How cloud can make CIOs into MVPs

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CIOs-MVPs-500x331As general manager of IBM’s North America cloud services and solutions team, I get to speak to a lot of clients. One CIO with whom I regularly talk compares his typical day to a hockey goalie’s, batting away slap shots from internal clients, vendors, hackers and bosses. “So many bosses,” he notes.

I sympathize, but he should flip the way he’s framed his dilemma. If anything, today’s “digital revolution” provides the perfect backdrop for a CIO to become the MVP, a key enabler of innovation and profitability.

To set the stage, Rob Carter, CIO of FedEx, puts the digital revolution in the bigger enterprise context. “Every business model is being upended,” he says. “Every customer expectation is rising to new heights. The digital revolution is underway and survival requires way more than surface-level tactics.”

Survival, sure. Prosperity is even better, and research from the IBM Institute for Business Value shows that to achieve that, 80 percent of CEOs are experimenting with different business models or thinking of doing so. Businesses must transform. The resources of cloud technology can help achieve it.

In the old days, CIOs largely considered cloud a cost and efficiency tool. No longer. The best CIOs I know look at cloud as way to exponentially improve their enterprises’ speed to market, 360-degree insight, compelling customer experiences and streamlined business processes operations.

So, how do great CIOs approach this? They know they still have to keep the lights on, as economically as possible. However, they’re also looking for opportunities to create a competitive lead and boost the bottom line. They place far more emphasis on building an agile culture that supports rapid experimentation and prototyping to help their organizations reach the market first with new offerings. A wonderful exemplar is IBM CIO Jeff Smith, who has made the principles of “agile” a cornerstone of his work.

CIOs’ conversations with the C-suite and their lines of business peers are about higher business value. They understand that the cloud is a platform for innovation, not a destination. That’s why forward-looking technology leaders are also looking at advanced analytics, cognitive and the Internet of Things (IoT), so that business value will continue to expand. Their goal is to extract maximum value from all the data that matters, from inside and outside the organization.

In addition, the best CIOs continually fine-tune their cloud strategy to ensure they have the right infrastructure as well as appropriate cost, performance, scale, resiliency and regulatory compliance.

One CIO who works in Canada’s public sector has told us he wants to include a discussion about technology in every strategic decision. Specifically, how can it be a disruptor that transforms status-quo thinking?

That’s no goalie. He’s thinking offense, and to be successful, CIOs in all sectors and industries must adopt the same mentality.

In the end, what great CIOs understand is that it’s not about electrons, acronyms or the latest “something as a service.” It’s about compelling customer experiences, innovation, speed and profitable business outcomes. The CIO can be the advocate and enabler for the best business outcomes and greater profitability.


To learn more about CIOs’ views, read the report “Redefining Connections-Insights from the Global C-suite Study – The CIO perspective.”

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