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The CIO has a job with a very wide array of responsibilities. Everything from knowing the business and making sure the foundation of the tech echo systems is stable, secure, and compliant, to having the right people and partners in place.  Having the right software solutions in place that empower the business is truly job one.

So how does a CIO manage through the needs of what we’ll call the table stakes (TS) – vs – spending time and money on truly business differentiating solutions (BDS)?

The answer is really simple, yet the execution of it is something that has many IT leaders perplexed.  Today’s CIO must take a long hard look at their entire environment.  People, vendors, solutions, and budget and make 2 lists.  What in here is truly a business differentiator and what are table stakes?  The BDS column should be where 85-90% of the focus is applied.  The TS column should be turned into commodity services – and viewed as such.  While your employees and customers care if your network is up does it make you better than the competition?  Not so much…. It’s expected to be up!  This example has to be stringently applied to all services and functions during your evaluation.

There are so many “As a Service” / Managed Services offerings today that are highly valuable and cost-effective.  It is easier than ever before to put the TS column in the hands of companies that focus solely on those services.  This leaves you as the CIO in a position to focus on BDS.

TS examples are:
  • PBX / Hosted Phones

  • Contact Center

  • Security (IDS, IPS, Vulnerability, etc)


  • Help Desk


  • And more…

What makes this so hard?

Upfront it’s the change and a desire to make it.  You’ll run into hangers-on of the way things used to be.  The quote “But we’ve always done it like this” is a business killer.  As a business, we must always be evolving. 

The leadership required here must be certain and strong.  Create a vision, share it, get buy-in, and execute.  If you don’t get buy-in because of the fear of change the transition will fail – and fail quickly.  This may force you to re-evaluate your staff and their capabilities.

There are many that will tell you “we can do it better”!  The truth is that you will never achieve the economy of scale that the “As a Service” providers hit.  You’ll not be able to provide the depth of solution coverage that can be achieved in this space too.  It’s far too costly and needs far too many people/disciplines to make it cost-effective.

I’ve seen both sides – lived them both – evangelized on either side…. But given where the market is right now there is really no other way to compete.  You have to create leverage and free yourself up to focus on delivering business value – aka making the Customer Experience better.  If you’re not… the next CIO will…