It's 2018

Timothy Oliver, CIO, Horry County
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Timothy Oliver, CIO, Horry County

Timothy Oliver, CIO, Horry County

The angst of every CIO is to have to budget for today, for dollars that won’t be spendable for at least six months. Worse yet, is projecting a five to seven year CIP. It is obvious, today’s budget dollars may be spent on technologies that non-existent. The tech needs of the organization change as rapidly as the technology itself.

Ransomware, mobile, paperless, workflow, Virtual everything, IoT, Hyper converge, Big data, security, and dashboards are all yesterday’s buzzwords. While all of these maybe yesterday’s buzzwords, the impact will be pronounced on organizations well into the future. A couple of examples:

• Big data will only get bigger. Not only the data created and owned by an organization, the data needed to analyze and predict the future growth and needs of the organization. Storage and analysis alone will impact the infrastructure and staffing needs to manage big data.

• IoT will continue to dominate operations especially from a security and impact to network performance point of view. Whether it’s printers, vending machines, HVAC systems, security systems, security cameras, exercise equipment or mobile devices, if it touches the network, it has become a security and bandwidth issue.

• Security is always an issue. Other organizations misfortune, become your overnight headaches. Security is no longer a one man show, but an entire team and department responsibility.

To add to this conundrum, is staffing. How to hire and retain relevant staff and then keep them engaged enough to stay ahead of technological advances? The skillset of the staff of next year may not even begin to compare to the skills necessary today. An organization’s org chart may be a moving target attempting to fill the needs of the team.

Lacking a crystal ball or the ability to predict the future, how do you stay sane and provide your customers with solutions? There is no silver bullet to any of these issues, but as CIO some survival principals to help retain your sanity.

• Stay current-Everyday spend the first 30-45 minutes keeping up with what’s new. NEVER let the news of a crypto attack to another organization is brought to your attention by your management. Already know about it and be working on it. The same is true with your line of business applications; know what’s coming in the future. You or your staff should attend user conferences and plan for the future. Don’t let your department subject matter experts tell you what is coming. New technology, know what it is, the possible impact to your organization and have a plan to test it, or rule it out as an option.

• R&D Budget-The cost of technology has significantly dropped, there should always be something on the road map for proof of concept, testing and development. Know the needs of your organization and anticipate where it is headed. Be the or have the innovator of your organization that is always thinking “wouldn’t it be cool if. . .”. Not an easy role when all the day to day fires, issues, keep the lights blinking takes first priority. Go back to the first suggestion; use part of those 30-45 minutes to be the innovator.

• Agile Development-It’s not a buzzword, but a frame of mind. No matter what the project, make something happen every two weeks. Either have something to show or revisit the progress, something will go wrong or change if nothing happens with a project within a two-week period. If something gets put on a back burner, because a major fire started, make sure to revisit it ASAP after the fire gets put out.

• Bleeding edge tech—No it’s not always the place you want to be. Your organization, doesn’t want to be the Guinea pig for its new major line of business application. BUT, be willing to be an innovator with those outside vendors. Help them design, develop and direct the direction they are taking their solutions. By being an innovator, your vendors become your partners, they find out what innovating things you are doing, and they want to be a part of innovating projects. Find out the roadmap for their solutions (hardware or software) and help draw the map. Go back to the second suggestion always think “wouldn’t it be cool if . . . “and innovate with your partners.

• Staffing-Two crucial considerations when filling a vacancy. One, every time you have a vacancy to fill, RETHINK the needs of the organization. Do you need the same skills? Is that the position still needed? Have the needs of the organization changed to the extent that an entire new skillset is needed. Adding head count is almost always an uphill challenge, so when faced with a vacancy be that innovator and change organization one position at a time. Two, it should not always be about the degree, or looking good on paper. Does the candidate fit with the team? Is the candidate an out of the box thinker? What kind of a learner are they? Need to take classes or You Tube learner? Remember a year from now this new employee may need to add to their skillsets to support new technology or innovating thinking.

In summary, be an innovator, if you want your customers to change, be an example of always being ready and willing to change. Encourage the same mind set and philosophy in your team. If you have a sit back and enjoy the ride attitude, you might not like where the ride is taking you. So, drive the tech train for your organization not just a passenger on the train.

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