BrainWave Consulting Company, LLC is a minority-owned, veteran-owned business that specializes in providing cybersecurity and other technology services to small and medium enterprises (SMB/SME).

I recently read an opinion piece on ComputerWorld about the post-Cloud IT landscape, and it I had a couple thoughts:

  1. The author makes a good point that little mention is made of what the world will look like when cloud is the norm…
  2. We (both business and technology folks) spend a lot of time focusing on the flavor of the day, and not enough looking at the bigger trends…

For years, the pendulum has been swinging between outsourcing and insourcing – between local enterprise computing and remote computing – and this trend will not stop anytime soon.   Here is how the trend tends to play out:

  • Deploy disruptive technologies locally
  • Seek management tools and best practices to address technology sprawl
  • Move management chores further and further away to lower costs
  • Start the cycle with a new technology

We tend to employ new and disruptive technologies close to us in order to reap the most benefits related to flexibility and performance.  Later, as the technology becomes widely deployed (and thus unwieldy or costly to manage), we look for best practices and enterprise-class management tools to obtain control and better harness all that power.  Finally, as the technology matures and enters the commodity stage, we look to various forms of outsourcing to reduce our costs – and (sometimes) complexity.

Nothing new there.

So, What’s New?

During the past decade, much was made of how vital technology is to virtually every organization today.  No dispute there.  However, most organizations cannot afford to internally staff a technology team that can architect and deploy game-changing technology solutions – certainly not small or mid-sized firms.  (Many firms would like to think that they do, but most are not even close.)

All they are doing is keeping up with the basic expectations of technology usage in the workplace, and employing technology staff to keep some previously designed architecture afloat.  This is partly because the technology marketplace is still fast-changing and relatively immature, and partly because there are very few technologists who are truly architects vs. maintainers. 

(PLEASE NOTE: Some “maintainers” are really architects who have learned to keep their mouths closed, and their budgets low, so they can remain employed in these tough times, but that’s another story…)

What this means, is that instead of trying to figure out by themselves what role all the hot-button technologies can play a role in their organizations, CIOs should ensure that they have two or three great technology partners that they can use to keep them and their staff up to speed on these critical issues.  And they can get help with deployments as well on issues such as:

Disaster Recovery, Business Intelligence, VoIP, Cloud Computing, Desktop and Server Virtualization, Converged Networks, SSDs, Green Computing, WAN optimization, and a myriad of other technologies.

Key Benefits of Good Technology Partners

Good technology partners will help you in one or more of the following ways:

  • Keep you up to speed on technology trends that can help your business
  • Keep you informed about security concerns and risks to your business
  • Can provide you with training, best practices and expert advise
  • Augment your staff’s skills on a project-by-project basis
  • Allow you to keep the right mix of skills in-house, focused on the business
  • Can provide training or project management on technology deployments
  • Help with business case justification for key initiatives

Of course, choosing the right partners is not a trivial exercise, and you have to manage the relationship on an ongoing basis, but it is well worth the time and effort for the benefits received.

Rather than get caught up in flavor-of-the-day activities, the wise CIO works with his or her technology partners who will be able to more cost-effectively test and develop solutions that cater to the CIO’s organization.  This will leave more time for the CIO to work with his colleagues on business strategy, and ensure that the CIO’s team is doing the right thing well, rather than being good at things which don’t necessarily add value for the business or help it move forward.

One huge benefit of good technology partners is that they help one to be proactive!  When odd requests come from the business to investigate this or that technology trend, a good tech partner is there to help you avoid time wasting investigations.  More than that, by being proactive, the business will come to expect the CIO and technology team to inform it of ways in which the business can improve flexibility, lower costs, and/or add value.  This leads to a much better partnership with the business, and a far more rewarding career.

Choosing the Right Partners

First, you need to ensure that you have the right number of partners.  Depending on the size of your organization, and how many locations you operate in, you might need as many as a half-dozen *key* technology providers to partner with.  Never have less than two, however, as this gives you pricing leverage and helps to maintain perspective in the marketplace.

Next, they’ll need to be the right size:

— large enough to gain economies of scale in the marketplace
— large enough to have 
sufficient exposure to different technologies

— small enough to care about you and your business
— small enough to feel that your business needs are important to its success

And make sure that there is a cultural fit.   This is not supposed to be a 12-15 month relationship, but one that might span 5 or more years.  Things will not go well if the two organizations have goals that don’t mesh, or there is friction between the teams.  This is essentially an extension of your organization, and so the consideration given to cultural fit must be similar to that of a hired staff member.

In my career, I have had the privilege of working with some really good technology partners, and these have proven critical to my professional success.  Over the next few years, we’ll see many more strong technologists in consulting and vendor organizations vs. corporate employment, so if you want to have access to some of the best technology solutions and technology minds out there, be sure to find yourself a few great technology providers and partner with them.

This is one of the few truly win-win scenarios of this economy, and I expect it to be a major component in determining which organizations will be successful in this new decade.