The Changing Role of the CIO and the IT department

This article was originally published on Technology.Info.
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The coming of the PC era and the democratisation of IT turned business IT into a commodity and with it caused technology evolution to stagnate. It came to a point, not so long ago, where everyone used the same systems and the same software, there was no way for a company’s IT system to differentiate itself from another rival’s. This meant that technology, the CIO and the IT team, who had been such drivers of differentiation, were left to keep the lights on and the servers humming.

But, the last few years have changed all that. We’re going through another IT and technology revolution driven by a whole range of innovations. According to a Gartner survey of CIO’s, the most disruptive technologies over the next decade will be mobile (70%), big data/analytics (55%), social media (54%) and cloud computing (51%).

[1]

Not only are these new technologies changing IT they are changing business itself. IT has once again returned to act as a differentiator. However, in order to be in a position to take advantage of this the CIO and the

IT department

will also need to evolve.

The role of IT, and of the CIO in particular, is shifting away from being the builder of data centres to a concentration on provisioning IT services. IT is becoming more and more aligned to business strategy, created by the new technologies now available, and this is being reflected in the

changing role of the CIO

. The position is now being divided into five core areas, each requiring their own areas of expertise. These are:

  • Chief Digital Officer – responsible for digital delivery of services, communications, marketing and processes
  • Chief Outsourcing Officer – responsible for outsourcing as many non-core services as possible while ensuring value, reliability and security
  • Chief Cloud Broker – responsible for finding the right cloud providers, applications, and technology partners and integrating them
  • Chief Insight Officer – responsible for data collection, storage, and processing, with the aim of turning raw information into insights that can improve business decision making
  • Chief Innovation Officer – responsible for using technology to outcompete rivals, improve efficiency, and harness disruptive innovation

But how can the CIO and the broader IT team ensure they are in a position to make this evolutionary jump? It is a step that if taken without careful planning, can turn to folly rather quickly. There is a three stage framework that should be taken into account to make the leap successfully.
Firstly, IT has to start with an imaginary clean sheet. Forget what resources and solutions are already in place and ask, “if I started today from scratch, what would IT do and not do?” From here it is much easier to identify workloads that can move to the cloud or efficient shared infrastructures; it is easier to see where collection and analysis of data can create value; and it makes identifying where the real differentiators could be if the technology was in place.
Secondly, IT needs to identify sources of value by auditing the IT function and the rest of the business as a whole. There needs to be a focus on where technology can add value by implementing high levels of automation and self-service as well as opportunities to refactor or digitise inefficient processes.
Finally, the CIO and the IT team need to invest wisely. They need to take risks and explore new technologies. Look at open sources and capitalise on new capabilities.
By taking this road CIOs can see which of the above roles their business needs and implement them effectively to add greater value to the business. Of course there will be hurdles along the way. Since the dotcom bust the purse strings have been tightly shut on the IT budget making the case for IT investment ever more difficult.
However, things are changing. According to research by PWC, more than half of all CIOs expect to be a full partner in meeting strategic business objectives. As the report says, “Aligning IT to the business is not the goal; having IT drive the business is a way of using IT’s prowess as both the guiding star and the engine that is moving the organisation forward.”[2]
The opportunity for CIOs and the wider IT department to add value and competitive differentiation to the business can and will increase exponentially as investment shifts from low-value, commodity IT to high-value technology. According to Gartner, 63% of IT budgets are spend running current IT infrastructure and only 16% is spent on new technology opportunities. Imagine what could happen if these numbers were reversed? What could IT do for the business if the position it occupied in the business was changed? Perhaps it is time for the Chief Everything Officer.
Dave Allen is the Vice President or Northern EMEA and the UK & Ireland Managing Director at NetApp.
[1] http://www.gartner.com/newsroom/id/2304615
[2] http://www.pwc.com/us/en/technology-innovation-center/cio-strategy-innovation.jhtml



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