Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM – but you could get a seat on the board for buying SMB 

Words by Peter Gothard, Technology Content Analyst, Incisive Works

You’ll doubtless be familiar with industry buzzwords such as “agile”, “open source” and the cliché of everything being “the Uber of (insert function or industry here)”. 

But there’s denying that the heroic story of the little taxi app that could (and then somewhat couldn’t, as it suffered a number of utter PR disasters) has seriously changed the IT landscape, as every CEO suddenly begins fantasising about a business that operates entirely in the cloud, on a phone, replete with AI algorithms, instant data analytics, and a miraculous ability to somehow tie all this together.

CIOs – and you as IT marketers – will obviously know this kind of thing can’t just happen by magic, but there’s absolutely no doubt that friendlier skies for quicker, cheaper and fail-friendly agile roll-outs are now definitely in view for SMB tech firms, and this was partly what Jos Creese – CEO of CreeseConsulting and veteran CIO and CDO – covered in his morning speech at Computing’s recent IT Leaders’ Summit. 

“If you’re going to take more risk, you need to create space for that, and that can be very difficult in organisations. In my view you have to create some sort of space, no matter how small, that will serve as an incubator so you can explore what it means to do some of this stuff, and to trial some new technologies,” said Creese, giving the view that experimenting with agile offerings is now crucial. 

“What’s interesting is that our aversion to small and medium sized companies has changed dramatically, in all sectors, as far as I can see,” he continued. 

“There was a time when, earlier on in my career, you’d be very, very cautious about small companies – was it going to last? Was their product going to be stale over time? Well we’re all using them now in cloud services – many of them are free, let alone low cost. So there is much opportunity, I think, for exploring and taking risks with new products and solutions.” 

But Creese also pointed out that its down to CIOs to take the time to meet the creators of these agile new solutions, and not automatically feed second or third tier client enquiries down to decision influencers lower down the chain. 

“One of the things I think is important is for CIOs to be able to spend enough time with suppliers,” said Creese.  

“As a CIO, I used to try and fend them off all the time – giving instructions to my PA, dealing with my email, saying, ‘Just let me talk to one or two’. 

“But that’s actually not a good tactic. You need to know what’s going on in the  industry. And many suppliers are the experts. If you want to know what’s having an effect on technologists, talk to a supplier of cloud technologies. They’re betting their salaries, their investments in that area – so sit down and talk to them. 

“That doesn’t mean you should spend all your time doing it, but it does mean you should keep your finger on the pulse.” 

After Creese’s session, I caught up with my old friend David Davies – CIO of Hargreaves Lansdown and previous Computing CIO of the Year. 

Despite being well-known as a CIO who runs much of his estate on Oracle, Davies agreed with Creese’s assertions. 

“We want to do something because, yes, whatever it is might actually be the next Uber,” Davies conceded. 

“So I think what you have right now is much more acceptance on your team being able to want things that are agile – that are open source and have that small business approach, whereby not so long ago, that approach would have been completely taboo. 

“Would large organisations have been interested in an open source approach? No they wouldn’t. But now you have apps going into large organisations, which I see all the time as CIO.” 

Davies also emphasised the importance of the CDO – the chief digital officer – in this equation. 

It’s definitely now also the CDO, and that’s an interesting concept,” said Davies. 

So a shift in power to smaller, more agile products and companies which CIOs seem to buy into. Arguably, the time could very now be right to start tempting CIOs – or CDOs – with more agile products. 

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