Meet the New CTO – It's the CIO

A clear indication that the technology power base within communications service providers (CSPs) is shifting towards the IT team came last week when Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD) group CIO Albert Hitchcock revealed details of his company's international staffing strategy.

"We are hiring top grade CIOs in our local markets and the view is that those CIOs will become the CTOs," stated Hitchcock during a keynote session at Management World 2012. "We see that the job profile of the CTO in a Vodafone local market, or ultimately in the center [of the company], is to be an IT guy and not the networks guy. That's a conscious decision and we're hiring top IT talent to make that change," he added, while noting that this wasn't always the case.

"[Vodafone's] heritage was radio networks, so the pinnacle at Vodafone was to be the CTO. If you wanted to be the CTO in a country then you had to be a radio guy. I can say this because I used to be a radio guy, but now I am firmly an IT guy … [But] the DNA of the individual [CTO] in the future will not be in radio, it will be someone that understands integrated IT services."

That shift towards a more influential role for the telco CIO is not new: Light Reading has been covering that trend as part of its Service Provider Information Technology (SPIT) coverage, most specifically in the Bridging the Chasm Manifesto and in the publication of The Top 20 Bridge Builders. (See Bridging the Chasm: A Manifesto.)

Hitchcock's revelation, though, is one of the most overt examples of this trend and is part of the ongoing shift within Vodafone that gives as much responsibility to IT as it does networks.

"A big part of what we have done at Vodafone in the past few years has been about breaking down the barriers -- breaking down barriers between the center [of the company] and the countries, breaking down the barriers between networks and IT. That's a cultural change … We're not going to be successful and we're not going to be able to innovate unless we have a level of cooperation and a level of integration of the networks and IT strategy into the business," stated Hitchcock.

"So a big piece of the work I've led and which Steve Pusey [group CTO] has led has been the cultural change -- it's not just been about the technology integration," he said.

— Ray Le Maistre, International Managing Editor, Light Reading

digits 12/5/2012 | 5:31:53 PM
re: Meet the New CTO – It's the CIO

It's becoming clearer which of the traditional telcos might make the cut in the digital/information delivery world, and it's those that are bridging the networks and IT teams (such as VOD) and those that are forging ahead with digital subsidiaries that act unlike a telco (Telefonica, Singtel) that look to stand the better chance of survival.

Of course, it might already be too late, but let's hope we see some more concrete efforts from traditional telcos towards at least trying to become a different type of service factory.  

AESerm 12/5/2012 | 5:31:52 PM
re: Meet the New CTO – It's the CIO

Looks like solid confirmation of your messy acronym. One point does not make a trend, but on the cable side, the most telco of U.S. based operators, Cox Communications, has also gone down this CIO-turned-CTO road: first internally with Scott Hatfield then last month with Kevin Hart, former CIO at Clearwire. He credits CEO Pat Esser with taking steps to integrate engineering, ops and IT. 

Soupafly 12/5/2012 | 5:31:52 PM
re: Meet the New CTO – It's the CIO

Having a good understanding of VOD business and global operations from former lives, I can see very clearly why they are doing this.

The biggest costs and headaches in today's operator can be summarized, in what I terms as "glue".

Glue as in;

a) Getting different chemical constituent parts to blend together. (Think business divisions/ product lines.)

b) Once some of the ingredients are in the blender making sure you are getting the correct balance & portion sizes correct. (Think skillsets, teams and capabilities.)

c) In the blending, understanding the dependencies & adjacencies. (Think legacy and the fact that just because you want something to come together, doesn't mean it can or will, without significant challenges.)

d) The need for variety & special sauce. (One size fits all doesn't work in a global business, so balancing the need for customisation & the need for differentiation is a never-ending discussion & trade-off.)

There are lots more but the idea and trends are clear.

Am not sure that either camp, Ray defines will "win" per se.

The best chance of making this happen is to create 3 businesses.

1) The current network. (Your core "legacy" team sits there and runs this.)

2) Your IT integration & new service activation & support team. (They run at arms length and operate like a MVNO customer. Responsibility rests with them for building your next-gen network capability. NG = IT, Cloud & Software based services.)

3) Your new services team; (These guys are hunters and tracking for the new trends & services be it M2M, e-Health, etc and making the partnerships & relationships the business will need to succeed.)

Why have 3 seperate teams & create internal BU conflict??

Because, if you build, blend & brief the team & leaders correctly & ensure your culture is right, the level of conflict and competition should be healthy & manageable.

A very wise and rich consultant, once told me that you should always feel a little knot in your stomach, when you agree an engagement.

Without that knot your not stretched and tested and without that stretch & tension you cannot grow.

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