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A Look at the Evolving Role of the CIO

Thoughts on new challenges and opportunities.
Apr | 10 | 2017


Apr | 10 | 2017
As someone who has spent years consulting on new system implementations, I interacted with my fair share of CIOs. I’ve been reflecting on those conversations lately in the context of a new breed of challenges. Today I’ll discuss three of them.

The Rise of Other CXOs

For starters, the last decade has seen the arrival of a new role: the chief data officer (CDO). As I’ve argued before, a CDO is no elixir to organizational data issues. I for one can see how this new position partially usurps the CIO’s role and others evidently agree. Ask garden-variety employees in your company to explain the difference between data and information. I would be shocked if you heard cogent and consistent answers across the board.

And we’re seeing the ascension of another data-related exec: the chief analytics officer (CAO). I can only imagine the confusion that results within an organization that employs all three. The potential for overlap and conflict is impossible to ignore.

New Delivery Mechanisms

A decade ago, the notion of cloud computing was still very much new and unproven. As Doug Bonderudm writes, this is no longer the case. Google Trends shows the precipitous rise in its interest since 2004:

It probably doesn’t make sense to move everything to “the cloud.”

Many mature organizations today still rely upon legacy applications. Maybe it’s a proprietary point-of-sale (POS) system or a key reporting tool. It probably doesn’t make sense to move every conceivable application to “the cloud.” Some ought to go the way of the Dodo. What’s more, there’s no magic button. Porting an application over might save money, but it also introduces some issues that firms need to deal with.

Business Challenges

The CIO’s job was never a picnic—and that goes double today. Disruption is coming faster than ever. A single large-scale public hack could end the budding career of any CIO. BYOD allows organizations to save money on hardware and employee training but increases the risk of security breaches. And we haven’t even seen the full arrival of the Internet of Things yet.

What if the CIO wasn’t just responsible for security, provisioning, and other traditional IT functions? What would that role look like then?

Simon Says: The CIO role will continue to evolve.

Against this backdrop, I am cautious about offering specific predictions and recommendations, especially in today’s political environment. Who knows what’s going to happen tomorrow, let alone a year from now?

Still, it’s fair to say that the role of the CIO can and must continue to evolve. Changes may not be permanent, but change is.

IBM paid me to write this post, but the opinions in it are mine.

IBM paid me to write this post, but the opinions in it are mine.

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