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The CIO’s role in delivering value within a changing cloud ecosystem

The CIO’s role in delivering value within a changing cloud ecosystem

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The multi-cloud experience is becoming more and more common, and organisations must ensure that the management of the hybrid multi-cloud world is as easy as possible. Alexander Wallner, Senior Vice President and General Manager EMEA, NetApp, tells us how this approach will alleviate pressure for the CIO.

It’s no secret that the relationship between the CEO and CIO has shifted in recent years. As most organisations now have technology at the core of their business, having a comprehensive IT strategy is key to ensure growth. As a result, the modern day CIO has migrated from a support role into a more strategic position where they’re responsible for the planning, implementation and execution of corporate strategies.  

No longer are they tasked with a sole focus on technology. Today’s CIO is responsible for improving business performance and is expected to be seen as the technology and business leader. This newfound identity of the CIO is not isolated – according to recent research by Forbes Insights, five years ago, CIOs believed their most important skill was technology know-how. Today, they believe the most important skill is contributing to corporate strategy. Of course, in an environment that is focused on constant evolution, it makes sense that the role of the CIO has evolved so dramatically.

Unfortunately, change often comes with growing pains. As the CIO role has adopted more of a business mindset, the crossover with the CEO has come into question. This has, as a result, created a lack of clarity across the organisation. While the CEO has historically been in charge of implementing change within the organisation, they’ve also been tasked with maintaining investments, ensuring cost efficiencies and improving the bottom line. While that continues to reign true, the CIO has absorbed some of that responsibility. In addition to supporting innovation, the modern day CIO must manage the IT system, prove efficiencies and show value to the CEO directly. Unfortunately, a universal system for this process is yet to be solidified. According to InfoTech research, 67% of CEOs are still unclear on the role IT plays within the business and 74% of CEOs want their CIO to do a better job of reporting the value that IT brings to the business.

This disconnect has left many CIOs feeling insecure, worrying about their position in the C-Suite value chain and their ability to execute and align delivery with overall business objectives. Yet despite role-related pressures, the majority of organisations are still prioritising innovation and plan to continue on the journey towards digitalisation. IDC estimates Digital Transformation spending will grow to more than 53% of all information and communications technology investment by 2023, up 36% from where it is today.

Challenges to tackle

This time of transformation is a great opportunity for CIOs to showcase how IT can not only create efficiencies but deliver more value to the CEO’s goals. To do this, the CIO must demonstrate what role IT plays in the business, starting with the prioritisation of hybrid multi-cloud data management.

Our recent research shows the majority (60%) of UK IT leaders already have plans to migrate their apps and data to the public cloud, and 20% are looking to adopt more on-premises and public cloud infrastructure within the next year. Currently, more than half (57%) of all organisations can move workloads between public cloud and on-premises environments, and almost a quarter (23%) are able to move between public cloud environments. On the other hand, 13% of organisations still don’t have the capabilities, financial resources, or technology to move and manage data. 

Traditional silos and risk   

To see success in the migration to a hybrid multi-cloud environment, organisations must tackle some of the major hurdles common within the industry. Unfortunately, one of the biggest complications comes from within the organisation.

Through years of functioning as a traditional entity, many organisations still operate through traditional IT silos. This fragmented approach creates major complications and leaves a significant disconnect between the internal function and access to IT. Luckily, with the implementation of the hybrid cloud model, an increasing number of IT leaders are understanding the problem and are putting the end-user in control. As a result, many of these traditional silos are being broken down, ultimately condensing and democratising access to IT capabilities. 

Another common challenge that many C-Suite leaders face when considering the move to a hybrid model is risk. This is not only true in terms of the impact on the technology, but also its influence on the bottom line. The good news is that the public cloud infrastructure is already known to be secure and built to a high standard, and some of the largest cloud vendors (AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud) have worked tirelessly to evolve their offerings to alleviate concerns and ensure workloads are secure and resilient against both internal and external threats. 

While as a whole the public cloud has been extremely secure, other external trends have emerged which make public safeguarding incredibly complex. With the constant integration of new platforms, more people across the world are constantly trying to access data for various uses. This has resulted in a security gap and multiple cases of shadow IT and rogue DevOps coming to a head. To move forward, organisations must focus on putting controls in place to manage and monitor their data at all times. Because in the end, if you can see your data, you can trust that it is secure regardless of the environment you are operating in. On one hand, organisations must implement defined policies that specify what data can live where and who can touch it. On the other hand, IT leaders must put the appropriate tools in place to monitor the data, alleviating the responsibility of wondering whether the data is secure in the cloud.

Moving forward with AIOps

Given the increasing complexities for both the CIO and CEO, a new approach is needed to equip teams to view, understand and act seamlessly across the entire infrastructure. To ensure this occurs, automation must be considered – in the right way. While many organisations have made huge strides in automating IT analytics, it still often requires humans at the core. Though this has worked well in the past, today’s evolved version of the hybrid multi-cloud environment – which consistently sends data to hundreds of data centre touchpoints at a time – requires a technology that goes beyond human capacity to intelligently monitor and manage all IT environments at scale.

The key to managing these complex environments is to integrate the data fabric – a set of data services that provide consistent capabilities across a choice of endpoints – with AIOps, the application of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) to automate the identification and resolution of operational issues. These can include security and governance risks, poor system performance, as well as general and unexpected errors. Dissimilar to some AI integrations, AIOps is fully intelligent and capable of analysing and creating action without human interference. According to recent Gartner predictions, it’s estimated that 30% of large enterprises will use AIOps and digital experience monitoring tools exclusively by 2030 – with good reason. Not only can AIOps help increase productivity gains, it can create significant cost savings and dramatically reduce downtime, which ultimately adds up to a meaningful impact on a business’ bottom line.

Cloud-agnostic DevOps

Another recent approach to getting the most out of a hybrid multi-cloud environment has been through the use of Kubernetes. Acting as a connection between the contrasting DevOps solutions many organisations internally use, Kubernetes enables teams to build a modern, simpler solution which works across any environment. 

As it stands, vendor lock-in is still considered to be a significant barrier to innovation and complete agility. For most, this results in an inability to adapt and leverage innovation in a multi-cloud environment. Because using Kubernetes is considered ‘cloud agnostic’, organisations can avoid this and move from one cloud to another without negative consequences for IT and business processes. By taking this approach, the CIO and IT team can showcase the ability to achieve true application portability, ultimately addressing the economic factors and complexity concerns that hinder modern DevOps.

In the end, there is simply no other way to be flexible while mixing on-premise and off-premise than through a comprehensive data fabric strategy. Taking this approach enables organisations to pursue innovation while seamlessly shifting workloads and preventing cloud vendor lock-in.

Fortunately, the technology side of multi-cloud is becoming easier; the next step and the next crucial differentiator is about the experience. Moving forward, organisations must ensure that the management of the hybrid multi-cloud world is as easy as possible. To do this they must connect the data dots, ensuring the cloud works for as many workloads and customers as possible – including the transparent delivery of consumption models. Doing so will alleviate some of the pressure on the CIO and will allow them to focus on delivering value and having an impact on the CEO’s overall business goals.

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