The Future of IT

The role of the CIO and IT are changing radically as a result of consumer technology and marked advances in IT systems.

What this means for CIOs is that strategies, approaches and technologies that worked well in the past must often be tossed into the digital dustbin. Today's enterprise requires different leadership skills, openness to new ideas and innovation, and an ability to connect IT dots in fundamentally different ways. It also requires new governance methods. The task is no longer to simply align IT with the business, it's to drive integration and data sharing throughout the enterprise.

At Bank of America, Global Technologies & Operations executive Cathy Bessant is working to build the IT department of the future. Customers and employees, she says, are demanding very different tools and functionality than only a few years ago. Mobility is at the center of this trend. "People expect to accomplish tasks on their mobile devices and they respond to value-added differentiation," she explains. Moreover, "the price for not delivering a good user experience is extraordinarily high. The rise of social media has tilted the power structure distinctly toward the consumer."

Within this environment, agility is the sun around which all planets revolve. IT organizations must eliminate barriers to scale and find ways to build an infrastructure that can adapt and evolve rapidly, Bessant says. In addition, IT must find ways to connect legacy systems--including mainframes, storage arrays and databases--into an infrastructure stack that can provide the required elasticity for tablet and smartphone apps, social media analytics, location-based services, and an array of other post-PC tools and features. "IT must lay a foundation that allows brilliant and creative people to introduce innovative ideas and solutions," says Bessant.

Consequently, a growing number of organizations are looking to migrate to new IT skill sets. Some outsource infrastructure and enterprise applications to a cloud or hosted services provider that specializes in IT as well as associated security functions. It's then up to IT staff to work with business executives in order to handle strategic mapping and streamline systems and channels. At the same time, many organizations are hiring developers that specialize in app development as well as the fundamentals of social media, crowdsourcing and other emerging tools.

But the demands on IT don't stop there. Bessant says IT must be literate in advanced data-mining techniques and rapid cycle testing. "It's critical to find ways to make things work without introducing the negatives when they don't work," she explains. "It's not good enough to say that innovation is important, it's essential to take a focused approach that actually introduces innovation." At some companies, this means introducing small intrapreneurial teams that can assemble and dissemble in days or weeks. At others, it means crowdsourcing solutions and using reverse mentoring and internal social media tools to share expertise and ideas. All organizations must use metrics and analytics to "relentlessly measure and document results so they can be applied in a meaningful way," she says.

Ernest & Young's Nichols says the role of the CIO is also shifting, particularly as business executives pull the trigger on decisions about technology and purchase their own cloud services and infrastructure. By 2014, CIOs will have relinquished control of 25 percent of their organizations' IT spending, according to a 2011 Gartner report. Says Nichols, "We're beginning to see new reporting structures for the CIO. In some cases, they're unplugging from the CFO and CEO and interacting with a newly defined and elevated CTO role that provides a technology vision for the organization. CIOs must be careful that their role isn't reduced to maintenance and operations."

This article was originally published on 01-23-2013
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