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What's Your CIO Legacy?

Box CIO Ben Haines compares his experiences at two very different companies to explore the notion of a CIO legacy.

CIOs and other IT leaders help create and shape an organization's technologies and culture. The work they do creates a legacy that lives on after them.

Box CIO Ben Haines has given some thought to the notion of a CIO's legacy. In the following interview, he shares his own experiences helping to shape two very different organizations: Box, a completely digital business, and Pabst Brewing, which makes beer.

Haines, a keynote speaker at Interop New York, shares his insights on the CIO legacies he's inherited and helped create.

What is a CIO legacy?

A few years ago, I was interviewing with a company, and the chairman asked me, "What legacy did you leave at your previous organization?" This was the first time I had been asked that question. I stumbled through my answer and didn't do the question justice.

Since then, I've thought constantly about it. Legacies aren't made in a vacuum. Your own legacy will be shaped, in part, by the actions of your predecessors. This is particularly true when it comes to traditional IT practices of building and operating complex enterprise software, and new options presented by the cloud.

What kind of IT infrastructure did you inherit at Pabst?

When I started at Pabst in July 2011, I inherited a very "typical" IT infrastructure and on-premises application stack.

[Interop New York is different from the Las Vegas experience, and not just for the obvious reasons. Read NYC Vs. Vegas: 10 Fun Interop Differences.]

Everything was managed in-house with traditional enterprise software vendors, and our IT infrastructure was suffering from under-investment. The entire IT team was focused on keeping the lights on, which had rapidly diminishing returns.

What kinds of changes did you want to make?

One of my objectives was to move as many systems to SaaS as possible. However, it's not always practical or cost effective to do so.

(Source: Wikipedia Commons)
(Source: Wikipedia Commons)

For instance, there's a lot of legacy software, such as ERP, that isn't equipped to run in a true multi-tenant cloud. The move to SaaS ERP is no small task and can be very disruptive to the business, and there needs to be very good reasons to incite this change within an organization.

Luckily, we had a great team in place, as well as new owners and an executive leadership group that understood the investment required for a complete technology overhaul.

What did the transition look like?

After evaluating several options, we chose to move to a hybrid model, with some services delivered in the cloud, such as email, file sharing and collaboration, and CRM. We successfully migrated 4 terabytes of email across the wire to Google and moved a terabyte of files to Box.

Other legacy enterprise software, such as ERP and BI, were moved to a managed service, which we used a lot like IaaS to keep things going.

At the end of this transition, Pabst was able to decommission our data center and save millions in capital. In addition, by the time I left Pabst, we had transitioned IT from a department of "No," shackled with a stack of inefficient on-premises software, to a user-centric organization focused on delivering solutions and adding value to the business.

By deploying cloud-based solutions, we freed up the IT team and cut costs that normally would've gone to feeding expensive infrastructure.

Did this transition change the kinds of skills you needed in your IT team?

The technology transformation was the easy part. The truth is that you need different skill sets, replacing system administrators with business analysts, programmer analysts, and project managers who have a user-focused mindset. It really is about putting the end user first.

In the past, we focused on the hardware stack, the network, and getting the application running. We needed to take a user-centric view: Where are they

Drew is formerly editor of Network Computing and currently director of content and community for Interop. View Full Bio
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User Rank: Ninja
9/27/2014 | 9:04:32 PM
"The truth is that you need different skill sets, replacing system administrators with business analysts, programmer analysts, and project managers who have a user-focused mindset. It really is about putting the end user first." I like this statement. Most of the IT companies now replace their traditional workforce with these new positions.
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