Reflections on 10 Years in Business: The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same

10th Anniversary CIOPSBy Jeff Richards
Managing Partner

This year CIO Professional Services (CIOPS) is celebrating our tenth anniversary. Looking back over the past decade makes me realize that, in spite of all of the changes that have happened in the IT world, at a more fundamental level nothing has really changed at all.

Our focus hasn’t changed

CIOPS’ first client was the Northern California Golf Association, a division of the US Golf Association that was established in 1901 (i.e. when my great-grandparents were too young to take up the sport). Our work for the Northern California Golf Association was a process redesign, systems selection and systems implementation engagement.

Today our biggest client is a hyper-growth unicorn 6-year-old “startup.” They’re about as cool and new as it gets. What are the initiatives? Process redesign, systems selection and systems implementation!

Before our current client received a major cash infusion in early 2018, they were a cash-strapped start-up running everything on “freemium” and inexpensive applications. Everyone found something that would solve their particular problem, at least in the short run, with little thought as to what else was going on around it. Now they are replacing this hodge-podge of apps that got them this far with more sophisticated solutions that will meet their needs as they grow. In other words, pretty much what we did for the Golf Association, but on a much broader scale.

It’s always been about business

Having been in this field for over 30 years, I’ve seen that IT-led business initiatives are very high risk and prone to failure, while business-led IT initiatives have a very high degree of success. Why? Because before you can figure out what systems you want to use, you must determine how you want to run your business. The business case must come first.

No one makes an investment in compute cycles without a business case. They always make the investment because they want their business to run better. Process precedes platform.

IT service delivery has changed

That said, one thing that certainly has changed is IT service delivery. Ten years ago cloud services were an anomaly. Now “cloud first” is the norm—so much so that soon it will be unusual for people to specify that theirs is a “cloud-based” solution. Instead, the labels will be slapped on the “on-premise” solutions, because hosting things on-prem will be the anomaly.

Over time the pendulum has also swung back and forth between a preference for “point applications” and “enterprise applications.” Point applications, like those that had been in place at our current client, are applications that only address one particular issue or function, such as inventory management, point of sale or finance. When businesses choose these they then count on IT to integrate all of their various applications and make it all work together.

In contrast, enterprise applications, such as Oracle or SAP, or point solutions that have evolved to a broader applicability like ServiceNow, are the big apps that do it all within one already-integrated ecosystem. Some go so far as to state they have “industry leading” business practices inherent in their design. This still needs to be vetted and agreed by the user community. These projects rarely fail for technical reason. More often it is people reasons like user adoption. This has always been the case.

The bottom line

Since we launched CIOPS in 2009 a lot has changed in the tech world. But if you take a high-level view you see that the story and journey remain the same, it’s just the vehicles that have changed.

To be successful you still need to figure out the business model before you start to search for the vehicles you’ll use on the implementation side. IT solutions aren’t silver bullets. Never have been, and never will be. That’s why your business needs, goals and strategies are at the core. And to be successful, it is business that must take the lead in your IT transformation initiatives.

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