People are better at using technology than ever, helped along by widespread knowledge of the benefits of cloud. Although CIOs are still respected for their expertise, executives beyond the IT department recognise the value of cloud offerings that circumvent that IT department.
The cloud is helping standardise business practices, so CIOs should consider a horizontal approach to IT – rather than a vertical and siloed approach – if their value is to be fully appreciated.
The bottom line is that CIOs can no longer operate from within their semi-isolated departments. Instead of being a wheel within a wheel, they need to build bridges with every other department, taking a more holistic and homogeneous approach to IT.
A horizontal structure can make a business more agile and adaptable.
Properly integrating and layering IT and business capability makes it possible to change more quickly.
Think more broadly about which technologies will benefit organisations as a whole, not department by department. What capabilities does the business need?
It's not enough to identify that software used by the accounts department needs to be replaced; the CIO needs to think bigger, considering the broader picture and longer-term requirements.
For instance, migration to the cloud begins with a need to standardise practices across an organisation. That happens before deploying interlocking software and services that improve the flow of information.
Once a suitable cloud platform is in place, the last 10 or 20 per cent of the company's IT infrastructure can be tweaked to differentiate and address specific IT needs.
When renovating a house, it's important to work from the outside in, fixing structural issues before decorating the living room.There's little point affixing pretty tassels to the curtains when the roof is on the verge of collapse.
The change in thinking and working required will undoubtedly be challenging for many CIOs, some of whom could struggle to adapt.
Those who do succeed in taking a more holistic, business-wide and horizontal view of IT may provide their organisations with a competitive advantage and may well become one of their organisation's best assets.
Neil Cross is managing director of Advanced 365
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