The Evolution of the CIO: The Convergence of Technology and Operations and How Enterprises Must Adapt

In a recent report entitled Gartner Top 10 Strategic Predictions for 2021 and Beyond, a Gartner contributor boldly stated that by 2024, 25% of traditional large-enterprise CIOs will be held accountable for digital business operational results, effectively becoming “COO by proxy.” No one can argue that as enterprise processes have become digitized, today’s CIOs are being challenged to shoulder many tasks that traditionally fell under the operations umbrella. Over the past few decades, technology has helped streamline processes and create efficiencies across the enterprise, making IT support integral to every organizational silo, from marketing to finance to customer support.

How the role of the CIO changed in 2020

In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic forced organizations worldwide to rethink the way they do business. IT teams scrambled to set up remote working capabilities for the majority of staff, which was no small feat from an operational standpoint. As we enter 2021, many are still successfully working from home thanks to operational controls, technology and the support staff that maintain it.

All of this has taught us how important ‘composability’ is in business. According to Gartner, one of the keys to enabling business success in 2021 and beyond, is to engineer your organization for real-time adaptability and resilience in the face of uncertainty. That means accelerating digital business initiatives so that you’re able to quickly and smartly react to external circumstances and optimize business processes accordingly.

Companies that are cloud natives already have an advantage. However, as CIOs are increasingly being called on to enhance operations and help make their organizations more nimble, they have less time to focus on important initiatives such as cloud management and security.

The impact of digital transformation in the enterprise

External pressures are forcing the C-suite to evolve, and new roles keep popping up in response to this digital transformation. The organizational silos that have always existed are now becoming somewhat obsolete. Enterprises that were once vertical in nature are being flattened by digitization. As they become more horizontal, they’re increasingly resistant to the vertical roles that once governed them.

So how are business leaders supposed to overcome these challenges and equip their organizations with the composability they need to accomplish future goals? In the wake of such a drastic digital conversion in 2020, how do you build a C-suite that works with this new model? Who should report to whom? And finally, how should CIOs think differently in the coming year? Future-proofing the enterprise won’t be easy, and it will likely require significant changes.

Closing the gaps in what technology can do and what your business wants to do

Since people are often opposed to such change, it is not recommended that an internal leader conduct such a drastic shakeup. Instead, it is recommended that you engage a project management organization or other third-party consultant to analyze your business and technical processes. It’s also wise to partner with a culture consultant who can bring an outside view and help facilitate a smooth transition. You may find that outsourcing some of your IT services will free up your CIO and support staff so that they can focus on their core business which is now heavily centered on enhancing operations.

When outsourcing, it’s best to find a partner with multiple views of the environment in order to address any gaps in service. Keep in mind that what you knew yesterday about the tech stack is not necessarily what you’ll need to know in the future. IT professionals should no longer consider themselves purely technologists but rather business optimization professionals, and outsourcing the baseline technology set will allow for that shift. The ideal partner can expertly manage your cloud environment and provide value through technical and operational best practices, cost optimization and a specific focus on security and compliance.

While Gartner’s view is that the roles of CIO and COO will merge in the coming years, it is unlikely that internal IT teams are ready for a total transformation. The breaking down of operations and IT silos has been a very slow process that may never be complete. Some CIOs don’t believe it would be entirely appropriate, as there are still many COO responsibilities that do not quite fit into the CIO’s business model. So, we may see a new title taking over this role in the future. As with everything, there will be early adopters such as cloud-native businesses and others where the bulk of operations are already in the digital environment, as well as organizations such as those operating with legacy systems that may never adopt it.

The bottom line is that a CIO’s role, and that of its support staff, is no longer just about technology. Holistic thinkers know that as we move forward, the focus should be more about the overall business and culture of an organization. COVID-19 forced the operational model to change overnight, and it’s impossible to go back to the way it was before. The past year highlighted how CIOs can drive digitalization across the organization — and how their shift in focus from purely IT to contributing to overall business operations is integral to future success.

To learn about how Lightstream can help your organization overcome complex technology convergence challenges through a flexible mix of consulting, integration and managed services, visit www.lightstream.tech.

Why IT is rethinking Best of Breed Management tools

Most of today’s IT leaders take a Best of Breed approach to procuring solutions and toolsets for their enterprises. They seek out the top-tier providers for each service, whether it may be for bandwidth, managed network, managed security services, managed firewall, or endpoint protection. The commonly held belief is that by partnering with the leading vendor for each service, they can build an end-to-end IT environment that’s bullet-proof. Makes sense, right? Not exactly.

While it’s very common for silos to develop within infrastructure and support, it can create major obstacles for already strained IT departments. Co-managing multiple systems and vendors with little cross connectivity and integration between each is a complex and resource-draining process.

Inevitably, each provider has its own shared responsibility model that they strictly adhere to. Each model is unique, and they do not communicate or compromise with other service providers to make up for their inherent differences. This leaves considerable disparities and gaps in service that internal IT departments are required to fill in. Furthermore, deploying and maintaining an app that works within each of these environments can be extremely complicated and time consuming.

Real-world scenario #1

A major retail website experiences a breach in its data security. This breach causes millions of buyers to have their financial records exposed to the public Internet. Individuals scramble to disable accounts, dispute unauthorized charges, change passwords, and expedite getting new credit cards. Meanwhile, fingers are pointed at the retailer and the reputation of their brand is at stake. The company’s cloud service provider promptly releases a statement that due to the nature of its shared service model, the breach was due to no fault of its own, but rather the result of negligence or an error made by the managers of the retail site. In addition to helping its victimized customers, the retail company is faced with significant legal consequences followed by months or even years working to restore its reputation. The painful reality for this company is that all of this could have been avoided by having a single provider manage its network and cloud security and eliminate the gaps in service that put customer data at risk.

Real-world scenario #2

A tier 1 manufacturing company has a global network they are being forced to operate in a remote work environment due to restrictions caused by the Covid19 pandemic. From the CTO’s perspective, they are having problems with supporting business units with network outages and moves, adds, and changes. They believe they are in need of a network services provider, however that provider must be able to seamlessly work with their other IT vendors. They soon discover that while it is possible for different service providers to work with one another, it comes at an exorbitant, unnecessary cost to their internal IT department. In short, the enterprise’s disparate vendors – all working in silos – are causing network connectivity problems, security issues, and an overly complicated move/add/change process.

A practical solution

By taking an integrated, “big picture” approach in each of these scenarios, the right service provider can customize an end-to-end solution that consists of any combination of bundled services. For instance, the manufacturer originally seeking network services is offered a comprehensive solution consisting of network and managed services, managed firewall, and managed endpoint security. Going forward, they will have one NOC handling any potential issues and ensuring their environment’s uptime. A single SOC to examine security and mitigate any potential threats. One provider managing all aspects of their IT environment with one single interface for them to work with. When presented with an integrated solution that is single-handedly responsible for Managed Security Services, SOC as a Service, SD-WAN solutions, and NOC as a Service, this customer has an “Aha!” moment. As the solution is being rolled out, the organization is looking forward to working within a safer, more streamlined environment designed to eliminate service gaps and help them realize greater efficiencies while cutting costs.

Expert advice

More than ever, IT departments within organizations are being burdened by securing and retaining talent, procuring and maintaining toolsets, and overcoming budgetary constraints. To assist with this arduous process, the experts at Lightstream recommend taking a 3-step approach to their solution procurement strategy.

First, recognize the challenges your organization is having difficulty overcoming. Next, have a general idea of what the solution to your problems might be. And finally, understand the roadmap for your technology. Will a mobile workforce be a factor in the future? Where is your enterprise currently, and where would you like it to go? Don’t be afraid to use a whiteboard mentality, and don’t be constrained by what you think technology can offer. Clearly articulate your goals and allow the provider to come up a customized solution that supports all of your business units globally.

The current pandemic has forced us all to think differently about the future. It has exposed challenges across industries and within telecom and IT, it has exposed gaps in the network community. In this new world, customers are struggling to promote connectivity and security in networks that weren’t designed to support mobile workforces. Security has been forced to take a back seat, and network capacity is being stretched very thin.

It is critical to partner with a provider who understands all of this and who can customize a solution to not only help you overcome your current challenges, but who can also help you reach your future goals.  Contact us to learn more about Lightstream’s integrated offerings and how we can help you simplify the procurement process and decomplicate your IT environment.