Jim Noble knows what he’s talking about. He’s the co-founder and CEO of The Advisory Council International, a non-profit organization advising senior IT executives. Previously he was Global CIO of Altria Group (Philip Morris, Kraft and Miller Brewing), CIO at AOL Time Warner, Global Head of IT Strategy for BP, Chief IT Strategy Officer for General Motors, Managing Director of IT for Merrill Lynch, and Director of IT at General Electric. When he speaks, we should listen.
We recently sat down with Jim to get his insights into the world of Application Landscape Management. The wide-ranging interview is worth reading in full, but these are a few of our highlights from our conversation with him. Pearls of wisdom.
On cause and effect:
“One of the approaches that I found to be the most successful is called the Balanced Scorecard which was originally developed in the 1990s by Kaplan and Norton at the Harvard Business School. The Balanced Scorecard is a really good framework because at the very top is shareholder value. It then decomposes into the contributing components of shareholder value which in my view are revenue growth, margin growth and perception or brand image, and from underneath that, you can imagine the pyramid builds out. It is an excellent way of linking cause and effect.
The exercise of trying to link cause and effect is extremely helpful because it allows you to get the business people on your side. It is also helpful because it stops you doing silly things.”
On the CIO’s relationship to business:
“My advice to any IT leader would be to become a trusted advisor to the business. Additionally, the IT team has to be embedded within and be respected by the business as knowledgeable people, not people who live in some corporate center or worse still, in some distant shared service organization. IT must be embedded and its leadership must become trusted advisors to the executive committee.
IT effectiveness is your ticket to the game.”
On the quotidian reality of IT:
“Running the business is a chore. We IT specialists are not great at doing chores or commodity work.
Conventional outsourcing in my view, is a lose/lose situation. If you engage in conventional outsourcing contracts, neither side is properly motivated. In fact, they're motivated only to do what the contract says.”
On feeling the need for speed:
“To my mind, if you can't implement a project within 12 months, then you will become a victim of circumstance. Rapid time-to-market is the essential part of making anything future proof and has many advantages compared to the old way of doing things.
The one term that encapsulates all of this for me is ‘clock speed’ – the winners will run fast, and the losers will run slow.”
On embracing the machines:
“In my view, AI holds out a bright future. Not because it eliminates manual labor, but because it does things better. In data science, AI belongs to a class of solutions called self-optimizing hill-climbing systems. This can eliminate human error in so many different ways. Sometimes where a human being has produced a bug fix, they would get certain things wrong and by making these mistakes, would leave the system wide open to massive vulnerabilities. Machine learning systems make far fewer mistakes, and can detect and auto-correct them. If you can embed that capability into a closed loop system, then have got a very dynamic solution that can constantly adapt to the business climate. To me, that is what information systems need to embrace in the future.”
On embracing Shadow IT:
“Millennial Generations have grown up with technology and are now becoming business experts. The concept of shadow IT used to be a problem for people in IT, but now it is an opportunity. When a business person comes to IT and says, I think I want to choose the following SaaS solution because it meets all of my needs, in the past IT people would say "No, leave it to us. Just write down your requirement and we will go and find the right solution for you." But instead people in IT should love the fact that business specialists also understand the need for technology. That is the future, and we need to embrace shadow IT.”
“I believe that a small number of really good people is always far better than having a large number of average people.”
Be sure to read the rest of Noble’s interview here: CIO insights on Applications Landscape Management by Jim Noble