Secret CIO #1: Vendor expectations

Image of the Stig

Image: Nathan Wong.

Some say he creates hot spots in his data centre to use as a tanning salon.

Others say he thinks a CRAC unit is a gathering of brickies.

We just know him as Sven.

Welcome to the first of many interviews where Sven will speak about what makes a CIO tick. We invite you to interact with him, and issue challenges. Feel free to comment on his ideas and pose questions.

The first topic chosen by Sven is all about vendor expectation and what he expects from the hoards that crave his business.

To set the scene, we are meeting at the Sven’s favourite cafe nestled between the prams and spoodles of the inner city suburb he calls home. He approaches me with the sun behind him as if to create an element of fear and intimidation.

His order of a dozen uncooked eggs and a long black coffee in a used glass adds more to the aura that surrounds him. My order of a chai latte puts me on the back foot and leads me to the belief that he is one tough hombre and one to be listened to.

To start the ball rolling, I ask him where he sees the challenges for both himself and the vendors that enter his office with great expectations and a heavy quota. His response was rapid-fire and heartfelt.

“We are all under our own pressures in the pools we swim in. As a CIO I have operational responsibilities and greater responsibility to manage the relationship between the business and IT. For years there has been a level of mistrust built up between the business and IT to the point where IT has been seen as an inhibitor and pure expense whose sole purpose has been to slow progress and time to market.

“As a leader in the CIO pack I ensure that I am a part of the business process and have created a position where I am viewed as a business person whose product happens to be IT. I’m not the only one doing this, I know, but there is a long way to go in the general populace. I will continue to challenge the business on strategic direction”

“OK Sven, we can all agree with this and it makes perfect sense. How is the vendor community behaving?”

“How long have we got?” he replies as he scoops another spoonful of raw eggs.

“As I mentioned earlier there is a level of mistrust between business and IT which also holds true for the vendor community. Sitting in my office trying to sell upgrades for no other purpose than the upgrade itself does not help the cause nor does the question of tell me about your business bring a sense of happiness to the average CIO.

“Yes we understand life cycle management but do not understand why vendors are lacking innovation as to how we deploy. Makes us think very hard about changing suppliers when we feel boxed in. As for tell me about your business – this makes my blood go cold. You have relationships, industry knowledge, competitor knowledge and a marketing team of your own who should be challenging me on where my business is at and be proactive on how I take advantage of your goods and chattels. If you’re lost try Google for a few clues, don’t care how you do it but do not come to me for lessons!”

Realising his blood pressure is rising and that we have hit a raw nerve I bring the conversation to a close by suggesting that if vendors wish to gain business and loyalty with him and any other enlightened CIO they should:

  • Address the overall business goals of the organisation
  • Demonstrate some knowledge in there vertical
  • Bring innovation and possible alternate revenue opportunities
  • Create partnerships where we all share the risk and reward
  • Make the CIO seen to bring business catalysts to the table

“Well done, now pay the bill and let me go home.”

I retire to the safety of my car as the Sven disappears into a mass of morning shoppers.

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