Death of the CIO?

March 26th, 2014, Published in Articles: EE Publishers, Articles: EngineerIT

by Hans van de Groenendaal, features editor, EngineerIT

I will give chief information officers (CIOs) one to two years to survive, unless they transform to take on a more business-focussed role.  – Terry White, director, CXO Advisor

Terry White, director at CXO Advisor and chairman of “The future of the CIO” panel discussion held at the IT Leaders Africa Summit in Johannesburg in March. Other panel members were Johan du Plessis, IT director, Consol Glass and Rajat Mathur, chief sales and operations officer, Winpro.

CIO Panel:  Rajat Mathur, Johan du Plessis, Terry White.

CIO panel: Rajat Mathur, Johan du Plessis, Terry White.

CIOs must learn to speak English and not only “IT” if they ever want a role on the executive committee or a company board. The panel agreed that the CIO‘s role is changing. They must be more aligned with business if they want to have a place in the future. In fact, CIOs must be multilingual – they must speak  “IT language” as well as the language of business.

Jose Ruggero, a vice president with research firm Gartner, has an apt description for the vacillating role of chief information officers: “Today and tomorrow’s CIO must lead like a CEO, analyse like a CFO and execute like a COO”. Are CIOs now expected to be the all-in-one executive with skills from a breadth of lateral disciplines? According to Ruggero it’s the hardest job in a large organisation. He believes organisations must rebuild the CIO role towards greater governance and business engagement. The analyst is not alone in his thinking and there are clear signs this fundamental shift is already happening. Does this mean CIOs as we know them will cease to exist?

The panellists were united in their view that the CIO of tomorrow will be very different from those of today.

In 2012, Gartner Executive Programmes conducted a global CIO survey and received 2053 responses from CIOs, covering 41 countries and 36 industries.  The survey results indicated that the top ten technology priorities for CIOs for 2013 were analytics and business intelligence, mobile technologies, cloud computing, collaboration technologies, legacy modernisation, IT management, customer relationship management, virtualisation, security, and enterprise resource planning.

The CIO will no longer just be the technical man that manages the IT infrastructure, but will become more accountable on business issues such as compliance. He/she will need to be a relationship manager, by pulling providers into a partnership and managing the outsourcing of services.

There was a suggestion that some current CIOs are like librarians, merely collecting data and looking after its storage and distribution flow. This position will not survive. There was also a suggestion that CIOs should spend time in the factory, in distribution and other departments to gain a better understanding of the business flow.

Gartner paints a picture of what the CIO of the future will look like:  “IT strategies for many CIOs are to redefine the essential elements of IT – from infrastructure and cost structure, to people and processes. These strategies are intimately connected with business strategies, with a focus on creating infrastructure while streamlining costs and operations.”

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