Getting it right and wrong about CIO’s and the Cloud

Richard Eichen, Managing Principal, Return on Efficiency, LLC

This morning’s WSJ CIO Journal  blog posting, ‘The Morning Download: Cloud Computing’s Hazy Meaning Creates Confusion for CIOs’ shows where Gartner is right and wrong regarding the evolution of the Cloud and how it affects internal IT, and more specifically, the CIO.

Our recent experience shows the influence Business-side perceptions of the Cloud is having on IT strategy and contracts regarding infrastructure. CIOs are increasingly asked by Senior Team leadership why internal IT cannot scale rapidly up or down at reasonable cost, or why DR is so expensive, or why millions of dollars have to be budgeted for a hardware refresh every 3-4 years.  CIO’s increasingly have to justify decisions and sunk costs more than participate in forward looking strategic discussions. It doesn’t help that ‘The Cloud’ is still a bit of a fuzzy term depending on the audience – technical vs. business.

Interestingly, this post also shows where Gartner got it wrong:

‘The politics of saying no. As IT shifts from service provider to revenue driver and everyone, from the CEO to new customers, offers input on the digital business, the ability to deliver an assertive ‘no’ is among the most powerful tools available to the CIO. Done right, it sends a leadership message while keeping lines of dialogue with the other party open. Done wrong and collateral damage can ensue’

CIO’s already have a nasty generalized reputation for saying “no,” fueling the Business to embark on Shadow IT.  Especially when a Cloud-based infrastructure is available, the Business increasingly responds with a shrug and then goes off and does their own thing.  We have seen clients with robust infrastructure, decent developers, and a growing Shadow IT presence because the Business is dealing with market dynamics while IT and the PMO talk about project portfolios. Concurrently, the internal IT Innovation Group is all about vision statements, cost analysis, and gate meeting after gate meeting rather than User Journey Mapping and rapidly prototyping.  The Business’ brain starts to hurt when discussing strategy with IT.

If CIO’s  want to participate in the move towards Digital as a full strategic partner and not as the leader of a captive utility,  saying “no” is not a wise strategy – the correct response is “let’s partner and figure this out together.”