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The 7 key attributes of IT leaders


CV.PNGBy Christian Verstraete

Christian Verstraete is the CTO for HP’s Cloud Strategy Team Worldwide. His responsibilities include the definition of HP’s Cloud functional and reference architectures and the coordination of cloud activities across HP.  Frequently published in periodicals, Christian is a featured speaker at global cloud & supply chain events. He is one of the authors of “Connected Manufacturing, Thought-provoking essays from industry leaders” and of “Collaborative Sourcing, Strategic Value Creation through Collaborative Supplier Relationship Management.” He is member of the board of the Supply Chain Council and a 2007 DCVelocity Rainmaker. He also blogs extensively on CloudSource and is one of the most popular bloggers on the Enterprise CIO Forum.


As part of my responsibilities, I talk to a lot of CIOs and IT leaders.  It’s always fascinating to learn about their different approaches to IT strategy. And, frankly, over the years I have heard many of them. Intuitively it seemed the ones spending most time defining clearly what they were trying to achieve and benchmarking themselves against what was done elsewhere were the winners. But frankly, that was just an impression until I had the opportunity to meet Daniel Dorr, an HP solution manager who has conducted a study on the subject of the IT strategy of leaders.


In a study involving 650 companies, Daniel and his research team looked at 50 attributes, trying to understand which ones had impact. They divided companies into revenue leaders and revenue followers and tried correlate the 50 attributes. (By the way, it was a blind study. The study participants had no idea the research was being conducted by and for HP.) 


The results of the study showed that seven attributes rose to the surface with significant difference between the leaders and the followers. Three attributes were associated with information. It came as a surprise to the research team how much the revenue leaders are already relying on unstructured data. Both leaders and followers use structured data to understand what happens, but then leaders analyze unstructured data to find out why things happen.


Two attributes were associated with applications; revenue leaders have lower number of custom applications and are moving away from legacy.


One trait with a big difference between IT leaders and laggards was related to technology. Whereas the average server utilization of leaders and followers is roughly the same, the peak usage of server capacity is very different between leaders and followers. Actually laggards tend to have much more IT than leaders.


The last attribute was related to security. Leaders manage security better. Followers tend to bolt on security measures, whereas leaders build it into their applications. Daniel quoted a CIO during one of the workshops telling the audience, “I don’t have brakes in my car to be able to stop better. No, I have them to go faster.” It’s a subtle but interesting distinction.


So, watch Chief HPSW Evangelist Paul Muller, Daniel Dorr and me discuss this study at HP Discover with Andy McCaskey.  Understand how important it is for a CIO to add value to the business or CIO may mean “Career is Over.” Obviously the CIOs in the leader category all have a seat at the executive table and are thought of as strategic contributors to the business. 


We continue to investigate how technology will evolve between now and 2020, and are taking on a challenge—to crowd source a book on the subject over the next six months. We need loads of inputs and your insight is important. So, why don’t you join the discussion at I’m waiting for you there.


Related links:

Christian’s CloudSource blog

Enterprise 20/20

Video: Chief HPSW Evangelist Paul Muller, Daniel Dorr and Christian Verstraete with Andy McCaskey


About the Author


This account is for guest bloggers. The blog post will identify the blogger.


Great summary Christian.  As more and more research comes in, it's clear IT can be a powerful tool for competitive advantage.  But the key is focus on the RIGHT capabilities, and not all of them are just about technology.  One other big surprise in the research was that revenue leaders have a high degree of clarity and alignment on KPIs.  So revenue-leading IT departments are focused on things like value and profit while laggards are focused mainly on cost.


We can learn a lot from each other.  Hopefully this benchmarking study will provide new insights for CIOs on what are the "right" capabilities for their companies. 

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