The Death of the CIO

Today’s conventional wisdom and strategy for the Chief Information Officer (CIO) is to go to the Cloud.  The statement gets repeated every time a vendor wants to sell you their wares. I must admit that the arguments for going to the Cloud are compelling and in many cases quite seductive. 

“On premises data infrastructure is not our core business…”

“I can substantially cut my CAPEX costs for Unified Communications by going to the Cloud…”

“Outsourcing non-essential services allows us to focus on our primary business which will drive a better ROI for the shareholders…”

“You’re not moving to the Cloud?  Then I guess you just want to keep your IT services in-house and on-premises to protect your job while building a personal empire…”

“Everyone is going to Cloud.  Being on premises in your own data center is sooo last decade thinking…”

I would expect you’ve heard or participated in some of these arguments, I know I have. I am finding that the admissions people are only whispering in private, are based on reality checks after coming back from data center combat with the Cloud evangelists.

In discussions with leadership professionals, the reality checks are disturbing. After having been in a Cloud hosted UC solution, I completed an ROI cost analysis to bring the service back in-house based on the poor SLA adherence of the provider. We assembled all the actual Cloud costs and compared it to returning to on-premises.  Admittedly, it was $200K more the first year returning to an on premises, however every year after that OPEX costs were lowered $1 million each year. In 3 years, the calculation revealed all the equipment could be replaced and start with a new ROI based on-premises model.  That was the good news.

The bad news was that even though the Cloud vendor’s technical resources indicated they wouldn’t be able to meet the SLA demands, our managers and upper managers don’t have the on staff expertise any longer to manage our own UC voice services.  Why?  That talent moved on, thus creating a skillset vacuum at the company. The disappointing reality is the company is potentially trapped in a one way trip to the Cloud for UC voice.

With on-premises infrastructure disposed of and lost staff expertise to properly manage our own destiny, this customer is now held hostage. This is exactly where businesses found themselves in the early 1980’s when they were allowed legally to own their own telephony infrastructure. This hard won fight was to provide a better level of telecommunications service and up-time for the business units.  What a shame to be returning to where we left from, yet again. The old carriers have been replaced with the “The Cloud Providers”.

For those of you who have begun the export of responsibility to your Cloud of choice, it’s not too late to change gears.  But let’s face it, your career is already doomed.

You might consider a path to export your job as well. Start the conversation with the Cloud vendor of choice to create a hosted CIO role for you to manage multiple Cloud customers.  After everything has been exported to the Cloud it’s time to follow. There really isn’t any room at an enterprise grade corporation that has off-boarded their need to retain IT skillsets including the CIO. The Cloud is making the CIO role obsolete.  Time to reinvent yourselves.

I can hear the scoffing and the naysayers at this point.  However, ask yourself how many requests for services and automation were you petitioned for that you had to turn down due to missing skillsets/funding/timing/etc.? You may have observed that those business units you had to turn down went to a Cloud provider for one or more micro-service that was within their budget.  It is a curious thing, 15 years ago selling was done to the business unit before that power was consolidated into the CIO position.  The problem was that person needed more staff to cope with the changes, which slowed down their ability to fulfill business unit needs.

Now it has been noticed by the selling teams to go back to selling to the business units by using the same pitch that was used on the CIO’s: The Cloud services can be acquired “by the drink” and so the onerous CAPEX model dissolves into the affordable OPEX model. Make no mistake this is being used to bypass the CIO office. Why?  Because the business units are being pressed to be more agile in their operations and to drive faster product/service delivery to the corporation as a whole. The business units actually making the money for the company can now buy services without the cumbersome CIO office impediment.  The CIO is no longer relevant in an agile driven business unit world.

The CIO is dead and Cloud killed the need for this role.  Time you reinvent yourselves.  For those of you aspiring to be CIO’s, better re-think that idea.