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Being a CIO in a business built on innovation

Byron Connolly | July 15, 2014
Equinix CIO, Brian Lillie, discusses how to shake out money and management bandwidth to truly innovate and transform an organisation.

Equinix CIO Brian Lillie

Not so long ago, Brian Lillie wanted to become a CEO. Instead, on the advice of a recruiter, he decided that being a CIO was perhaps a better fit.

It was. So much so that Lillie -- CIO at the San Francisco office of global data centre provider Equinix -- was last month named Silicon Valley's CIO of the Year in the public company category of the Bay Area CIO Awards.

Lillie left Verisign in 2008 after almost seven years in IT, PMO, corporate strategy, and global sales operations roles. Prior to that, he spent just over three years at SGI and six years as a project officer and commander in the United States Air Force.

He recalls talking to a recruiter about pursuing a CEO role.

"He said 'you could do it but there are plenty of CEOs that have more experience than you and will probably be tapped for the plum CIO jobs before you. But you have an extremely credible background to be a CIO'.

"It was excellent advice and a week after that advice came, I was called by an executive recruiter for the Equinix role. It was very serendipitous."

Built on innovation
Lillie has been Equinix's CIO since 2008 and since then, he's made sure the organisation's IT team has developed a partnership with the business that exceeds that of a traditional service provider.

Like many other CIOs, Lillie is adamant that IT needs to be run like a business with a service-oriented structure that enables the organisation to grow and innovate.

"You can have run of the mill IT work that is important for employee satisfaction and I never want to denigrate that, but you need to run IT like a business.

"You need to squeeze it as much as possible so that you can shake out not only money but management bandwidth to focus on innovation," he says.

And creating innovative products is certainly high on the list of priorities for Equinix's IT group. Last month, the company unveiled the Equinix Cloud Exchange, a service that enables organisations to gain on-demand access to multiple cloud and networks across the world. The organisation has also been building some unique apps that improve the way it interacts with customers.

"I think we have a real focus on innovation," he says. "We've focused a lot on building customer portals and mobile apps to help customers deal with the company in a pretty unique way," he says.

Last year, Lillie and his IT team built a global customer app that enables customers to place orders, view their bills, and look at their inventory online.


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