With SaaS picking up speed, you may have heard whispers about the future of the CIO. Will the role remain necessary? Will it still serve a critical function in the running of a business, especially when you factor in the emergence of “Everything” as a Service (XaaS)? The answers are yes, yes, and yes. CIOs are still the glue that holds together incumbent business technology, especially if you factor in external influences like Shadow IT, SaaS, and BYOD. What is it precisely that makes CIOs invaluable in this ever-changing environment? Let’s break it down.
Are CIOs on Shaky Ground?
SaaS and cloud—basically XaaS—surround how we work and how we consume in today’s world. All you have to do is swipe a credit card to use the latest and greatest application. That’s handy for consumers, but what about for those tasked with procuring IT for companies? Making tech purchasing decisions is no longer a highly centralized process; rather, it’s moving into the spokes of organizations. In fact, many are still feeling the sting of that 2012 Gartner prediction that CMOs will spend more on IT than CIOs by the year 2017. If you haven’t heard of that one, I’d be surprised. It’s been highly discussed, and even CIO Magazine has reported on a proposed “CIO-to-CMO transition of power” as the reverberations from Gartner’s report still rattle some industry leaders.
Whether you agree with the Gartner prediction or not, it’s fair to say it’s stirred up a debate about the viability of the CIO in the age of SaaS and XaaS. There just might be a plus side here: Maybe all this back and forth has started what is actually a healthy discussion about the role of CIOs in this evolving tech space. Longevity is possible, though, if CIOs can re-hone their focus on leveraging their skills to developing robust infrastructure to support company scale, securing complex networks and creating a tech environment where company employees can thrive in productivity; hardly an easy task.
Keys to CIO Longevity
It is critical that CIOs are masters of the domain of security, compliance, and—perhaps—a new role…education.
Security. We talk a lot about internal and external security, and for good reason. All that big data rolling in and out of IT departments can mean big risks for CIOs, so their security efforts must be on-point at all times. Are data scientists getting to the right information quickly and safely? Is proprietary information gated appropriately? What’s the disaster recovery plan for on-premise data center failures? All these questions and more are important to ask, and there’s no room for error.
Compliance. While using a variety of cloud services for day to day company operations can bring versatility to overall operations, it can also bring more compliance issues. CIOs can benefit from reinventing their roles to focus on staying ahead of compliance requirements from a big picture perspective. That way, there will be no aggravating (and costly) downtime due to noncompliance, and everyone in the C-Suite can breathe easily knowing all those compliance boxes remain checked at all times.
Education. With tools and technology changing at breakneck pace, it is nearly impossible for CIOs to keep up with every new tool out there. No matter how big their team, CIO’s can’t validate every application. On top of that, it isn’t exactly in their best interests to become a bottleneck of productivity. Teaching employees about security and compliance risks is a great way to get them to see the difference between innocently downloading the latest consumer-level app, and inadvertently putting company data at risk.
Plus, focusing on inter-company IT education provides job security for CIOs—the tech landscape is evolving into a more do-it-yourself, BYOD space, but there will always be a need for experts to provide guidance, advice, policy, and oversight.
A Role Revised
If CIOs can lock down internal and external security risks, help the company stay ahead of compliance requirements that can bog down a company, AND become a center of excellence for helping employees maximize the adoption of resources, they will put themselves on a much stronger footing. This is especially important in a world where many have tried to provocatively stir the pot, inferring that CIOs are a fleeting trend.
How do you see the role of the CIO evolving as SaaS and “XaaS” continue to dominate boardrooms and budgets? What’s the C-Suite of the future look like for your company? It’s certainly not a black and white issue—there’s lots of gray area and many components to discuss. I’d love to hear your thoughts.
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