Paul Lewis

Letter to the CIO.  We understand you because we are just like you.

Blog Post created by Paul Lewis Employee on Nov 12, 2015





Let’s start with platitudes.


  • Your costs are too high, and there is pressure from the executive to reduce them
  • You have ever increasing resource constraints with numerous top priorities
  • Your teams’ lack of technical expertise is decreasing overall quality
  • You are not able to meet the time to market demands of the business
  • There are too many regulations and compliance standards to meet


You may have seen this list in various forms, usually titled with the word ‘typical”. Bulleted eloquently, or expertly laid out in various SmartArt matrices or pyramids, or simply and smartly presented in boxed bubble form with appropriate yet dramatic animations.


They are omnipresent in every PowerPoint presentation, every keynote speech, every interaction with every vendor you deal with every day.


They are also meaningless. 


The goal is innocent enough.  “Let me list issues that you most likely have, then I will spend at least the next 45 minutes walking you through a series of products and services that attempt, in some minor way, to fix at least one of them.  And let’s hope I can convince you it’s the one that “really” matters”


I could do the same thing the next time we meet, but I have slightly more self-respect than that…slightly. 


In response, a polite nod or glimmer of a smile from you allows us to continue to the next slide without really digging into the content.  Your inside voice is a little more disturbed that the presenter simply doesn’t “get it”.  In a perfect Sherlock tone, your minds’ bad-ass bellows: “Your characterization of typical is demonstrably fallacious.  I don’t really have those problems, at least not how you describe them.  What I do have is professional anxiety:


  • I have people who are looking for me to provide direction, but I don’t know what the future holds
  • I have the autonomy and privilege to create value, but I don’t know what’s most important, and how to see it through
  • Time is not on my side


Now help me”


How wonderful would it be to have that conversation? How amazing would it be to ignore the solution, avoid the problem, and focus exclusively on what success means to you personally, and how to overcome the absence of infinite experience and expertise. 


But even if that intellectual honesty comes to light and those conversations could happen naturally there are a continuous series of hurdles to jump including continual business priority changes, exponential technological advancement, and new vendors being created, disappearing, merging or functionally separating.  Even worse when the largest players in the market merge into behemoths of complexity and internal competition. 


Take the HP segregation of consumer and enterprise divisions, or the $67B Dell acquisition of EMC as examples of hurdles to overcome.  Changes of those magnitudes typically mean technological debt correction, product line overlap, people consolidation and  significant decreases in customer satisfaction simply due to the executive attention exclusively focused on achieving synergistic financial goals.  When literally tens of billions  of dollars are at stake, the extra time to take a call from you personally will be put on the virtual back burner.  In Dell/EMC’s case bigger won’t  necessarily be better, and in HP’s case dividing into two certainly won’t allow you to be any more agile.  And for both, resetting back into “normal” will take several years.


And let’s not forget about that public cloud mega vendor hurdle.  How can you, or your technology vendors compete with Amazon and Google?  They have the capital and scale to overwhelm the likes of IBM, Oracle, Microsoft, and the new Dell/EMC company.  It’s a threat not to take lightly for anyone, including the companies that exist entirely within that eco-system.  Who is really the vendor when your entire company persists in the public cloud?


What you need is a different kind of partner, a different kind of technology company. One that understands your industry, understands your obstacles, and understands you personally.  A company with which you can have that difficult, and awkward conversation and receiving empowerment and empathy in return.


  • As part of Hitachi, we understand your industry because we build the machines that run your industry, and have done so for over 100 years.  From power plants to hospitals to railway systems and integrated smart cities, we are involved in creating innovation right alongside you. We have rolled up our sleeves and will teach you what we know.


  • We understand your corporate obstacles and appreciate your need to create new insights.  Our machines talk to your machines, and our combined data and mutual know-how produces greater insight.  Insights that matter.  Also, at HDS we are still focused on our core infrastructure business while providing all of our customers with an integrated and secure way to manage, mobilize and analyze data as foundation to create real revenue.  


  • We understand you personally since we have known you for years and have done your job.  We understand what it takes to lead a technology team that runs the business but is also is expected to lead the growth and innovation.


We are here to listen, to learn, to teach and to guide.  We won’t agree with you, we will discover the solution together.  We are here to make you personally successful.  After all, we are just like you.


And the next time we meet, I’ll skip the slide.

Note: Also posted on Linkedin Pulse: Letter to the CIO. We understand you because we are just like you. | Paul Lewis | LinkedIn