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Voxbone tech chief: Customer service is the new job of CIO

The job of CIO is not what it used to be. The days of taking technology orders from the business and just handing over the goods are finished. Beginning is an age of collaboration — working with the business to deliver value to customers, whether internal or external. That is how it is at Voxbone, a Belgian communications-as-a-service company, said Dirk Hermans, vice president of research and development there.

Dirk Hermans, Voxbone

Dirk Hermans

Hermans, who shares the job of CIO with the company’s COO — they both have operational responsibilities — leads a team of about 30 people who develop and design new products and features. He spoke recently to SearchCIO about the changing job of CIO. Some key insights of that conversation: Cloud computing is helping enable the transition, owing to some key characteristics – and a benevolent side effect of the new role is an IT-business partnership that’s overshadowing shadow IT. Following are edited excerpts.

What about cloud is helping shape the job of CIO into a business strategist role?

Dirk Hermans: Well, if you take software as a service, just the fact that you have a pretty standard problem in the industry that’s been solved by a cloud provider, and if you take that pretty standard industry problem as something that would require a lot of maintenance, then suddenly putting that outside of the company has great value, because you have someone specialized in solving only that problem. And oftentimes when you talk about software as a service, it’s really about a very specific part of a business process that has been solved really quite well by a cloud player.

When you talk about infrastructure as a service, there it’s different. To give you an idea, we’re using infrastructure as a service to experiment — to run really rapid prototypes sometimes with customers outside of our core network. And also to scale up quickly — if we need to scale up a specific server that we don’t need to put up a huge amount of capex upfront. Every use case is different — and definitely the infrastructure-as-a-service use cases are quite different from software as a service. Using this stuff always makes us wonder, How can our customers consume our services more easily as a cloud-based solution?

Is the new, evolving job of CIO more rewarding than the old one?

Hermans: Yeah, I think so, and the reason is that at the end of the day you can talk about shadow IT, and what shadow IT is, is basically the business saying, ‘Guys, you’ve had the monopoly for too long — we’re not happy. We’re going to shop elsewhere.’ That in itself is for some people a threat, but the moment that you have a real partnering discussion with the business is the moment that you’re making choices together. And you’re actually giving the business the tools to stand on the shoulders of giants. The moment you embrace that move into the cloud, and you actually encourage that move into the cloud and you give them the right advice, is the moment you could generate a lot of internal satisfaction. I think it’s really key to have that discussion on a partnership level and not on a level of distrust.

Learn what IT chiefs have to say about cloud and the changing job of CIO in this SearchCIO report.

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