3 steps CIOs can take to lead more strategically in 2017

This is the year to change perceptions: IT isn’t a utility, and you aren’t a utility player. Following these strategies around cloud, application support, and security will go a long way toward elevating your role to strategic leader.

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It’s time to rethink the CIO title. Are you responsible for keeping the trains running on time and the lights on, or are you providing the thought leadership and guidance within your own organization to maximize value and business agility?

Most C-level executives run the risk of doing the perp walk in handcuffs out of the office and ultimately wearing an orange jumpsuit if their subordinates break the rules or screw up – and while you serve a valuable function, this is not true for the CIO. 2017 needs to be the year where you go from “serving” to “leading.”

To earn your keep, you need to show both value and accountability at a minimum. A-grade CIOs identify opportunities to drive business growth – and A+ ones do it with fewer resources, not more.

Here are three interrelated strategies to do just that.

1. Take a hard look at license maintenance. For years, software license maintenance – the amount companies pay to vendors each year for support, access to bug fixes and patches, and upgrades – eats up a significant portion of what is perceived as the “fixed” IT spend. It’s time to fix that, and move license maintenance out of that bucket.

To determine the best steps to take, you’ll want to look at:

How current your application is. If you’re several upgrades behind and have plans to upgrade, you are paying a lot for features and functionality you’re not likely to adopt – or you’re likely looking at a reimplementation anyway. Vendors don’t want you to know this, but going off support doesn’t mean you can’t reengage down the road (at more attractive terms) if you decide you need the latest and greatest.

-   How often you use support, and how “supportive” it is. If you have internal skill levels that beat the skills of the call centers you’re contacting with questions, or have found poor resolution rates, third-party support may offer significant savings while improving issue resolution.

What third-party support is available. Organizations such as Rimini Street are providing support as a service and we’ve found they deliver better results than many traditional license maintenance support operations.

2. Go cloud. If you haven’t moved at least 15% of your IT operations to the cloud, now’s the time to start. With our data showing that cloud delivers 2.1 times more ROI than on-premise applications, even a small shift can deliver significant value (plus tax advantages, surely to be appreciated by the CFO). This doesn’t have to be a big-bang approach to digital transformation – many firms have found savings on license maintenance, for example, can help them innovate on the edges in areas like CRM, general ledger reconciliation, analytics, and cloud ERP (with a hub-and-spoke approach) while honing their cloud chops. We’ve also found that companies that invest in cloud end up spending an average of 20 percent less on security technologies than those who don’t – freeing up funds from their infrastructure budget that can be better applied elsewhere.

If you’re already well on your way to a cloud footprint, that doesn’t mean you’ve accomplished your goals. The advantages of cloud for flexibility and agility are great for the citizen developer – but so are the possibilities for rogues, fiefdoms, and governance challenges. Having a clear picture of your cloud footprint and the value you’re getting from your subscription sets the right tone for a broader conversation about governance and business cases.

3. Rethink your security spending. Although several high-profile security breaches and hacking events made headlines in 2016, that doesn’t mean continuing to pour budget into security is necessarily the best way to secure your business. Taking a measured (read: ROI-focused) approach to security spend, having a conversation with those responsible for your corporate insurance, and understanding the expected cost of a security-related loss the way they see it can help you identify where you may be overspending.

2017 is the year for CIOs to change perceptions; IT isn’t a utility, and you aren’t a utility player. Adhering to these strategies will go a long way toward elevating your role to strategic leader.

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