Hopping the Transformation Train
CIOs today are well-positioned with the executive support and cutting edge technologies to become more strategic, value-driven partners. While expectations are higher and timelines are shorter, our leaders are looking to CIOs and IT professionals for the edge they need today, or more precisely, the edge they needed yesterday.
As Dell and VMware’s CIO, I think of this as our Digital Hierarchy of Needs. At the bottom, we are expected to keep the trains running on time. In other words, our systems and applications must always be online and available. We can then build on this foundation by enhancing our processes and introducing innovative new tools and capabilities. If we don’t, we will never be able to transform into a digital-first business. To get there, we need to transform how we work with the business.
Run the Trains on Time
It is impossible to change the conversation and drive towards a strategic vision that showcases the value of digitally transforming the business if we are continually explaining outages, performances issues and other imperfections. With the mantra of “customer #1,” we need to excel at the basics or Dell and VMware won’t be able to support our actual customers. This involves ensuring our infrastructure, systems and applications are rock solid, and building the credibility and “political capital” that increases the confidence that the team will keep it that way. Bottom line, we’re wasting our time talking strategy if we have repetitive outages or issues with email.
Create a Big Picture Vision
I’ve been a CIO for decades and I can tell you wholeheartedly that I want to be seen as a colleague, not a supplier. This is why I am excited to come to work. Once the foundation is in order, IT needs to shift away from being order takers towards becoming strategic consultants, partners and trusted advisors. We need to show demonstrable value, asking the right questions and providing our fellow business leaders with what they need to generate revenue, expand into new markets and pursue new industries. This also prevents IT from becoming a commodity and keeps invaluable intellectual property on the inside.
Take Part, Partner
Countless pundits have told us we need to tightly align IT with the business. Understanding our business partners’ strategies is a given, but we also need to have a vested interest in and share the responsibility for planning, executing and ensuring their success. At Dell, we enhanced our operating model so that our business portfolio leaders work directly with our business leaders. Also, our IT professionals work alongside their business peers, the ones who can actually make decisions to ideate, prototype, iterate and execute to create or enhance an end product. After all, their success is our success.
Earn Street Cred
To move up the hierarchy, you need to establish credibility running operations; demonstrating process efficiency and performance improvements; and most importantly, empowering your digitally-minded team members who think digital-first, to look for innovative ways to push boundaries and re-envision our world. The more value we bring to our business solutions, the more credibility we earn with our leaders and peers.
By no means am I suggesting that this is a step-by-step process. While building credibility takes time, we just don’t have time or patience to slowly climb our way up this hierarchy. As CIOs and IT professionals, we need to streamline processes and leverage the agile approaches and leading technologies that both make our legacy operations reliable and propel our digital transformation. If we don’t, the train will leave the station without us.