For as long as I’ve been in the IT industry (which is a disturbingly long time) commentators have been lauding the emerging “New CIO”. While the details change the underlying theme remains constant, technology is changing rapidly and with these changes the role of the CIO will/must change as well. Todays version of this is what IDC have called the third platform and is built on the convergence of mobile devices, social technologies, cloud services and big data. This “new platform” will fundamentally change what technology services are available to organisations / users (eg enterprise wide systems on a mobile phone) as well as how these services are provided to users and who provides them. Most people agree that these changes will in time change the balance of power between the centralised IT team, led by the CIO and users, with users potentially being free from the tyranny of the centralised IT group for the first time. The result, we need a new CIO as the current version of the CIO role will not be relevant in this new world.
But is this true? Well, it depends. It depends on how you answer the question – what is the role of the CIO? I see two typical characterisations in answering this question.
Option 1. The CIO is the functional leader of IT. Their primary role is to effectively and efficiently manage the organisation’s technology investments and ensure those investments support the organisation’s strategy. As technologies change then so does the role of the CIO and as we know technologies change all the time.
If this is your view of the CIO role then yes a lot is going to change as organisations begin to understand and transition to the third platform. Under this scenario the CIO will need to retrain themselves and their team to understand the new environment. These changes are not just about the new technologies but also about new styles of relationships, new expectations for service levels and new models for delivery to name just a few of the likely changes.
Option 2. The CIO is an executive and leader within the organisation who has particular skills in delivering value to the organisation through the strategic use of technology. Here while technologies come and go the focus of the CIO remains constant, determining how to use the technologies to deliver value for the organisation.
If this is your view then nothing changes. That said, these are very exciting and important times as the transformational changes that we are seeing in technology means that there are many new opportunities to be investigated and capitalised on. In this environment the role of the CIO will be even more critical as organisations wade through the competitive implications of technology changes and there are a lot of implications. By leveraging social, mobile, cloud and big data technology the CIO will become central to every relationship an organisation has rather than simply being a catalyst for internal organisational efficiency. A CIO focused on unlocking this value will be central to an organisation’s future success.
So, is there a need for a new CIO? I would argue no. The role of the CIO has always been and always will be unlocking the value of technology (option 2). Of course if this isn’t your focus, watch out unless you can make the transition, your world is about to end.