Key CIO Confab Uncovers Concerns
September 16, 2013 Dan Burger
You’re not alone. CIOs, CTOs, IT department managers, and other executives wrestling with decisions affecting business strategies are increasingly turning to peers and partners to plan and implement their IT tactical strategies. At the Key Information Systems Summit last week, the core dump on topics–from cloud computing to business analytics to executive development facilitated by subject matter experts and IT industry thought leaders–was impressive.
The format for the summit was round-table discussion groups of 12 to 15 people with expert facilitators, and is a far better method for strategy discussions, exchanging lessons learned, and displaying battle scars. The participants include cagey veterans and plenty of folks seeking assistance as they explore new technologies that are altering the business landscape at a pace never before seen. The risks can be intimidating and the rewards are seldom achieved without great efforts and teamwork.
As an IBM business partner in the sales channel, Key Information Systems is transitioning from a company that relies on hardware sales to one that is more reliant on software, solutions, and services. What was clear from this event is that Key is emphasizing its role as a business partner with its customers. Partnerships don’t end after a sale is made, the hardware/software is up and running, the handshake and good luck wishes.
Obviously, Key is not the only company that emphasizes it can be a great business partner and this idea is not new. However, there is a new spirit of cooperation that is rising. The level of trust has to be much greater when you start strategizing about such things as cloud computing, hosted services, social business, and solving business problems. Operating as if you are on an island is both unnecessary and a poor choice for moving forward.
It’s apparent that IT is no longer the exclusive turf of nerds and geeks. There’s more outside influences on IT than ever. Of particular note is the increasing influence from marketing. Chief marketing officers (CMOs) continue to gain stature and decision-making power throughout companies and especially with projects involving IT. Many IT decisions are being approved by departments other than IT. That’s a trend that is increasing and it’s fueled by IT’s traditional isolationist preference. Get involved in the business game plan or get run over should be your level of awareness.
Cloud computing was one of the most talked about topics at the Key Summit. Data governance issues regarding cloud options were one of the top concerns. That, of course, relates to security, and there were spirited debates about whether the cloud is more secure than most on-premise data based on a less than stellar security emphasis by nine out of 10 companies. (Read The 10-Year Security Itch Needs Scratching in the May 20, 2013, issue of The Four Hundred for some insight on lax security.)
Indications from those in attendance point to a heightened interest in the cloud specifically with regard to software as a service. It’s being used to a limited degree by less than half the companies represented at this event (based on my observation only) for mostly non-sensitive information, but the interest in expanding its use is high. One observation that I heard was that due diligence on cloud computing makes IT look more closely at the cause and effect of its actions. That alone is a valuable contribution to the IT-business alignment efforts.
The topic of big data could be synthesized into this one statement: This is not about creating bigger databases. It’s about getting good information from multiple sources and integrating it as functional data. Most agreed that the promise of big data is largely unrealized at this point, but the tools for cleansing and integrating data are improving. The key, however, is having solid data to work with. Relatively few traditional companies are at that point. Recent start-up companies are at a great advantage here.
A reoccurring topic that found its way into many technology and business discussions was skills. Many companies are frustrated by the inability to find IT professionals with the skills they require. Much of this can be attributed to new technologies replacing the traditional skills that most IT workers have along with years of experience. Those with education that combines IT with business and who possess experience with technologies such as mobile, cloud, virtualization, social business, security, and business analysis have an advantage.
This is the fourth conference of this kind that Key Information Systems has hosted for its customers. The reseller, based in the greater Los Angeles area, has a customer base that consists of companies along the west coast, Nevada, and Arizona.