The CIO is in an excellent position to identify and create value from enterprise wide synergies in these areas. But before any CIO can go to the business with ideas for innovation that will deliver competitive advantage, the underpinning data infrastructure has to be in place. And that requires a very different approach.
In the past, IT was doing its job if systems were running well across all locations; timely backups were taken and data stored securely on disk. Gradually this evolved to a centralised strategy where IT exploited more sophisticated and efficient storage to migrate data to central locations and impose greater control.
This is no longer good enough: IT needs to ensure that all end users – and increasingly business partners – can not only access data efficiently but also collaborate with that information in real time. From the construction workers requiring real-time access to 3D models on their tablets whilst on site, to the rescue workers relying upon accurate geographical data when responding to an emergency, fast access to trusted, accurate information is key.
Data in the Cloud
This fundamental reliance upon real-time, anywhere access to information via a huge diversity of devices, combined with the pressing requirement for innovation, changes the emphasis for the CIO and IT department. For IT, it is now essential to offload the basics of hardware, software and support and concentrate of the role of exploiting IT to deliver value.
It is therefore important to deploy a data management model that does not demand continuous IT resource. Organisations that require a significant number of people – and cost – to maintain and manage the data infrastructure will struggle to make the evolution from supporting day to day business needs towards delivering innovation.
Streamlining the data infrastructure – and reducing the reliance on IT personnel – frees up budget to spend on delivering real business value. As a result, an increasingly important component of this data management strategy is to seamlessly move corporate information from on premise into to the cloud – and ensure secure access from any location.
Taking this step not only reduces the internal IT cost but also exploits a third party's dedicated solution to provide the required multiple copies of data, a multitude of failover switches and multiple connections to the Internet.
A cloud model also delivers that anytime, anywhere access to data users now require. However, this is not a simple step for organisations. It is certainly not practical to move all corporate data into the cloud at once. Organisations need to take a phased approach to data migration – and consider the impact on end users.
While cloud based data makes it far easier to deploy new applications to remote workers using a multitude of devices, it is essential to make this move seamless to users. To avoiding incurring significant support requirements and undermining the value of the third party model, the business must not deploy any end-user technology that requires management. As Gartner says, "At every replacement and upgrade decision, [the CIO should] assert preferences that will demand less management and less intervention."
However, many organisations are completely unable to make this move due to the inflexibility of the current data management infrastructure which cannot support both on premise and cloud based data in tandem. Indeed, one of the toughest issues facing many CIOs is to admit the need to change strategy and technology – often long before a technology refresh would typically be scheduled.
The reality is that the second wave of digital, combined with demands for IT to deliver measurable corporate value, mean that some technology decisions taken even within the last 24 months no longer look good. The onus is on the CIO to face up to the fast evolving business demands and technology environment and admit the need to make changes.
Ten years ago the CIO was reactive; responding to demands from the business to determine on-going strategy. Today that role has changed fundamentally: successful CIOs are increasingly adopting a consultative approach, proactively engaging with and educating the business to demonstrate opportunities for competitive differentiation enabled by the digital economy.
For the CIO, this creates any number of new challenges – from identifying and implementing technologies that can address all the business demands of today and the future, to explaining the value of those technologies to the business and, increasingly, to business partners to encourage the broader use of enterprise data as a competitive asset.
Underpinning this new role is information: the creation and exploitation of information and process assets are vital components of digital enterprise innovation and effectiveness. To confidently and successfully take new ideas for competitive differentiation to the business, the CIO must first create a holistic view of information and processes across the extended enterprise and ensure the right data infrastructure is in place to deliver that anytime, anywhere information model.
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