How CIOs Can Invest for Now and Later

To get funding for long-term transformation projects during times of economic uncertainty, CIOs need a strategic, incremental approach

Amr El-Arabaty
How CIOs Can Invest for Now and Later

At a time when IT budgets around the world are getting tighter, CIOs face a conundrum. They know they can’t let the day-to-day whims of the market stand in the way of pursuing their digital transformation goals. How can they get the funding they need to modernize legacy IT systems, eliminate technical debt and ensure the agility needed to future-proof the business, in spite of the prevailing macroeconomic trends?

Business leaders have a responsibility to budget resources wisely, so it’s no wonder they’re growing more conservative when there’s a possible recession on the horizon. Specifically, the IT projects that are most likely to get funded these days are those that address a significant risk or drive immediate return on investment. For instance, analysis from SiliconANGLE shows that even in today’s unpredictable economy, most CIOs have no difficulty getting funding for things like cybersecurity, cloud migration and real-time analytics.[1]

These projects help optimize efficiency and reduce risk over the short term, which is why most business leaders consider them to be table stakes. However, the other side of this trend is that long-term transformation projects can be a more difficult sell. To successfully pursue digital transformation goals over the long term, CIOs need to take a strategic, incremental approach. This approach should follow three main steps:

  1. Plan: Create a digital transformation roadmap that’s aligned to business priorities
  2. Act: Make incremental improvements and iterate as needed
  3. Advocate: Demonstrate value as new projects roll out

To enable long-term strategic investment, start with a prioritized roadmap

Future-proofing your IT infrastructure is all about deciding what your desired future state looks like—both in terms of the technology you’ll adopt and the business capabilities you’ll enable—and then creating a roadmap to help you reach and evolve that future state. It’s highly unlikely you’ll get your entire digital transformation strategy funded all at once, but with the right roadmap in place, you won’t have to.

To get business buy-in for your transformation roadmap, you must engage with stakeholders from across the organization to understand what their top priorities are, and identify new technology to support those priorities. In fact, top IT leaders are now going beyond by stepping up to help influence or shape these priorities around risks and impact. With the growing recognition that digital transformation is really all about business transformation, the partnership between IT departments and business stakeholders has never been stronger. There needs to be open communication and collaboration across the business to ensure that IT is pursuing new technologies in a way that aligns to business priorities.

At Equinix, our IT enterprise architecture function partners with various departments to build a  technology capability architecture roadmap aligned with their business strategy, covering a timeline of three to five years. These roadmaps are critical guides to drive incremental changes while keeping our eyes on the end-goal.

Use case: Equinix pursues transformation via automation

The CIO’s office and the business transformation function at Equinix have worked together closely to make automation a part of our digital transformation strategy. Rather than pursuing automation simply for its own sake, we’ve done so to support key business goals. This includes increasing employee engagement, empowering business users to solve their own problems via low-code and no-code platforms, and creating a better, more streamlined customer experience.

Make incremental improvements to execute your transformation roadmap

After you’ve engaged with business stakeholders and aligned your roadmap to their priorities, getting funding to pursue those priorities should become easier. Instead of expecting those stakeholders to understand the value of technology at an abstract level, you’ve made it about the impact and business value they gain.

An incremental roadmap is also more likely to get funded for the simple reason that it is incremental. Business leaders are less likely to suffer “sticker shock” when they don’t have to fund everything all at once. It’s your job to take what funding you can get over the short term and use it to progress a roadmap of aligned capabilities and technology. Step by step, you can implement the roadmap capabilities while continuously adjusting to align with any changing company priorities.

This approach does have its drawbacks. Specifically, you’ll have to sacrifice some operational efficiency because there will inevitably be some amount of rework across the different stages of your transformation journey. Your roadmap may take longer or stall at certain junctions due to ever-changing business priorities, which means you may spend more total time and resources than you would have otherwise.

Fortunately, today’s IT teams are usually very familiar with the idea of following an agile, iterative workflow. This allows you to learn from your past mistakes and course correct as you progress through your transformation roadmap. During any one phase, it’s very unlikely you’ll have to throw out your entire investment and start over. Instead, you can build upon the parts that work, replacing the parts that don’t during future stages.

Use case: Equinix digitizes our offerings to help customers digitize their business

In 2015, Equinix undertook a massive transformation project to create a globally consistent quote-to-cash system to keep up with the rapid growth of the company. Today, we continue to not only grow our presence and revenue but have also successfully launched several digital services to stay ahead of our customers’ evolving needs.

We recognized that most of our customers are going digital just like we are, which requires a vastly different set of infrastructure capabilities. For our IT team, this translated into a new opportunity to further evolve our quote-to-cash system to adapt to these new digital services and their consumption patterns. Contrary to our initial approach, we’ve tackled this in an incrementally evolving manner, building specific business capabilities based on stakeholder priorities.

Use case: Equinix moves to hybrid multicloud

Adopting hybrid multicloud has been one of the defining characteristics of our transformation efforts over the last 10 years. The hybrid multicloud environment we use today is inherently different from the IT architectures we’ve run in the past, which means it comes with new opportunities to optimize our operations—and new challenges to overcome.

Using VMware Cloud on AWS gives us an extension of our in-house compute capabilities, with the flexibility to move workloads between on-premises and cloud locations seamlessly. This helps us stand up new services quickly and without major CAPEX investment, giving us the agility we need to pursue new transformation priorities as they arise.

Demonstrate value to keep transformation moving forward

Defining and measuring success for digital transformation projects isn’t always straightforward. Even though the initial phases of your roadmap are meant to pursue the top transformation priorities identified by business stakeholders, that doesn’t mean stakeholders will automatically see the value of the improvements once you’ve made them. You must make the extra effort to help business leaders measure and recognize the value you unlock with each incremental improvement you deploy.

Collect data to quantify improvements, and share those metrics with business stakeholders. Also, give them context for how each improvement fits into the overall transformation journey, so they can understand how the next steps will build upon your initial success.

Use case: Equinix moves to a digital hub for integration between systems and processes

At Equinix, another aspect of our digital transformation strategy has been adopting a digital integration hub model. Like many of our enterprise customers, we’ve faced increased complexity and friction given that we run multiple portals, SaaS applications and services from different cloud providers. The need for an efficient, scalable, self-service mechanism triggered the creation of our internal Digital Integration Hub, which allows for better abstraction and integration between disparate systems and delivers APIs that enable a seamless digital experience for our customers.

Equinix has the expertise to put your transformation roadmap into action

No matter what your transformation roadmap looks like, it will inevitably require you to establish a digital presence in the right places, connect with an ecosystem of the right partners and service providers, and deploy the right infrastructure solutions to power applications and connect with end users. As the world’s digital infrastructure company™, Equinix provides these exact capabilities for our customers.

By deploying on Platform Equinix®, you can tap into the full power of vendor-neutral Equinix IBX® colocation data centers in 70+ metros worldwide, connect with thousands of service providers from the Equinix partner ecosystem, and take advantage of on-demand digital services that help you get the infrastructure you need, when you need it.

For a closer look at how leading organizations across the world are using modernized digital infrastructure solutions to take on their biggest challenges, read the Leaders’ Guide to Digital Infrastructure.


[1] Dave Vellante, “CIOs are in a holding pattern—but ready to strike at data monetization.” SiliconANGLE, January 7, 2023.

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Amr El-Arabaty Vice President, Enterprise Architecture
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