Paul Lewis

Insights CIOs “should” have in 2018

Blog Post created by Paul Lewis Employee on Jan 19, 2018



I have vowed to always get the soufflé.


And not just the chocolate ones either.  EVERYONE gets the chocolate ones. No I go for them all.  Vanilla, caramel, raspberry, coconut orange, both sweet and savory.  If it’s option on the menu and takes 20 minutes to prepare, order me the cappuccino and Ill read the paper until it arrives.


Its part the exclusivity, part the waiting, part the delicate pastry and the precision in baking science, part the extra work of adding the syrupy liquid goodness and watching it melt until its glorious bread-pudding consistency is hoovered into my gullet before even a degree of coolness takes away from its ultimate pleasure.  Its hard to settle on any specific reason; okay maybe its that last one.


It may be none of those rationalizations that FORCE me to get the soufflé. It’s probably because the waiter TELLS me to get the soufflé.  I’ve yet to sit in a restaurant where there is soufflé on the menu and the waiter ignores its presence *or* simply suggests that its not “up to snuff”, an expectation of my discerning palate.  The wait staff are experts in the menu, their clientele, and the local competition, so what they tell me MUST be true.  And if it MUST be true, I am obliged to comply right?


Let’s hope so….


Recently I was asked to provide an insight to 2018 for CIOs.  Upon consideration, my perspective was less about a prediction of trends, as you can read about those from any number of informed analysts and technology mega-vendors.   In less than 100 words, I contemplated what insights CIO’s (or any technology executive) “should” be considering in 2018.  How they need to think about their own roles, how their team should evolve, and what they may be able to do about affecting positive change:  


“During 2018, the nature of the CIO’s job will change from the role of “delivery executive” to that of “IT business executive,” realigning the focus from project status and infrastructure uptime to delivering on the three business imperatives. These are: operational efficiency, new customer experiences, and diversified business models of the corporations’ digital transformation strategy. People development will also become the primary consideration for innovation in IoT, AI, and cloud, which are creating a necessity to upskill, re-skill, and replace expertise and experience across disciplines by utilizing platforms to access partner ecosystems of talent, technology, and information.” Paul Lewis, Digitalist Dec 2017


I couldn’t agree more if I hadn’t of written it myself.  Considering I am an expert in IT’s menu of services, understand IT’s clientele and the local IT competition I must be right?  Okay, maybe I’m just the smartest Janitor at NASA, but you are already committed to reading the blog by now.


Its possible (however unlikely) that I oversimplified the entire CIO insight. In the interest of elongating my brevity, lets break it down:


  • “The nature of the CIO’s job will change from the role of “delivery executive” to that of “IT business executive”:  Long are the days when the role of CIO was exclusive to IT concerns.  We used to have IT budgets, with IT staff, delivering on IT budgets, for the value of IT.  An ever-growing cost center that kept the CEO out of the newspaper with rigid policies, and implemented standards as if they were a stalwart government department.  Up to now the CIO “delivered” projects, “delivered” applications, and “delivered” on promises of uptime, with very little consideration to the intricacies of the business model of the entire organization.  In 2018, CIO’s SHOULD refocus their attention entirely to the holistic business success.  The IT business executive considers the value proposition, customer relationships and segments, key business activities and assets, and specific partnerships and channels required to deliver on the business product or service.  In 2018 CIO’s should demand a seat at the business-decision making table as all of their output should be measured against financial growth and health of the company as a whole.




  • Realigning the focus from project status and infrastructure uptime to delivering on the three business imperatives [of Digital Transformation]”:  Dashboards that deliver on key performance indicators exclusive to the purview of technology teams are relatively simple to produce and even easier to achieve success.  The KPI’s in IT tend to be process and project centric.  If you successfully adhere to these guidelines, and if your people successfully deliver on project tasks as estimated, everyone receives 100% of their short term incentives.  Unfortunately the successful delivery of a project, or the uptime of a server, does not contribute to the success of the company in any meaningful way.  They become simple checkmarks or “table stakes” to what value IT can actually provide.  In 2018, CIO’s SHOULD re-evaluate their performance management mechanism to measure individual contributors and teams by aligning to the Digital Transformation initiatives the company implements to compete in the demanding digital marketplace.  Include IT’s impact on operational efficiencies (logistical), creating new customer experiences, and diversifying to include new business models to subject all resources to “business outcome” measurements and participate in the bottom line or double bottom line growth in the organization just like their internal customers.


  • “People development will also become the primary consideration for innovation in IoT, AI, and cloud”:  Unless you are a technology mega-vendor, a global industrial conglomerate, or a niche silicon valley start-up with a permanent stand at Stanford University, the most intelligent and most experienced technologists don’t work for you.  Not that you don’t have a unique culture with an interesting product, but Lizzie's Curio Shop in Radiator Springs can not compete on compensation or research investment with the likes of Apple, Google, Facebook or Amazon.  Even worse, your business has hundreds or thousands of heritage applications, used by tends of thousands of employees or customers, that produce current business value.  As a CIO, you need to balance the evolution of the existing systems while innovating with new technologies.  In 2018, CIO’s SHOULD implement a series of People Development initiatives to increase their collective academic knowledge of top technology trends: Machine Learning and AI,  Cloud and Data Center Automation, Containers and Development Automation, Web-scale Infrastructure Management, and Cyber/Data Security.  Don’t let the Dunning-Kruger effect blind you into believing the vast majority of your staff with long tenures, do not need some academic base knowledge.  




  • “Creating a necessity to upskill, re-skill, and replace expertise and experience across disciplines”:  Of course, it can’t simply be an up-skill adventure (see what I did there).  Academic knowledge in computer science, mathematics, and economics will take time that you don’t have, and millions of dollars that might not be in budget.  In 2018, CIO’s SHOULD undertake a detailed people skill assessment to appraise the existing categories of skills covered versus the new skills desired over the next 2-3 years.  From that assessment, and the very honest judgment of how to acquire/supplement/add those missing skills, you will find a portion of your staff *may* need to be replaced with new experienced staff; most of whom requiring a higher than average compensation base and incentive plan.  The balance becomes important.  A wholesale replacement of staff will lead to so much disruption, your table stakes become scrapes on the floor.  Balance existing product and application heritage knowledge with the introduction new disciplined skillsets.  Pair them together so that new innovation can be attributed to new businesses as you dive deep into helping the company innovate with large inorganic growth projects. 


  • “Utilizing platforms to access partner ecosystems of talent, technology, and information”:  Changing your frame of reference, from IT-to-Customer to Customer-to-Business changes how you might solve problems, create innovation or simply add new skills to the team.  Your internal reference might create the “we can build it” mindset, where you believe you have the necessary skills to solve the problem using existing staff, toolsets, and experience.  Shifting the frame of reference to the client, the client would only see your organization as an “option” to solve their problems. They could just as easily go to your competitors, build their own solution, or acquire components from a variety of vendors and compose the solution out of parts.  Of course, they could choose to outsource the assembly of all they parts completely to a third party, and it might not be you at all.  In 2018, CIO’s SHOULD utilize partner platforms to augment talent, create technology, and add information sources to round out innovation capabilities.  Ecosystems of partners will provide a breadth of experience, talent and technology far beyond internal capability and co-creation or co-innovation programs might actually reduce the overall out-of-pocket expenses of invention. But not all partners are equivalent. If you are looking for caviar on a discount store budget, you will get discount store caviar.  Find partners that have longstanding experience in both IT and Operations know-how, understand the value and source of data, and can apply your Industry’s knowledge to create unique differentiating solutions for you and your clients. 




The nature of the role of CIO will change in 2018, without a doubt.  It will become more people-centric focused on increasing the skillset and adding new talent, reevaluating the performance management program, and looking to build an ecosystem of partners, and create a new platform of external talent, technology and information to bridge from “operating IT” to “becoming the business”. A lofty goal.


I know it seems like a lot to do in a single year, and we are already a couple of weeks into the first month, but to help, I will pose three pachyderm-centric proverbs:


  • Don’t stand too close to an elephant, all you see is its tough and wrinkly skin. You have step back and give it a better look to see it’s a beautiful animal grazing in the tall grass
  • How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time
  • I have a memory like an elephant. I remember every elephant I’ve ever met (okay, that one might not have a lot of intrinsic value but its kind of funny).


Its been a long time running.  Its been a long time coming and its been well worth the wait.