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Architecting the enterprise of the future: CIOs offer a roadmap

If change is the new normal, how do CIOs plan for a future that is constantly being redefined? How can IT organizations build an enterprise architecture that will help their businesses roll with today's punches and nimbly adapt to the changes sure to come? That's the question we asked CIOs at this year's MIT Sloan CIO Symposium, Architecting the enterprise for the future. The glib answer is to build agile platforms and processes. But how, exactly?

In this SearchCIO Innovator video, CIOs from four different industry sectors -- William Miller of Broadcom Corp; Georgia Papathomas of Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceuticals, Michael Relich of GUESS? Inc. and Mojgan Lefebvre of Liberty Mutual Global Specialty -- lay out their best ideas for ensuring IT keeps pace with constant change. Domain expertise is critical; providing great technology tools and then getting out of the way also helps.

William Miller, CIO, Broadcom Corp.: [There are] a couple of ways I would look at that. One is you want to empower your employee base. So, we just talked about business intelligence and analytics tools; if IT departments can provide great tools to provide insight today and then get out of the way, they're doing their workforce a great service, because the IT department cannot fit between users and information. They have to provide tools so users can nimbly and agilely access the data they need to, when they need to, and look at it in ways they want to. So, I think that's very important for IT departments going forward -- and that produces agility. The architectures that will deliver that will be the ones that are successful.

Georgia Papathomas, CIO, Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceuticals: You can think of the enterprise at two levels. You can think of the enterprise of the actual business and how the business will operate. And then you can think of the enterprise as what that business brings to the market -- IT will play a role in both, so we need to prepare with skills.

If you think of the enterprise of the future as how the business will operate, organizations will become virtual. Business will need to be able to collaborate and exchange ideas and share intellectual property well beyond the walls of the company. As IT, we need to make that happen. Collaboration, mobility and sharing of information become critical, and [becoming virtual] is a completely different approach [to] how you actually engineer your networks and how you implement security. So, you prepare by bringing the right skills. You prepare by keeping the team constantly connected to what happens in the business, what happens in technology and the industry. It's a multifaceted problem, but that is where IT is going.

Michael Relich, CIO, GUESS? Inc.: It used to be, [when] people came to work, that's where the technology was; at home you didn't have it. Now it's the opposite: A lot of people have better technology at home than they do at work. And to me, there's a chasm, because you have the kind of older generation who run these companies, who are really not that technology-literate. Then you get the new kids out of school who are just the opposite. And I think, 'Wow when they get into the management, things are really going to change.' But how do we do it?

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I have a core team of people that have worked with me for quite some time. I have some people that have worked for me for almost 15, 20 years, and they've worked at four different retailers with me. These are my core management team [members], so they know me [and] I know them. And, to me, to be successful, it's not just about technicalities, it's about having domain experience because, in retail, they are slow to adapt technology. But now, everyone realizes you can't separate technology from the enterprise. But because my team knows retail inside out -- because we're looked at as trusted advisers -- we end up bringing most projects to them. It's not the case that they're going to argue, 'Oh my God! You're too slow!' A lot of the innovation is actually coming from my group, and it's because of the close relationship that we have with the business.

Mojgan Lefebvre, CIO, Liberty Mutual Global Specialty: For me, the most important thing in a CIO's role is to understand what the business strategy is, [and] then have [an] IT roadmap that actually supports that strategy. I never try to think of a roadmap that's five or 10 years long, because I think in this changing world, it's no question that neither the business, nor IT as a result of that, can really have a plan that can be that long in terms of taking everything into account. And so it constantly changes.

As things change, the most important thing is to really have the agility to change your plan with it and how you operate and how your team operates with it. I say the second one is more organizational, and truly for IT to be part of the business and very close to the business, [you must make] sure, first of all, that your employees are well-versed and understand the business that they're trying to support through the technology. So, it's really understanding and being close to the business and making sure that you are their confidant from a technology perspective and [understand] what we need to do from a business perspective. You come with a perspective of how can technology support that and drive that sometimes.

Then I'd say the third is really more of a technology aspect, where ensuring that the technologies that you're putting in place and the systems that you have allow for agility, and really leveraging some of the new technologies that are coming about that actually allow faster development lifecycles and things from REST APIs [application programming interfaces], which is all about much faster, much simpler architectural setups. [It's a transition] to truly having service-oriented types of architecture that enable you to change things, as opposed to more of the legacy systems that we've had, which can take a long time to change things.

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