Tuesday, October 01, 2013
CIOs beware, CIOs rejoice
The hall was brimming with people, hardly a seat empty and many standing with their back to the wall. Safe capacity of the premises was pegged at 5000; if there were more, no one paid heed. The session was to be broadcast live and streaming media on screens across the venue. It was not a show on how to get rich quick, nor the speakers had a magic formula on how to lose weight, the speakers were global IT industry icons and leaders who draw crowds when they get on stage with their charisma and speeches.
The audience comprised of CEOs, CFOs, CIOs, in fact CXOs across countries, industries, global and local companies, big and small; many were accompanied by rising stars from their teams. It was a big event spread over 4 days that makes it one of the largest. Partners, system integrators and consulting companies invest their time and money annually to network with customers, solicit new ones and also hear about new offerings that typically get announced in such events. As a bonus, you get to see what competition is up to.
We got off to a great start with a few announcements and partnerships between past adversaries which was a significant milestone that helped the industry and customers. The star speaker did not show up, but most stayed put. The session however took a direction that had many in the audience surprised. The collective energy level suddenly dropped and to bring up the intellectual level in the room, many started playing with their smartphones. A few dozed off which was quite expected, but there were many who listened attentively and took notes.
The speakers had started explaining the step by step process on how to provision a virtual server on the cloud with various options; how to migrate from one platform to another, how to upgrade a few technology components, and how to benefit from the new offerings. The people awake and taking notes were not all IT folks, a large number were users with no technical background or past experience in technology. Were they trying to help their IT folks back home or had a sudden urge to learn cloud server management ?
I met some of them post the session and many more during the evening drinks seeking to unravel the mystery behind their new found love for an IT back office activity which is mostly outsourced. What motivated them to take active interest in something that many CIOs shy away from. I cannot say that the answer surprised me, what did was the extended outcome. The context determines how you view an event and its impact. What would happen when users start provisioning IT infrastructure and services themselves ?
Typical response, how can we allow them to do that ? It’s our job ! They do not know technology, they don’t understand the interdependencies and lack the skills; they should stick to what they know best and come to us when they need something. The IT Relationship Managers will understand the holistic big picture and then get the stuff done. There have been so many instances when they bought some solutions and came running to us when something broke or the project had challenges which were out of their league.
Alternate view, it is good that they are getting into self-service. With interfaces getting idiot proof and general awareness improving, there is no reason for them not to do it. Most of these tasks are easily done by anyone. It takes away a chore from us and gives us time to focus on what matters. Some of the IT team can now move to other value added activities. We are always there in case something was to fail or require deeper expertise or require escalation with the service provider or integration with other solutions.
Which view do you endorse ? The first believes that technology should remain within the IT domain and IT will service requests or provision based on project requirements. The alternate view encourages giving up and offers independence to everyone. The federated model with adequate controls does not necessarily free up many IT resources but creates a perception of self-reliance. Applicability of the model is dependent on enterprise IT maturity and partnership between business, IT and vendors.