A couple weeks 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. Do you agree with that?

I was putting the final hand on a presentation I made at the Chief Strategy Officer Summit in London where I talked about how technology plays an ever increasing role in the definition of enterprise strategies. Indeed, technology is becoming core and center for most businesses and governments. It doesn’t matter if it is financial services, telecommunications, healthcare or manufacturing, technology and information technology are percolating every corner of the business. But most companies do not have a good handle on technology today, particularly when looking at their strategic moves.

Is the idea of IT becoming core and center to the business, and the CIO disappearing, contradictory? My answer would be yes and no. The traditional CIO ran his or her own shop, delivering— often late— applications requested several months earlier. This model has no place in today’s environment. But how many CIOs that fit that mold are left? Not many in my mind.

The role of the CIO and the IT department is changing fundamentally. On the one hand, the CIO should become the strategic service broker leading the service and technology governance for the enterprise and sourcing the right service from the correct source, be it internal or external. On the other hand, the CIO should become the key advisor on information technology to the whole company.

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 address this topic using math, I’d say that CIO = CBO + CDO + CTO, where CBO stands for Chief Brokering Officer and CDO for Chief Data Officer. This may actually mean a split of the function. The Chief Brokering Officer would be responsible for the 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 as we discussed earlier and manage the lifecycle of the services requested by the business. The CDO on the other hand is responsible for information management, from social media analytics to business intelligence.

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.”

The original post was published a couple weeks ago on CloudSource, and resulted in some twitter reactions pointing to the inability of CIO’s to transform into these new roles. I’m actually more optimistic. I meet with many of them, and a good number are already providing, although often in an unofficial way, such guidance to their enterprise. Is it time to recognize the evolution and make it official.

As I posted this, I ran into an article from TechRepublic, titled “Gartner CEO Review: Something is wrong with this picture“, pointing to the fact CEO’s are not thinking about the CIO when looking at innovators within the enterprise. It confirms CIO’s urgently need to step up to the task and take their seat at the table, demonstrating how IT can help the enterprise reduce costs and grow business.

So, yes the role of the CIO may vanish in its current form, 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. Many companies need a technology lighthouse to understand how to sail in unchartered waters. But that is probably worth another blog entry in its own right, don’t you believe so?