Oh I See! Getting CIOs to view their jobs from a different angle

Nov 23 2010   4:44AM GMT

Mr IT vendor, what did you expect?



Posted by: Arun Gupta
Tags:
business IT alignment
CIO as business leader
CIO evolution
CIO role
desktop virtualization
engaging the CIO
VDI

Last week, I was at a round table discussion organized by one of the big IT vendors which focused on “Virtual Desktop Infrastructure”, amongst other things. A gathering of about 15 CIOs was invited to explore the adoption of desktop virtualization — its associated merits, challenges and opportunities. It was an opportunity to engage, that once again failed to engage the IT leaders.

The group had a fair representation across industries from manufacturing, banking, insurance, retail, IT enabled services, and some more. The agenda was fairly simple, with the expectation to understand how different industry segments view VDI and what has been the journey thus far. Of course, it was about market sizing and qualifying leads that could result in some business from the vendor’s perspective.

Discussions started off with differing perspectives on filters that every CIO applied to their business operations to determine the suitability of desktop virtualization in their environment. Some amongst them included the kind of work undertaken (task, analytics, office automation, and graphics intensive work), volume of desktops per location, type of applications used, and not the least, ROI on such an initiative. In the same breath, challenges were also debated listing cost and resilience of connectivity (specifically in the Indian context), licensing impact, cultural issues, and again ROI.

Within some time, it was evident that the vendor and CIOs were talking different languages; the former talking about the technological innovation, and the latter focusing on business benefit. With no translator or moderator, the two conversations found it tough to converge on common ground. Thus, the anchor closed the discussion after about 90 odd minutes — with some CIO doodles labeling VDI as vendor driven initiatives or very dumb idea!

Post panel networking had an interesting insight shared by the vendor CEO with the anchor; the CIOs today are not willing to discuss technology anymore. This is making the task of selling to them a lot more difficult as compared to what it was. For sales persons to get into the customers’ shoes and then have a discussion requires different skill sets than currently available.

My rebuttal to that is “Mr IT Vendor, what else did you expect from the CIOs?” Over the last decade, expectation levels from the CIO have shifted from a technology advisor to a business advisor. CIOs have seized this opportunity (not challenge) and many have gone over the tipping point to take on incremental roles in business. To expect this level of discussion from the same vendors who always have “IT business alignment” as one of the top 3 priorities reflects that they too need to embrace the same change that they have been preaching so far.

The IT vendor evolution is a paradigm that I think CIOs have to start contributing to — else they will continue to be at the receiving end of inane discussions and presentations around technology — not winning with the business. Get started and do your good deed of the day, so that the next CIO they meet will not go through the same pain.

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