The CIO: from gatekeeper to enabler

As a result of new and advanced technology, significant transformation has been made to the way enterprises operate. Business units, particularly software and web development teams, but also marketing, HR and finance, want to take advantage of the new generation of cloud services, meaning that an interest in cloud technology is no longer solely the domain of the IT team. The consequence of this is that every business unit leader has their own IT solution in mind, rather than waiting for the CIO to deliver against a set of requirements. This is leading to the CIO and IT department losing the control it is expected to have, and then having to deal with the pitfalls that come from having systems and data outside of the company’s infrastructure. Finding a solution that meets the needs of all stakeholders is one of the greatest challenges facing enterprises today and one that will demand that the role of the CIO and IT department changes forever.

The convergence of cloud computing and business-critical applications is having a profound effect and is perhaps the most transformative technology trend affecting today’s workplace. Employees want instant access to their tools from any location, at any time, and so they increasingly want to use cloud-based solutions. These cloud systems offer unlimited scalability of storage and data-processing capabilities, helping business-critical applications to run more efficiently than ever before. Businesses are consequently open to a wide range of growth opportunities, being more able to respond to dynamic market conditions and competition, serve new geographies, and to rapidly develop new products and services.

Despite the benefits that cloud computing offers the business, the IT department are understandably nervous about allowing business units access to the wide range of self-service solutions they need. Due to budget limitations and corporate policies, the IT department end up acting as a gatekeeper and restricting the services to which employees can have access.

As a result, employees are procuring their own solutions in order to meet their specific business requirements without waiting for the IT department. According to Centrify, more than two-thirds of organisations admit that unauthorised cloud applications are being implemented without IT’s knowledge or involvement. This “shadow IT” could pose a significant threat to an organisation’s information security and availability, potentially impacting its revenue. According to Gartner, 35 per cent of organisations’ technology budget will be spent outside of the IT department by 2020. Shadow IT will continue to grow unless business units and departments are provided with the flexible tools they seek as part of the services IT can offer.

Each business unit is faced with differing technological requirements. A software team building a software application to sell in the market usually requires a set up of several servers, storage and networking, i.e. ‘QA environments’. Software development teams could greatly benefit from the agility of creating instances in a short space of time, the efficiency of not having to manage and maintain the infrastructure and paying only for the infrastructure they need.

Web content teams also greatly benefit from the cloud. It opens up resources from multiple internet-connected devices with lower barriers for entry. The cloud gives them access to hosted applications and data along with cloud-based development services, allowing content teams to create web applications that have remote access to data and services like never before. Cloud-based developments allow developers to build and host web apps on the company’s own cloud server, speeding up the development and deployment processes.

The major challenge facing the IT department is to regain control and enable employees to work flexibly with applications that meet their requirements, whilst also making sure the company’s data is secure and that the CIO can deliver the compliance and reporting requirements demanded. In order to do so, the CIO and the IT department need to bridge the gaps between IT’s need for control and business units’ need for flexibility by offering flexible and dynamic self-service solutions. By doing so, IT becomes an enabler of business change rather than a barrier to it, and by choosing the best hybrid cloud platform to offer both on-premise and cloud solutions, their organisations will avoid pitfalls which can be created by using variety of different systems and cloud offerings within a single organisation. CIOs need to be able to understand that the demands placed by each business unit to become stronger, more innovative and competitive require this service-based approach. This in turn will position the CIO as a business enabler, supporting greater efficiency and innovation to fuel growth and increased revenue, while also future-proofing the organisation’s technology infrastructure to maintain a competitive edge.

CIOs must immediately turn their attention to future proofing their business and creating a unified vision by choosing an appropriate hybrid cloud infrastructure that meets their business’ requirements, before the business beats them to it. They need to embrace shadow IT within the enterprise rather than trying to shut it down. As CIOs continue to be pulled in different directions by employees, cloud providers and customers, it’s clear that a single cloud strategy is no longer sufficient in meeting a variety of needs. Hybrid cloud - combining public cloud infrastructure and external cloud services with private cloud deployments and on-premise IT systems - can provide flexibility, structure and security, and enables the CIO to gain control over the IT environment, assuring data governance, but also enabling the various areas of the business to evolve with the right technology to support them. Now is the time for the CIO to shake off the gatekeeper reputation and step confidently into the role of ultimate business enabler, with hybrid cloud facilitating this evolution.

Ian Finlay is the Chief Operating Officer at Abiquo