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Riffing on CIO cloud dilemmas - with Sina Moatamed

Jon Reed Profile picture for user jreed January 29, 2014
Data on CIO cloud struggles deserves a closer look. Here's the essence of my recent videocast with cloud practitioner Sina Moatamed.

sina head shot
Since the last time I talked with cloud practitioner and advocate Sina Moatamed about CIO cloud disruptions, more data on CIO cloud struggles has come out, along with boatloads of breathless predictions about tech strategy in 2014.

To find out how this data stacks up with Sina's views, I taped an informal Google Hangout with Sina riffing on CIO cloud issues. I've boiled down some highlights for you here.

The talk runs about an hour - here's an optimized audio-only version which you can also download:

To flesh out our discussion, Sina and I talked about the recent State of the CIO survey from, which did not exactly paint a glowing picture of IT/business alignment (only 25% of the CIOs surveyed reported that they were perceived as a peer of the business and innovation driver).

For some different angles, we opined our way through IDC's top ten technololgy predictions for 2014, putting each one to our own relevance test. Here's a few takeaways.

The tech is there, but is the culture ready?

Sina kicked off by saying that CIOs needed to seize the cloud opportunity rather than resist:

CIOs everywhere are challenged to rethink how they're going to structure their organizations - not to look at cloud services as a threat to their own relevance, but to rethink what value they actually bring.

I told Sina that I created a newsletter about 'extending the enterprise' beyond internal transaction systems back in 1998. Back then, the tech to make that extended enterprise a reality wasn't there. Now the tech is there, but is the culture ready?

Sina points out that the CIO can't dictate the pace of culture change. As a mobile/cloud-savvy generation enters the workforce, the pace of change is accelerated:

They know how to grab these tools and leverage it for themselves. These people are not saying, 'I want a job in the IT field.' They go into the line of business that's their practice, but they bring with them a wealth of knowing how to grab tools from the cloud and construct a set of utilities for themselves to be effective in the job that they've chosen.

That jives with the state of the CIO survey, where a 25 percent of the respondent reported they were struggling with the 'shadow IT' created by rogue services consumption. A better model? Transform IT into a consumption storefront for the business, where services can be officially procured. But Sina believes you can't stop there:

They need to wrap cloud services with supporting services that actually drive a really great user experience. If you can wrap cloud services with identity management and provide a single sign-on experience, if the application the user gets is integrated with the master data system so that when they get that application, all their accounts and all the people they need to contact is already loaded into that platform, they'll use it.

Predictions run-down

Sina and I pushed through IDC's ten tech trends that are impacting CIOs in 2014. Some of the trends were self-evident or redundant, but here's a few that stood out:

IDC on big data: 'Before 2017, only 40 percent of CIOs will rise to produce business enhancing insights from Big Data and analytics.'

Sina: I don't know about that. There's a lot to be learned still in how you leverage big data. Where you're going to see success [before 2017] is in pockets of product experimentation by companies. Whatever products they're putting out are going to be leveraging big data information, whether it's be for marketing or engineering innovation. I think that you'll see pockets of excellence within different enterprises to actually achieve big data, but is there going to be an enterprise wide center of excellence around big data? I think that's still a challenge.

IDC on cloud security: 'Seventy percent of CIOs will increase enterprise exposure to risk in order to accelerate business agility through increased cloud adoption.'

Sina: I agree. The tech industry has shown this time and time again that if there is a challenge, somebody is out there to help solve that particular challenge. It doesn't mean you need to go roll back, lock the door, and go back to doing what you've always done. You've got to get out of the house. You've got to go and engage in a very different way. Business competition is going to pull people out of their comfort zones, and try to find new ways to actually meet these security challenges. Is it a real issue? Absolutely it's a real issue, but that means that you have to look to solve it, and there are all kinds of [cloud] models in play right now to really address that.

If you go to a cloud provider who's just providing one single service, by its nature that service is compartmentalized from your other environment. The big vulnerability in internal enterprise is that I've got all my services internal, and it's just a wide open party for everybody who's inside the network to have access to anything.

IDC on EA: 'By 2015, Third Platform requirements will drive 60 percent of CIOs to use enterprise architecture (EA) as a required IT tool, but only 40 percent will deploy EA effectively.' (Note: IDC defines 'Third Platform' as cloud, mobile, big data analytics and social).

Sina: The enterprise architecture problem is that it's always been an engineering exercise on up. You start engineering, and tooling, and trying to figure out the ins and the outs of systems, and then you go, 'Gosh, I hope I provided the business what they wanted. Well, it really doesn't matter because I'm the only shop in town that can provide them anything anyway.' The focus was so much around the engineering side of it, when enterprise architecture was really supposed to be about the business and then into the IT realm. There needs to be some major rebranding around enterprise architecture, and maybe we stop calling it that, and just focus around business architecture, and create a real practice around what kind of business capabilities people need.

IDC on skills issues: 'By 2018, adoption of Third Platform IT technologies will redefine 90 percent of IT roles.'

Sina: I think we're just starting to see the upturn of the level of disruption. The amount of retooling somebody's going to have to do, and how nimble you'll have to be in order to be relevant is the challenge, I think, for the next 50 years. This is a really interesting marker, I think, in human history and economics. Everything is going to be hinged on how we handle and manage this as individuals. It's tough now, it's going to get even tougher, and it'll become the new normal. You will be retooling what you do as an employee, as a contractor, and as a consultant in almost every industry.

Wrapping it up

Looking back I see that our beef was less with IDC's ten predictions than with some of the critical issues not mentioned either for lack of space or priority. Problems we hashed out in the videocast included:

  • transitioning from broadcast marketing departments to digital publishing
  • how to upskill employees via online education, and the pros/cons of socialized learning
  • the pending bugaboo of cloud integration that will keep cloud hype in check
  • the emergence of the 'API economy' and value of exposing processes for external developers
  • why user experience has upset the apple cart of CIO priorities

We also took issue with IDC's use of 'third platform' analystspeak for cloud/mobile/social/big data in favor of cloud platforms, as in platforms used to build and support apps ecosystems. From our vantage point, cloud platforms look like a viable answer to the crippling issue of legacy ERP customizations that is getting a fresh batch of press lately, billed as the 'CIOs' next nightmare.'

The lack of emphasis on the so-called Internet of Things also surprised us - not to mention the impactful role of IT building smarter products. As Sina puts it:

The competitive landscape is going to change. Suddenly you find your entire enterprise product and service offerings irrelevant. Connected products will be the products people want in the future. For better or for worse, that's where it's going.

There is no running away from the problems many CIOs and IT departments have. For every organization surging forward on the back of IT and business collaboration, there are several in the throes of culture change or stuck in the mud.

Whenever I interview an around-the-bend thinker like Sina, I like to press him for advice on what IT managers in difficult situations can do today. We need that dose of reality given the dual challenges of legacy systems management and the culture change that drags the pace of business-centric IT. (Not to mention testing/QA chores and all the other components of operational excellence that keep the CIO from getting fired but rarely result in promotion).

Our discussion digs into some practical tips, but the gist is that it's worth fighting for small wins. The CIO can also use a certain amount of 'Shadow IT attitude' to build quick apps and, hopefully, business momentum. Sina:

You have to recognize that you are no longer in charge of saying, 'This is the right system. This is the right platform for you' - especially at the line of business. But you are in charge of saying, 'Here's how I'm going to make your choice for services even better.' You may need to start with just one part of the organization - one that will then become the advocate for what you do and not the one that'll discredit your value.

Sounds like a good place to start.

Note: For more background on Sina's views on cloud architecture and transformation, see his Unified Clouds blog.

Image credit: cloud hopping © Rob hyrons -

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