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CIO as a storyteller

Teresa Leung, Computerworld Hong Kong | Oct. 16, 2012
Brian Lillie, CIO of Equinix, said he aims to turn people directly reporting to him into CIOs in a recent interview with Computerworld Hong Kong.

BL: I report to the CEO while the CFO is my peer, as we are both members of the executive team. I work closely with the CFO--he is a key customer. I am fortunate to work with the CFO who has been at Equinix for more than 12 years--he understands the nature of technology, the products we sell, and the CIO customers we serve.

As a CIO, my number one role is to articulate the story between business strategy and IT strategy--how IT can help cut costs while increasing efficiency. The CIO must be a good storyteller, able to communicate in a non-tech language, and in a language that can move people especially when it comes to implementing technologies that will drive changes. You have to appeal to both the logical side and passionate side of people. In a nutshell, a CIO is a change-agent who helps people to see the logic, appeals to their emotions, and shows them a path.

CWHK: At Equinix, is there any training for tech pros to learn to become change-agents?

BL: I am inspired by books and a big giver of books. I do put what inspires me in books into presentations that I share with my team. At Equinix, we don't have any official training in this area, but there's an internal program that allows people from different functions to work together and learn how to communicate.

CWHK: Do you have a shrinking budget given the slumping economy? What are some of your latest projects?

BL: We don't have a shrinking budget because we are a fast-growing company. For instance, we recently finished implementing a five-digit global dialing telephony system in the US based on our own infrastructure, Cisco technologies, and zip trunking. We will roll this out in Asia next year. That's an inexpensive investment, but it will improve our global communications.

We are also re-engineering 78 internal processes to make them global and scalable, and plan to roll them out over the next 12 months. This is a huge investment.

CWHK: What is the most challenging and interesting project you have ever been involved in your career?

BL: There is more than one. At Silicon Graphics, I participated in building the headquarters from scratch--it's now the Googleplex [Google's headquarters in Mountain View]. My responsibilities included voice, video, networking, and making the headquarters ready to support up to 3,000 people with high bandwidth. That was a beautiful campus.

At the same company, I also had an insane but life-changing experience of implementing Oracle applications in 30 countries in six months. At Equinix, a few months after I joined the company, I was involved in building the global development center in Singapore from scratch in a few months.

 

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