model that is much, much more agile,” she said — one developed using “policy-driven architectures and the use of the community in delivering those architectures.”
Policy-based fabric control gives the IT workforce and administrators control over programmability, so applying, using and reusing data center and networking technologies becomes easier, and IT becomes more agile to better support fast-paced, competitive business environments.
The resulting architecture can drive up productivity amid relatively flat budgets and lay a foundation for going forward.
All of that said, while this new, innovative technology is great, it won’t run the universe without human beings, Jacoby emphasized. We still need people — our only “sustainable competitive advantage.”
“It is really important to understand how the collaboration and communication technology that you are deploying comes together with the workloads that people are using to do their jobs every day,” Jacoby explained. “And those people come in different forms, and they use different types of devices to connect into the systems to do their work.”