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Oracle CIO: To Develop IT Agility, You Must Simplify, Standardize and Centralize

06/17/2015 09:23 am ET | Updated Jun 17, 2016

If you are interested in large-scale IT operations, leadership and innovation then Mark Sunday is the perfect CIO to connect with and learn from. With over 40 years of IT and technology experience, Sunday is the CIO of Oracle, one of the largest technology companies in the world. Sunday has served as Oracle's CIO for more than nine years. When he joined Oracle, the company had 50,000 end users and over $10 billion in annual sales. Today, Oracle is approaching 140,000 end users in roughly 100 countries with more than $40 billion in annual sales. Sunday and his team deliver and manage the IT infrastructure and services for all of Oracle employees around the world. Sunday is a brilliant business leader who consistently practices transparency, accessibility, humility and optimism.

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Mark Sunday, CIO of Oracle

The changing role of the CIO

For the first several decades of Sunday's career, the role of being an IT leaders and the role of the CIO was about integration of systems, which were either bought, built, or inherited. The job of IT was to integrate solutions against long-term plans and then manage and operate. Today, the role of leading IT organizations is no longer primarily focused on integration and operations, but also to transform processes in order to drive more business value through innovation and orchestration across a wide variety of services.

The role of IT -- business value creator, early adopter and advocate

Sunday believes that the role of IT is to drive overall productivity across all lines of business and individual employees. This is a balancing act against risk -- not just security and privacy -- but also business continuity, compliance and threat mitigation. Another key objective for IT is to continue to do what we do and do it better. Driving efficiencies, operational excellence and agility is all elements of the continuous improvement plan.

Sunday says:

It is the balancing act between multiple dimensions: 1. driving value for the business, 2. managing acceptable levels of risk, and 3. continuing to make the investments to better ourselves.

Then there is a fourth dimension that we actively pursue and that is IT's role to be the biggest influencer of Oracle technology.

If you look at the broader IT community, my team and others at IT Services are directly in line with our businesses. We are by far the broadest implementation of Oracle technologies anywhere, and also have the largest scale.

As a first adopter of Oracle solutions, Sunday's team really embrace the technology, and are deeply involved with the product development teams, looking for what the products should and can do. The IT organization evaluates Oracle technology not only from the capability viewpoint, but also for scalability, reliability and ease-of-use. With more than 140,000 end users, Sunday is able to quickly determine ease of use, ease of implementation, adoption and many other valuable data points to feedback to engineering. Here is an example of an IT organization really shaping and improving the solutions for the betterment of Oracle's external customers.

Sunday also encourages IT organizations to become the best promoters within the Oracle. The mission of security and reliability is delivered by providing the infrastructure and operational services that Oracle requires. In addition, Sunday and his team want to drive value and manage risk. Their goal is to partner with engineering and R&D to develop, deliver and service the best possible products and services to Oracle customers.

Co-creation value through customer centricity and strong CXO partnerships

Sunday is incredibly determined to ensure IT is delivery value to his internal customers - different lines-of-business at Oracle. Sunday has structured his team by embedding senior-level IT professionals with strategic stakeholders like marketing, finance, and engineering. By embedding these experienced professionals, IT begins to really understand the stakeholder's goals, strategies, and technology requirements. For example, Sunday and his team work very closely with marketing on demand generation activities, content development and delivery and customer engagement related initiatives

One of the key things that we do is also assess how much the stakeholders are taking advantage of the services that we offer. We want to ensure that we are driving value. And in fact the people that play this role within my team, how they are measured is what is the cumulative value derived by the stakeholder in which they represent.

Sunday's global IT organization is spread across 50 organizations. The organizations mantra is simplify, standardize and centralize. Sunday is also very active in terms of collaborating with Oracle customers.

My absolute favorite part of my job is the opportunity to learn about entirely new businesses I didn't know existed. I meet with our customers and learn about their businesses, their strategies and desired business outcomes based on how they're employing technology.

I want to learn about their culture and how they are structured to manage and overcome challenges.

I'm the executive sponsor for a small number of our most strategic customers. So for example General Motors, Dow Chemical's, Capital One are customers where I take the executive sponsor role and really get to meet with them frequently and understand their business opportunities and challenges.

Sunday also participates in CIO roundtables -- 15 to 20 CIOs -- in order to have active dialogue, collaborate and exchange best practices and lessons learned. Sunday actively shares and works to develop a community of CIO thought leaders. To better manage and deliver value to his customers, Sunday believes that collaboration is key to success.

The driver behind digital business transformation? Consumer tech spend.

Sunday believe that agility is perhaps the most important IT success factor in order to serve business. This requires a technology platform that is designed for scalability, flexibility, agility and continuous evolution.

Sunday notes that the total global IT spend is about $2 trillion per year, with roughly $1 trillion of flat IT spend in the enterprise. He sees a shift form where businesses were the largest spend in technology, to now consumers. The consumer spend is growing rapidly and so the expectations on IT is greater than ever before.

The combination of cloud computing, social networks, big data and mobile technologies has changed the way we do business. Add to these tech mega trends the Internet of Things (IoT) and it is easy to see rapid changes to business models and opportunities for disruption. Technology has to be at the core of every business and IT has to be leading the transformation journey.

Digital transformation is a series of technologies that are fundamentally changing how you drive value. IT has to embrace that as a delivery platform and to deliver value to their business, and ultimately their customers, at a pace that's unparalleled to anything that we have ever seen in the past.

We are not going to be able within the IT organization to anticipate everything that's happening. Then you extend it onto our customer base and our consumers of our technology. A shift from anticipate to respond model for IT comes from futureproofing. You must ask: 'How are we going to have a strategy that enables us to be nimble?'

You can watch the full interview with Mark Sunday here to learn more about collaboration with marketing and CMOs, cultivating an innovative culture, working with startups, and key management lessons related to large scale IT. Please join me and Michael Krigsman every Friday at 3pm as we host CXOTalk - connecting with thought leaders and innovative executives who are pushing the boundaries within their companies and their fields.