TelecomNewsroom interview with Nick Lippis, Co-Founder and Co-Chair, ONUG

By Contributing Editor Anne Whealdon 

Nick Lippis is Co-Founder and Co-Chair of ONUG, an unbiased, independent community of Global 2000 enterprise technology professionals collaborating to serve as the collective voice of the IT community. As an authority on corporate computing, Nick has designed some of the largest systems in the world. He has advised many Global 2000 firms on IT strategy, architecture, equipment, services and implementation, and is uniquely positioned to comment, analyze and observe industry trends and developments. 

With the ONUG Fall 2019 event occurring soon, we sat down with Nick to discuss ONUG, its initiatives, its benefits and more. 

TelecomNewsroom, Anne Whealdon (TNR-AW) Question: How was ONUG started and how has it evolved over the years?

ONUG, Nick Lippis (O-NL) Answer: ONUG was created in early 2012 as the result of a discussion between co-founders about the need for a user-focused conference where IT executives can share best practices and challenges as they transformed their organizations and infrastructure for the digital economy. From there, we brought together the founding board of IT leaders from the likes of Bank of America, Fidelity Investments, JPMorgan Chase, UBS, Citi and Gap Inc. and created the first ONUG event, held on February 13, 2013, in Boston, Massachusetts, and hosted by Fidelity.

Today, ONUG prides itself on functioning as the collective voice of the enterprise IT community. Throughout the year, ONUG organizes working groups that aggregate use case requirements, bringing together enterprise technology executives, academics, researchers, government representatives, standards professionals, open source communities, vendors and cloud/service providers to contribute to the advancement of products and services required for an open cloud-based software-defined market to develop at scale. The ONUG semiannual conferences function as a product and reflection of the work being done in the working groups throughout the year. Ultimately, the ONUG goal is to bring together the full IT community to allow leaders to learn from peers, to make informed open infrastructure deployment decisions, and to create dialogue.

TNR-AW Q: What makes the work that the ONUG community is doing unique?

O-NL A: All ONUG working groups and conference meetings are led by IT executives with no vendor or analyst influence. This makes ONUG unique in the industry, serving as the organizing principle for ONUG being the voice of the global 2000.

In addition, when ONUG was started, there was a realization that any one company can gain favorable pricing from a vendor, with the bigger being the more favorable. However, no single company can change the type of solutions or architectures the vendor community delivered to market. By combining brands, ONUG gains a significant and unique influence in the industry through which vendors hear directly from users and ONUG aggregates their requirements for better products and services to be developed. 

TNR-AW Q: Who is ONUG most relevant to and why?

 O-NL A: ONUG is most relevant to IT business leaders and, increasingly, enterprise technologists. There is a focus on the digital consumer as a driving force of change in the ONUG community. What that means is that all ONUG members are reacting to the demands of digital consumers to provide excellent digital experiences. That is the filter through which technology and human capital deployments are being made. In essence, we’re trying to deliver solutions that surprise and delight digital consumers. 

TNR-AW Q: There is a fundamental change underway for enterprise IT strategy. Is change happening quickly enough, or will some get left behind? How is ONUG a part of that?

O-NL A: In the next three years, the chargeback cost for applications running in private data centers will increase by a factor of 10 — if not more. At the same time, there is the rise of the digital consumer mentioned above. These are two main drivers of change throughout the economy and within enterprise IT. Enterprise IT as we have known it for the past 40 years is fundamentally and systemically changing toward Enterprise Technologists organized as a business engineering function. 

From an operations point of view, over the next few years, AIOps solutions will drastically reduce the need for operational staff by as much as 33 percent — if not more.  

ONUG is leading the community through its working groups and reference solutions to hasten the pace and take out the waste of building and running secure digital enterprises. ONUG’s biggest contribution to the community and industry is ensuring that options and choices are available for the enterprise IT and technologist communities.

If companies are not investing now in their digital futures, they will be left behind, as digital competitors are swift, have lower capital cost structures and receive higher valuations. 

TNR-AW Q: In your day-to-day interactions with global CTOs – what is keeping them up at night?

 O-NL A: What is keeping them up is the question of where to get the human capital with the necessary skills and culture to pivot their corporations to digital enterprises. 

TNR-AW Q: Looking ahead, what do you think will be the next big watershed moment for Enterprise IT?

O-NL A: Enterprise IT will change because:

1)  Productivity improvements from legacy IT have run their course, and it’s getting harder to justify legacy applications and services.

2)  The cost of legacy applications and their chargebacks will increase by a factor of 10 over the next three years as the number of users per legacy application shrinks, accelerating cloud-based solutions and driving demand for skills to run those cloud native applications.

3)  The rise of the digital consumer means the amplification of the demand for excellent digital experiences. If that is not delivered, consumers will walk away from the brand, just like you walk away from a bad website experience. 

All of these add up to Enterprise IT changing and being integrated with other technology groups, such as the chief digital and chief technology officers’ organizations.

The watershed moment is when your company, or one of your competitors, files for bankruptcy during a downturn because they didn’t reorganize and invest in digital infrastructure now.

TNR-AW Q: Thanks for chatting with us, Nick. To learn more about ONUG, please visit To attend the ONUG Fall 2019 event, click here to register.