CIOs: If You’re Not Following The Trends, You’re Far From Alone

iStock_000023488582XSmallOne of reasons that I love consulting and love attending events where I meet with end users is that I get to “keep it real” by seeing what’s really happening out in the real world as opposed to what analysts think should be happening in the data center and across the IT spectrum.  To listen to some of the typical tech media, one would think that everyone is now running their data centers inside public clouds or hybrid clouds and that the IT group is now completely focused on accelerating the business and technology issues are a thing of the past.

Everyone, that is, except you.  As you read these reports, you may walk away believing that you’re the only shop left still running all on-premises and without full data center automation and without any kind of converged infrastructure.

So you don’t have any plans in place to move to the cloud.  You don’t have any plans in place to move to converged infrastructure.  You barely have the time and resources to meet existing expectations, let alone try to change the status quo and automate your own work.  You’re far from alone.  As I discussed with a number of IT practitioners this week, there are a myriad of obstacles holding organizations back from jumping on some of the current technology trends.

  • Bandwidth.  This is one that many may question since bandwidth is easy to get in many places these days, but, in reality, there are any number of organizations that are still challenged when it comes to getting bandwidth that is affordable, reliable, and provides sufficient speed.  While the situation is improving, until the bandwidth playing field becomes more level, some organizations will simply be unable to leverage cloud services.
  • Budget.  Change requires some kind of resourcing in order to happen.  In many places, IT budgets remain extremely tight and there is a fear of upsetting the delicate balance that has been achieved.  These organizations may be risk-adverse or may truly not have the funds necessary to properly test new services.
  • Time.  Another critical resource is staff time.  Organizations don’t simply wake up one day and declare that they are moving to the cloud with no planning.  Many IT departments continue to struggle to simply keep pace with current demands, let alone consider new ones.
  • Need.  “If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it” is a common refrain in many places.  If there is no perceived need, organizations will simply remain with the status quo.
  • Perception of hype.  Even with what we’re seeing in the market today, “cloud” still suffers from the ridiculous hype that has been generated in recent years.  There remain IT pros skeptical that the cloud will remain a viable option and they see it as just another passing fad.  In fact, I was even asked, “When will the cloud go away?” by one attendee at a conference.  I indicated that I didn’t believe it was going anywhere and that, this time, the trend is real.
  • Security.  Security is a legitimate concern for many, particularly those that live under heavy regulation or hold a lot of sensitive information.
  • Job security.  There is still major concern from IT pros that moving to the cloud will require a change in skill set and may even mean the loss of a job as the company no longer needs particular skills.  The unfortunate fact is that this is probably true to an extent.
  • Understanding of the trend.  Although a lot is written about many of today’s trends, it seems that rank and file IT staff aren’t able to stay as current as many would like and may not have the knowledge necessary to make an informed judgment call on whether or not a particular trend or service is worth investigating.

Even with all of these roadblocks, I remain convinced that CIOs and IT leaders across the board should find ways to at least look at emerging trends to determine if there is a business opportunity to be had.  It will require some new ways of thinking and may require a redefinition of some skills, but there is an opportunity for IT to move into the role of “trusted services broker” rather than simply a “cost center” in the organization.  Even in a broker model, the IT group will still need technical skills to assess new solutions and integrate them into the organization’s systems, so technical skills will not all go away.

I do worry a bit about IT organizations that can’t get out of the quagmire in order to become more business-focused and what that could mean for the future of the IT profession.  One way or another, businesses are going to meet the demands that they have and the question will remain, “Can IT do it or do we need to go outside?”

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  • Jason R Klein

    Hey Scott,

    I have had the pleasure of meeting with you at VMware PTAB events on multiple occasions and have the utmost respect for you as a technologist. I have to disagree with you on the majority of points made throughout this article.

    I do agree that the two core limiting factors to any “cloud” services or “brokered services adoption are connectivity(bandwidth) and security. There are many ways to appropriately develop solutions through a brokered services model that can meet or exceed many security requirements. There are also many service providers that focus on localized services in order to take advantage of connectivity options.

    From a budget perspective every organization is familiar with operational spending, whether it’s for headcount, software licenses, SaaS usage, or capacity. Depending on the organization’s financial make up there are can be opportunities to take advantage of operational budget without impacting the current or future capital budgets. This helps make the transition much easier. Other organizations will be applying pressure to mitigate capital expenditures. This provides budget leaders the opportunity to handle a reduction in capital without cutting infrastructure.

    Time is an ongoing issue, the majority of organizations we work with do not have a surplus of headcount. Most of them run at a deficit. This is the classic 80/20 rule, an organizations top resources spend 80% of their time keeping the lights on vs. strategic activities. By removing the burden of infrastructure management or other non-strategic activities like backup and recovery services or test/dev, time can be made available for better alignment to the business. Every initiative requires resource time, we see that adding a services based solution has much lower upfront and ongoing resource requirements.

    From a need perspective, I do not think that “status quo” is appropriate for any IT organization. I have never evaluated an organization that could not benefit from some type of change. We look at benefits from automation, efficiency from capacity management, increased availability from workload diversity, etc. There is always opportunity for improvement and I would expect that the business would demand improvement on a regular basis. That being said you don’t need to immediately transition into a brokered services model, take baby steps. Remember that backup project that lagged on for three years and never was really completed? Start there, get rid of your backups. Just one example of many.

    Perception of hype, I agree with this. Cloud is one of the most hyped concepts of the past 25 years. The fact that there is a lot of buzz around the topic isn’t a good reason not to move forward. It’s important that organizations take the time to understand the concepts and technology in order to develop a strategy and definition of their own. I also agree that cloud as a concept is not going away.

    Job security is always an issue in constantly evolving field like Technology services. IT professionals are constantly adding skills to their portfolio, it’s what we’ve always done. Any individual that is happy with where they’re at and doesn’t want to learn or improve is in the wrong field of employment. There should be significant opportunities for resources that are employed at organizations that are deploying leading edge technologies and services.

    Understanding the trend, I think this is related again to how much time an organizations best resources spend on keeping the lights on vs. strategy. Flipping the 80/20 phenomenon will enable those resources to contribute. You need to find ways to improve efficiency.

    I think that the last two paragraphs represent the dichotomy of the situation. They seem to pull people back into thinking that they should be investing time into a cloud strategy. I do think that organizations have some difficult decisions to make, do nothing should also be considered a conscious decision.

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  • Marina

    I don’t do public trends much in the way I don’t do Mondays. Leaders don’t come from Trend-iods. Was fervently told to ‘get with the masses’ to expand on any business possibilities there… but nah, I couldn’t do that either. Couldn’t do the cloud, the twitter, the fb, the what-ever trend. No matter what it is, if it was being pushed in the media as the next big thing, well, its death knoll sounded in my ear. Two things I know for sure are, it’s wonderful dealing with China, my global company loves it! and the only people one should ever listen to are.. ones clients.

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