Verizon Enterprise CIO Plans Strategic IT Push
The new CIO for Verizon Enterprise Solutions says it's "game over" for his new job if he can't make the carrier's IT people and processes a strategic part of sales to business.
"If the CIOs and IT leaders are not truly engaged with the business and we still think running IT as a backroom operation is in vogue, then CIO will stand for 'career is over,'" Verizon Enterprise Solutions 's Vic Bhagat tells Light Reading. (See Verizon Enterprise Taps EMC, GE Vet as CIO.)
Instead of focusing on managing the back office, which is the commodity part of the IT value chain, today's CIOs have to be focused on adding value to the business through sharing subject matter expertise but also developing intellectual property that becomes the value-add for which customers will pay, Bhagat says.
In Verizon's case, that IP or value-add will lie in the orchestration layer, which automates the process by which applications can grab the network and cloud resources they need to perform efficiently, he says. In an era where enterprises maintain a diverse cloud infrastructure, including internal clouds that are secured within the business, hybrid clouds and external clouds, they need network resources to tie those together in a way that is application-driven, efficient and secure.
"Building a cloud is the easy part," Bhagat says. "The challenge for us CIOs is that the applications and processes that we have built are not smart enough to leverage the clouds. This is where Verizon, having that connectivity end-to-end, could convert itself to providing that level of intelligence."
The network pipes themselves are becoming a commodity, he adds, and network operators are always in danger of being undercut on price. If Verizon can create its own intelligent orchestration that allows applications or workloads to access resources in internal, external or hybrid clouds in an on-demand, elastic, pay-as-you-go fashion, the company will be adding value for its enterprise customers that goes beyond commodity networking.
"We can help you consume those clouds and that infrastructure that is now becoming commodity in a very smart way and up the utilization of your assets," Bhagat comments. "We are hoping that we will provide that level of intellectual property and that level of value add."
That means making the applications themselves smarter and aware of the ability to access whatever they need -- more bandwidth, more storage, more compute -- based on their priority level, and then giving them an orchestration layer which delivers that access, he says. Bhagat intends for Verizon to develop that capability internally, and it fits into one of his three major focal points for his efforts as CIO.
"There are three things I am going to be focused on," he says. "One is IT as a business -- can I really help drive and deliver business growth and business enablement, and that is going to be measured by the impact on revenue, and can we help grow the revenue."
Secondly, Bhagat wants to run Verizon's IT as "on-demand, elastic and consumption based" so it is working real-time in conjunction with business and network operations. And thirdly, he wants to drive "an adaptive IT" that is "self-healing and self-learning."
The latter goal is aimed at smarter systems that avoid repetitive errors. The example he cites is having a system that recognizes usage spikes that recur -- such as at the end of every quarter -- and adapts resources accordingly, rather than repeatedly failing.
The "IT as a business strategy" doesn't just involve managed IT services, which are becoming more common across the industry, but also includes putting IT talent and resources on the frontline of Verizon's "customer first" strategy.
"If the customer is struggling with implementing the solution and we already have done that, why can I not use some of my IT talent and send them to customer site for one to two weeks?" he asks. "Let's design and white board what you do for your business and we'll bring the intelligence of what we do at Verizon already."
That will require some retraining of IT staff, but Bhagat believes it's a role most IT folks will embrace. "That becomes the sexy part of the job -- people want to get out in front of the customer."
Interestingly, Bhagat isn't preaching culture change for his new company, preferring instead to talk about "thought leadership," which he expects to bring to the company, having been a Verizon Enterprise Solutions customer for many years. He does see the need for retraining internal talent and reaching outside the company when necessary -- as Verizon did to bring him in.
"There is a lot of intelligence that is already available," Bhagat says. "I think it is going to require refocusing, providing the right thought leadership. Yes, there is going to be an infusion from talent outside -- I am an example of that which Verizon is taking a huge bet on. And saying hey, 'We are going to bring in a leader at the leadership level from the outside.' That is a huge message that Verizon is ready and willing to change the game."
— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading