Instead of fighting the everything-as-a-service trend, CIOs need to leverage its capabilities so they can lower capital investments and better direct their human resources.
By Larry Bonfante
Over the past few years we have seen a huge spike in the marketplace in terms of what is commonly referred to as "everything as a service." This includes a plethora of services and capabilities that run the gamut from cloud computing (which has become a catch-all for just about everything these days) to software as a service, virtualized data centers, infrastructure as a service, and so on.
The bottom line is that the days when businesses needed IT to "stand up" a data center in order to do business are a thing of the past. Sales departments are going directly to Salesforce.com and getting an application up in days. Business units are whipping out corporate credit cards and having Amazon build and house a server within hours.
Now most of the CIOs I have heard discuss this issue react in horror! This is clearly an end run around IT to create shadow IT within corporations. Who is thinking about compliance issues like Sarbanes-Oxley and PCI? Who is making sure these systems integrate with other existing systems? Who is ensuring the data schemas used to capture customer information are aligned with other consumer-facing systems throughout the enterprise? These are all very legitimate issues and concerns. IT clearly needs a big picture view of what happens across the enterprise and is responsible for ensuring the security of data, that compliance issues are properly addressed and that things work together in as seamless a fashion as possible. As a CIO, you get absolutely no argument from me on these points!
However, there are two issues that most CIOs are missing in this conversation. The first is that the main reason many corporate departments have taken it upon themselves to contract directly with everything-as-a-service vendors is due because their internal IT department is perceived as "The Island of No and Slow." Our default reaction to many requests is "No, we can't do that" (which greatly frustrates our internal clients). We are also notorious for taking what seems like forever to get things accomplished (sometimes with good reason) and business people have a sense of urgency to get things done. Therefore, it's not surprising how they react to the siren's call of everything-as-a-service vendors' sales pitches. This should cause us to rethink how we react and respond to our key stakeholders and how they think about us as partners and providers of technology capabilities.
The second issue that many CIOs miss is the fact that these capabilities can actually liberate us from spending the most of our time and energy on the mundane aspects of "keeping the lights on." Yes, we are still accountable for the operational pieces of technology and these services are not a panacea for making that responsibility go away. However, if we can leverage these capabilities, we can lower our capital investments and redirect some of our human resources to working with our business partners to leverage technology to solve business problems and deepen customer engagement. This is the real gold at the end of the rainbow. So, instead of fighting against the trend, let's be smart and figure out how we can leverage these capabilities as yet another tool on our utility belts.
About the Author
Larry Bonfante is a practicing CIO and founder of CIO Bench Coach, LLC, an executive coaching practice for IT executives. He is also the author of Lessons in IT Transformation, published by John Wiley & Sons. He can be reached at Larry@CIOBenchCoach.com.
To read his previous CIO Insight article, "Who's Responsible for a Digital Business?", click here.