In this edition of Voices of the Industry, Charisse Richards, Vice President of IT and Integration at Iron Mountain Data Centers, explores how digital transformation is reshaping industry and the role of IT executives.
‘The role of IT has evolved in recent years. Once viewed as a support role, today’s IT needs to be engaged as an active business partner. In many cases, successful achievement of business objectives is predicated on the success or failure of IT. We have reached an era where IT deserves a seat at the executive leadership table, helping to shape corporate vision and direction through the lens of technology and innovation.
In the past, IT was something that people didn’t think about until it wasn’t working. Recently, IT executives have been the changemakers, enabling new, complex digital products, analytics, and capabilities that we have never seen. IT success makes a company better, providing sustainable competitive advantages and improved end user experiences.
Eugene Cundiff has seen this change first-hand. He manages several consolidated data centers in North America for a large financial company and has watched IT become more of an enabler.
“Ten years ago, the CIO role was about delivery and costs,” he says, “but today creativity and the ability to forecast have become critical business competencies in IT. CIOs and CTOs must provide support and be a vision driver. If they are successful in both, they will be successful in their role in helping their company be the best they can be.”
Digital transformation has played a large role in reshaping the role of IT and the industry. Today, it’s about creating efficiencies and looking for ways to make business more resilient. With the cloud and colocation services, you can be as involved or as hands-off with the IT Operations process as you want to be.
Digital transformation is about being able to use data in ways that we hadn’t thought of before — being predicative and self-healing. Data can be used to make better decisions.
For many organizations, data is coming off site, and going into places like data centers. The industry is using more cloud-based platforms. The cloud lives in the data center, and the data center is the foundation of the cloud.
Digital transformation has played a large role in reshaping the role of IT and the industry.
A recent 451 Research report, “Voice of the Enterprise: Datacenter Transformation, Workloads and Key Projects 2018,” found that despite continued migration to public cloud, centralized data centers remain a key IT strategy. On-premises sites, such as local data centers, will see declines in the percentage of workloads they hold in the next 12 months, but centralized data centers will see a small bump. The study found that large organizations have the largest percentage of their workloads in centralized data centers.
The 451 Research report also stated that roughly a quarter of the organizations surveyed planned to move workloads from either on-premises datacenters to colocation or from colocation to public cloud services in the coming 12 months.
Movement to colocation, the report said, is driven by the need for improved business continuity and improved reliability and uptime, while movement from colocation to cloud will be driven by the need for improved IT flexibility and scalable capacity. Cost and security are critical to workload location decisions, with cost being a particularly influential factor for small organizations.
Focusing on Core Competency
Having a solid colocation strategy allows companies to focus on their core competencies. If your business is a healthcare-sales driven business, you can focus on ways to differentiate your value proposition, products, or services from competitors. You don’t have to focus on the capital and people costs of maintaining tape and all your own backups.
By using colocation services, your staff gets a partner that manages the data center power, cooling, and some or all of your network components. Colocation is a recurring expense you can plan for. You can grow into it, starting with a smaller footprint.
Opportunities for IT
Digital transformation has created new opportunities for IT executives to drive business value. Through portals and data analytics, IT can help a variety of business units discover new opportunities,and better understand customer behaviors, experiences, and patterns. For example, by providing a ‘composite’ from multiple data sources, account managers can have all the tools available to understand their customers’ experience: every product bought, every incident logged, every report requested. This information can drive more relevant discussions, because the data paints a holistic picture, which creates tighter, more relevant customer relationships. As a result, customers feel more engaged and loyal to the business. IT also provides the tools to help find trends that may be the foundation of a new marketing campaign or product offering.
IT automation drives efficiency. Once you observe how data is utilized, you can automate many of the processes that consume the data, reducing the variability in outcomes. This reduces and often mitigates costs spent on rework and remediation. Additionally, IT can build intelligence into the systems and ensure a consistent experience for customers, and internal users. In other words, time spent managing manual processes can be spent providing additional value your business.
In Cundiff’s experience, when creativity is enabled between IT and the business, it also can lower time to market – and that makes a difference. “The first entry in the market gets a big payout,” he says.
He anticipates that one of the biggest enablers of digital transformation is the ability to manage multiple vendor environments from one tool or platform. “I think this area will continue to evolve as one of the biggest areas for opportunity and change right now,” he says.
Challenges for IT Execs
Yet potential disrupters to digital transformation are ever present – organizational culture, scalability, business needs, and even the ability to respond to what is going on in the market. As a business grows, all these things can come into play.
For Cundiff, one of the biggest necessities, but can also be a disrupter is data protection. “International guidelines are already complex and add cost and complexity to the capability to deliver to those guidelines,” he says. “As countries like the US create more complex and harder to achieve data privacy guidelines they will ultimately have an overall impact on speed and cost.”
The other potential disrupter he has experienced is the difficulty to control scope and costs. “Digital transformation can have significant cost ramifications if not reasonably controlled,” he states. “Empowering the end user is an important aspect, but you also must manage the ability for end users to impact your costs.”
Exciting Time to Be in IT
There is still a lot of transformation to be done, yet it’s an exciting time to be in IT. For IT execs, there are more opportunities to take traditional IT skills and stretch them. If you’ve historically been a Unix person, the transition to learning how to orchestrate in a cloud platform is not that big of a leap. There are many training tools available.
It’s a good time for businesses to evaluate what’s important to them, and how business units and IT can work together to make that happen. When organizations value IT, and IT understands what the business wants to be, they can be each other’s best advocates. Then business and IT can truly function as partners.
Charisse Richards is Vice President of IT and Integration at Iron Mountain Data Centers.