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Balancing Technology & Business

Recently, there has been a lot of ocean churning over whether it is the CIO or business that has control over technology spend. Much of this has been due to a wide gap between the promise and actual realization of business potential by technology. For a better part of the last half decade, CIOs have seen their budgets squeezed to the bare minimum, innovation initiatives sandboxed, very heavy cost cuts and micromanagement of IT departments. To add to this, new age digital technologies, including the big three of Cloud, Analytics and Mobility have given businesses more control over IT Department’s business and technical context.

But as to whether businesses simply do away with the CIO office, the answer is a resounding no. While businesses and end users are increasingly recommending and buying technology, they simply cannot handle complications beyond a certain point. Not to mention addressing inter-departmental dependencies and shared technologies.

Gartner predicted that by 2017, businesses will largely control the technology spend of an enterprise. However, CIOs are undisputed owners of a huge chunk of an enterprise’s technology resources, given the context above. Therefore, while the CIO will still control the IT spend for the immediate future; the above-mentioned factors have made it inevitable for CIOs to close the gap between the promise of technology and delivery by technology quickly.

The new business-led enterprise has thrown up some critical areas for the CIO to address. First, where businesses make a find of a particular technology that can be rolled out across the organization. Second, security around new technologies introduced into the organization. Third, the incubation and acceleration of technology ideas independent of businesses that are relevant to the larger enterprise. These, in addition to meeting all the current budgetary and headcount straitjackets dished out liberally by the enterprise to the CIO organization.

The new CIO organization of today will have to be a completely different animal to bring about the Technology-Business balance. It has to change from being largely a reactive Keep-The-Lights-On (KTLO) organization to being a proactive Driver-for-Growth organization. It must put into place processes to balance demand and supply, ensure enterprise agility, while keeping a tight vigil on business impact, risk management, and cost to serve. It must also prevent uncontrolled IT activity. And to do this, it has to evolve real world strategies – technologies, processes and practices, to meet future realities and expectations, and especially the increasing clamor for digital technologies. It must also make an effort to understand the requirements of businesses to achieve this balance. A prudent approach would be to initiate “Internal Partnerships” with businesses.

Clearly, the CIOs have their task cut out and a clear mandate on hand for what and how things have to be done. A good starting point for this would be to look at new technologies that could be brought in, getting rid of obsolete ones, modifying and continuing to use what can be used, and dumping random suggestions for the so called “New and Excellent” technologies. CIOs currently focusing on Integration, Orchestration of Information Technology, Information Systems to keep the lights on, have to quickly get in the Business Relationship Managers in their group to balance between Business and Technology.

Srinivas Anappindi

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