Why the Role of CIO Will Only Get More Difficult

Once upon a time in an enterprise not so far away, CIOs were charged with overseeing systems that pretty much dictated the way work took place. The lifespans of these hardware and software solutions were measured in years or decades. That meant that change took place…ever…so…slowly.

Today, IT is no longer master of the universe. CIOs are faced with shadow IT, BYOD, plug-in clouds and an array of other tools and systems that often present challenges that would make herding cats seem simple. It’s more akin to herding butterflies. It’s safe to say that things have gotten a whole lot more complicated and there’s no end in sight.

Yet, too often lost in the shuffle is the fact that a best practice approach to IT requires a CIO to think and act very differently than just a few years ago. Increasingly, IT must take a backseat to technology decisions. What’s more, it’s not so much about having the shiniest new technology or the spiffiest hardware and software–though systems are still critically important. It’s how everything is positioned and connected.

All of this may seem like a trip down the rabbit hole. There are mobile apps to deal with, APIs to manage, clouds to oversee, RFID deployments to administer, beacons to position, data repositories to understand and both legacy and new hardware with which to cope. There’s open source, data science and entirely different financial models for managing resources.

And all of this merely scratches the surface. Simply put, CIOs must take on more of a role of a conductor and understand how to bring together teams and groups effectively. This may mean embedding IT staff on business teams or business representatives on IT teams. It may require peering into processes in entirely new ways and understanding what really happens in stores, plants and other facilities.

In this upside down and inside world, input from employees and customers is sometimes more valuable than input from managers. Ideas for improvements can come from anywhere and at any time. Understanding workflows and business processes in a multi-dimensional way is critical. As Lanny Cohen, global chief technology officer for consulting firm Capgemini put it: “The focus must be on how to marry technologies and create an entirely different experience or benefit.”

Samuel Greengard, a contributor to CIO Insight, writes about business, technology and other topics. His forthcoming book, The Internet of Things (MIT Press), will be released in the spring of 2015.

Samuel Greengard
Samuel Greengard
Samuel Greengard writes about business, technology and other topics. His book, The Internet of Things (MIT Press) was released in the spring of 2015.

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