I recently had the opportunity to spend some time with a CIO of a mid-sized company to talk about all things technology and in particular the business of IT from a leadership perspective. We spent the better course of an afternoon engaged in a rich dialogue sharing our philosophies around IT management and delivery. Now, I consider myself a fairly accomplished engineer and spend a great deal of time providing technology and business leadership consulting. So when it comes to the business of IT, I feel fairly confident my approach is on point. That being said, I relish opportunities to engage with people that are simply really good at what they do, and frankly I seek out those learning moments. This was one of those instances.

As we explored a multitude of topics, I continued to delve deeper into areas where I was sure to provide some extraordinary guidance and profound insight on how I would tackle the different challenges. We covered virtual desktops (VDI), security, the Cloud and just about everything you could think of including how to use technology to manage demographic gaps in large organizations. I came away from our conversation with a healthy perspective on what good IT leadership looks like and learned a few things in the process. As a side note, the value of having solid people skills is rarely discussed when assessing strong IT leaders and like this individual, nearly all successful CIOs or VCIOs have the ability to build successful personal relationships.

I start with this anecdote because it is a prime example where good IT leadership, a strong understanding of IT’s place in the business, and the utilization of effective technology can position an organization to be very successful. The reality is that most organizations either don’t have a strong CIO or have increasingly complex environments where even the most competent of CIOs requires additional outside support to ensure best practices across the entire organization. As we look at the variables to evaluate when making a decision to outsource some or all IT functions, keep in mind these are guiding principles and not hard and fast rules. In the following section, I cover some basic tenets that are clear indicators that you should be looking for outside support. In my next post I will cover the business of IT, which is about the process of incorporating business strategy into technology planning.

Calling in the Experts, 5 signs you should not be handling your own IT

  1. Downtime is an issue: If you are aware of and/or experiencing downtime with any of your core technology, it might be time to upgrade your approach instead of your systems. The consistent plummeting prices of High Availability (HA) solutions leave no room for anything short of 99.999% uptime for business-critical technology. In fact, so many vendors now include inherent redundancy in their products that chances are good you already own most of what you need to be truly HA.
  2. Budget Buster: As you analyze your IT expenses on a regular basis, are you consistently spending more than you either budget for or feel you should? If both of those resonate, it’s worth considering options. A good technology partner will build next year’s budget over the course of the current year based on the evolving needs of the organization.  IT budgeting is an iterative process, not a singular event. Then once the budget is finalized, it should only be deviated from under exceptional circumstances.
  3. Strategic Plan: Does your organization have a clear and documented IT Strategic Plan that is tightly aligned and modified with the Business Plan? Without this, you can’t possibly be on the right track with business strategy.
  4. Technology as an asset: More times than not, CEOs and business owners view technology as a necessary expense instead of a strategic asset to drive growth. If you are not actively strategizing and utilizing technology to gain a competitive advantage, you are likely in 2nd place already.
  5. Security is uncertain: If you think you are safe and secure, you better be sure. Security is no longer just a firewall. Security is process, planning and testing. The implications of a breach for most organizations far outweigh the cost of putting a solid security and compliance protocol in place immediately. If you don’t have this, time to call in the experts.

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