Embracing disruptive technologies without leaving yourself at risk

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Anyone in an IT leadership position has multiple roles.

The first one is actually delivering the service, which is table stakes. If things aren’t running well, you don’t get the opportunity to do anything else.

Increasingly, the second role is to manage an outsourced arrangement, or what I call anything-as-a-service. IT leadership must have sufficient knowledge and experience to manage and run those platforms. One of the things I always say to the vendors when I go into any of these arrangements is that I know how to run a data center and if I have to ask the details of you how you’re running your data center, it means you’re not doing your job well enough. You should be able to run it at least as well or ideally better than I can. Outsourcing a function does not mean outsourcing the responsibility, in other words. It doesn’t matter who’s running it: whether it’s your own people or a third-party vendor. It’s your service, you own it. You’d better know how it works.

The third role of IT leadership is keeping the skills of your own team up, which obviously is a danger when you’re outsourcing things. So how do you do that? This is where disruptive technologies come in, because the way you keep your own people, and the way I keep myself active on all of these things, is by staying on top of the new technologies.

So while everything else might be outsourced, I see it as very important to have an in-house lab where we can work on these things. You need something to keep the creative juices flowing in your technical teams so that they stay ahead of whatever is going on. This is especially true in any of the technologies that may be used by the customers.

The Promise (and Pitfalls) of Disruptive Technologies

Obviously, when we are talking about the iPad or other smartphones, it’s clear that if IT leadership ignores it or tries to block it, then the consumer will leave them behind. That’s where you start getting splinter IT groups or rogue IT popping up in all these other places, and that’s the point where IT leadership, the CIO, is at risk if they don’t have a plan for staying ahead of technology and staying ahead of their customers.

On the other hand, when someone comes in with a very seductive sales pitch to somebody in engineering, somebody in marketing, or somebody in finance and says, “We’ve solved all your problems, and it’s so easy you don’t need IT,” the alarm bells should be ringing in whichever department it is. There are no systems that can follow through on this promise. Everything is connected to everything else. You might start out keeping a low profile, but it won’t be for very long. That’s the dark side of disruption. And we know because whoever it is that has decided to purchase this particular lemon comes to IT and demands that IT take it over and integrate into everything.

Do you need to outsource your IT to free up enough cycles so you can focus on disruptive technologies? I don’t think so. Personally, I prefer to do that because I’ve never worked in a company where I’ve been given unlimited resources to pursue all-new technologies. It’s more about getting rid of as much of the day-to-day as you can and freeing up resources to get ahead of the curve.

Cliff Tamplin has held a variety of roles with major global corporations including Barclays, M&M Mars, Diageo, Northwest Airlines and Hyatt Hotels & Resorts. These roles have spanned application design and development; infrastructure architecture and operations; and information security.

Cliff has held a variety of roles with major global corporations including Barclays, M&M Mars, Diageo, Northwest Airlines and Hyatt Hotels & Resorts. These roles have spanned application design and development; infrastructure architecture and operations; and information security.

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