The New “Outsourced CIO”

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Billy Cox is a Director of Cloud Software Strategy with Intel’s Data Center Group. Since joining Intel in 2007, Billy – who has 30+ years of industry experience – has been leading the cloud strategy efforts for the Intel Software and Services Group.

Billy Cox IntelBILLY COX
Intel

I had a chance this week to speak with the CEOs of a number of small companies. One of the things that really jumped out at me is how hard it is for these small companies to get a “CIO.” Of course, they could hire a person but most are not large enough to justify a full time CIO. But what really came out to me, is that, thanks to cloud, the role of this “outsourced CIO” for these companies has a different meaning than even just a few years back.

1.  The “outsourced CIO,” being the face of an IT organization, is tasked with creating value through IT. Intel built a CIO white paper that makes this point: IT is a part of the value creation machine (not a cost center). For the small or medium business, this means that whoever is acting as the CIO for the small company has to really help drive their partners business, not just run their IT. For the myriad of resellers and SIs that act as ‘outsourced’ IT for small and medium businesses, this is a fundamentally different view of their role – assuming they aspire to be their partners “outsourced CIO.”

I would argue that cloud has not only made this kind of role practical but it has made the need for this role essential. It is practical since the outsourced CIO is far more likely to understand the options and nuances of selecting services for the business than the business itself would be. It is essential since the small or medium business can not afford to spend time or money learning IT (after all, they do have a business to run).

2.   Outsourcing has been around for a long time. But until salesforce.com made the SaaS model practical and popular for all businesses, the concept of outsourcing a specialized function was a rare business model. Now, with cloud, we have a multitude of specialized functions to select from, all of which are delivered as a SaaS meaning that no hardware is purchased and, in some cases. may not even require a contract.

For the Outsourced CIO, this means a LOT more partners and a lot more interpretation of the business requirements in that ocean of options.

For example, it means that the security requirements of the small or medium business need to be very well understood. In a traditional enterprise model, where everything was hosted “behind the corporate firewall,” it was easy (“just buy more servers”). However, in the cloud or SaaS model, we have to actually evaluate the security requirements of an offering and make a judgment as to the suitability. Alas, the days of “just buy more servers” are long gone.

If you are the CEO of a small or medium business: Who is your CIO?

If you find yourself in the role of Outsourced CIO: Are you acting like a CIO, or just the manager of IT?

As always, your thoughts are welcomed.

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