When you head up an IT department, most of your days are spent reacting to and trying to solve the issues and problems that arise on a daily basis. However, when the unicorn of a moment’s free time lands on your desk, there are a few strategic questions that every CIO should be asking.

#1: Is our IT department helping our business solve its major challenges?

This is actually a two-part question, the first is, “What are our business’s major challenges?” And the second should be, “What is our team doing to help solve them.” The answers to these questions will allow a CEO or CIO to determine the true competitive advantage the IT function creates for the business. If the answer suggests IT isn’t helping differentiate the company from competition, but rather is focused only on the back office, that is a red flag for leadership. It is the perfect opportunity to discover areas where IT could help drive innovation and new business by better serving customers. Which leads us to our next question…

#2: Is our IT department helping to support and drive innovation within our company?

What innovations are your department currently working on that will help the business communicate better with customers? What is your team developing that will help deliver products to your customers with a higher level of customer satisfaction? These are the types of questions that should be driving the projects your team is working on. Besides uptime and reliability, one of the returns IT can bring to an organization is innovation; whether it be through research and development or improving processes and efficiency, the leadership team should be confident IT is doing more than maintaining the network and infrastructure but also helping the company progress.

#3: What are we doing to help control risk for the company?

With information and data networking moving to the cloud, the openness of the Internet, and the surge in hacking — it is only fitting that you should be able to answer the question, “How is our team controlling risk?”  Your leadership team should be well aware of what IT is doing to protect the properties of the corporation. As the head of the department you should be able to answer what your team is doing to protect the physical and intellectual assets. You have a responsibility to the board, and, if the company is public, the shareholders, to explain the what, why, and how of your security plan.

#4: Are we managing budgets effectively? 

Projects and CapEx budgets in IT are expensive to operate. You have to maintain a working understanding of the costs and benefits these operations and projects are producing for the organization. As the head of your department you need to manage, or leverage partners, to help manage contracts and assist in making cost conscious decisions.

#5: Does the strategy of our IT department align with our corporate strategy?

Depending on where your corporation’s strategy falls, you need to make sure that your team is in alignment with it. Is your corporation in cost savings mode? Then you should be asking how are you cutting costs and improving the budget. Is the corporation’s focus on greater customer satisfaction? What changes is your team implementing that will help solidify those goals? Does innovation and new technology bring in new customers and increase overall customer loyalty? What will your team do in 2017 to help realize these new technologies in an ever changing environment?

With the competitive nature of Information Technology and how heavily reliant all businesses are on new technologies to bring in customers, build customer loyalty, protect the business and lower the bottom line, it is imperative for the IT department to be cognizant of the ever changing and the adaptive role it plays in the success of the overall business. Having the answers to questions like these will not only help the IT department survive in today’s environment, but go from a cost center to a revenue agent.

With over 17 years of Information Technology industry experience and an extensive background in Telecommunications, Mike Belmont is part of the Renodis Management Team and acts as Senior Enterprise Leader. As a seasoned professional with enterprise level corporations in telecommunications, Mike has extensive experience in senior sales, management, and indirect channel roles with Quest, Sprint, UCN, and for the last 11 years with Renodis. Mike has managed both fortune 1000 accounts as well as VAR partners.

For more information or if you have any comments or questions related to this post, please contact him at mikeb@renodis.com.

Retail IT leaders are under constant pressure to provide innovation to their customers and end users while at the same time “keeping the lights on”. To make matters worse, the growing risk of security breaches is a constant threat.

With the growth of cloud applications, security, mobility, and the Internet of Things, these all impact your network and bring urgency to ensuring your network will support these growing areas.

Here are the top 5 trends impacting retail networks and IT organizations.

#5 Trend Impacting Retail Networks: Cloud & Hybrid Networking

#5

In order to provide a reliable and solid customer experience, you need a WAN that will support your cloud applications 24x7x365. Cloud & Hybrid networking provide access to cloud providers, offer a hybrid WAN with a multitude of various connectivity options (broadband, ethernet, FiOS, 4G LTE, etc) to improve performance and efficiency, and reduce overall operating costs.

#4 Trend Impacting Retail Networks: Security & Compliance

#4

Security is an ongoing threat, and your customer data is even more important. Whether you are engaging customers online and through eCommerce, or you have customers accessing applications through mobile devices, it is critical you have a secure network without reducing the customer experience. Managed firewall, PCI Compliance, threat monitoring, secure WiFi, and mobile device management are all viable solutions to meeting these threats.

#3 Trend Impacting Retail Networks: Business Continuity

#3

When it comes to voice and data network communications, there is always a high chance of service outage. Whether it is an equipment failure, a copper issue, fiber cut, or a major carrier outage, these all impact your network and can interfere with customer wait times, transaction delays, and customer frustration. Whether you are using dual broadband – FiOS, DSL, cable, 4G LTE –  any of these will provide redundancy you need to support business continuity. If your Point of Sale provides offline transactions, that helps too. Using a combo of DSL and/or 4G Wireless or Cable are great solutions.

#2 Trend Impacting Retail Networks: SD-WAN

#2

Software Defined Networking (SD-WAN or SDN) is a hot buzzword right now. Investment and private equity firms are pumping millions of dollars into SD-WAN companies to spark innovation and growth in this sector. There are a multitude of options for SD-WAN. The benefits of this solution includes bandwidth aggregation, packet remediation, application visibility, cloud deployment, and improved network visibility and management. More importantly, it provides ease of use and fast deployment. Finally, SDWAN provides reduced risk of downtime, firewall security, PCI compliance, and lower OPEX costs by leveraging hybrid network solutions.

#1 Trend Impacting Retail Networks: Communications Managed Services

#1

Retail IT organizations should be focused on delivering innovation to their business and improving the customer and end user experience. Although keeping the lights on is important, telecommunications (or communications with the convergence of mobility, WAN, voice, cloud, and other technologies) is a critical part of the business but tactical and time consuming to manage. Leveraging a third party to manage this type of commodity work provides more efficiency in IT and less time spent on managing multiple vendors, handling repair issues, managing hundreds or thousands of network invoices, and less time dealing with a dysfunctional industry in general. Your skilled IT staff should not be managing this area of IT.

 

Technology and networks are constantly changing. By leveraging industry best practices based on these trends,  your network will be more efficient, higher performing, and offer less risk to your customers and business.


Ryan Carter
specializes in working with thought-leading, strategically-targeted IT executives to help them achieve an increased focus on business-impacting technology, business transformation, reduced operating costs, and IT productivity. 
Ryan provides thought leadership and various areas of expertise for Communications Managed Services including telecommunications expense management, mobility managed services, technology road-mapping, network design, business continuity, vendor management, and user support.

For more information on driving IT performance and improving business outcomes, or if you have any comments or questions related to this post, please contact him at rcarter@renodis.com.

According to a new study published by market research firm IDC, CIOs who focus on the operational side of IT will find themselves missing the mark — while CIOs engaged in innovation and business-focused strategy will reap the benefits.

Interestingly the study found that only 25 percent of CIOs surveyed saw their role as responsible for innovation, yet 40 percent of the line-of-business executives said they view CIOs as responsible for “innovation and leading their company’s digital transformation.” That’s quite the disconnect.

“CIOs who stay operational will find themselves further marginalized over the next three years,” stated Mike Jennett, Vice President of Research with IDC’s IT Executive Program. “For these executives to stay relevant, they must shift their focus to transformation and innovation and incorporating those innovations into their stable infrastructures.”

Simply “keeping the lights on” will cause the business to look elsewhere for technology leadership and innovation, Jennett added.

best in class

A typical organization spends 78% of it’s time and resources “keeping the lights on” while best-in-class companies only spend 65%. The bottom line – the less time you spend on operational activities, the more you have to focus on strategic activities that drive your business.

“This study is further confirmation that the expectation of today’s CIO is to lead innovation vs. manage a cost center. The sooner this philosophy is adopted the more successful will be the enterprise and their respective IT leadership,” states Myron Braun, VP of Sales at Renodis. “The key is to take actions now to enable a more efficient IT organization later; simply put, managing tactical areas of IT must become yesterday’s priority for today’s innovative CIOs to thrive and add value to their enterprises.”

So how can CIOs move the needle strategically when they still need need to keep the lights on? Here’s one easy way to Solve the CIO Dilemma.

Renodis was pleased to support the local IT community by sponsoring the 14th Annual Minnesota IT Symposium on September 17th at the Minneapolis Marriott Southwest. In addition, Renodis hosted a special breakout session presented by renowned author, CIO, and Renodis client, Joe Topinka.

Joe Topinka’s heavily attended session, entitled “Are you Doing Enough to Bridge the Leadership Chasm”, was a candid discussion regarding going from great ideas to great results. The session covered the following topics: CEO and Executive perceptions of IT, the current C-suite/IT leadership crisis, ideas to inform and educate the C-suite, concepts that bridge the C-suite/IT chasm, and pragmatic tools that build trust and confidence.

An excerpt of the presentation is available below:

The Minnesota IT Symposium provides IT Executives, Management and Staff the opportunity to network with counterparts, other local organizations, and partners which enables innovation, personal growth and business transformation in the IT community.

MN IT Symposium

We all think of the same names when we think of the world’s greatest athletes. Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown, Bo Jackson, Wayne Gretzky, Michael Jordan, Willie Mays, Dale Earnhardt Sr, Roger Federer, Tiger Woods, Carl Lewis – the list goes on and on. There could be a great debate as to who is the greatest athlete of all time, but one thing is for sure, these athletes changed the face of their game and dominated their profession at one time or another.

Some of these athletes like Michael Jordan or Tiger Woods are not only great athletes, but they are great business men. For instance, Tiger has dealt with his fair share of controversy over the past several years, but he is one example of someone profoundly changing the game of golf while going through some growing pains.

Read on for 4 Things IT Leaders Can Learn from the World’s Greatest Athletes…


#1: Adapt and plan for change – Wayne Gretzky
 

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 “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.”

-Wayne Gretzky

Athletes have to be able to change and adapt as their respective game changes. This is definitely true of the IT world and IT leaders must adapt with ever evolving trends, technology, industry and business needs.


#2: You can always be better – Tiger Woods

“No matter how good you get you can always get better, and that’s the exciting part.”

-Tiger Woods

We can all take a lesson here, no matter how good things may seem, there is always room for improvement. Tiger strives to be the best golfer on the planet and has a relentless desire to be the best. IT executives should strive to do the same. And in this instance, be the best leader and provide the most value to your organization that you can.


#3: Build yourself as a brand – Michael Jordan

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“I’ve always believed that if you put in the work, the results will come”.

-Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan has done an incredible job of building his brand as an athlete and a business man. Through his endorsements with Nike, Gatorade, and other products, when you think of basketball you think of MJ. The same should be true for CIOs and IT executives. Build yourself as a strategic thinker and value driver for companies, as well as a mentor to other IT leaders, and your brand will be a positive one. Be a leader, a mentor, and deliver value in the IT community and to your company – your brand will grow.


#4: Utilize coaches, mentors, and partners to be successful – Bo Jackson

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“Set your goals high, and don’t stop until you get there.”

-Bo Jackson

Every athlete has a coach or partner to help them be the best at their game. The same is true for executives and business leaders. An IT leader’s ability to delegate, use partners, outsource where necessary, and share leadership ideas with others in their community will always benefit the entire organization and those around you. Those leaders who have the right partners, mentors, and coaches around them are the ones who rise to the top.

[button url=”http://www.renodis.com/ittime”]Why Telecom Management Isn’t Worth I.T.’s Time – white paper[/button]

CIOs and IT leaders have a tough job. They need to deliver results, hire the right talent, make sure they have the right technology in place, and be relevant to the business. The worst thing in the world is when an IT organization has to use key resources and time to deal with a telecom issue that dramatically impacts their business.

Telecom is not perfect. In fact it can be chaotic. Most IT leaders don’t even like dealing with telecom. Unfortunately telecom problems will happen, issues will arise, and your business will be impacted. There are many things in the back of the IT leader’s mind, but some things are more dramatic than others. Let’s take a look at 5 Telecom Nightmares that Keep IT Leaders Up at Night:

5 Telecom Nightmares that Keep IT Leaders Up at Night – #1: Carrier Service Outages

Outages cause major disruption. It impacts customers, results in lost business and may lead to poor reputation. Service outages also result in critical IT resources spending valuable time trying to resolve these issues. Whether they are handling help desk calls or working with the carriers to get the issue resolved quickly, they are not spending time on more important IT initiatives.

As a preventative measure, it is important to have a disaster recovery plan in place or a backup connection. Make sure to do your due diligence to find the right provider who has a proven track record for uptime and getting issues resolved quickly.

5 Telecom Nightmares that Keep IT Leaders Up at Night – #2: Lost or Stolen Mobile Devices

The growth of mobility has spurred great opportunity for businesses, but it has also created potential nightmares for IT leaders.  Critical customer data or company data can easily be lost if a mobile device is misplaced or stolen. BYOD has created many risks for companies who allow employees to bring their own mobile device (iPads, iPhones, tablets, etc).

Not having the right security policy or mobile device management platform in place creates risks to your organization, and a nightmare for IT leaders.

5 Telecom Nightmares that Keep IT Leaders Up at Night – #3: Fiber or Line Cut

Some things you can control, some things you can’t. When a backhoe goes through your fiber line, the only thing you can do is hope the problem is solved quickly and efficiently with little impact to the business (if that is even possible). Just as a carrier service outage causes a major disruption, so does a fiber line cut. Most companies have a plan in place to deal with this type of situation. Some companies do not, and they pay the price.

5 Telecom Nightmares that Keep IT Leaders Up at Night – #4: Data Security Breach

Imagine this scenario. An employee was let go or leaves your company and in the process takes critical company data with them. Whether an employee steals data, your network is attacked by a virus or malware, or someone hacks into your system – the nightmare is made real for the IT leader. Having a secure network and the right platforms/processes in place to protect your company data will mitigate (not eliminate) the risk of your data being breached.

5 Telecom Nightmares that Keep IT Leaders Up at Night – #5: Carrier Implementation

So you feel good about that three year contract you just signed with your carrier. You have confidence in their ability to deliver and they tell you time and time again everything will be “fine”. Think again.

Now it’s implementation time. You may feel like you did your due diligence in selecting the right carrier and technology, but if you 1) don’t have the right resources and plan in place to manage the implementation process and; 2) have not identified the risks involved in the implementation, you are setting yourself and your company up for failure.

Let’s face it, dealing with carriers is not fun and implementations do go bad. Having the right plan in place, resources who know how to work with carriers, escalate issues, and have the resources needed to solve problems when they arise will help mitigate implementation nightmares.

Preventative Measures and Expert Partners Help IT Leaders Sleep Soundly

The fallout from these types of real-life nightmares result in lost customers, poor reputations, lost revenues, lost confidence, and sometimes… lost jobs.

But having the right disaster recovery plan in place, the right technology to protect and secure data and mobile devices, and a plan to implement carrier services will help mitigate these risks in the future and more importantly – you will get more sleep at night! Not sure where to start with preventative action? No need to procrastinate. Enlist the help of a trusted partner to get you started in the right direction.

Are there any other telecom nightmares that keep you up at night? Comment below.