This interview was originally published in SIIA’s Vision From the Top. The 2013 Vision From the Top will be released at All About the Cloud, May 7-9 in San Francisco.
With various forces combining to transform the IT landscape, how do you see the role of the IT department evolving?
The recent trends in consumerization and mobility are dramatically changing the role of IT. We’ve seen IT departments completely transform from dictating the technology employees can use to supporting more choices. Forrester recently cited in a report that almost 60% of firms surveyed already provide some support for employee-owned smartphones. Many companies are now adopting ‘bring your own device’ programs and this trend will continue across other areas of technology. CIOs are now facing a more sophisticated employee and an ever-increasing pace of change while losing control over the computing environment. The role of the IT organization is shifting from support and risk mitigation to one focused on competitiveness and employee return. At the forefront of this expanded role of IT will be developing an integrated strategy and operation that embraces employee use of personal devices, applications, and social media all within a constant mobile working mode.
Cloud computing is one of the fundamental building blocks for achieving this step function gain in productivity at a lower cost of operations. Today we see end-users and departments using software as a service (SaaS) and other cloud resources for a wide variety of applications, which dramatically changes the role of IT. In today’s mobile and Internet-driven world, consumers can easily access applications and use them on their own. The delivery model has changed but IT will still play an important role to ensure security, reliability, compliance, and integration.
Are traditional on-premise mega-vendors really committed to Cloud, or is it just a strategy to perpetuate and protect their on-premise legacy?
The shift to the Cloud will have an even more profound impact on the industry than the shift from mainframe to client-server. We saw what happened to some mega-vendors during that transition. And as more clients move from PCs to mobile devices, an even larger set of opportunities will emerge for new companies to solve new challenges. Today, any mega-vendor who is not committed to a Cloud strategy will probably not be a mega-vendor for much longer. Some have done a good job of transitioning their strategies and business models but it will be a difficult shift. Mega-vendors are highly dependent on their traditional on-premise revenue models of selling large upfront licenses and annual maintenance. This is one of the main reasons why some are more reluctant than others to commit fully to the Cloud. And any vendor trying to selling both approaches will probably have a hard time because they’ll need to spend additional resources on different versions of their products.
IT buyers have come to the realization that evaluating cloud services as a first choice is fiscally responsible and, in many cases, more secure and reliable than their own data centers. Companies now have a choice between server-based or cloud services for managing just about everything. The Cloud will be the only long term, sustainable way to deliver IT. The Cloud is real and it’s here to stay. With that said, a true commitment to the Cloud will require a focus on the real-time nature of business and agility of decision making and execution which has traditionally been difficult for some mega-vendors.
Given that the economic outlook in many parts of the world seems uncertain:
What’s your philosophy on maintaining a focus on innovation?
We have very talented and smart people in our company who are highly motivated to succeed. You really need to surround yourself with the best and brightest people. We like to describe our culture as ‘innovation angry.’ We’re always pushing to find better ways to deliver value to our customers. We have been very fortunate to be part of the two of the most innovative trends in the technology industry -mobility and cloud computing. But that doesn’t mean innovation came easy to us. We allow our employees to take risks and make mistakes because we know this is ultimately how great innovations are born. It is important to look ahead and think about how the business world will work 3-5 years ahead and plan a corporate strategy accordingly.
How do you encourage and foster a growth mindset with your employees and partners?
As a global and diverse organization we’ve created teams that foster collaboration and take calculated risks. To inspire this type of thinking we provide meaningful rewards for those employees and partners that experiment and drive growth. It’s important for us to keep everyone involved in the direction of the company and empower them to make decisions. By enlisting their ideas and thoughts on how to grow the business we motivate them to be engaged in the process. Participation and accountability define their expectations. You also need people that are honest with each other about what’s working and what’s not, but who are also fun, hardworking, and want to win. Confidence and enthusiasm is infectious and as a leader, you need to set the tone.
What do you do as CEO to keep your organization focused on customers and value?
Expectations from customers on value and being responsive to their needs have changed dramatically. We operate in an instant-on world so we are working hard to build an active online community. This gives us a platform to constantly engage with customers, prospects and partners across multiple channels using forums, webinars, and blogs. The mobile IT world moves fast and change is constant. So the key here is to be available in real time to respond to customer input, questions, or problems. Our product is cloud based so we have the ability for customers to provide instant feedback and the capability for them to benchmark themselves against their peers across key mobility metrics. Fostering an empowered employee is important-ones that are able to respond quickly to the customer and educate are key to delivering value.
Rhianna Collier is VP for the Software Division at SIIA. Follow the SIIA software division on Twitter @SIIASoftware