The Riverbed Blog (testing)

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Fill in the gap between where you are and where you want to be

Posted by riverbedtest on May 18, 2009

David Spark, reporting at CIO Boot Camp at Interop in Las Vegas.

In an effort to get a room full of wanna be CIOs to think holistically about their structure, Louis Gutierrez, CIO Emeritus – Commonwealth of Massachusetts and CIO Emeritus Harvard-Pilgrim Healthcare gave a presentation entitled “Structured for High Performance” at CIO Boot Camp at Interop in Las Vegas.

Battling tensions

Gutierrez focused his discussion dealing with tensions at extremes. Those tensions existed within your IT department, the business objectives, and even your equipment.

First step, suggested Gutierrez, is to understand what everyone at all levels thinks about performance. Reflect. Look beyond symptoms to causes. Don’t just look for targets to blame. Don’t be confrontational. Always be looking for people to give you feedback.

Know what you’re engaged in. Sometimes we forget the nature of the work we’re in. CIOs are in the business of acquiring and managing long lived capital assets. You need to think hard about campus planning, architecture, engineering, and maintenance. If you don’t have that capability, as an aspiring CIO, you will have big ideas implemented in small ways.

Conflict between IT order and business agility

CIOs are constantly being told, “Get this IT thing in order.” You are responsible for the quality of your service and delivery. This responsibility occupies a central place in the life of a CIO.

You can get more order with more responsiveness. Gutierrez offered the following areas to think about when you’re trying to create order to improve performance.

  • Examine mandate – take it to the limit.
  • IT planning framework – There are tons you could adopt. 
  • Your funding approach – don’t try to control everything.
  • Portfolio management
  • Techniques for consolidation. Centralize or decentralize?
  • Manage blockers – the people preventing you from doing what you want to do.
  • IT organization elements
  • Your approach – SOA and Agile

Having a central mandate to cause change is important. Examples of mandates that work, said Gutierrez, are enterprise shake up, a one company edict, and cost reduction – participate in cost cutting by seeing IT as a saving function rather than just a cost center.

Mandates that don’t work, Gutierrez continued, is anything that requires line executives to actually know what’s going on in IT. Stop with the response of “We can’t do that. You don’t understand IT. Our security is so high.” That just creates more tension and an us vs. them culture between business and IT.

Fill in the gap between where you are and where you want to be

Gutierrez suggested the following IT planning framework. Start looking at where you are now, the target vision for IT, and then define the gap in between. What’s needed to make that IT vision happen from where you currently are.

To pull it off, you want to walk through these five strata:

  1. Business process transformation
  2. Applications and data architecture
  3. Infrastructure (network, storage, services, etc.)
  4. IT staffing, sourcing
  5. Portfolio governance. It’s not the technology that’s hard. It’s the governance.

Dealing with complications

Gutierrez understands that entropy is almost always unavoidable. What happens is companies accumulate stuff, making things complicated, and that makes you less agile. You can’t always be collecting stuff. It takes energy to clean up and retire old equipment, before you can drive new architecture. Spend more time on both processes, the clean up and the growth. You still want to aim very far, says Gutierrez, but you’re going to have to get there incrementally.

Not only will having lots of equipment bog you down, but there will people blocking your objectives. Don’t fight them. Instead, make them a center of excellence. You will have shared responsibilities. Work with them and your equipment to achieve your objectives for your business and your IT department.

For more, check out all of Riverbed’s Interop ’09 Las Vegas coverage.

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One Response to “Fill in the gap between where you are and where you want to be”

  1. Not only will having lots of equipment bog you down, but there will people blocking your objectives. Don’t fight them.

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