Should CIOs Be Working With “Engines”?

Perhaps you need an engine to power your IT shop
Perhaps you need an engine to power your IT shop
Image Credit:
Jorge Quinteros

As the person with the CIO job, you have a lot of challenges facing you. One of the biggest is how you are going to use your limited IT resources to meet the needs of the entire company. As the company’s awareness of the importance of information technology continues to grow more people will be coming to you with requests for the IT department to automate some process, monitor some inputs, or do a better job of communicating with customers online. Since your budget won’t growing enough to do all of this, perhaps it’s time that you went engine shopping.

Lessons From The World Of Video Games

What’s interesting about the challenges that you are facing as the person with the CIO position, is that others have faced the same challenges. One industry that we may be able to draw lessons from is the highly competitive video game industry. What you need to realize is that the CIOs of these firms faced the same problems that you are currently facing. It can cost millions of dollars to develop a new video game, it can take a long time to create it, and it may end up being a flop. What’s a CIO to do?

The CIOs at the video game manufactures desperately needed a way to reduce the risk of developing the next video game. They took a careful look at what their development teams were doing and they made a somewhat surprising discovery. Although the nature of their individual games were potentially very different (fighting dragons, flying spacecraft, etc.) the things that happened in the games were very similar. Things were thrown, characters went from room to room, and items were picked up. What they came to realize is that there was a great deal of overlap in their video games. Now if they could only capitalize on this!

Realizing that each of their video games shared a common foundation, the video game company CIOs authorized their teams to create “engines” – these engines are what allow modern video games to work as well as they do. Over time engines have become sophisticated enough to handle a video game’s graphics and physics. This allows the creative team to be freed up to work on the game’s look and feel and not have to worry about the mechanics of how it operates.

How To Use An Engine In Your IT Shop

In the video game industry, there is not just one engine that powers all of the video games out there. Instead, each major video game manufacturer has created their own engine. In fact, not all that long ago each video game manufacturer generally had several different engines that its video games used. However, this was very inefficient and so over time they have consolidated their games to all use the same engine.

Using a common engine to develop a group of video games just makes good business sense. The use of an engine allows the video game makers to become more efficient and reduces the friction that comes along with creating a new game. Additionally, the use of the engine can give the company the economies of scale.

The video game makers can show you why you might want to develop an engine to use in your IT shop. At the video game makers, the benefits of using the engine trickles though out their entire IT organization. The benefits are felt by the developers, artists, designers, programmers, and audio engineers because the engine provides them with the tools that they need to do their jobs efficiently.

What All Of This Means For You

As the CIO of your company you are faced with two challenges: your customers want you to do more and your budget is not growing fast enough to do this. You find yourself in a difficult position and it may not be clear how you are going to be able to solve this problem. The good news is that the same problem has been faced by CIOs in the video game business and they have come up with a creative solution for it.

What these CIOs have realized is that many of their video games share the need to perform the same actions no matter what type of game it is. This means that if they can get their IT staff to create an “engine” then that engine can be used by each new video game. This frees up the creative team to focus on the unique aspects of each game and allows them to rely on the engine to perform all of the mundane tasks that every video game requires. As a CIO, this opens up the possibility of you having your team create an engine that will support all of the different things that your various customers are asking you to do.

Part of the job of being a CIO is finding ways to do more with less. With all of your customers asking you to do more with the limited funding that you have available to you right now, you are going to have to get creative. Creating an engine to power multiple solutions in your IT shop might be the solution that you have been looking for. Who knows, the next request for a new application that you get might just require a quick trip to the tune-up shop!

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Department Leadership Skills™

Question For You: Do you think that one engine could be created to drive your entire IT department or would you require multiple engines to handle all of your needs?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

As the person with the CIO job at your company, you have the added responsibility of maintaining your company’s data centers. No matter if you have only one data center or hundreds of them, they are only as valuable as their ability to communicate with each other and the outside world. The importance of information technology means that the accounting data stored in one data center is only useful if you can combine it with the tax information that is stored in another data center. Just exactly how are you going to ensure that your data centers can talk to each other?