Charting a course through the changing world of the CIO

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As organisations everywhere undertake digital transformation initiatives, the role of the CIO and their part in the selection, procurement and investment in their company’s technology consumption is changing. To more safely navigate their way through what looks likely to be a tumultuous year ahead, CIOs should take the time to give some consideration to the reasons behind this change, what can be done to help them adapt to it and how to embrace the opportunities it brings. 

Visibility and understanding 

The rising adoption of mobile, SaaS, PaaS and IaaS technologies is driving a huge shift in technology spend. Analysts have noted how organisations are starting to move away from the more traditional procurement of systems by the IT department toward an increase in funding of technology by the business units that consume them.    

This shift is only set to continue as a growing number of software and hardware vendors move to subscription models, which will make it easier for business units to select and adopt the particular technologies they need, requiring little or no involvement from the CIO and his or her team. Despite this, the board will still turn to the CIO for guidance when it comes to understanding the organisation’s spend on technology. However, with different business units purchasing their own SaaS, PaaS and IaaS solutions, CIOs are finding it increasingly difficult to explain to their board just what is being purchased and consumed, and for what reason. 

CIOs must consider the collection of technology consumption data, the use of analytics and the visibility that results. They need to evolve their approach to how they manage their IT estate to get greater visibility into, and understanding of, the physical and virtual assets within the business, as well as the software and hardware located in the cloud. Increased visibility of all technology consumption across the organisation will not only enable them to report to the board on how the organisation is spending its money, but it will also allow the CIO greater scrutiny, all of which meets their obligation to the business as the guardian of technology spend. 

Considering the cloud 

Analysts have acknowledged a trend in which vendors, looking to build their future revenue streams, are moving from selling on-premise, license-based software toward cloud subscription models. In doing so, their customer organisations are increasingly finding themselves under pressure to move from their existing on-premise systems to the cloud.   

Vendors are increasingly moving existing customers away from on-premise products to subscription models by either making on-premise licenses more expensive or using software audits to highlight compliance issues with the on-premise estate which can be ‘resolved’ by taking out a new subscription agreement.  What were once called ‘compliance audits’ are now positioned as ‘cloud readiness assessments’.   

Providers of cloud software and infrastructure services will often deliberately make their initial costs look appealing. Without full visibility over their current estate, and the costs and consumption of their software and hardware assets, CIOs will find it difficult to make an informed decision as to whether a move to the cloud is right for their business. They could find themselves unwittingly putting unnecessary strain on their technology budgets in the pursuit of what may transpire to only be a short-term gain. 

Adapt, thrive and survive 

With this shift in spending power, and with businesses constantly on the lookout for new ways of innovating existing products and bringing new offerings to market, the CIO and the IT team are no longer primarily charged with building technology and delivering it to the rest of the organisation.   

The CIOs of the future will no longer be the deliverers of IT systems but brokers, playing a vital role in the selection, procurement and delivery of those technologies and services that best suit the needs of the wider business. Indeed, CIOs have less time than ever to deliver IT systems.  A recent survey by Gartner reveals that at least 84 percent of  top CIOs from all major industries now have responsibility for areas of their business outside of their traditional IT remit, the most common being innovation and transformation. 

A failure to adapt to this change in responsibilities will see some IT leaders fall by the wayside and be overtaken by more ambitious, flexible, and forward-thinking contemporaries. For CIOs to thrive and succeed will require a shift in mind-set; an ability to identify the best ways of working with different business units to meet their particular needs. The successful CIO must become the go-to person for business units looking for insight and guidance into how technology can help them achieve their goals. It will be their job to help bring together disparate business units with common goals and technology needs, to drive innovation and adopt new technologies across the business, all while avoiding unnecessary cost or risk.   

There’s no denying that there’s much for CIOs to think about in today’s climate of ongoing transformation and disruption. It’s important, however, that they take time to take stock of the situation and consider how they can move out of their traditional IT silo and become more widely integrated with the business.

Key to this is gaining a complete understanding of what’s taking place across their entire technology estate. Only by being fully informed of technology spending and consumption will the CIO be able to provide accurate insight and value to the board and its stakeholders.  Businesses are changing, and CIOs must change with them. 

Matt Fisher, Senior Vice President of Product Strategy at Snow Software   

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