I’ve known Randy for many years, and I included an interview with him in my previous book, On Top of the Cloud. In that interview, Randy painted a picture of the typical IT value creation cycle, in which the company swung back and forth – much like a pendulum – between a state of “business nirvana” and “IT nirvana.” Randy proposed replacing this perpetual pendulum with a “virtuous cycle” of innovation, adoption, standardization and commoditization.
Last week, I revisited the topic with Randy, asked him to share his newest thoughts about the role of the CIO within a continuing cycle of transformation.
“Successful CIOs participate across all stages of the cycle, from cutting edge experimentation to early adoption, then to widespread adoption and then to true commoditization,” says Randy. “The pundits who predicted the end of the CIO role saw the CIO as someone who primarily manages the end stage of the cycle, the commoditization stage at which the goal is leveraging economies of scale. Good CIOs are leaders at each stage of the cycle, not just at the end, and they’re making a difference.”
It’s also critical for CIOs to make the connection between the sharply rising demand for mobile apps and the growth of cloud usage. “The adoption of cloud has really been catalyzed and propelled by the desire for mobile apps. As consumers and workers ask for more and more mobile capabilities on their devices of choice, it’s pushing more applications into the cloud,” says Randy.
This unexpected linkage of two apparently separate phenomena is certain to have major implications for CIOs.
“For a long time it was hard for most people to see the real value of cloud computing because the hype was ahead of the reality,” says Randy. “Now, the demand for mobile apps is driving cloud adoption and creating a whole new cycle of innovation.”
At many companies, for example, mobile apps are used mostly by the sales team. At McKesson, however, the use of mobile apps has spread across various parts of the company. “In addition to helping our sales force with everyday mobility issues, we’re doing some really cutting edge stuff with mobile apps,” says Randy. “Our radiology imaging group actually rewrote some of the graphics drivers on the iPad so they could effectively manipulate 3-D CT scans for radiologists. Now the radiologists have a great new tool for communicating with their patients about their situation using a device they are familiar with. It’s an example of a new technology that doesn’t exist anywhere else yet.”
Today, we’re seeing what Randy describes as a “hyper-velocity” of experimentation. Many of those experiments will fail, but some will lead to products and services that generate real value.
“Some of the experiments will make it into the mainstream. For that reason, it’s not only very important for us to understand what many of the new capabilities can bring to us, but also to understand the inherent life spans of those new technologies and be anticipating when they’re going to no longer serve their intended purpose, or when replacements or better alternatives will arise,” says Randy. “We’ll need to manage all the stages of the technology lifecycle. That’s the future of IT leadership.”