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5 conversations CIOs must have with their C-suite peers

Clint Boulton | Oct. 2, 2015
CenturyLink CIO Bill Bradley says tech leaders need to keep their C-level peers abreast of IT efforts. Not surprisingly, mobile and cloud are among the key discussions.

3. Articulate the cloud strategy: Articulating a cloud strategy is harder than it sounds, because as companies migrate from several physical systems to virtualized systems, with more operating systems and applications running on fewer boxes. Since acquiring cloud software providers, including Embarq, Qwest, Savvis, AppFog and Tier 3, CenturyTel has reduced the number of data centers from dozens to three.

Bradley has articulated to his peers the considerable cost-savings of converting to the cloud. He’s also explained to staff who have spent their careers managing servers that their role will be less important in the future, an unenviable but necessary conversation. “You need to say I appreciate what you’ve done for me in the past, but I need you to take those skills and apply them to a more virtual environment,” he says. “Their job environment is changing.” He says training from within, as well as using external consultants, is helping CenturyTel’s ongoing cloud journey.

4. Develop a mobile-first mentality: Migrations to the cloud are crucial, because the services provide a next-generation platform with which businesses will support their customers. Mobile has become king, as consumers expect to procure goods and services from smartphones, tablets and, increasingly, wearable devices. That requires drastic changes in the way companies write and deliver code. Once upon a time, developers standardized on Microsoft Windows, building images for desktops and laptops that enabled people to access the Web through Internet Explorer.

Today, Safari, Firefox, Chome, Android browsers dominate mobile computing. “We have to be browser- and device-agnostic,” Bradley says. “In the world of cloud, I have no way of knowing which platform my customer is going to interact with me on.” Mobile software is developed iteratively and constantly refined. CIOs assure their peers that the development pace and velocity must be crisper, he says.

5. Service abstraction anyone?: Build abstract services with generic interfaces that can be reused. He says developers will repeat several of the same steps as they write code for new applications. APIs help here, allowing developers to write software once and run several places. CenturyTel developers have written software that allow employees to access frequently customer addresses, for consumers and enterprises, from a single service.

With reuse, companies can eliminate software waste and “future proof” their assets. Is that a conversation worth having with C-level peers? Perhaps, perhaps not. But CIOs can put it into context for them by explaining that software is being developed more efficiently. “If you build a service, it should work broadly,” he says. “By doing that I build in a layer of future-proofing rather than silos with brittle interfaces.”


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