Tim Mendham, Editor of CIO Magazine
There is technology that helps you do your job better; there is technology that opens up new approaches to how you do your job; and then there is technology that changes, disrupts and can totally remake the organisation into a totally different creature.
This is not just about technology wiping out certain professions — that does happen. The automobile by-and-large destroyed the need for farriers; PCs and word processing wiped out the need for a typing pool; and desktop publishing closed the door on typesetters. These last two, by the way, are classic examples of how IT self-service can change the way we operate, even if it means additional work for the one who adopts the new technology. (Whoops, didn’t see that one coming!)
This is about technology that can make a large organisation as nimble as a small one, and give a small organisation the power of a large one. We’re talking about Cloud. All of this, of course, is on the assumption that all the claims, promises and enthusiasm (and maybe even hype) about Cloud are correct.
Cloud can give you the infrastructure you can’t afford to buy. That’s a given. Cloud can therefore give you the power you need to perform processes you could not previously do. This seems OK. And with this processing power on tap (on and off), you can make moves into directions and markets that you might not have been previously able to even conceive as being on your horizon. That’s the scary bit.
But where there’s a scare, there’s a risk. The security issue is raised many times, primarily for public Cloud. The response has been that the risk is overemphasised — the Cloud service providers, especially the big ones, treasure their brand reputations as much as you treasure your data. We leave our money in banks, our flights in the hands of pilots and airplane manufacturers, and our children in the care of school buses. So why not lodge our data in the Cloud? Is risk such a big issue?
Certainly it might be for CIOs. The pressure to justify expenditure and explain away problems does tend to make one cautious, and CIOs are often tarred with this brush. So should CIOs embrace risk? Probably not embrace it, but certainly they should be aware and even consider it, particularly if they want to talk the talk with other senior executives.
CFOs aren’t exactly risk takers, although treasury operations, which play with short-term cash flow and returns, do fall within the finance department. CEOs are certainly aware and at times do embrace risk — it’s almost essential in moving an organisation forward. M&As involve risk; investment in a new building involves risk; hiring a new CIO or CFO might even involve risk. But does the CEO ask the CIO to takes risks?
Probably that’s a matter to discuss with your CEO. “How risky can we be in IT?” you ask, with more or less confidence. “Within reason”, is the reply. Risk need not be “Let’s jump off this bridge and see if we can fly”. But it can be a calculated risk, which is almost an oxymoron. Calculate risk? Does that mean it’s not a risk anymore?
See! Wasn’t that easy?