Decisions, Decisions: IT in a Changing Digital Environment

    In times of change, it is often difficult to figure out what to do today to position yourself for tomorrow. Nowhere is this more evident than in the enterprise, where the CIO is tasked with not only a complete revamp of data infrastructure and architecture but in figuring out how technology will support a new business model that is still largely undefined.

    About the only ray of light here is the fact that emerging virtual architectures make it easier to create and remove services, processes and other elements of the digital economy, so few decisions will lock the enterprise into a static trajectory for the long term. Nonetheless, the speed of emerging data operations will dictate that changes will be fast and furious going forward, so IT infrastructure must be flexible above all – and that includes the people who oversee it.

    According to a recent survey by CompTIA, the key driver in most technology decisions these days is the need to place business units and IT on a more collaborative level where they can focus on strategic objectives rather than day-to-day management. This is starkly different from the traditional structure that has business units as the strategic thinkers and IT playing a supporting role. As Seth Robinson, senior director of technology analysis at CompTIA, explained to BSM Info, technology’s new function will be to enable business processes and drive successful outcomes, which are critical to strategic business objectives. And many firms are finding that new technologies are allowing them to completely redefine their business models in which services, not products, are the key drivers of revenue.

    Naturally, this is causing business executives up and down the line to rethink technology’s purpose, and the risk it introduces, to core functions. A recent CEO survey by PwC revealed that they need to focus more on the technology side of their organizations if they are to compete in an increasingly digital world. This includes the proper deployment of automation and the need to address disruption of digital processes due to security breaches, system failure or other causes. Technology issues, in fact, are starting to play an increasingly critical role in things like mergers and acquisitions, particularly the need to integrate disparate resources and processes to ensure smooth delivery of services to the user community.

    But while it may seem like the enterprise will continue to cede control of basic infrastructure to the cloud, this in no way lessens the complexity challenges for the CIO – it merely shifts them to another level. As IT services firm Trustmarque noted in its annual CIO report, a key challenge going forward is finding the right way to pay for cloud services. Given the myriad funding options in the cloud market today, organizations are finding that they have to revamp their entire IT budget strategies away from traditional capex/opex models to more of a services/contractor procurement approach. This is also affecting the operations side of IT, as IT techs shift from managing infrastructure to acting as service brokers for a constantly evolving user base.

    For the coming year, then, top enterprise executives should focus on a handful of core goals, says Worksoft CEO Jim Kent. First, there needs to be broad alignment between IT and business, and this should be reflected in employee hiring and training. As well, organizations should concentrate on enhancing the customer experience, which can be accomplished primarily by deploying agile, adaptive IT. This transition will inevitably lead to increased use of analytics, mobile technology and the cloud, but it is important to remember that technology should be defined by outcomes, not the other way around.

    Like medieval explorers, today’s IT executives are heading into uncharted waters where the dangers are real and success is uncertain. But as history has shown again and again, those who fail to venture into the unknown find themselves at the mercy of those who do.

    The challenge today is not to proceed blindly but to determine as best you can where you want to be and how you want to get there.

    Arthur Cole writes about infrastructure for IT Business Edge. Cole has been covering the high-tech media and computing industries for more than 20 years, having served as editor of TV Technology, Video Technology News, Internet News and Multimedia Weekly. His contributions have appeared in Communications Today and Enterprise Networking Planet and as web content for numerous high-tech clients like TwinStrata and Carpathia. Follow Art on Twitter @acole602.

    Arthur Cole
    Arthur Cole
    With more than 20 years of experience in technology journalism, Arthur has written on the rise of everything from the first digital video editing platforms to virtualization, advanced cloud architectures and the Internet of Things. He is a regular contributor to IT Business Edge and Enterprise Networking Planet and provides blog posts and other web content to numerous company web sites in the high-tech and data communications industries.

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