CIO Leadership, Cloud

Are we experiencing a CIO overhaul?

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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?

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Paul Calento 255 Points | Sun, 05/27/2012 - 14:44

I agree that the "CIO and the IT department is changing fundamentally" due to disruptive technologies like converged cloud, BYOD et al, but not that this is a new role for the CIO which is to act as a change agent.

But didn't this start circa 1987 ... just evolving to where we are today (i.e. moving again in that direction)? Look at the inaugural issue of CIO Magazine, as an example. IT was and is a means to a business end.

--Paul Calento

(note: I work on projects sponsored by and HP)

Christian Verstraete 429 Points | Tue, 05/29/2012 - 05:23

Paul, in principle you are right. My experience though is that many CIO's seem to have forgotten that fact and are not ready for such dramatic change in the way their department operates. Is I mentioned in the other post, "are you walking the escalator", most are just standing on the escalator. I have seen impressive CIO's understanding what needs to happen and taking action. I also have seen many that just wait and see. That's the ones 'want to convince to move, to walk the escalator.

Matt Ballantine 3 Points | Wed, 05/23/2012 - 13:10

It's definitely contextual to the organisation - there is no "best practice" model that's going to fit all organisations and having the flexibility to adapt to that ambiguous world will be a crucial skill set (and may well be counter-cultural to many IT organisations who strive for a systemized and ordered world of "known").

With the decentralization of IT procurement decision making happening at such a pace, whether through Cloud, consumer services or whatever else, one thing that I feel fairly confident of it that IT folk need to position themselves more as trusted advisors going forward rather than the owners of every service and product used. More on this here:

John Dodge 1535 Points | Tue, 05/29/2012 - 12:52

Hi Matt, 

A couple of lines from your post bear repeating here: "Anarchy is a term that has become increasingly pejorative – it implies chaos, disorder, lawlessness if not law breaking. However, one meaning (and the one that encapsulates its etymology) is the absence of leaders."

if there's an absence of leaders, there's a vacuum for someone to step into. Why not the CIO? You can also argue that this was the CIO's turf all along and has been MIA in mapping out consumerization strategies. Not that it's easy....or that the playbook has been written on how to do that.

Matt Ballantine 3 Points | Thu, 05/31/2012 - 08:36

I guess this is where the question of what leadership is starts to come into play. Personally I think that there is generally a fairly one-dimensional view held in business that leadership is about alpha-behaviour, ownership, strong views and "getting stuff done", and there is no doubt that that is an important set of attributes required in most organisations.

But does the whole boardroom work if it's stuffed to the gills with alpha types trying to out-alpha each other? Often not...

This is where the anarchization concept becomes interesting - if we accept that technology has and increases to become decentralized (and I know that that assumes a lot), then the CIO role as facilitator and counsel in the way that legal teams operate in many organisations becomes an interesting alternative direction. It would involve a huge shift in organisational expectation (both generally and within IT itself), but offers one vision of a high value service within an organisation that promotes good purchasing and governance of technology by accepting from the outset that it's not that easy to centralize control these days.

John Dodge 1535 Points | Thu, 05/31/2012 - 19:01

Yes, it is not just alpha personailities. What makes things work (or not) is a combination of different personalities including thoughtful types. That said, I'd have to drop myself into the alpha category. I like to get things done. Human nature, no?

Christian Verstraete 429 Points | Fri, 05/25/2012 - 11:58

Matt, I love your blog post. Absolutely anarchization is there, and whiping it out is not an option as it will keep coming back. Isn't the trick to make the relative benefit of the anarchy so small that it does not make sense anymore to go out of its way to consume "anarchy services"? 

Matt Ballantine 3 Points | Mon, 05/28/2012 - 07:55

Thanks for the feedback, Christian.

I've been pulling together some thinking over the last six months or so which come of focusing much of my attention to the consumer world after having spent most of my career working in corporate IT departments of varying scale and complexity. My overall conclusion now is that the traditional IT function's future is much more akin to that of the Chief Counsel (ie advice and risk analysis) rather than necessarily the traditional CIO/CTO (which are typified by control and ownership). I'm also convinced that the CIO needs to learn from what's going on in the consumer space and understand why it's produced software, hardware and services that people desire.

I did a presentation a couple of weeks ago at the UK IT Directors' Forum: see - which pulls together slides and a stack of other blogs I've written...

John Dodge 1535 Points | Thu, 05/24/2012 - 19:00

Matt, Welcome to the Enterprise CIO Forum. I've never heard Shadow IT described as Anarchization. Interesting idea. "Decentralization of IT procurement' would be an understatement. Employees are getting their own devices and clouds and often at their own expense. That would be hard to stamp out, no?

Pearl Zhu 90 Points | Mon, 05/14/2012 - 16:51

HI, Christian, either CDO, CBO or CTO, plumber, producer or pilot, today's CIO just need wear many hats properly, titles is less critical than essential, modern IT and CIO need change the mindset, embrace the lightweight technology, switch "T" to "I", and build up solid innovator's footprint. thanks

John Dodge 1535 Points | Mon, 05/14/2012 - 20:19

Like you say, Pearl. The CIO needs to wear many hats....but when hasn't that been true? 20/20 hindsight makes the past so predictable!  

Doug Goddard 123 Points | Mon, 05/14/2012 - 15:00

"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."

The smarter CIOs are doing that already. That is the basic objective of good governance, a discipline that MIT reports can add 20 points to the bottom line, when done correctly, which no longer relegates the question of the value of IT and the CIO to the category of guess work.

Christian Verstraete 429 Points | Fri, 05/25/2012 - 11:55

Doug, you are absolutely correct, the smarter CIO's are already there. Unfortunately there are not enough of them at the moment. It becomes important to shake the tree and make the others understand they may have to rethink. And that's why I wrote this article in the hope it helps CIOs think and take the right decision for them to evolve to what in my mind can be a really interesting and bright future.

Doug Goddard 123 Points | Fri, 05/25/2012 - 12:50

I like your use of the term "real interesting and bright future" because what is going on today is evidence of how important IT is to corporate strategy. In fact, some people are trying to get rid of the term "IT strategy" altogether, arguing that IT strategy and corporate strategies are one and the same. I don't see any reason why CIOs should fear a thorough evaluation of the value IT adds to organizations, or setting up governance processes to provide operational insight and transparency into the economic value of IT assets and services. It will only demonstrate how valuable they are as well and remove the guess work. Who knows they may get a raise out of it? The good news is there are plenty of best practise frameworks to evaluate maturity and setup at least a baseline IT service competency, and the software providers are starting to offer helpful tool sets as well. 

Joel Dobbs 339 Points | Tue, 05/22/2012 - 19:03

I agree Doug.  CIOs will either evolve or become extinct. Nature is full of good examples!