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Governance 'can unlock value and drive innovation'

Governance and change management can be challenging and confusing and internal IT departments should look to partner with external providers to enable services and platforms that improve productivity while protecting against fragmentation and security threats, a senior IT official from Bluewolf says.

Los Angeles-based Mike Sommer, practice lead for cloud governance and an enterprise architect at Bluewolf (an IBM company), told iTWire during a visit to Australia that when it came to enterprise technology, chief information officers often focused on the initial implementation and forgot to evolve and innovate over time.

This meant technology and employee usage of systems could quickly become outdated. "Having the right governance strategy and structure is one piece of the pie; you also need to build an innovative culture around it, built on internal trust and support," he said.

Sommers has put his Masters in International Relations and National Security Studies (University of Copenhagen), BA, Sociology (University of Victoria, BC) to good use spending time at IDG, as a CIO, and senior merger and acquisitions adviser.

He added to his skill set by becoming certified in governance of enterprise IT before joining Bluewolf in September 2014.

Bluewolf Sommer“I have helped companies for more than 10 years to bridge the gap between business objectives and IT. My passion is designing and implementing solutions that enable organisations to transition from systems of record (on-premise applications) to systems of engagement," he said.

"I have completed 4 SFDC implementations, led two agile development teams as the project director, built out a cloud governance framework for a global aerospace company leveraging Salesforce.com and designed a mobile device implementation strategy around Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) for a global telecom organisation. I believe that when technology is aligned with a company's purpose the result is simplicity of execution, streamlined operations, increased team productivity, and fully engaged customers.”

Is increased governance being driven by the move to the cloud?

Cloud technology enables companies to build for scale. Cloud infrastructure and technology gives companies flexibility, which is how you build value in your technology delivery team. Technology, especially cloud applications, must align the overall shareholder and business vision and objectives to drive measurable improvements.

When enterprise architecture and cloud governance architectures are properly implemented and viewed holistically, executives can look beyond cost containment to full business collaboration with IT. Alignment between business and IT will encourage a more holistic path towards innovation and growth by offering a more agile, focused and flexible IT strategy.

The growth rate of cloud technology services continues to be explosive. Bluewolf’s most recent The State of Salesforce Report found Australian businesses are leading the way when it comes to cloud integration, with 55% of Australian businesses having integrated one or more Salesforce clouds compared to 36% globally.

But a recent study by IDC also predicted that by 2017, 80% of global CIOs would initiate a data transformation and governance framework to turn information into a competitive business differentiator. However, by 2018, 70% of siloed digital transformation initiatives will ultimately fail because of insufficient collaboration, integration, sourcing or project management.

The reality is that bad data, lack of integration and antiquated processes are preventing businesses from realising business outcomes from these integrations. Governance is needed to reduce that risk.

I understand that you are meeting local Australian clients to share global best practices on how they can prioritise ongoing innovation by evolving to cloud governance vs traditional IT governance. What are you going to tell them?

The first step in defining and developing a solid governance strategy is identifying organisational roles and responsibilities. As sales, marketing, and IT departments become more tightly aligned, it is important that they find ways to integrate decision making, prioritisation, and the delivery of projects that tie to key business outcomes. 

CIOs need to become more agile, customer-responsive and creative. They can only move at speed by allowing their team members to own their business outcomes, not only minimising time to value, but also ensuring that they are constantly in alignment with business needs.

The other valuable partner is the CMO and they must operate in a space between IT and where customer interaction is increasingly digital, and customers are in control of their own digital experiences. They need to create a flexible structure of innovation and builds value in their technology delivery, sales, and marketing teams.

CIOs are usually fixated on technology and CMOs are fixated on customer experience – they often don’t see each other as friends! How do you build this trust?

Through a robust and flexible cloud infrastructure, CIOs can build for scale and create a strategy that addresses how decisions are made within the business. This aligns with the overall shareholder and business vision and objectives to drive measurable improvements.

Yes, CIOs are often fixated on implementations at a constant speed – they simply cannot keep pace with demand and improve internal capabilities. More often I see businesses demand that CIOs set up new applications in a matter of hours and deliver value faster than competitors, without considering foundational infrastructure – like governance and the speed at which innovation can be managed, implemented and adopted.

CIOs need to understand that it is necessary to innovate at varied speeds while allowing business ability and embracing new opportunities as they arise in the market. You should only evolve as fast as the end user can adopt change, balancing need, flexibility and internal capabilities to meet the speed and quality requirements of your business.

It has often been said that CIOs and line of business needs usually don’t mix. Why?

In my experience, many business leaders believe that their internal IT department is not as agile as an external provider or solution. However, by bypassing their IT teams and looking for alternatives solutions to get the job done, CIOs put their business at risk of losing valuable and unique insights, and often underestimate the challenge and risks of data integration.

Governance and change management can be challenging and confusing. Internal IT departments should look to partner with external providers to enable services and platforms that improve productivity while protecting against fragmentation and security threats.

CIOs focus on implementation. How can they be more innovative?

When it comes to enterprise technology, CIOs often focus on the initial implementation and forget to evolve and innovate over time, which means technology and employee usage of systems can quickly become outdated. Having the right governance strategy and structure is one piece of the pie; you also need to build an innovative culture around it, built on internal trust and support.

Above all, CIOs and their team should not be afraid to take risks. At Bluewolf, incorporating design-thinking into our internal processes has been has been enormously successful in creating great customer and employee experiences. Encourage people to experiment in their areas of expertise and passion. Innovation doesn’t happen without dedicated people who take ownership of new ideas and hold themselves accountable for their success.

A strong governance framework is key to unlocking value within the business. It ensures all activities are aligned to the overarching business vision. Such a framework isn’t built overnight, but those that invest in ongoing innovation are the ones that accelerate and achieve their business outcomes.


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Ray Shaw

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Ray Shaw ray@im.com.au  has a passion for IT ever since building his first computer in 1980. He is a qualified journalist, hosted a consumer IT based radio program on ABC radio for 10 years, has developed world leading software for the events industry and is smart enough to no longer own a retail computer store!


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