Customer engagement the top driver of competitive advantage

The primary mission of the CIO is no longer to drive competitive advantage by balancing a cadence of enterprise-wide deployments with the ongoing maintenance of legacy infrastructure.

The primary mission of the CIO is no longer to drive competitive advantage by balancing a cadence of enterprise-wide deployments with the ongoing maintenance of legacy infrastructure. The best CIOs will embrace public cloud technology, free themselves from infrastructure maintenance, and instead focus on ways to increase employee and customer engagement that drive business results.

The competitive advantage of having a large capital expenditure budget is rapidly decreasing. It's no longer a barrier to market entry and maintenance of critical but large capital IT expenditures is becoming a disadvantage. In the current business environment, cloud technology enables any company to rapidly launch, innovate, and scale IT consumption based on demand.

Cloud, social, and mobile platforms have also empowered employees and customers like never before. Employees can now implement public cloud solutions that solve their specific challenges. The Bluewolf State of Salesforce report showed us that 70 per cent of companies are diverting budget from on premise infrastructure to fund cloud-based solutions.

But the availability, ease of implementation, and low cost has made it possible for employees to implement without IT's knowledge -- and just as customers are going multiple-channel, employees are going multi-cloud.

Multi anything leads to more information, IT and specifically a CIO' s best opportunity is to radically improve a company's access to and flow of that information.

Enabling insights across the organisation and empowering employees with the customer information they need to engage customers, is the best path to delivering impactful and sustainable business results.

There is no one better positioned in the enterprise to improve a company's access to and flow of information than the CIO. Besides having a complete view across the enterprise's applications and information sources, CIOs are the individuals most likely to have the resources to deploy platform-as-a-service (PaaS) solutions and the experience to lead cloud governance.

PaaS and cloud governance are two tools that will help CIOs quickly impact the access to and flow of information.

Embrace an end-to-end PaaS solution

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While PaaS is being readily adopted by enterprises for cloud application testing and deployment, the opportunity for companies already invested in cloud applications is extensions.

Rebuilding on-premises applications in the cloud does not always make sense, especially not every application all at once. Instead, extend the functionality of cloud investments until it no longer makes sense to maintain those on-premises applications.

In the same way cloud technologies have revolutionised the effectiveness of IT infrastructures, cloud governance is revolutionising the effectiveness of IT's alignment with the business.

Traditional IT governance frameworks are too cumbersome to support the rapid pace of innovation driven by cloud-based technologies. The emergence of cloud governance addresses this challenge.

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Traditional governance focuses on provisioning and security under strict control while cloud governance focuses on a framework for decision making and high quality, fast execution. It encourages IT to partner with business leaders to innovate at the pace of today's business and technology environment.

Traditional governance

Cloud governance

Driven by IT

Driven by business

Process can alienate business

Process driven collaboration and adoption

Control orientation

Decision making & execution orientation

Focus on larger releases

Focus on delivering continuous innovation

Reinforces organisational silos

Drives organisational collaboration & transparency

Reinforces organisational silos

Drives organisational collaboration & transparency

Little end-user involvement

End-user engagement is centre of decision making

Ignoring cloud governance is risky

With the cloud's flexibility comes the need for real-time evaluation of the infinite changes possible in terms of business value. Without the ability to measure the business value of change in an organisation and possess an established method to execute and communicate change in a planned manner, the system will become stagnant.

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Systems that remain the same in fact steadily fall out of sync with business. Nothing is static. Even if a company tried to remain the same its clients, employees, partners, and competitors would change. Not innovating, or even just adapting, will result in a negative impact on the business.

Technology alone is never the answer. Only when it's aligned with clear business goals, processes, and a customer-obsessed culture, can the right tools transform the business.

High performance organisations have a focused and strategic approach to innovation that lets them pro-actively deliver new benefits and value to business users over time. Such a successful cloud governance strategy addresses four fundamental areas: people, process, technology, and data.

Embracing PaaS and implementing cloud governance are two foundation strategies. The most successful CIOs will partner with other c-level executives to drive business results by innovating how their companies engage employees and customers.

There are two key takeaways for CIOs here:

Embrace an end-to-end PaaS solution. Optimise the capabilities of your platform and applications, while limiting integration headaches.

Implement cloud governance. A new take on governance, cloud governance provides a framework for prioritisation and encourages IT to partner with business leaders for rapid innovation.

Arlene Wherrett is APAC managing director at Bluewolf.

This story, "Customer engagement the top driver of competitive advantage" was originally published by CIO Australia.

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