5 Ways to Redefine the CIO Role: A Conversation with Mike Gerholdt

July 24, 2013 Appirio

cloud_cioIn a recent ButtonClick Admin podcast, Appirio Chief Technology Officer, Glenn Weinstein, shared his thoughts on the changing role of the CIO as more organizations migrate to the cloud. While companies are looking to move away from traditional legacy systems and servers, getting everyone on board with a new vision and different path for the company is not always an effortless process. Both the ambitions of the CIO and the role of the IT department can have an effect on the way businesses move forward in the cloud. As Glenn explains, it’s important to “keep pushing the boundaries and outsourcing the commoditized parts of IT so we can all be business analysts…that is the direction that IT is headed in: to get IT not only out of the server business but also out of the desktop and laptop business.” How can companies keep the objectives of IT and the CIO closely aligned with business priorities? Glenn outlines several ways to do this during his discussion with Salesforce MVP Mike Gerholdt.

1. Increase your ambition for the role of IT

According to Glenn, today’s CIO should not be sitting on the sidelines running servers or replacing hardware. He or she should be seen as as a contributor, as a part of the team, as a leader, making business more productive. The highest ambition of a CIO is “to have a seat at the leadership table and be seen as a business partner.” The role of IT, then, is to act as a business analyst who can translate business priorities into technology and figure out how to get the most out of technology to serve the business better.

2. Stay on the lookout and get ahead of cloud innovators

Glenn advises CIOs to not only keep an eye out for new SaaS entrants, but also be willing to try and test them. Having seen cloud disruption go beyond CRM, collaboration and HCM, Glenn is surprised that by 2013 there hasn’t yet been a legitimate competitor to SAP. Moving forward, as Glenn puts it, “we want to see cloud eat the software world. It hasn’t happened yet, but we’re getting close.” CIOs and IT departments will want to get ahead of these new cloud providers and help the business consider cloud options in areas they may not have considered. By scanning ahead for the next generation of cloud players, CIOs and IT departments can become true business advisors rather than finding out after the fact that a business unit deployed a cloud solution.

3. Recognize the importance of internal executive advocacy

Another important factor is making sure to allow for bottoms-up visibility internally. Executive sponsorship is necessary for change to occur within a company. “The first thing I would do if I was a developer and I saw the power of Salesforce and my company wasn’t moving quickly enough to take advantage of that would be to identify and really develop a relationship with an internal executive sponsor,” Glenn recommends. Simply knowing that the cloud is better is not enough; developers need to be able evangelize that internally and line up management support. CIOs and IT leaders need to give their teams the channels to share ideas they’re passionate about and help champion those ideas within the organization.

4. Promote shared experience and collaboration

Sharing experiences on a regular basis within teams creates the sense of involvement in every project and better collaboration with internal and external customers. For example, Appirio’s Centers of Excellence were created in 2009 as a way for consultants to share their experiences as the company grew. The purpose is to “let the other consultants feel what it’s like to be in your chair.” A Center of Excellence structure allows each person to gain some of the benefits of experiencing another project – the lessons learned, tried and failed approaches, what eventually worked – without actually having been on that project. Within IT teams, creating similar Centers of Excellence around key topics such as cloud, mobile, social, big data and analytics, would give the broader team learning opportunities and get everyone energized about what’s possible with these new technologies.

5. Maintain internal transparency

Transparency within a company allows for better collaboration, and according to Glenn, the adoption of social technologies such as Salesforce Chatter can help achieve this. As one of the first companies to use Chatter, Appirio has learned how to use Chatter effectively. Glenn believes that companies frequently use Chatter only for group updates and overlook the power of collaboration directly on business objects, such as leads, accounts, contacts, etc. He explains that Chatter can be used “on an opportunity, on a requirement, on a support case, on a contact…and moving conversations into the context where they belong has a transformative effect on corporate culture.” IT teams can use social collaboration tools such as Chatter to create transparency within their own organization and also champion the use of such tools within the broader organization. Again, it’s about IT being a testbed for new technologies and then leading the business.

To learn more about the changing role of the CIO and IT for businesses in cloud computing, tune in to the ButtonClick Admin podcast, “Glenn Weinstein on being a better CIO”.

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