The road to the modern IT department has taken several twists and turns over the years, which has forced the CIO position to consistently challenge the mold. The following viewpoint has been formed by many years of helping multiple companies solve business critical problems as it pertains to the strategy chosen to operate the IT function within their organization.  It is this experience and broad range of expertise that drives similar discussions in virtually every IT organization.  On top of that, the news headlines that today’s CIO follows paint a very grim picture of the risks associated with operating corporate applications and data.  While at the same time, the level of dependence on IT within the business as a whole has increased exponentially in most organizations.  The CIO role has started the blend into an operations role, and in some cases is already there.  And that’s OK!

What is the company to do when it has to navigate these waters without a coherent infrastructure strategy? How can best of breed “as a service” product lines solve even the deepest rooted problems within your business operation?  The following six considerations should help to fuel some of the next strategy decisions that your firm will be undertaking.  These are some of the questions we hear most often, and certainly are advising our customers on as a part of our strategic partnership with them.  As with many topics, there are often times several perspectives to have on any given topic, and this is just one.  However, if you do not have an established strategy session within your organization or a meaningful way to keep this conversation going, please keep RSM in mind as advisors to help you at any step of the way.

The following list is not in order of importance, and in many ways is in itself an entire conversation to its own.

Last Mile Problem Solved?

The long standing challenge to developing an all-encompassing infrastructure strategy, has been to keep all users connected to corporate data at all times. It does not help that most mid-size companies have multiple locations, as well as increased demands from applications critical to the business.  This also acts as an inhibiting factor for most organizations when it comes to leveraging cloud technologies.  The latest trend in infrastructure design is to leverage the very same datacenters where connectivity and cloud providers are bunking up together, so that companies can push their applications and data out closer to their users.

Distribution of workloads, may the best “as a service” win! (or the cheapest)

One of the most over-used expressions today is “Hybrid Cloud”. Do you, or does your team fully understand and appreciate your firm’s strategy to get to the cloud?  Do you even have a firm wide strategy?  Or if you do, one in which all business lines are involved?  A common misconception is that this strategy simply means to select a vendor and problem solved!  Companies that fully leverage “as a service” capabilities successfully, build this strategy into every aspect of the IT operation as well as the business.  Mapping out your organization’s total IT strategy should include some form of hosted and/or cloud roadmap.

Increased requirements, smaller budget

How to do more with less. It is THE question that is always on the mind of the CIO, especially now that so much of an organization’s business function having some form of dependence on the IT function.  It is also one of the first questions to ask when advising the CIO role in a firm, and certainly the most telling.  Not so much in the answer itself, but in how rarely the complete answer is readily known.  Because many IT departments are understaffed for the level of expectations the business has on them, the concept of “shadow IT spending” has become a top concern for CIOs everywhere.

Know thy security posture

The threat landscape is as complex as it has ever been, and some might argue the most. The polar opposite of security is usability.  The CIO is now faced with a seemingly impossible task of balancing a shrinking budget with implementing an appropriate level of security while at the same time keeping the business functioning everywhere it needs to operate, globally.  CIOs in regulated industries already know the power of defining controls and regularly measuring (audit) the controls to ensure that their posture is still relevant to evolving vulnerabilities.  This fact alone has ushered in the importance of the CISO role within organizations.  A CIO cannot maintain the security posture as well as the operational posture.

Crack the staffing code, the global talent pool

Co-sourcing is the number one trend with IT organizations today, no question. Finding a partner that understands your business, and more importantly has the skillset to address a wide array of challenges that you are (and will be) faced with, is no easy task.   The key requirement here is that you emphasize partnership when developing a co-sourcing strategy for your organization.  Somebody that understands your business, that you have a positive working relationship with and that has the reputation of delivering solid work product.  And local talent pools are a thing of the past, some of the best consulting firms have offices in as many of the top talent pools around the world!  This is not only because of the growing list of specialty skills required in IT environments today, but also because the talent pool is very tight in some areas.

Why is our CIO invited to so many meetings?

A recent statistic suggests that the average tenure of CIOs in their current role is 2 years. By the time that the business realizes how many operational dependencies exist between various business functions and IT, it’s usually too late.  In most cases the IT department is overwhelmed with work, most of the various business units have engaged in some form of ‘shadow IT spending’ (out of necessity if not out of normal practice), and the CIO is probably nowhere to be found.  And the good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way!  Businesses can enable the CIO function through programs as simple as organizational IT governance, and IT steering committee meetings.  Recognizing the partnership between business units and IT opens the door to shared responsibilities in some of the areas traditionally associated with IT.

If you have questions or need assistance with anything mentioned in this post, contact us.