Information Technology Management with a Purpose

Nov 14 2015   7:01AM GMT

Career of the CIO – As the Future Unfolds

S R Balasubramanian Profile: S R Balasubramanian

CIO innovation
CIO leadership
CIO skills
future of IT

CIOs, over the years, have done a commendable job of making information technology work for organizations. The march of IT and its effective usage in organizations is largely because of their efforts. The game was not so simple – it was not just about working with technology but of managing people who used these facilities and meeting the expectations of the management.

The CIO evaluated technology needed for the organization and then put in efforts to make it work. To ensure its proper running he went about creating awareness among the users and imparted necessary training to them so that they could use the systems effectively. He set out to do the needs analysis, got systems developed, gave implementation assistance and did hand-holding till they could stand on their own. He was entrusted with the responsibility of ensuring the IT infrastructure was available at all times. While others rested during the evenings, the CIO was the one who would be on duty to keep things running. The CIO was often at the center stage as IT became an important tool for business.

The Changing Scenario

Times have changed. Widespread connectivity, new gadgets connected to the net, mobility, and real time applications present a new landscape where technology is used differently. Companies exploit these opportunities to create the differentiation that they look for. Users are more aware and have their own demands that run ahead of what the CIO is out to deliver. Young blokes who join the organization are already technology aware and therefore it is no longer necessary for the CIO to sell the idea of automating business processes. User driven demands on IT sets the agenda for the CIO to follow.

Digitization has created a new paradigm in the use of technology in business, government services and other areas. At various places, business heads have seized the initiative to make use of digitization to reach out to the markets and customers while integrating various wings of business to fulfill commitments. We have heard of cases where the Marketing functions have directly appointed technologists (called ‘martech’), who take care of the technology part of marketing digitization programs.

The Role Change

The CIO sees his role changing and is aware that the demands on him are different than what they were in the past. Let us look at the changed environment and of some tasks that he usually performs and how he is slowly being relieved of these responsibilities:

  1. Procuring, installing hardware, software and networks – Many companies choose to get on to the cloud and avoid capital investments. They no longer bother about choosing and owning any technology but get on to a platform that serves their cause.
  2. Maintaining Infrastructure – These services are now largely outsourced with clear SLAs.
  3. Software development / package implementation – People tend to use standard packages and on the cloud where possible. The cloud model has reduced the implementation cycle and complexity of dealing with hardware and software issues.
  4. Network & security – Remote network monitoring and remote monitoring of security by external agencies (with strict SLAs) relieves the organization from the drudgery of maintaining and monitoring these operations.

The Emerging Scenario

The technology landscape and the usage of new tools and gadgets have really complicated matters. The standard classical method of technology has given way to a non-linear approach with disruptive technologies and their application in various spheres of work. With the business demands on the rise, organizations want breakthrough ideas for business, nimble footed teams which can take off in no time, quick actions and demonstrable results in a given time frame. Classical positions and roles therefore find no place in the new order. The traditional role of the CIO hence comes into question.

The CIO therefore has to find a role for himself in the new situation. He has to rebrand and reskill himself in order to make his contribution look unique. In my opinion the position of a CIO, as we know today, may not exist in its present form and may morph into something more relevant to the times as matters evolve. The IT department, as it exists currently, may also get absorbed into a new function that is relevant for the times. Companies may look for innovators, technology strategists, turnaround specialists or people with special skills who can create an impact and help business evolve and exploit digital opportunities to run far ahead of the competition. Creation of a new position of a ‘Chief Digital Officer’ is a case in point. How the new order takes shape in the future is a matter of conjecture and would be subject to varying opinions but the CIOs need to think, observe and mold themselves continuously as new requirements evolve in a rapidly changing environment.

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