I spend a lot of time talking to company leaders from startup founders to Fortune 100 CIOs. As a result I am often thinking about what qualities seem to be consistent in the best of them. If I had to narrow it down to one trait I would say it is vision.
People sometimes describe vision as being able to see the forest through the trees. I’ve heard it described better as seeing around the forest and into the green field that lies beyond. I’d take it one step further though. True vision is seeing into the field and having a plan to navigate your way out of the forest to get there, i.e. a strategy.
I was reminded of this yesterday while speaking at the CIO Perspectives event in Boston. My talk, “Leveraging Internet Performance Management to Solve Business Delivery Issues,” followed the keynote address.This address was unlike most CIO talks. It was delivered by Suzanne Bates, CEO, Bates and was more of an executive coaching sessions for the CIOs in attendance. There was great participation amongst the attendees and an interesting theme developed. CIOs were concerned that their teams had a skills gap when it came to vision.
This was quite the revelation. It was also ironic that my talk would follow because Internet Performance Management (IPM) is in many ways a visionary concept that solves problems that may have previously been considered out of your hands. IPM is about delivering the one-stop visibility, analytics, and control you need to reliably make the Internet a competitive asset for your business. This allows IT leaders to own the internet like never before. That is a concept that resonates with everyone yet for those who allegedly lack vision it is difficult for them to grasp how to achieve it.
Many leaders get caught up in their path to achievement because they believe the change must be sweeping. But sweeping changes are hard. Instead, they often become paralyzed by how overwhelming it all seems and they end up doing nothing. The truth is that a vision is a goal off in the distance. The best leaders take iterative small steps to get there and always play the long game.
My thinking was echoed in this recent ZDNet article by Joe McKendrick, which talks about the lack of strategy within today’s cloud computing projects. In the piece, McKendrick cites some compelling stats that show how much more productive the cloud can be when you have implemented a strategy and, inversely, how many outages and issues can occur if you don’t.
Of course, this goes back to having a vision. Everyone wants to increase revenue, mitigate risk and optimize infrastructure spend. But most of us solve for the immediate problem and don’t think about how that problem is related to the next. The big picture is hard to see. It is even harder when you’re talking about the cloud because, historically, there has been a lack of insight into it. Enterprises ceded control when they turned their infrastructure over to cloud providers. While the idea behind it – leveraging the cloud to benefit your business – is visionary, doing it blindly certainly is not. People understand that now.
This is why Internet Performance Management is such a growing space, being acknowledged by Gartner and IDC as becoming table stakes for all companies. IT leaders need visibility into and control over their cloud assets, especially as there is a growing dependency on the public internet. Having full Internet Performance Management is the green field on the other side of the forest.
But how do you get there? Well, you build a strategy of course and this strategy varies by what stage your company is in. It also takes some vision to see old solutions that are tackling new problems.
For example, secondary DNS is a great place to start on your strategy for IPM. Secondary DNS serves as a redundancy to your primary DNS and ensures that your most critical applications remain available. Seems simple, doesn’t it? But that is the beginnings of a business continuity strategy that puts the customer at the heart of your plan. There are many more steps that can be taken from there. But this isn’t a product pitch. This is meant as an encouragement to remind you that you probably have the vision. You just need to think about the strategy to put in place to get there. And that can be the difference between being good or being the best in the world.