How to get ahead as a CIO: Why transformation alone isn’t enough

Robert Rhame is director of EMEA product marketing at Rubrik.

In the past 24 months, many CIOs have begun the strategic transition of steering their organisation through the digital transformation journey. Becoming an enabler for the business is a relatively straightforward evolution, but what the business really needs is the tech savvy visionary. However, if, as a CIO, you are placing exclusive focus on digital transformation, you risk missing the bigger picture. The CIOs who have one eye on delivering more than digital transformation are moving to establish themselves as the new vanguards of business innovation.

A company-wide approach to innovation

The real way to get ahead as a CIO is to use innovative technological projects to constantly evolve your organisation. Projects and initiatives that, for example, leverage the potential of business intelligence and analytics, public cloud, IoT and AI/ML will enable your organisation to stay relevant to customers and stand out against competitors. However, in order for you to take your company forward as a CIO, it is vital that you master the progression through three steps:

  • Evolving your organisation using technology in the first place
  • Delivering those projects successfully
  • Then scaling these projects across the whole organisation

The third step is the most difficult: many CIOs are adept at starting a handful of pet projects. However, the stumbling block is often trying to then scale those projects to reap the benefits from them. Failure to deliver or scale with early projects is OK and even expected – so long as experience is gained and future projects benefit.

As tech has become increasingly central to the success of the world’s biggest companies, the CIO now has ample opportunity (as well as a mandate from the CEO and the board) to make their mark on their company using the power of IT. Successful businesses have incorporated digital initiatives into every aspect of their transformations. The most successful CIOs actively find collaborators within the business who want transformation and place themselves at the forefront of the most innovative projects out there. With each project, they build their reputation as a digital navigator, justify their budget, and continue to methodically transform their organisation to get a step ahead of their competition.

However, constant pressure on both your time and budget threatens to inhibit the mere initiation of such innovative projects. In IT teams around the world, 70% of a typical IT departments’ working week is consumed with tasks that merely run the business. That means that the typical IT shop has approximately one non-run day equivalent for projects. Those projects include RFPs, technology refreshes, and migrations leaving very little time for innovation and transformation.

It’s easy to see how it happens. For example, two FTE hours a day spent in reactive mode managing storage or remediating failed backups quickly adds up to more than a day per week. However, when that equates to vital time that could be allocated to taking forward your innovative projects, suddenly, that day, or day and a half, becomes a big deal. When resources are already stretched to full-capacity, and the prospect of securing additional headcount is low, how do you maintain your focus on long-term strategic projects?

About 75% of CIOs when faced with the prioritisation of budget and strategy definition will cut spending on infrastructure, but this actually increases the legacy debt when reducing it and modernising is most needed. The most valuable commodity in the IT team is time, and tactically rationalising legacy debt to reduce the overhead is the way to get to it. Applications consume over 40% of the team’s time, with infrastructure probably around 15-25% depending on the environment. The key here is that it is far easier to modernise infrastructure than go on the ever changing Easter Egg hunt that is the great search for hundreds of application owners. We are not looking for huge percentage numbers here. We just need more time for transformation projects.

Automation and simplification is paramount for competitive differentiation

The solution lies in automation and simplification. Let technology do the repetitive functions, so your team doesn’t have to. By automating crucial – but non-differentiating tasks – such as backup and data management you are, in effect, outsourcing the more banal parts of an IT department’s workload to technology itself.

A cloud data management solution can simplify your infrastructure, automate routine administrative functions, and ultimately free up your IT team’s time to spend on innovative projects that truly matter to your business. Embracing such a solution modernises your company while increasing the potential and productivity of your team, ultimately enabling you to make a mark on your organisation. 

The real opportunity 

The CIOs who implement the most cutting-edge and innovative projects, successfully delivering competitive differentiation to their organisations, will be the ones who progress in their careers the quickest. However, CIOs simultaneously face pressure to run the rest of the company’s technology seamlessly. Without harnessing the potential to automate and simplify your non-differentiating tasks, you risk being outpaced by your competitors and ultimately left behind.

CIOs have an exciting opportunity ahead of them if they are able to competitively differentiate their company using technology. As company success becomes increasingly reliant on technology, this trend is only set to continue.

Interested in hearing industry leaders discuss subjects like this and sharing their use-cases? Attend the co-located IoT Tech Expo, Blockchain Expo, AI & Big Data ExpoCyber Security & Cloud Expo and 5G Expo World Series with upcoming events in Silicon Valley, London and Amsterdam and explore the future of enterprise technology.

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