Past Roundtable: San Francisco

Transform to Better Perform CIO Roundtables Urges
Collaboration With business leaders on innovation
July 30, 2015/San Francisco

Agility. Speed. Innoavtion. IT Transformation Requires Collaboration

Companies that want to bolster their agility, speed and innovation with the help of new technologies must forge close collaboration between IT and business groups, a two-way street to success that will separate the leaders from the laggards in today’s hyper-competitive business climate, according to a CIO roundtable produced by the Transform to Better Perform initiative. The roundtable took place at the DCD Converged conference produced by DatacenterDynamics, and was sponsored by Dimension Data-both partners on the Transform to Better Perform initiative along with the Business Performance Innovation (BPI) Network.

Nineteen technology executives met at the invitation-only roundtable to discuss the key findings of a global survey of business leaders. The study found business leaders recognize the need for advanced new datacenter and cloud technologies, but are dissatisfied with the pace of change and innovation in their companies. Both during the two-hour roundtable and in exclusive video interviews afterward, several of the technologists said innovation requires better collaboration across the company.

Learning the Business Language: Defining IT Success

“The IT people need to learn the language of business. The business people need to understand that IT is not just this ‘thing’ you pay for. It’s not a black box that makes magic,” said Dr. Jonathan Koomey, a research fellow at Stanford University who is examining the nexus of IT and energy. He added that business leaders “have to define the parameters of success” in order to transform the IT group from a cost-center to a "cost-reducing profit center."

None of the technology leaders at the roundtable appeared surprised to learn the survey showed business managers are unhappy with the IT staff. Only 14 percent of the survey respondents gave their IT teams a “very high” rating for innovation while 15 percent rated them as "poor."" About 43 percent said IT is transforming well into a valued business partner, but 54 percent said the team was "poor" or just "making progress."

"We need to transform the IT group into a cost-reducing profit center"
- Jonathan Koomey

Both the survey participants and the panelists acknowledged that keeping the corporate network running safely and securely remains the top priority. As one technologist noted, "CIOs don't lose their jobs because they're not fast. They lose it because the datacenter went out." But another member of the panel disagreed: "I see a lot of CIOs getting fired because they said 'no' too much, because they don't innovate."

The roundtable members cited several reasons for the low marks in innovation, including the lack of a “common language” between IT and business teams, the complexity of enterprise technology environments and a lack of training so that business leaders can better explain their needs and engineers can be sure to address the right problem.

"An engineering team that knows what the sales person or the marketing person is trying to accomplish is going to have a much better handle on it than [they would get] from a spec sheet," said Byron Ellis, CTO of Spongecell. "They’re problem solvers and they want to solve this problem for a person."

A Crisis in Creativity: Roadblocks to IT Innovation

Some technologists admitted there is a "crisis of creativity" in business today that is thwarting efforts to find innovative technology solutions. In other words, the business managers' complaints about the lack of innovation is not just their perception, it's a reality. "I think it’s real and it’s big," said Tim Chou, a lecturer in IT at Stanford University. "I would claim right now there is almost no innovation occurring in most corporations."

"The crisis in creativity is real. And it's big"
- Tim Chou

To reverse that trend, Chou advised companies to create an environment of innovation that invites in bright, young engineers and educates them about the business goals of the company, no matter what the industry. "I think there's ample opportunity for people to seize the moment whether you’re in agriculture, aviation, oil and gas, or whatever," he said.

In the survey, 93 percent of the business leaders said technology has become more important over the past five years. In fact, the field is changing so rapidly that some technology executives at the roundtable admitted they don't know what solutions they'll use as the volume of data continues to soar in the days ahead.

Technologies Seen as Most Transformative

"In the 21st Century, every company is an information technology company," said Koomey. "Many companies don't realize it yet. As more people start to understand the importance of IT to institutional transformation as well as improving efficiency, we’ll see even more attention paid to these technologies."

If you'd like to know more about the roundtable, or about participating in future events, please contact Sally Lopez:

Past Roundtables


Bruce Taylor
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Liz Miller
CMO Council
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Dr. Jonathan Koomey
Research Fellow
Stanford University
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Eric Wells
VP of Data Center Services
Fidelity Investments
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Lee Penning
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Richard Garratt
Director, Next-Generation Data Centers
Dimension Data
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Don Beaty
DLB Associates
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Grant Richard
Managing Director / Technology Fellow, Global Data Center & Cross Platform Technology
Goldman Sachs
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Bill Dougherty
Executive Director & Data Center Advisory Group Leader Cushman & Wakefield
Goldman Sachs
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Byron Ellis
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Matt Doka
Co-Founder & CTO
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Eric Zhou
VP of IT
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Stuart Appley
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Eric Adrian
EVP & Director of Critical Enviroments
Jones Lang LaSalle
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David Lee
Director, Global Sales & Marketing
DCProfessional Development
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Kyle Scarmardo
Head of Infrastructure
Dev Ops
Fidelity Investments
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Jill Von Berg
VP of IT
CIO Calix
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Alan Lurie
Managing Directory
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Timothy Chou
Stanford University
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Chris Baughman
VP Data Centers
Project Frog
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