Digital transformation is changing the way we do business, enabling upstart competitors to disrupt the status quo while opening new markets. At the core of digital transformation are new technologies like flash, cloud, and software-defined solutions, which have changed the day-to-day experience of the IT Manager. I’ve had a number of lively discussions with friends who are IT Managers and I hear them voice common concerns like, “I am being automated out of a job”, and the very popular, “With Cloud and IAAS, they’ll be no real need for my role as a storage manager”. Realistically, it’s not all doom and gloom. Although the role of the IT Manager is rapidly changing, "no longer being needed" could be nothing further from the truth.
The IT manager of yesterday was responsible for a wide range of tasks from capacity planning and upgrades, to migrations, and chasing down tickets. With digital transformation, the initiative is all about extracting business value from data. “Data is King” and you’ve got the key to the castle. I once had a manager tell me, “If no one knows about your accomplishments and skills, then they cannot value you fairly”. So now that you have the keys to your company’s data and processes, how can you be a key driver of change who adds value to the digital transformation initiative?
Here are a few tips to boost your visibility and value:
- New and Exciting Opportunities are on the Horizon so Make a Transformation Plan - No one knows better than you where the bodies (in this case data) are buried: Map out the existing architecture and inefficiencies that are preventing the business from operating at its most efficient. Proactively create a “digital transformation” plan that includes a phased initiative for moving to new architectures. Some examples might be consolidating outdated disk-based servers to all flash arrays and moving backup and archive to private or public cloud. Explore new storage architectures (ie. object storage) and propose how your group can present different options as an IT service provider to the lines of business. Times of transformation are ideal for learning about new architectures and solutions, so take some time to get educated on what you can add to your IT toolbox.
- Take Your Marketing Person to Lunch – It’s time for world’s to collide! Yes, digital transformation requires a team, and IT plays a key role. The new paradigm is that IT will be on the front end of new business initiatives which derive value from data. As a marketing person myself, digital transformation holds the promise of understanding my customers better and reaching new markets. “Data-Driven” marketing now forces IT and marketing to team together in a symbiotic relationship to achieve business goals. As an IT Manager, increase your visibility and value by reaching out to the Marketing team to educate them on how the new services in your IT toolbox can bring value to marketing initiatives. This is fun and exciting stuff, and you need to have a seat at the table! So inject yourself into the digital transformation process and make new allies at the same time.
- Leverage Supplier Expertise, It’s a “Free” Resource! – So maybe it’s been a while since you’ve received the update from your IT suppliers on what’s new in their portfolios. Now is the time to schedule that briefing to learn about what new solutions are being offered and the differences that each supplier brings to the table. Be prepared and ask questions about how the supplier has solved data-center modernization challenges based on specific use cases. A vendor briefing is also the perfect time to get free education on digital transformation enablers like cloud, flash, object storage, and software-defined solutions as well as management and automation tools.
- Schedule Regular Planning Meetings with Your Application People – You are probably doing this already but it’s time to up-level this to discuss projects and planned deployments centered around existing and new applications. As an IT manager, your role is moving from rolling out updates to enabling dev/ops models, self –service, and supporting the application people with the technology they need to successfully deploy and scale modern, cloud-based applications.
- Get Outside the Box – Many storage managers that I know have a passion for software engineering and this is relevant to your role in digital transformation. Take this opportunity to get some education on the latest API’s as well as technologies like Containers (Docker). Learn what’s possible with open source initiatives like OpenStack and see how they might support business goals. The datacenter of the future will look nothing like the datacenter of the present, and the tools at your disposal will be different. So although you don’t have to be an expert, take some time to learn the basics as it will help you connect the dots when architecting new solutions.
- IoT and Me - It’s all about the data… collecting it at the edge, ingesting it at the core, and using analytics alchemy to transform it into actionable business value. Find out if your business or lines of business have IoT initiatives. Check in with teams like advanced product development or solutions strategy and get involved right from the planning stage as you will be a key stakeholder in delivering IoT value to the business.
Having a successful career in times of radical change depends on your ability to be open to new ideas and methods. The IT Manager’s role has never been more important as one of the stakeholders in digital transformation, but it will be different, challenging, and exciting.
Now I have to ask…That sounds a lot more fun than pushing upgrades, doesn’t it? : )
To learn more about how top executives view the benefits and challenges of their Digital Transformation initiatives, read the results of a survey that Forbes Insights and Hitachi recently conducted.