The Enterprise as a Startup

The Enterprise as a Startup

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October 09, 2013

Enterprisers are fundamentally changing the way they lead their technology teams, moving away from simply taking orders from business leaders, and integrating into the business.

Ernst & Young was spot-on last year when it noted in its report “The DNA of the CIO” that “CIOs need to stop ignoring the inevitable and start changing—before they are forced to.”

It’s a message that is resonating with Enterprisers who are fundamentally switching up the way they lead their technology teams and integrate into the business. Instead of simply taking orders from business leaders, CIOs today are “helping to develop the strategy”, as the report advised.

Making this shift requires CIOs to treat the enterprise as an agile startup rather than a monolithic, inflexible entity. “Most CIOs will [worry about] servers being down or telephone lines going down to some other systems being down… but that’s not what keeps me up at night,” says Aaron Stibel, Senior Vice President of Technology at Dunn & Bradstreet Credibility Corp., a financial data services organization.

Instead, Stibel considers his company’s innovation path his primary concern with technology merely as an enabler. With the CIO position embedded deep into the business, Stibel and his team are invested in revenue generation and other successes. This strategy also promotes the fast assembly of business development teams to attack new opportunities as they arise.

Head in the cloud

To start, CIOs must offload as much technology and services to the cloud as possible. After years of being beholden to costly legacy systems, Stibel and his team pushed as much software and infrastructure to the cloud as they could, including customer service. “We inherited a suite of products that we didn’t feel was serving the customer very well… so instead of improving them, we threw them away,” he says.

This might seem drastic, but Stibel found it essential to innovate, enabling him to replace 26 software systems with a single product. Not only is the product streamlined, but it’s also able to scale, supporting more than 700 sales people vs. the 300-user limit of the company’s previous systems.

Group re-think

Once you untether yourself from burdensome legacy systems, you can populate your technology team with creative thinkers who understand the business. “At our company, at every product meeting, even the very first, we put engineers in the room,” Stibel says, adding that when they become the gatekeepers, they’ll be onboard and part of the mission.

Collaborate to innovate

Without the constant worry of whether the lights are on in the server room, CIOs also can be open to collaborations with other business leaders. Stibel finds his non-technology colleagues inspirational and incredibly tech savvy. “I spend [as much] time with my CMO and CFO as I do my director of business intelligence or my project management office,” he says. And they often suggest viable, cost-saving ideas such as using JavaScript vs. Ajax to speed up Web development.

Moving technology to the cloud, creating technology teams well-versed in the business, and collaborating with other executives are the critical steps that CIOs can take to transition from merely enforcing the organization’s strategy to helping develop it.

Stibel sums up the CIO evolution this way: “We’ve gone from solving problems to creating efficiency throughout the organization to where now we’re innovating. It’s entrepreneurship from within.”

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