Shadow IT and the CIO

Shadow IT and the CIO

Do CIO’s just turn a blind eye to ‘Shadow IT’?

The debate goes on as many CIOs remain the ‘IT Technology Gatekeeper’ versus embracing ‘Shadow IT’ to become the innovation leader

IT governance in the era of shadow IT is one of the most important CIO change areas for the 2020s as lack of control or focus on Shadow IT growth will create further insignificance for the CIO role.

Interestingly by 2020, more than 35% of organisations’ technology budget will be spent outside the IT department, according to estimates from analyst Gartner.

This trend will have profound implications for the role of IT professionals and the IT team.

The growth of “shadow IT”, as it has become known, has been given impetus by the growth of consumer technology and cloud computing, which make it increasingly easy to deploy technology without going through the corporate IT department.

At the same time, businesses are under pressure to adopt new technology quickly, and realise they can often deploy more rapidly by bypassing the IT department.

“IT suppliers are also part of the shadow IT problem because they will bypass the CIO if they can see a faster result,” said Craig Ashmole, Founding Partner of London based IT consulting CCServe. “Talking with a CIO recently over coffee, he told me that he had learned from a chance conversation with one of his suppliers that his company was spending a substantial sum on a new IT system, when asked who they were dealing with, he was told someone in Procurement.”

Now that got his attention. Ensuring that shadow IT is managed and governed properly is a challenging task for CIOs. If you know why there is shadow IT, you can do something about it so make sure you put the tools in place to address that root cause.

Don’t ban shadow IT

Banning shadow IT is not the answer, using a policing term if you ban Shadow IT you will find it will just go underground and purchased secretively or departments will creatively purchase in small quantities or under supposed project costs to get what they want.

The biggest usage of Shadow IT seems to be in three areas:

1) Mobile phone data and photo usage which includes tablets and home PCs and general MDM

2) Chatter, Social Media or Communications apps like, Yammer, Chatter, iMessage, Facetime, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or WhatsApp etc – A huge choice here!

3) Cloud based applications for data storage or project sharing and such as BOX, iCloud, Dropbox, SOS etc

Embrace innovation and stimulate employees to share ideas or concepts that would improve working conditions or make their job easier or even enable costs to be reduced – these are the core ideas that could be consolidated into internal IT development to see the practicality of business improvement. This will also instigate an element of wanting to enable the IT department to make new ideas work rather than being seen as a gatekeeper and preventer of technology usage.

The role of the IT department should be to set expectations for employees, not to control the way they use technology by treating employees in this growing Gen-Y environment as technology savvy. Treat them like you would executives in the business, with trust, while educating all staff on best business practice and how to control data leakage, just as you would a CFO in the pub watching his favourite team not to discuss sensitive fiscal details with his mates. Building this inner trust with staff is stronger than telling them what they can or cannot do. It should be clear however the ramifications should someone fail this trust and that’s often a better approach.

Marketing people don’t really want to run IT systems. The CMOs just want their systems to scale and to work; they don’t want to have to maintain IT systems, or take responsibility for them working. So they are usually more than happy for the IT department to step in and provide support.

Move from in-house to cloud

Organisations should be moving away from providing IT in-house and towards buying in standard services. We should be using the cloud to put in place a platform, an ecosystem that you can offer to the business for a unit price and with well-understood service-level agreements.

The role of the IT department will not be to deliver the systems, but to work with external providers to offer the service quickly, for the best cost. Utility services can also be moved out and managed by outsource service companies that can often provide these services better and at lower costs. It is this speed to market and ability to scale that dramatically reduces the need for shadow IT.

“The skillset of IT professionals will change and is already doing so. Rather than being technology experts, their role will be to work with business professionals to evangelise the benefits of IT and assist innovation while being an IT enabler.” Comments Craig Ashmole. “This is possible when basic non-revenue generating IT utility services are managed by third parties, so that the core in-house IT function can focus on innovative improvement.”

Having spent a majority of my career working with and supporting the Corporate CIO Function, I now seek to provide a forum whereby CIOs or IT Directors can learn from the experience of others to address burning Change or Transformation challenges.

Craig Ashmole

Founding Director CCServe

IT role in Corporate Acquisitions

IT role in Corporate Acquisitions

IT role in Acquire, or Not-to-Acquire

The changing landscape of the IT Technology arena within corporate Merger or Carve-out

To acquire, or Not-to-acquire – The question most CEOs ask their CFO is:- Will the transaction drive financial rewards and what are the risks, but really the glaring missing player here is the CIO!

Ask yourself, How many CFOs have you come across that have a full and clear understanding of the value an ‘Open and connectable’ versus ‘out-dated and proprietary’ IT department can make in driving business revenue growth.

This means that Board Executives are negotiating in the dark and potentially loosing large percentages of cost of sale value. There couldn’t be a better time for the CEO to bring the CIO to the table.

Businesses today are under more pressure than ever to deliver value to stakeholders, particularly when undertaking bold initiatives such as mergers, acquisitions or asset disposals. This is true not only for corporate acquirers but also for private equity (PE) or Venture Capital (VC) firms, whose strategy is leaning toward add on acquisitions as a means of growing their portfolio companies.

Under the current economic conditions and the rising cost of debt, corporate business management teams will require additional focus on effort in order to restructure or streamline operations, and specifically the IT departments of acquired businesses to deliver success in the absence of financial engineering. For a while now Information Technology (IT) is fast becoming a key lever which management can use to deliver operational benefits — whether in reducing operational costs, entering emerging markets or scaling their business across multiple geographic regions. With the advances in technology and its impact on today’s business models, companies are increasingly pushing the boundaries to remain competitive. IT is one key area to do this — Technology should be looked at as a business enabler and not look at as so many boards still do today, as a cost to do business.

“The sooner that executive boards put the CIO or the IT department on their monthly agenda as a regular discussion point the better,” says Craig Ashmole, Founding Partner of London based CCServe consulting. In my humble experience and far too often I see the CIO struggling to get the ear of the CEO or even agendas on the board table; businesses need to view IT as a business enabler rather than viewed purely as a cost centre.”

Part of the reason the CIO is not at the board table is that often they do not speak the language of the business board executive. Technology scares most senior board members and until the Generation Y and Generation X group get into those senior positions we will continue to see a disparity with Technology and Fiscal business matters.

The CIO challenge is to do his/her bit too, they really need to fully engage with the commercial business functions, and stop hiding behind technology to protect themselves. The ‘head-in-the-sand’ CIO will have a rapidly growing threat from the likes of the CMO or emerging CDO Digital Officer. Understanding the business functions that deliver revenue is a key focus going forward.

With the fluid market of M&A today there are two clear distinct areas a corporate or global business can go with this. One; is to look at how costly it will be to split companies up or carve out elements that are no longer key areas of business growth for that organisation and IT efficiency should be at the forefront, not just fiscal separation.

The other area on the acquiring side of an M&A transaction – Many CEO/CFOs look at the cost of acquisition proposed by the big 5 consultancy houses, often building in huge elements of ‘cost of sale’ to mitigate IT integration risk especially where transaction teams are uncertain.

“Making ones own IT and infrastructure easy to connect with while utilising open standards or cloud services could help the process of bringing together two disparate lines of business,” Craig Ashmole goes on to say, “More importantly M&A is about the shortest time to ‘joined-up’ business revenue growth which gets the attention of the CEO. Well prepared IT and infrastructure are key success elements to that joined-up process.”

There is a large growth of non-accounting technology focused personnel being hired into the Big-5 consulting transaction teams as more emphasis is given to IT & Technology within the merger/carve-out transaction process. This however should be a balanced process, in my opinion, with ones own CIO office within the organisation. What an IT department or CIO office may lack however is in the broader wider exposure that seasoned interim independent consultants might bring to the negotiations. Independent interim IT consultants have often engaged in similar situations or have awareness skills from engaging in many other organisations as they move from assignment to assignment.

Whatever the CEO or board choose to do as they grow through acquisition, or transform through business carve-out, they have to put the IT agenda firmly on the boardroom table and should seriously consider taking advantage of the experience and quick turn-round support that so many senior and interim consultants have to offer, to support their own CIOs.

Having spent a majority of my career working with and supporting the Corporate CIO Function, I now seek to provide a forum whereby CIOs or IT Directors can learn from the experience of others to address burning Change or Transformation challenges.

Craig Ashmole

Founding Director CCServe

IT Consulting Straight Talk

IT Consulting Straight Talk

Do Businesses need more “Straight Talking” IT Consulting?
There’s one thing that’s in short supply in almost every organisation, at every level, and that’s straight talking – business frankness.

It’s business’s biggest dirty little secret that in most companies, most people would hide or spin the truth rather than openly share it, making it harder for decision makers to bring the reality of the situation to the surface in order to fix it.

That’s human nature of course, and we all have an innate instinct that tells us from a young age to prevent awkwardness and avoid hurting people’s feelings. Or possibly we’re afraid of the very real organisational consequences of being candid in a company culture that doesn’t welcome openness.

But, assuming your organisation wants it, getting that frankness right – with your direct reports, your peers, or your management line – is a skill that could make or break a career or even a consulting engagement.

“Getting the overall approach ‘right’ as an interim transformation or change consultant is a key part of the no nonsense ‘straight Talking’ professional approach I do on a daily basis.” says Craig Ashmole, Founding Partner of London based CCServe. “Getting this wrong can however have profound ramifications, but experience learned over time, avoids these mistakes”.

The two biggest challenges I come across, especially in interim IT consulting assignments, is the management of political change – for example; a senior executive or head of department looking to make major change will touch many other areas or people within that organisation — this naturally becomes a political ‘hot potato’. Being sensitive to people and listening to feedback is a key element to managing this process.

The other challenge, is being able to professionally but candidly tell the very leaders of the company whom have brought you into their business that their people, structure or operational process are failing the business. Ensure that the message is sensitively, factually and accurately articulated and address the issues head on, which is easier said than done.

Non-IT roles now control many of the most interesting and innovative aspects of corporate IT, while the CIO is being saddled with a massive portfolio of “utility” technologies that only generate interest when they fail. In addition the “death” of the CIO role has long been discussed and predicted, often due to the role disappearing, rather than the decrease in the number of people interested in filling the role.

There’s now a legitimate need for operationally-focused IT leaders who can manage a squad of staff that “keep the lights on” while also formulating a strategic IT digital change and vision. Where the CIO role is inherently flawed however is that it often expects the same person to be equipped to handle both these diverse disciplines.

At the executive level, companies should consider separating the operational and strategic disciplines, depending on the needs of the company. As cloud services and the ability to outsource many operational or back office functions, there’s an opportunity to accelerate this shifting separation. Even without resorting to external parties, savvy companies can equip CIOs with the appropriate authority and discretion to build effective operational staff, and stop expecting that CIOs should be equal parts strategist and technician.

Essentially, the CIO role becomes an ‘executive level internal consultant’ who charts the future course for corporate IT, and leverages internal and external resources to execute that vision of IT Business make over, while addressing business issues, needs and social agendas with the ‘right’ use of technology either on-premise or in the cloud.

“Countless years exposure with the CIO layer has convinced me that many CIOs even now in the digital twenty twenties need broader business experience than has typically been required in the past – more commercial business acumen than the typical deep technical expertise of the past,” Craig Ashmole goes on to say. “The CIO needs to be a board level business led executive with the acumen to utilise technology to drive revenue growth”.

The no-nonsense “Straight Talking” approach is about quickly understanding the underlying issues the CIO is facing, while being agile and articulate but delivering quick short term change programmes that make immediate differences to the business.

Very often this is quite a different approach to that of the ‘Big 5’ consultancy houses. The Big-5 typically throw a large number of junior graduates at their business client, who typically provide hundreds of pages of ‘nice’ reports, only to predict there will be better operational improvement in future months to come – so long as the client signs up for months of committed engagement – well synically that’s what you would expect.

CCServe is a London based IT & Business Transformation Consultancy helping CIOs and Executive business leaders globally to move their IT into the 2020’s and beyond, quickly and cost effectively. We bring the ‘right’ resource to the table.

Having spent a majority of my career working with and supporting the Corporate CIO Function, I now seek to provide a forum whereby CIOs or IT Directors can learn from the experience of others to address burning Change or Transformation challenges.
Craig Ashmole

Founding Director CCServe