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Being a CIO in a business built on innovation

Byron Connolly | July 15, 2014
Equinix CIO, Brian Lillie, discusses how to shake out money and management bandwidth to truly innovate and transform an organisation.

Up to 35,000 transactions per month are completed using this online app, which is also available on Apple or Android mobile devices.

"We don't have all the functions on a mobile app but the most frequently used services like being able to place a visit request and accept an inbound shipment -- all of those things our customers can now do on their mobile devices," he says.

Earlier this year, the IT group created the Equinix International Business Exchange (IBX) Map app.

Photographs of one of the organisation's IBX data centres were built into the iPad app, which enables Equinix's sales people to provide rich content to customers who tour the data centre building.

"We're using MobileIron as our internal app store and we've been publishing mobile applications over the last year and a half," says Lillie.

The IT group has also worked hard to help the company's sales staff communicate more effectively with CIOs at existing and potential customers.

"Until recently, I owned the global solution architecture function -- I helped get that started -- but I've since transferred that the CTO," he says.

It's a customer-facing role designed to convince CIOs that "you don't have to be Facebook, Twitter or Google to have their kind of infrastructure," says Lillie.

"We really are successful in converting prospects if we have a customer go on tour and see one of our facilities," he says.

Equinix is a technology organisation but that doesn't necessarily make innovation any easier, says Lillie. Each year, the organisation's operational and capital expenditure on IT is well within Gartner benchmarks for spend per employee.

He says an organisation like Equinix has a lot of technical people who 'feel they can do IT', which is also a challenge.

"There are many examples where a solution architect or engineer wherever in the world sends me notes say 'hey I built this really cool app' or 'I want you to check out this provider of mobile apps' or 'have you seen this latest expense reporting software?' I get that from highly technical people ... so you have to have a lot of patience," he says.

Getting a seat at the table
Lillie says he has previously looked at other IT leadership roles in other industries such as manufacturing where IT is still viewed as a cost centre and not as strategic or core to the business.

"I report to the CEO, I have a seat at the table with the presidents of the regions. The situation at Equinix is perfect because I have a growing global platform that believes in what we are doing with a set of executives that are my peers," he says.

 

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