When you talk to CIOs today, you strongly get the feeling that that the CIO role is about to change. One CIO said to me that the CIO is the midst of “a sea state change”. Recently, I got to talk with a half a dozen CIOs on what is most important to their role and how they see the role as a whole changing over the next few years. Their answers were thought provoking and worthy of broader discussion.
CIOs say it is becoming less and less common for the CIO to come up through the technical ranks. One CIO said it used to common for one to become a CIO after being a CTO but this has changed. More and more business people are becoming CIOs. The CIO role today is “more about understanding the business than to understanding technology. It is more about business alignment than technology alignment”. This need for better business alignment led one CIO to say that consulting is a great starting point for a future IT leader. Consulting provides a future IT leader with the following: 1) vertical expertise; 2) technical expertise; and 3) systems integration expertise. Another CIO suggested that the CIO role sometimes is being used these days as a rotational position for a future business leader. “It provides these leaders with technical skills that they will need in their career.” Regardless, it is increasingly clear that business expertise versus technical expertise is much more important.
How will the CIO role change?
CIOs, in general, believe that their role will change in the next five years. One CIO insisted that CIOs are going to continue to be incredibly important to their enterprises. However, he said that CIOs have the opportunity to create analytics that guide the business in finding value. For CIOs to do this, they need to connect the dots between transactional systems, BI, and the planning systems. They need to convert data into action. This means they need to enable the business to be proactive and cut the time it takes for them to execute. CIOs need in his view to enable their enterprises to generate differentiated value than competitors.
Another CIO sees the CIOs becoming the orchestrator vs. the builder of business services. This CIO said that “building stuff is now really table stakes”. Cloud and loosely oriented partnerships is bringing vendor management to the forefront. Agreeing with this point of view, a third CIO says that she sees CIOs moving from an IT role into a business role. She went onto say that “CIOs need to understand the business better and be able to partner better with the business. They need to understand the role for IT better and this includes understanding their firm’s business models better”.
A final CIO suggests something even more radical. He believes that the CIO role will disappear altogether or morph into something new. This CIO claims CIOs have the opportunity to become the chief digital officer or the COO. After all, the CIO is about implementing business processes.
For more technical CIOs, this CIO sees them reverting into CTOs but he worries at the same time about the importance of hardware and platform issues with the increasing importance of cloud—this type of role is going to become less and less relevant. This same CIO says that, in passing, CIOs screwed up a golden opportunity 10 years ago. At this time, CIOs one by one clawed their way to the table and separated themselves from the CFO. However, once they were at the table, they did not change their game. They continued to talk bits and bytes versus business issues. And one by one, they are being returned to the CFO to manage.
So change is inevitable. CIOs need to change their game or be changed by external forces. So let’s start the debate right now. How do you see the CIO role changing? Express your opinion. Let’s see where you and the above CIOs agree and more importantly where you differ?