Tuesday, October 25, 2011

(Why) Should CIOs be interested in LAN cabling or UPS batteries

I attended a CIO gathering which had an UPS battery manufacturer as one of the key sponsors. The presentation discussed the merits of one battery technology over the other; they offered a promise of higher reliability that matters to any CIO. So I started asking the half a dozen CIOs on my table if they knew which batteries their UPS in the data center or office premises used. Only one knew the answer.

A few days back a senior editor of a respected publication that also conducts small gatherings of CIOs asked me if I would be interested in attending a dinner sponsored by a structured cable vendor. He spoke in jest and wondered if he would be able to gather an audience numbering double digits. I kind of concurred with him as cabling was the last thing on my mind. I don’t remember when was the last time I reviewed cabling standards or attended a meeting with a cabling vendor.

I must have written many times on the new age CIO and the transformation over the last decade. I think that petabytes of information exists on this subject which any search engine will throw up. No event is complete without a discussion on what are or should be the CIO role or priorities. Everyone agrees that the IT leader is a business leader first and technology expert later. As a leader, s/he is expected to demonstrate behaviors no different from the CEO, CFO or any other CXO.

The CIO through his/her team gathers expertise on various technologies and related domains. These teams typically along with principal vendors, external service providers, and system integrators form an ecosystem that provides the basic and advanced solutions that enable and empower any enterprise. In every enterprise the deputies who form the IT Management and Operations team ensure that every day billing happens, manufacturing plants hum, goods leave the warehouse, call centers receive customers, sales people sell, finance teams collate figures, external partners get information due; in a nutshell, the world continues to move on despite random failures that occur at all levels.

In today’s world where most technology components (be it hardware, software, or connectivity) find it difficult to differentiate approaching commoditization, choices are influenced by existing long-term relationships between enterprises or people, or a significant price difference. Quality of Service is the only other determinant factor. New disruptive paradigms in the last few decades have kept every CIO on his/her toes to keep the enterprise competitive and current. But then there are some who haven’t.

So coming back to our battery vendor and the cable manufacturer, are these critical and high on the list of priorities of the CIO to demand his/her attention ? Should s/he undertake strategic meetings with the Management or Board on kind of cabling is being laid or the merits of one battery technology over the other ? What would happen if the battery bank failed and servers went down or storage disconnected due to a loose patch cord ?

I believe that the IT Infrastructure Head and his/her team under the CIO are tasked and are or should be empowered to deal with this. The ball however always stops with the CIO being answerable. But then every CXO depends on their teams to deliver and does not necessarily get down to micro-management. On an analogous note, is the CMO in trouble if lights on an outdoor hoarding go off ?


  1. Wow! And knowing this you went? In fact quite audacious of the vendor to dare you on this.

  2. The event had multiple sponsors that included the above.