Best ‘Five minute CIO’ insights of the year – Part 2

26 Dec 2013

As 2013 draws to a close, we round up, in this second of two parts, the best comments about technology in business from a year’s worth of weekly ‘Five minute CIO’ interviews with Irish IT leaders.

Cloud computing gained more momentum in 2013. Working for a technology services company, Howard Roberts of Arkphire sees the issue from both sides. Here’s his considered view.

“Most companies’ application stack has not been prepared to be cloud ready. Email ports to the cloud quite easily, where ERP or custom-written applications developed over 10 or 15 years are not so easy to change. It depends with different companies, what applications they have and what stages of evolution they’re at. Also, there’s the fact that you need to change the whole way your IT people are used. The internal IT staff has to change their delivery model when you move to the cloud: they become service management brokers rather than IT infrastructure specialists which is currently what people are employing.”

Ger O’Sullivan of the National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals told us cloud will have a major impact on teaching students.

“It will change the game. As to where the cloud is at, if you look at mobile and tablet computing, that has matured … The best example is Google Apps and all schools across (Ireland) should be using that. Now, 40pc of a student’s assessment can be based on a portfolio and this can now be based in the cloud and the student can carry a learning diary. There’s a huge opportunity from a learning point of view. Also, people could log into a digital resource for assessments.

The technology-business balance

One of the major themes of the year throughout the interviews was the need for IT leaders to balance the technology and business concerns. Not surprisingly, our interviewees had plenty to say on the subject. Here’s Sentenial’s Gareth Cummings:

“You always have to be aware of the business and commercial side. The role I’m in works quite well because I straddle both worlds. It’s not like the business side is asking the technology side to deliver and that message is passed along; it’s that I understand what customers want … When you’re out with a customer, they’re telling you about pain points. You get to grips with how customers use the system. It gives you a real-life focus, and that translates back to when working on the technical issues, and what we’re trying to do.”

Sunil Kumar of Elephant Smart Business said listening to customers is essential:

“…because they say things you don’t expect, and it gets you thinking. I’ve taken a technical decision in the past where I’ve thought something was a really great feature – coded it, and went out to try and sell it, and potential customers were not interested. All of a sudden you’ve made this technical decision based on nothing but your ability to code it and you get a zero return on investment.”

Francis O’Haire at DataSolutions echoed his thoughts:

“I think too many engineers and technical people still rely too much on buzzwords and getting into the type of language that business leaders and stakeholders in IT projects don’t fully understand. So you’ve got to speak in their terms: business value rather than bits and bytes.”

The risk factor

Niall Halpenny of Danú Technologies said moving from a pure technology role into a business-facing one into is all about being comfortable with risk.

“When you’re dealing with technology, there’s usually a right answer: you have a lot more certainty. I would ask the question: can you take high levels of ambiguity – can you make the decisions where it might not work? Business is all about the uncertainty and there are people who don’t like that uncertainty. It’s a big barrier to moving to commercial roles because there are no guarantees.”

Eamon Moore of E-Mit and Cloud Compare pointed out that on the cloud is helping to drive the change in focus:

“Your typical IT manager has to realign himself with the business. When this new relationship between technology and the business comes along, the role will be more around realigning the business strategy and the IT strategy. I’m a firm believer that the IT manager of tomorrow will not be fixing servers, they’ll be sitting at the boardroom table.”

We even had an example of just that – Adrian Neilan of IGB is proof that a technology background is no barrier to taking a CEO role:

“There was a view that you had to come from a finance background to get the CEO role. I would argue, IT is the chief engine of growth or operational excellence worldwide. Technology is everywhere. Coming with that deep mindset, there’s no reason why a lot of IT people shouldn’t think of themselves as able to take on a leadership role in business. Equally, business needs to understand the value that a CIO can bring. I’m not the first to take the step but I think there’ll be many more after me.”

Read Part 1 of Best CIO insights of the year

Technology in business image via Shutterstock

Gordon Smith was a contributor to Silicon Republic