CIO Travel Guide: Navigating The Bermuda Triangle

The Bermuda Triangle is that mythical place where ships and planes have disappeared under unknown circumstances never to be seen and heard of again. The triangle’s three vertices are in Miami, Puerto Rico and in the island of Bermuda.

In the enterprise there is a similar triangle, with the three vertices representing the line of business managers (LOB), the chief financial officer (CFO) and the chief information officer (CIO). And just like ships can get lost, enterprise IT can fade away in the Bermuda Business Triangle. CIOs need to smartly navigate the tension field between the business, the budget, and IT to ensure the enterprise IT department will not submerge, never to be seen and heard of again.

LOB, CFO and CIO have conflicting goals (see Figure above). Driven by competitive pressures LOB executives want to get to their destination as quickly as possible. Driven by pressures on the bottom line, the CFO wants to know if the price of the ticket represents a worthwhile investment. Driven by compliance with existing infrastructure investments and external regulations the CIO wants to make sure the mode of transportation is future proof.

Setting out the right course

With most of the budget historically invested in on-premise IT, CIOs should not make the mistake of thinking on-premise IT to be the only transportation mode capable of carrying LOB execs to their destination. CIOs should avoid the fatal error the railroad barons of the early 20th century made thinking that they were in the railroad business, when they were actually in the transportation business. Yes, railroads and trains still exist, but automobiles and planes have won the competition for the traveller.

Similarly, the IT department is not the only place for LOB execs to satisfy their thirst for technology. Already, the CMO is wrestling for control of customer contact, analytics and experience. Employees want to bring their own device. With an abundance of SaaS based offerings for sales, social, marketing, and collaboration applications available with the swipe of a credit card and a couple of mouse clicks, cloud based technology seems much more suitable for fast moving marketers than internal IT. And slick consumer app interfaces on the latest and greatest mobile devices  outmanoeuvre clunky web form based input on laptops anytime.

Business leaders are looking at technology as a key strategic asset for dealing with the accelerated pace of change. Managers of customer facing business units are eager to unleash the full potential of Big Data. The cloud is becoming the connection between business and technology. How can CIOs harness the power of technology, information and the accelerating pace of business change?

The smart CIO realizes that he or she is not in the tour operator business but in the tour guide business. IT tour operators spend 80% of their budget on keeping the lights on and only 20% on innovative projects. IT tour guides spend more than 20% of their budget on exploring new and innovative ways to deliver IT.

What is your relationship with LOB and CFO? Is it a ménage à trois? Or are you being sucked into the Bermuda Triangle? Maybe you have already been there and emerged as a Zombie CIO? Let us know!

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About Pim Bilderbeek