By Sekete Patrick Maphopha, NetApp Africa CTO and Technology Evangelist
In today’s business world, manufacturers and retailers depend heavily on data – from supply chain to machine and customer data. Across any industry, data is the asset that companies base their success upon. And the South African CIO needs to not only be concerned by the backing up of this data, but also linking that intelligence with general business objectives. They therefore need an infrastructure that everyone in the company can rely on. What this means is that the infrastructure needs to benefit the whole company, not the IT department alone. This is because today, departments across organisations are pushing CIOs and their teams to drive their projects forward.
This indicates that the role of the CIO and IT in general is changing. For instance, at Audio-Technica, the Japanese manufacturer of high-end audio equipment, such as microphones, headphones and mixers, IT truly set the pace for the company’s growth. When expanding the business to the EMEA region, a new and robust storage solution was the pre-requisite for success.
CIOs need to strengthen their position in one of three roles identified in an IDC study published in January. Firstly, operational CIOs focus on keeping systems running and costs low. Secondly, business services manager CIOs work on updating and refreshing the organisation’s IT portfolio on an on-going basis. And thirdly, CIOs acting as the Chief Innovation Officer. According to CIO Magazine’s annual survey, two out of three CIOs said that the company’s CEO regularly consults them. The participants of this survey added that they would like to spend less time on their functional responsibilities and instead contribute more to the business strategy. To do so, CIOs need to change their way of thinking to complete the transition from legacy systems to the cloud.
At Germany-based Kids Fashion Group, a global manufacturer of children’s clothing, the IT infrastructure became crucial for the company’s advancement. As its success relies heavily on an international acquisition strategy, the growth of the company was limited when its IT infrastructure was unable to keep pace with the integration of its acquired businesses. In the end, the CIO was able to bring the retailer back up to speed with an update to the company’s central data centre. The new solution allows for integrations to take place in a more flexible and quicker manner, and now Kids Fashion Group is able to use its data to its advantage.
This shows that when CIOs adopt a more strategic and less operational level of thinking, they can remain agile, while avoiding the growth of shadow IT in other departments of the company. Cloud-based services are often seen as the best way to fulfill the requirements of a robust, yet flexible IT solution. This way, companies can avoid suffering from data losses after IT system outages. NetApp has a suite of products delivering data fabric which will reduce technology silos and cost barriers. Businesses can therefore benefit from the cloud’s secure ability to scale IT to their precise needs, as well as change at a moment’s notice.
Within South Africa, a number of fundamental modifications need to be made before the CIO can evolve to meet these changing needs. South African courses need to be geared to prepare the CIO for the shifting job market. To supplement this, organisations should offer internal courses around the shifting role of the CIO.
Ultimately, the CIO must be agile and able to make decisions quickly, especially within the cloud era. When companies install a robust data infrastructure, they can make sure that day-to-day operations run smoothly and amendments to the systems within other sectors of the business can be made with ease. However, first and foremost, they can position themselves as true innovation enablers inside the company.