The CIO Is No Longer the Top Technology Geek

The role of the CIO has undergone enormous change over the last decade. The letters “CIO” have come to mean more than chief information officer. Today, it’s necessary to wear multiple hats, including chief intelligence officer, chief innovation officer and chief integration officer.

“The traditional CIO who keeps the lights on and ensures that everything is running is completely obsolete,” states Debbie Krupitzer, digital manufacturing and industrial IoT lead at consulting firm Capgemini. “The role has evolved and those that don’t keep up with the changes will likely find themselves out of a job.”

Harsh words. But it’s important to take heed. Clouds, mobility, the IoT, and a spate of emerging technologies — from robotics and AI to flexible electronics and AR/VR — tilt today’s business and IT equation in radically different ways. “Organizations require a different type of thinking,” Krupitzer says. “Someone who understands more than the technology — and even how it fits together.” This may mean incorporating the perspective of a CMO, COO, CDO or CTO.

To be sure, CIOs must now understand innovation frameworks, tech disruption and business transformation in broader and different ways. It’s also necessary to have mechanisms in place to take advantage of the opportunities, including internal innovation labs, partnerships with universities and open innovation frameworks that involve incubators and venture capitalists. It may make sense to partner or even acquire a startup. “Ideas and new products can come from just about anywhere,” Krupitzer observes.

There’s also a need to redefine and completely rethink success and failure. In certain spaces, such as data science, applying traditional ROI yardsticks can undermine or demolish any chance for a breakthrough. It may take months to deliver any result and the research might meander through all sorts of areas en route to a new and disruptive product, service or feature that has absolutely nothing to do with the original mission.

It’s no news flash that more and more companies are taking a CIO-as-a-Service approach. Others are eliminating the CIO position altogether. Says Krupitzer: “The CIO can no longer be the top technology geek. He or she can no longer be inward facing. There’s a need for broad and deep dialog and interaction across the organization and beyond. Moving forward, it’s likely that companies will look for a very different kind of CIO.”

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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