What Do CIOs Dream About?

By Stephanie Blanchard, Digital Editor — August 05, 2013

In any organization, the CIO’s role is significant: providing technical leadership, enabling and improving business processes by leveraging the right technology. Today’s CIOs are highly focused on mobilizing and are planning strategies not just incorporating, but centering its core around the concept.

How to successfully implement these goals while remaining in budget, however, is on the minds of many an anxious CIO. Take mobile apps, as just one example. According to a recent survey by Mobile Helix, companies, on average, have more than 400 custom and packaged applications that need to be mobilized; 71% are in some stage of development, with another 20% planning on mobile apps in the future.

Yet, according to the survey, only 22% of enterprise applications can currently be accessed from mobile devices. Reasons cited for delays include cost (65%), security (63%) and support (48%.) Most CIOS (81%) blame the high cost of development on a highly fragmented and changing mobile market. Sixty five percent also think the process of mobilizing enterprise applications is actually too complex.

What’s the answer? Break it down.

“Don’t build the perfect solution in search of a problem,” advised Vijay Sammeta, CIO of San Jose, in an interview with Mobile Enterprise. “Understand the core business objectives first, apply the technology second. Don’t lead with the technology.”

As CIO of a major municipality and well-known tech hub, Sammeta is tackling a daunting task. Every major piece of technology the city uses will be modernized over the next few years.  With 5,500 city employees currently on legacy systems, the challenge also includes creating carefully weighed rollout schedules that take into account how much change end-users can absorb.

The city does not want large, multi-million dollar upgrades every three or five years, but a more sustainable model involving smaller but more frequent updates. So San Jose’s plan is to incorporate platform solutions which can be leveraged repeatedly, instead of relying on individual products.

“Getting tied to one device isn’t in anyone’s interest,” he noted. “A few years ago, no one would have predicted the demise of the PC.”

The Center of Strategy
Consumer devices, which now outpace traditional IT systems, present both a challenge and an opportunity for the enterprise. “Everyone is going mobile, the idea we have to wait for our next enterprise system, is not acceptable,” Sammeta said.

And although there is a disconnect due to the consumerization of technology (where every end-user suddenly feels like an expert), this is actually a pivot point for the CIO, the chance to create a roadmap.

And in implementing that roadmap, do successful CIOs think like entrepreneurs, company leaders or something else entirely?

“A successful CIO is your best technology strategist, while paying close attention to business needs and the future of the organization from a non-tech perspective,” Sammeta replied. This strategist keeps an eye on investments that may or may not involve technology.

From Here to There
Success for any CIO, however, is entirely dependent on the company’s culture, whether in enterprise or government, because a leader without followers, is a loner at best, while a visionary without effective execution remains a dreamer.

“Company culture is driven from the top down and shiftable,” said Kerry Lebel, Director of Product Management, Automic, to Mobile Enterprise. When a CIO shows repeatable success, the level of trust positively changes throughout the company and end-users are likelier to adopt.

A former Microsoft scalability and IT performance specialist, Lebel took part in Microsoft’s transformation strategy, which involved the company’s System Center Suite of tools. In his current position with Automic, Lebel works extensively with CIOs in all industries, to bridge the gap from where they stand to where they want to be from an agility perspective.

“It’s not enough to continue the status quo, to make sure infrastructure stays up,” he said. CIOs are expected to keep things running as part of the job— it’s a given. Now they are being asked to go beyond that, to do significantly more from a technology standpoint, sometimes with less staff. A common complaint he hears is the need to lock in resources just to maintain systems, not innovate. Automation, however, gives back this necessary time so CIOs can work more on strategic projects.

“The guys who are thinking about how to keep the lights on never get past that,” he said. They need to see the bigger picture and the ones that do, are playing a larger role in the C-Suite as a result — not just implementing technological changes on demand, but becoming strategic partners in the business. These particular CIOs are not daydreaming either.....they are actively taking part in transforming the enterprise.
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