I am now back in the office after 2.5 days in a room with 100+ IT leaders, collectively tackling the single most difficult challenge in IT today: how do you transform an IT organization to be more strategically relevant to the business it serves?
The event itself -- the EMC IT Leadership Council -- was the first of its kind for us. Personally, I see it as a huge success on multiple levels.
While no one will claim that we came up with The Perfect Answer, we shared an amazingly comprehensive foundation of transformational perspectives and examples. No matter where you might be in your IT transformational journey, there were powerful and experiences to share.
Fair warning: for the next few weeks, you're going to see post after post from me recapping the big concepts and discussions from this event.
If the topic of leading or participating in an IT transformation is on your mind, you're in luck. This is some of the best IT transformational content I've seen -- ever. And I get to see a lot of that stuff.
But if your interests trends towards other things, you'll have to put up with me while I get all of this across the wire and into the hands of the people I know can benefit from it.
At EMC, we've been talking "cloud" since mid-2008. Well, it's 2011, and it's sort of here.
We've come to realize that "cloud" signifies a complete restructuring of the IT industry for all participants: the vendors, the routes to market -- and especially the people who consume it on behalf of the organizations they serve.
At an infrastructure level, highly-standardized variable resource pools -- whether internal or external -- have now demonstrated that they can make IT more efficient and more responsive. At an application level, cloud concepts can improve legacy application delivery as well as enable an entirely new class of applications. And at a user experience level, the hot demand for mobilized interfaces demands ever larger clouds to support them. Add in new ways of securing and managing IT, and it's a breathtaking picture.
Unfortunately, the new "supply potential" of cloud-ish technology -- by itself -- isn't enough to drive large-scale IT transformation. After all, better ways of doing things in IT can take years and years to be widely adopted, if ever.
What's more important is the new demand side: business users who now see clear alternatives to the traditional IT monopoly.
If internal IT can't help them get where they need to be, they're now more willing than ever to go outside to all manner of IT service providers. Traditional outsourcing has given way to selective out-tasking.
In between these massive shifts in IT supply and IT demand sits the IT leader squarely in the cross-hairs. Many of them feel they've got a very short window to transform their IT organizations into attractive internal service providers, or lose business (and lose relevancy) to those outside the organization who can earn the business.
That was the underlying premise of the 2.5 day session -- to bring these under-the-gun IT leaders together, share what EMC has learned, and combine it with what they've learned.
Everyone has a piece of the puzzle, it turns out.
Not Your Average Vendor Session
Most of these CIO or IT leader sessions from vendors end up being thinly veiled sales pitches for what the vendor is selling. I"m sort of proud that we made it through the entire 2.5 days without a single sales or product pitch -- although our EMC Consulting brethren were working the audience a bit :)
Just about 100% of the ideas and concepts presented are implementable in a non-EMC or non-VMware environment -- a standard to which other strategic vendors should hold themselves to.
The titles and subjects reflect what we thought was a comprehensive approach to the subject.
We started with Sanjay Mirchandani (EMC's CIO) sharing a compelling story as to why EMC decided to invest in transforming its approach to internal IT: how we did it, what we achieved and what we learned along the way.
Next up, Tom Roloff (who leads EMC Consulting) shared our best work we've done with customers on how to create the case for a transformational investment. We shared the frameworks we were using internally and externally, and presented the results of a case study we'd done with a customer. We then broke into smaller groups to discuss and brainstorm.
Next, Sandy Hamilton and Bradd Lewis (both from EMC Consulting) led a short session on assessing readiness for a transformation. The underlying concepts I thought were quite good; unfortunately, some of it got lost in translation so we'll need to come back and buff up the digestability of this content. Once again, we broke into smaller groups to discuss.
Pat Gelsinger then took us through a whirlwind tour of the technology side: how technological advances was making cloud, IT as a service and IT transformation possible. I thought I was a get-through-a-lot-of-material-quickly speaker; Pat takes it to a whole new level. Pat did share a few interesting newer nuggets, which I'll get to when I recap his presentation.
We broke for dinner, drinks and some very lively conversation. A few of us were up late :)
The following morning, Jon Peirce took the stage and spoke for close to two hours on his experiences on organizing for success. The interest level here was absolutely intense; no surprise, because when it comes to changing how an organization does what it does, it all boils down to the people.
If your time (or interest) is limited, Jon's material is perhaps the most important and relevant to IT leaders considering a transformation -- it's all about the people at the end of the day.
We then broke for some fascinating drill-downs on specific use-cases:
- transitioning IT finance
- new models for business alignment and engagement
- security and risk management in a world of APTs
- getting from "virtualized" to ITaaS
- next-gen app development
- mobile workforce strategies
- empowering big data analytics
I know, any one of these could be a multi-day event in itself, so plenty of material to come back to at a later opportunity. And, no, we didn't have a storage session. All the technology-specific customer forums are now run by their respective business units.
The Outside View
Most of the topics and sessions were relatively inward focused around the emerging relationship between IT and the business. What could we do to establish a perspective outside the business -- one where IT could play a leadership role?
The answer came in the form of Peter Weill from MIT, who presented a fascinating framework on enabling "digital business models". Much food for thought there -- I think it was a perfect way to end the event. I'm looking forward to writing that specific post ...
So Here We Go
If you're interested in the "sound bites" from the event, my colleague Ken Oestreich did a nice summary on his blog here. I'd largely agree with his observations.
If you're interested in viewing the source material directly, you can find it here (no reg required, more content going up soon)
And, for the next week or so, look forward to a sequence of posts as I attempt to unpack the dozens of powerful core concepts there -- and, more importantly -- how the attendees reacted to and added to the discussion.
Thanks to all who attended -- we really appreciated your investment in time, and we hope you found it worthwhile.