NEW ORLEANS — The perception of IT among employees who aren’t involved in the technology centers within their organization is generally bad and the onus is on technology leaders to rectify those problems, Blackstone CTO William Murphy said at the Collision conference this week. “People have been disappointed over IT many times,” he said. “It’s not necessarily the fault of technologists, but technologists have not stood up for themselves.”
IT still bears the blame for almost every technology-related project that’s been delayed for the last 20 years and IT professionals need to find a way out of those internal conflicts, according to Murphy. Such a change requires a shift in thinking about IT’s role and how it can deliver a more collaborative model for technology innovation, he said.
“It’s about creating a dialogue around the problem identification, not necessarily jumping to a solution that somebody believes is the right one,” Murphy said. Approaching those conversations as an opportunity to help vs. commanding a specific structure or toolset our outcome can lead to better results and a happier workforce, he said. “Most of the time, technology groups don’t push back enough in creating that conversation.”
Decentralizing IT improves outcomes
Pushing a business toward a more collaborative approach to technology will positively impact almost every aspect of the organization, according to Alan Boehme, CTO and the head of innovation and architecture at The Coca-Cola Co. There are also some parallels to how Coca-Cola invests in multiple cloud providers instead of picking one vendor for all cloud-based infrastructure based on cost, relationships or other tangential characteristics.
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The global beverage company uses many cloud vendors for different needs and often bases those decisions on the benefits and key value propositions of each provider, according to Boehme. The goal is to essentially use the best provider for each task or objective, he said. “You have to look at what you’re trying to accomplish… and what is right for the application you’re trying to provide.”
Companies should also take advantage of the specialties of each cloud provider because they are advancing those features much faster than others, Boehme said. Amazon, Google, IBM, Microsoft and others have all constructed their cloud services based on the history and unique features of their company, he said.
Going all-in with a single cloud vendor can cause serious problems down the line, according to Boehme. It’s important to note that there are proprietary technologies in every cloud platform and if an organization goes too deep with one provider it’s going to encounter the same challenges the industry faced with ERP systems a decade ago, he said.
Costs for cloud services and infrastructure continue to come down, but the benefit of saving money can quickly be undone by the headaches that come from constantly switching providers, according to Boehme. “I don’t see any benefits in moving from one cloud to the next on a weekly or regular basis,” he said.
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Security is another area where businesses need to get all employees involved instead of relying entirely on IT departments, according to Murphy. Instead of letting specialized teams handle every security need, the private equity firm is putting greater emphasis on educating its entire workforce and conducting tests to ensure best practices are followed from the outset, he said.
“People give the human side short shrift,” Murphy said. “If everybody just picked a harder password that would do more per dollar spent” than any other security solution. While security is often perceived to be part of a larger bureaucracy it has also been one of the easiest things to get people to buy into because of the well-publicized and devastating security lapses that have tormented some companies of late, he said.
Why startups need to meet and understand enterprise needs
Murphy and Boehme also offered some advice for startups who are trying to win deals in the enterprise. Understanding the customer’s pain points and special requirements is key to any partnership, according to Murphy. Too often startups will foist undue responsibilities on their customers and leave them to make connections between the problems they have and the technology being provided by a third-party vendor, he said.
“You know in the first two minutes of talking to somebody it’s a hit or a miss,” Boehme said. The power of storytelling is hugely important and “that’s an art that startups have to understand and learn,” he added. “Understand my business. Understand who I am and what I do.”