A couple days ago, I stumbled on an article from Keith Engelbert on the Forbes blog, titled “Will CIO’s vanish into Cloud? “ According to him, 17 percent of CFO’s believe the role of CIO will disappear within the next five years. What does this mean? Does the CIO no longer have a role in the enterprise? Or, has the role changed so much that it is becoming a different position all together? I rather believe the latter. Let me explain what I mean.
The role of the CIO is changing
The role of the CIO and the IT department is actually changing fundamentally. CIO’s are increasingly expected to perform three key tasks:
- Quickly deliver the services required by the business
- Establish an environment that collects and analyzes the data available within and outside the enterprise for fast and to the point decision making
- Serve as the key advisor on information technologies, helping the business choose the right technologies to embed in the products and support the services the company delivers
Let’s look at this in a little more detail and let’s start with the first bullet. Current IT departments do not have the resources to develop in time all the services required by the business. Increasing their size is not in the cards under the current budget constraints. So, IT needs to look outside for service provisioning. Cloud computing provides an agile environment facilitating the responsiveness of the department in the development and testing of new applications; while software-as-a-service offers a vast collection of applications and tools for delivering non-core functionality to the business. So, the CIO should become the strategic service broker leading the service and technology governance for the enterprise and sourcing the right service from the right source, be it internal or external.
For years, IT departments have been the guardian of the structured data of the enterprise. They have established the key databases and datamarts while setting up business intelligence environments that allow the business teams to exploit available information. The social media boom has made people realize that most data is unstructured and that the current tools are not able to analyze this data.
Social Media’s role in politics has made companies realize the importance of this new media. Enterprises are tapping into the experience of their employees to foster collaboration and make themselves visible in the marketplace. The most advanced use analysis tools to understand the tone of the conversation while discovering how their customers perceive them and highlight potential issues with their products and services. Understanding how to “turn data into information is a full-time job in its own right. Who better than the CIO to take this new challenge?
What should the CIO become?
This reminds me of a contact I had a number of years ago with a Japanese CIO. When he was introduced as CIO, he pointed out quite quickly that it was CIO for Chief Innovation Officer. In the same spirit, Andy Pattinson (@APACloud) points out in a video that the CIO should be the Chief Innovation Officer, no longer the Chief Plumbing Officer.
If I had to bring it in math terms, I’d say that CIO = CBO + CDO + CTO, where CBO stands for Chief Brokering Officer. This may actually mean a split of the function. The Chief Brokering Officer would be responsible for services governance and its sourcing from the right provider. I use the term broker in line with the “cloud broker” concept used by NIST. The CBO is responsible for establishing a converged cloud approach and managing the lifecycle of the services requested by the business.
The second role is CDO, Chief Data Officer (Yes, I could have made this one CIO, Chief Information Officer, but that would have been confusing). Researching for this blog entry, I was actually quite surprised to find others thinking about the same idea. Mike Vizard makes the case for a CDO, highlighting the need for a real information management strategy. Convincing business people that social media is no longer just a gadget, but a real tool to understand market perceptions and needs, is not an easy task. Developing the environment to mine the data and analyze the findings is critical for advanced companies today.
The third role is the CTO role. When I became a chief technologist, I actually looked at what the job meant and ran into an interesting paper titled “The Role of the CTO: Four Models for Success.” The CTO I’m talking about here is addressed by model 2, CTO as “Big Thinker.” As Phil McKinney points out in an interview by Rich Karlgaard, the CTO bridges the area between 18 months and five years, between fundamental research and product/service implementations.
So, yes the role of the CIO may vanish, but the function is evolving and will be needed by the enterprise for a long period of time as information technology becomes core to the business. The current technology wave is all around cloud, the next one, focused on big data is starting. What comes next? Well, I don’t know what name will be given to it, but I would argue it has something to do with pervasive computing. In other words, the barriers between business and IT are disappearing, business is IT and IT is business. One aspect of that is called Pervasive Computing and is already popping its head over the horizon. But that is probably worth another blog entry in its own right, don’t you believe so?