by Michael Friedenberg
CIO — As the U.S. economy begins to brighten, it's reassuring to see spending in the manufacturing, retail, financial and healthcare sectors starting to respond. Conversations within the IT leadership community also seem to be lightening up, as IT priorities are rebalanced to include strategies for revenue growth and customer engagement.
Since the recession, technology executives have had their heads down, diligently executing on projects to consolidate, standardize, and optimize costs. Those efforts have largely centered on what author Geoffrey Moore aptly terms "systems of record," meaning the ERP, CRM, data center consolidation, virtualization and security systems underlying decades of increasingly efficient enterprise business processes. We couldn't do global business without them.
Yet many CEOs are now turning to CIOs to help them accelerate revenue growth and deepen engagement with customers. If that sounds familiar, it's no wonder. This is probably the third cycle in the past decade where you've been asked to flip the switch from cutting costs to generating revenue.
The difference this time is the amazing, innovative lineup of technologies now at your disposal. Walking the halls at our recent Consumerization of IT in the Enterprise conference in San Francisco, I was impressed by the levels of enthusiasm these technologies are generating.
Moore calls this latest wave of Web-based, customer-friendly, consumer-driven IT "systems of engagement," referring to their enormous effect on the way we collaborate and connect in our business and personal lives. The Big 5 fueling this new engagement, of course, are cloud, social, mobile, consumer IT and big data. All of them enable business, to varying degrees, to engage more meaningfully than ever before with an ecosystem of customers, partners and employees.
To stay relevant in the C-suite, CIOs must shift focus from systems of record to systems of engagement. It's clearly a question of when, not if, engagement will take primary importance.
Are you moving fast enough into this new era of engagement? What's holding you back? Is it budget, structure, talent, fear?
No matter. Your CEO expects you to rise to the occasion. It's time to flip the switch and engage.
Michael Friedenberg is the president and CEO of CIO magazine's parent company, IDG Enterprise. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.