CIO's Corner: Achieving a Balance

Author: Rick Beers Senior Director, Product Management, Oracle Fusion Middleware

All too often, a CIO is unfairly characterized as either technology-focused or business-focused; as more concerned with either infrastructure performance or business excellence. It seems to me that this completely misses the point. I have long thought that a CIO has probably the most complex C-level position in an enterprise, one that requires an artful balance among four entirely different constituencies, often with competing values and needs. How a CIO balances these is the single largest determinant of success.

I was reminded of this while reading the excellent interview of Mark Hurd by CNBC’s Maria Bartiromo in a recent issue of USATODAY (Bartiromo: Oracle's Hurd is in tech sweet spot). The interview covers topics such as Big Data, Leadership and Oracle’s growth strategy. But the topic that really got my interest, and reminded me of the need for balance, was on IT spending trends, in which Mark Hurd observed, “…budgets are tight. What most of our customers have today is both an austerity plan to save money and at the same time a plan to reapply that money to innovation. There isn't a customer we have that doesn't have an austerity plan and an innovation plan.” In an era of economic uncertainty, and an accelerating pace of business change, this is probably the toughest balance a CIO must achieve.

Yet for far too many IT organizations, operating costs consume over 75% of their budgets, leaving precious little for innovation and investment in business-critical technology programs. I have found that many CIO’s are trapped by their enterprise systems platforms, which were originally architected for Standardization, Compliance and tightly integrated linear Workflows. Yes, these traits are still required for specific reasons and cannot be compromised. But they are no longer enough.

New demands are emerging: the explosion in the volume and diversity of Data, the Consumerization of IT, the rise of Social Media, and the need for continual Business Process Reengineering. These were simply not the design criteria for Enterprise 1.0 and attempting to leverage them with current systems platforms results in an escalation in complexity and a resulting increase in operating costs for many IT organizations. This is the cost vs investment trap and what most constrains CIO’s from achieving the balance they need.

But there is a way out of this trap. Enterprise 2.0 represents an entirely new enterprise systems architecture, one that is ‘Business-Centric’ rather than ‘ERP Centric’, which defined the architecture of Enterprise 1.0. Oracle’s best in class suite of Fusion Middleware Products enables a layered approach to enterprise systems architectures that provides the balance that an enterprise needs.

The most exciting part of all this? The bottom two layers are focused upon reducing costs and the upper two layers provide business value and innovation. Finally, the Balance a CIO needs. 

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