• May 29, 2014

Is the CIO Facing Extinction?

By René Aerdts, Chief Technologist, Workload & Cloud Global Practice, Enterprise Services, and Fellow, Hewlett Packard Enterprise

The traditional role of chief information officer is under siege. In this environment of accelerating, disruptive change, CIOs are fast becoming an endangered species. What do CIOs need to do to remain relevant?

In the past, the CIO was responsible for integrating data and technology in a quest for information solutions. But the consolidation and commoditization of hardware, applications, and connectivity has dramatically changed all of that. These elements are being outsourced. As generic IT gradually loses its organizational value, the CIO of the future must be a driver of strategic value.

And the future is now. The CIO who doesn’t adapt will be extinct. It’s that simple.

Relentless Transformation

Within the typical organization, there’s a constant tug between the tactical and the strategic, between optimization and transformation. In sluggish economies, the enterprise optimizes operations with in-the-box solutions, incremental improvements, short-term gains, the leveraging of existing markets, and certain but limited ROI.

In growing economies, the enterprise pursues transformation with out-of-the-box solutions, paradigm shifts, disruptive solutions, the creation of new markets, and uncertain but potentially high ROI. To be successful in this new competitive environment, the enterprise must behave as though the economy is always in growth mode.

Think of Amazon, the king of transformation and adaptation. The online retailer began as a bookseller in 1995. Since then, it has mutated into a monstrous cybermall selling everything from music and movies to portable generators. It even developed its own killer disruption app: the Kindle, which is rattling the book publishing industry to its girders. Most recently, Amazon has evolved into a digital utility. Who would have guessed that 10 years ago?

Status Quo Is Fatal

To thrive in this new organizational environment, the CIO must transform. Essential to the CIO of the future: a deep understanding of the business he or she is in. Questions he or she must know the answers to: What data do I have? What information do I need to extract and how do I generate knowledge that is consumable by the people around me, both inside and outside the organization?

CIOs will inevitably fail to make the crucial jumps from data to information to knowledge if they lack a thorough understanding of their business. They must use this knowledge to stay at the forefront of change.

CIOs can no longer afford to simply be operational managers. They must be relentless agents of change, enthusiastic disruptors. If it isn’t broken, break it. That’s the new mantra. If you have a process that takes 20 days to complete, bring it down to two. That is the breaking that needs to happen. Incremental improvement is out.

Digital Disruption

IT is no longer about transactions. It is about interactions between people who want to share information. It is about collecting, analyzing, and deploying information from social media, sensors, and the enterprise to generate value. It’s about effectively navigating a rapidly shifting environment filled with ever-more powerful mobile devices.

The new workforce entering the organization no longer wants to use a laptop or desktop. They want to use their own phone or tablet to connect and work. Organizational walls no longer bind the enterprise security landscape. It reaches to the edges of the network and beyond through devices the CIO may or may not control. Hence, the new CIO must effectively manage anything that can access organizational data from anywhere.

The new CIO must be multifaceted. They must:

  • integrate, analyze, and synthesize all available information
  • innovate
  • have an identity within the organization
  • irritate, disrupt the status quo, “run up the down escalator”
  • investigate, question every business process and procedure
  • interrogate, assume that anything and everything is open for change

They must know: How can the information I have be used to generate value? How can I drive business and grow faster? How can I drive change? Innovation must be something the new CIO does all of the time. If they don’t, they will go the way of the dinosaur.

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