Tim Crawford on Digital Transformation

I recently had the opportunity to talk with Tim Crawford, CIO Strategic Advisor AVOA. Tim is one of my panelists for the session, Buy Less Nutanix. Run More Apps at Nutanix.NEXT in Washington D.C. later this month. I’ve known Tim for over 25 years and have watched his industry influence and recognition steadily climb as his perspective and advice becomes increasingly sought after by organizations across the globe.

SK:  How involved should IT be involved in the charge to digital transformation?

Digital transformation is a bit of a misnomer. What organizations should really care about is business transformation, or more specifically, business transformation enabled by technology. It’s important that IT organizations don’t purchase technology for technology’s sake. IT needs to learn how the company runs the business and how technology enables that capability. If the CIO has a conversation with the CEO about digital transformation, the CEO is likely to ask, “What does it do for the customer? For our business efficiency?” On the other hand, if the CIO talks about business transformation using technology as an enabler, the CEO is able to connect the dots between current state and future state.

SK: Is that what the AVOA logo signifies?

Exactly. AVOA has two core pieces:  Helping companies through the business/digital transformation journey and working with vendors that help enable those transformations by bringing the CIO perspective to the table.

SK: What are the big challenges IT has in this journey of technology-enabled business transformation?

Culture is the number one problem. An analogy is a situation where everyone is working really hard trying to figure out how to turn the crank better. At some point, we need to step back and ask, “Is this even the right crank to turn?” The same type of thing is happening across enterprise. IT is making incremental improvements instead of stepping back and trying to determine how to do things differently. So they buy the same servers, the same SANs and they expand their datacenters. Culture is a huge hindrance for corporations and is becoming a big liability.

SK: Well, you hit on the exact gap that Nutanix strives to fill.

This gap is woefully misunderstood. People tend to look at IT infrastructure as binary: Traditional IT silos or public cloud. The reality is that Cloud is just one core piece of the       puzzle – it’s just one tool in the tool belt. We don’t live in a 1-size fits all world. And even if organizations are determined to move everything to public cloud, it takes a lot of time. I was advising an organization in which everyone from IT to the Board to the executives were all aligned to moving to the Cloud. But it ended up being a two-year journey for them just to move from their own datacenter to a colocation facility – let alone the public cloud.

We’ve built up this massive ball of yarn that’s incredibly complicated. When we look at the anthropology of IT, it makes a lot more sense about how we got here. It doesn’t make it good or right, but we do start to appreciate it more. The question is where are we going from here and how do we untangle the ball of yarn to do something more reasonable and in a short time frame. We don’t have years – over half of the Fortune 500 companies have disappeared since the year 2000. CEOs do not want to be on the cover of the WSJ for a dumb mistake.

SK: What do CIOs need to do to be successful?

CIOs need to understand how their business operates. They need to understand what their customers – I’m talking about external, not internal customers – look like. If the CIO doesn’t understand the company’s customers and how the organization makes and spends money, that’s a problem. My advice to CIOs is to understand very clearly the entire value chain of how the company makes money, spends money and what the customers look like. And most importantly in respect to digitization, how customers engage with the company.

Along with culture, speed is another element that CIOs need to embrace. I use the term, velocity, because it combines both speed and direction. Speed enables turning the crank faster, while direction ensures that we’re turning the right crank.

SK: Any final comments?

In order to successfully achieve business transformation, CIOs need to transform themselves.

Hear and meet Tim Crawford along with Nutanix CEO, Dheerej Pandey, SAP CEO, Bill McDermott, Google Cloud Sr. Vice President, Diane Greene, Nasdaq CEO (and Nutanix customer), VCE President, Chad Sakac, Adena Friedman and many other industry luminaries and Nutanix customers at Nutanix.NEXT, June 28 in Washington, DC.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this blog are mine and not necessarily those of Nutanix, Inc. or any of its other employees or affiliates.

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