However, cloud services, managed services and outsourced IT functions can prove to diminish the importance of the CTO in an organization. Before you scoff at that claim, let me digress - I had the opportunity to talk this week with several value-added resellers (VARs) and managed service providers (MSPs) at a SonicWALL partner conference, where the resounding theme was about providing 'managed services."
While that was all well and good, I noticed a recurring theme with the SonicWALL partners at the conference-one where they are looking to grow their businesses into organizations that provide more than just managed services - in other words, expand their influence into their customers and offer outsourced IT services and become that trusted voice of technological advice for their customers, basically becoming the IT evangelist for how businesses should leverage technology to meet current and future business needs.
Interestingly, it is the very services offered by MSPs that give them the insight to do that - simply put, MSPs offering customized services have to learn how a business works, and that knowledge places them into the realm of the CTO. The irony here is that it is usually a CTO who brings in a managed service, looking to reduce administrative burdens, expand capabilities and improve operations, while reducing costs - that is the theory at least.
However, CTOs need to be aware that they are giving up some of their responsibilities when engaging managed services - which is both good and bad - simply because it is the insight to business and IT operations that allow CTOs to think as futurists and chart out short-term and long-term plans. Without that insight, CTOs come to rely on IT actors, such as MSPs or outsourced operations, to analyze and plan. At best, that translates to redundancy, where a CTO becomes little more than a mouthpiece for the ideas of others.
The trick here is for CTOs to take a hands-on role with IT services and effectively manage implementation and budgets, as well as take on the role as the primary decision maker and act as the translator between business goals and IT services. Then and only then can a CTO stake their claim as a technology visionary that dictates the future of IT as a service to the needs of a business.