IT department heads today are strategic decision-makers with a louder voice in the C-Suite. This blog outlines some best practices for rising above the day-to-day of maintaining IT infrastructure, freeing time to think critically about core business drivers.
How times have changed.
As late as a decade ago, the typical “Head of IT” was a functional specialist – carrying water for his C-Suite bosses, but at heart still a technical guy (or gal) doing whatever was asked. Today, technological smarts are a key competitive differentiator, so the CIO has a well-worn seat in the boardroom, with a corner office and pot plants to match.
(OK, not always a corner office. But most have a pot plant somewhere.)
However, one difference remains. The Head of Finance doesn’t toil all night totting up figures. The Head of Marketing doesn’t spend time writing ads. But the Head of IT still often spends a great deal of the day involved with keeping the lights on in the IT room.
And that’s a problem. Because time on busywork is time taken away from charting the future course of the company. In fact, a new report from IT experts Claranet suggests the IT chief has just 13% of their time dedicated to thinking about strategic issues.
Accordingly, this blog takes a look at what’s troubling today’s CIO, with some ideas for getting those hours back.
Rogue’s Gallery: the thieves of time
Examine the actual hours you work, and you’ll find the demands on your time can be divided into four factors. Think of them as four rogues: a gang of unruly thugs stealing your resources to no net gain.
Rogue 1 - the IT archipelago
If your company’s been established for a few years, look closely at how you’re set up. A surprising number of common information systems in today’s enterprise – each introduced for a perfectly valid business reason – don’t play well with others. In fact, 76% of respondents to Claranet’s survey recognised this.
That matters, because a key business need in this age of Big Data is for data sources to communicate with each other. Your sales team need just-in-time dates from the manufacturing partner; your marketers need to know how sales figures relate to their adspend; Operations types like the lowdown on the supply chain in real-time.
If information needs manual intervention, organisations suffer gaps in availability or, worst of all, re-keying. That’s why it’s important to look at your entire information ecosystem. Can it be swung onto a single infrastructure so that all data is available to every app? Maybe it’s time to look for expert partners to help fight this crime.
Rogue 2 - the enemy within
If you’re like 61-63% of businesses today, you keep essential apps and data in-house: many business leads consider that to be the safest option. In fact, with not just high ongoing costs but big peaks and troughs in the cost curve, it’s among the riskiest.
Think about it. Security and maintenance overheads carry high fixed costs, and you’ve got nobody to amortise them with. With rents higher than ever, even the server room itself isn’t cheap. This villain needs cutting down to size.
That’s why around a third (29-32%) of companies are hosting parts of their IT infrastructure in a private or public cloud; 8 out of 10 companies have at least some skin in the game. So look at increasing this percentage. The more processes you can entrust to outside professionals, the more time you have to be a truly strategic CIO.
Rogue 3 - the pernicious resource thief
He’s greedily siphoning off your energy by claiming you have no choice but to run all this iron in-house. 48% of survey respondents agree this rogue has the board’s ear.
It’s not about the cost itself: it’s about the opportunity cost. £50,000 spent on keeping the servers humming may be an excellent deal in itself – nobody was selling that server or applications cheaper. But how much further would that £50,000 go if spent on buying access to them under a rock-solid SLA with a long-established outsourcing partner, rather than purchasing the hardware and software themselves?
Intelligent use of cloud and SaaS services can bring down fixed costs steeply, leaving those resources to be effective elsewhere.
Rogue 4 - the sneaky one
He’s the light-fingered Artful Dodger you constantly have to keep an eye on, taking up a vast percentage of your working day while not adding much value. Forcing you to spend time on maintenance, support, handle-winding, and plate-spinning. He’s a low-level irritant that stops you doing high-level stuff.
87% of companies recognise the Sneaky Rogue, but many feel powerless to do anything about him. He forces them to concentrate on what’s urgent, rather than what’s important for the long term. Increasingly, Heads of IT are seeking out partners who can take this fella off their hands, with secure, five-nines-available apps and databases hosted off-site.
To the rescue - the friend with the badge (a deputy you can depend on)
Four non-loveable rogues: but each seems to meet his match in an external partner. Today’s outsourced IT services experts do a lot more than back up your hard disks; many are part of their customers’ strategic plans, providing competitively-priced access to key applications and data 24/7/365.
If a process can be reduced to a series of steps and dependencies – and most processes can – it’s ripe for outsourcing. So see what percentage of your time is spent dealing with such processes. (Claranet’s study suggests it’s nearly half.) And explore the potential an expert outsider can bring. Because once you find a true partner, they won’t feel like outsiders very long.
Prioritising the truly important over the urgent is hard. But the rewards are huge: a quadrupling or more of your thinking time, letting you plan for market conditions months or years ahead instead of blindly firefighting them when they arrive.
Having the right IT and the right IT partner is a massive step in clearing away the jobs that don’t add value, and allowing focus on the ones that do.
- The demands on your time aren’t inevitable – they are thieves
- The more fragmented your information systems, the more time they take
- Keeping everything in-house incurs high ongoing costs that may be avoidable
- Outsourcing is an option for more services than you think
- A solid SLA can replace a lot of plate-spinning at no additional risk