Not so long ago, Brian Lillie wanted to become a CEO. Instead, on the advice of a recruiter, he decided that being a CIO was perhaps a better fit.\nIt was. So much so that Lillie \u2013 CIO at the San Francisco office of global data centre provider Equinix \u2013 was last month named Silicon Valley\u2019s CIO of the Year in the public company category of the Bay Area CIO Awards.\nLillie left Verisign in 2008 after almost seven years in IT, PMO, corporate strategy, and global sales operations roles. Prior to that, he spent just over three years at SGI and six years as a project officer and commander in the United States Air Force.\nHe recalls talking to a recruiter about pursuing a CEO role.\n\u201cHe said \u2018you could do it but there are plenty of CEOs that have more experience than you and will probably be tapped for the plum CEO jobs before you. But you have an extremely credible background to be a CIO'.\n\u201cIt was excellent advice and a week after that advice came, I was called by an executive recruiter for the Equinix role. It was very serendipitous.\u201d\nBuilt on innovation\nLillie has been Equinix\u2019s CIO since 2008 and since then, he\u2019s made sure the organisation\u2019s IT team has developed a partnership with the business that exceeds that of a traditional service provider.\nLike many other CIOs, Lillie is adamant that IT needs to be run like a business with a service-oriented structure that enables the organisation to grow and innovate.\n\u201cYou can have run of the mill IT work that is important for employee satisfaction and I never want to denigrate that, but you need to run IT like a business.\n\u201cYou need to squeeze it as much as possible so that you can shake out not only money but management bandwidth to focus on innovation,\u201d he says.\nAnd creating innovative products is certainly high on the list of priorities for Equinix\u2019s IT group. Last month, the company unveiled the Equinix Cloud Exchange, a service that enables organisations to gain on-demand access to multiple cloud and networks across the world. The organisation has also been building some unique apps that improve the way it interacts with customers.\n\u201cI think we have a real focus on innovation,\u201d he says. \u201cWe\u2019ve focused a lot on building customer portals and mobile apps to help customers deal with the company in a pretty unique way,\u201d he says.\nLast year, Lillie and his IT team built a global customer app that enables customers to place orders, view their bills, and look at their inventory online.\nUp to 35,000 transactions per month are completed using this online app, which is also available on Apple or Android mobile devices.\n\u201cWe don\u2019t have all the functions on a mobile app but the most frequently used services like being able to place a visit request and accept an inbound shipment \u2013 all of those things our customers can now do on their mobile devices,\u201d he says.\nEarlier this year, the IT group created the Equinix International Business Exchange (IBX) Map app.\nPhotographs of one of the organisation\u2019s IBX data centres were built into the iPad app, which enables Equinix\u2019s sales people to provide rich content to customers who tour the data centre building.\n\u201cWe\u2019re using MobileIron as our internal app store and we\u2019ve been publishing mobile applications over the last year and a half,\u201d says Lillie.\nThe IT group has also worked hard to help the company\u2019s sales staff communicate more effectively with CIOs at existing and potential customers.\n\u201cUntil recently, I owned the global solution architecture function \u2013 I helped get that started \u2013 but I\u2019ve since transferred that the CTO,\u201d he says.\nIt\u2019s a customer-facing role designed to convince CIOs that \u201cyou don\u2019t have to be Facebook, Twitter or Google to have their kind of infrastructure,\u201d says Lillie.\n\u201cWe really are successful in converting prospects if we have a customer go on tour and see one of our facilities,\u201d he says.\nEquinix is a technology organisation but that doesn\u2019t necessarily make innovation any easier, says Lillie. Each year, the organisation\u2019s operational and capital expenditure on IT is well within Gartner benchmarks for spend per employee.\nHe says an organisation like Equinix has a lot of technical people who \u2018feel they can do IT\u2019, which is also a challenge.\n\u201cThere are many examples where a solution architect or engineer wherever in the world sends me notes say \u2018hey I built this really cool app\u2019 or \u2018I want you to check out this provider of mobile apps\u2019 or \u2018have you seen this latest expense reporting software?\u2019 I get that from highly technical people \u2026 so you have to have a lot of patience,\u201d he says.\nGetting a seat at the table\nLillie says he has previously looked at other IT leadership roles in other industries such as manufacturing where IT is still viewed as a cost centre and not as strategic or core to the business.\n\u201cI report to the CEO, I have a seat at the table with the presidents of the regions. The situation at Equinix is perfect because I have a growing global platform that believes in what we are doing with a set of executives that are my peers,\u201d he says.\nThe ability to communicate well and be \u2018story tellers\u2019 is what makes a good CIO, he says.\n\u201c[CIOs] have to be passionate what they do and if they throw at a board member [rhetoric about] technology for technology sake, they are nuts, they\u2019re never going to win,\u201d he says.\nAnd Lillie has a five step recipe for success, which he shares with the company\u2019s sales staff who are selling to other CIOs. The first step is to determine the current state of \u201cwhatever it is you want to change,\u201d he says.\nStep two is determining the issues with the current state.\n\u201cYou have to excite them [other executives] or perturb them, make them uncomfortable,\u201d he says.\nStep three involves panting a picture of the future state infrastructure, explaining what it could look like and how it will help the organisation secure more customers.\n\u201cTell them, \u2018here\u2019s how we can drive customer satisfaction, increase revenue and cut costs and drive employee satisfaction,\u2019\u201d he says.\nThe fourth step is to determine how the proposed future state solves the issues or take advantage of the opportunities that have been identified in the current state.\nStep five is to lay out a roadmap detailing the time and resources required to transform the business and the role you as a CIO will play.\n\u201cThat recipe I think CIOs need to realise \u2013 is that it\u2019s important to share, communicate and story tell inside their own organisations.\n\u201cI don\u2019t think CIOs place enough value on that communication skill. It\u2019s easy to manage out of fear and out of the back office than it is to step out and be a leader from the front office from a position of passion. And sometimes that\u2019s risky,\u201d he says.