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IT as a strategic weapon, rather than a necessary evil

When Joe Baguley joined the VMware Office of the CTO in 2011, we knew he would be fantastic at connecting the VMware R&D organization with its customers and partners in EMEA – to share VMware’s vision and strategy, and to relay customer feedback back to R&D in order to continue to innovate and improve our products. Since then, Joe has helped many of our customers advance on their journey to the cloud and act as a key resource for VMware R&D. I’m pleased to announce that Joe was named one of the UK’s top 50 most influential people in IT by Computer Weekly (a leading technology publication in the UK) last week, joining distinguished CEOs, government ministers, heads of design at Apple and more. This is a great honor for both Joe and VMware, as we continue to work with our customers and partners to drive the future of IT. You can learn more about Joe’s experiences in the OCTO and out in the field from his blog below. – Paul Strong

Written by guest author: Joe Baguley

In my role I’m able to spend a lot of time talking to CIOs and senior IT leaders from our EMEA customer base, and have noticed a trend amongst these customers. It’s one that I discuss quite a bit: IT can be and is being used as a strategic weapon.

There seem to me to be two types of IT organization – one that has a leader who reports to the CFO, and one where the leader reports to the business or directly to the board. When reporting to the CFO, IT is generally seen as a necessary evil because it’s part of the cost of doing business and a cost that must be reduced – a strong theme in IT throughout the last few years! But when IT reports to the business or board, I’m seeing some exciting things happening in our industry – because these are the organisations that view IT as a weapon for their business and one that can directly affect the performance of the business for the better.

Recent history is littered with big name firms that were blind-sided by someone using technology to change their market, and were too late to react. I am told by IT leaders that this inability to react quick enough is due to existing organizational structures and the silos they work in. How can a company rapidly deploy a new solution for the business when its existing processes require gaining agreement from all the necessary stakeholders in IT (compute, storage, networking, security, DBAs etc.) which typically takes months to do along with numerous customer conversations? They are definitely looking for ways to change and be more agile.

However, some are embracing change and reacting. An IT leader at an’old’ large investment bank described their business to me as one that is “now a technology company that does banking”.
They turned their IT organisation on its side as a first step. Taking the original siloed empires and combining them into stacking layers – at the top “End User”, then “Platforms” which puts the Developer, Application and Database teams together who then use services provided by the “Infrastructure” team consisting of Compute, Storage and crucially Networking.

While banking is arguably a long way from DevOps due to segregation of duties and other regulations, this grouping will greatly help the bank’s agility in terms of responding to business needs. By aligning priorities between previously differently-goaled and measured teams, the creation of more siloed technology stacks in the future will be avoided.

This is exactly the kind of world VMware is building for its customers via the software-defined datacenter!

We are also starting to see the industrialisation of IT – building variant, supportable and agile solutions out of standardised components managed with a new policy-based automation at scale. But to do this requires a leader with a clear vision of how to evolve to a service-focused mentality and can clearly communicate business value and revenue results from IT investment as opposed to just cost savings.

I met with an oil company whose CIO now reports into the head of exploration technology. They are actively looking into how they can use technology to get ahead of the competition (VDI was a hot topic here, as they try to deliver high-end compute resources to increasingly remote and badly connected places in Africa) and how they can start making architectural choices now to prepare for the future.

I also had the pleasure recently of presenting at IPExpo with Sega about how they have used hybrid vCloud with a European vCloud provider to increase the scale of their games testing process and increase the scale of testing – the end result being they are bringing better quality games to market faster than their competitors, with greater insight than before into the cost of such activity – a project led by business need, rather than cost optimisation. It’s a very compelling story, and you can read more about it here.

I’m also seeing a growing interest amongst our VMUG EMEA members in VMware’s new vCloud Automation Center product (formerly DynamicOps) and its inclusion in the vCloud Suite. These VMUG members see that they, as the virtualisation experts, are now in a prime position to be the future leaders of IT. Their trailblazing experience in virtualising and automating compute has become increasingly relevant as both storage and networking are now becoming virtualised too.

Do you see yourself as someone that can make IT strategic and have it be a force of change for your business? Or do you think IT needs to been performed only in a cost effective way?


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