Is it time to re-boot the role of the CIO, of IT and IT management? Gartner analyst Cameron Haight may have already started you thining along those lines with his recent blog post, the 100 year starship project” where he opines that the last 10 years of IT management were largely incremental gains on concepts laid down 20 years ago.  The gist is that IT management tools and processes have been stretched and patched to the point where a modern vision is required, especially in large scale, rapidly changing and highly heterogeneous environments.

In many respects, I agree. As I’ve written about extensively as part of my series on the coming changes in enterprise IT, it’s a time of remarkable change in technology. A change that’s akin to, but more profound than, the change we last went through during the move to client server (I would argue it’s closer to when Henry Ford “consumerised” transportation). 

In my opinion IT management will need to be “re-booted”, to re-invent itself in light of these changes. In the coming years we’ll witness the emergence of case studies in modern IT management from enterprises that have not only embraced these concepts, but have exploited the disruption to reduce the Total Cost of Innovation of IT and hence the enterprise itself. (hint: I can say this with confidence because I have seen the results achieved by a handful of major enterprises with private cloud IaaS, DevOps processes and an integrated IT Performance Suite and they’re breathtaking – sadly they’re also considered to be of such competitive advantage that I’m sworn to secrecy for the time being). 

In addition to the technology changes I’ve outlined in previous articles, the re-booting of IT will also require the CIO to ;

  • put the business back in charge without letting consumerisation consume their budgets 
  • embrace Enterprise Architecture as a core competency, and;
  • initiate a deep risk and compliance overhaul aimed at making risk management a competitive advantage

But before they can do any of that, CIOs need to consider in the brave new world of hybrid cloud. I like to think of it as moving from being the “builder” of IT services to being the builder/broker, rather than a builder, of IT services. The challenge is that most IT shops have built their people, tools, processes and most importantly their sourcing strategies on the idea that IT was either “in” sourced or “out” sourced but rarely, if ever, truly multi-sourced.

I asked HP’s Cloud CTO Christian Verstraete how he would describe the idea of service broker as “Providing the business with the appropriate “services” to enable their enterprise. The role also is responsible for the proper governance between business and IT, to know what the required processes are and to establish their lifecycle”. Good definition (but then I’ve always largely seen eye-to-eye with Christian, despite his being being Dutch ;-). 

Others such as Gartner’s Benoit Lheuroux takes a slightly different tack in his podcast and those doyens of the dial-tone, the TeleManagement Forum (TMForum), believes Cloud Service Brokers “will deliver just-in-time services by federating multiple cloud service provider resources”

No matter who’s definition you take, the challenges of being an effective, builder/broker wil require a serious re-jig of the IT operating model;

1). establishing a selection mechanism for vendors based on demonstrable objective evidence

2). automating acquisition and monitoring to ensure the services are meeting the agreed objectives (and initiating remediation)

3). integrating demand management, delivery management and incident/case management processes and toolchains

4). establishing and publishing a service catalog that allows for segregation of concerns (so that only the people/suppliers who need to see the service availability, quality, cost, etc can)

5). well defined mechanisms for importing and exporting both business data and logic when the time comes to swap suppliers

Send lawyers, guns and money!

In my article “look before you click”, I highlighted the need for enterprises to read the fine print (terms and conditions) of the SaaS and web services their end-users are consuming. In addition to establishing the technology foundations of a “social” service catalog of reputable services (meaning it contains both objective price and SLA data along with subjective experiences), now is the time to engage your legal team early and often as you develop a strategy that protects for the likely without penalising the end-users with the burden enterprise legalese that so coddles them from hypothetical threats that it stifles innovation.   

“A bargain is something you can’t use at a price you can’t resist”, Frank Jones

Creating a strategic service broker culture will also require us to manage organisational change within IT. One of the most profound changes will be in making procurement a core competence in enterprise architects and operations teams. Despite the cliche, most IT professionals are not “born to shop”, in fact we’re generally specifically educated, hired, promoted and rewarded on the strength of our technical chops – our ability to build.

Now that sourcing is a core competence, IT leaders need to set about teaching their teams how to buy – this shouldn’t be limited to procurement, this is a skill that should be taught to those that likely to resist looming change such as technology managers who might otherwise mutate into project “huggers” valiantly fending off sound cloud sourcing strategies out of the mistaken idea that their job is in jeopardy as a result of cloud (if you believe Jevon’s Paradox, it’s not, if anything you can expect to be busier than ever!).


Daunting? It is. Success will require IT managers to rethink the relationship with the business and time is not on IT’s side. Bestselling books like The 4-hour Work Week and Hacking Work are practically screaming at knowledge workers and executives alike to “bring your own” everything – service, software and people, let alone device. The benefits of de-capitalising IT, of making the enterprise more responsive to innovative disruptions, are so great that a blanket change freeze is likely to hurt more than it helps.

For its part HP is actively involved in defining standards for interoperability, creating toolchain meta-management layers capable of de-coupling IT processes from tools and building hybrid IT aware management tools for the discovery, security and assurance of services capable of “seeing inside” cloud, virtualised and physical services alike. In addition, we envisage multi-sourcing “aware” collaboration systems that will enable seamless hand-off between vendors and internal staff whether working on a project or resolving a help desk incident some of which you can see today.

The question for IT leaders is whether multi-sourcing is madness or manna from heaven. What do you think? Drop me a line here or on Twitter  and share your experiences.