What will the 'I' in CIO stand for in 2014?
CIO: Business leader or dinosaur?
There have been numerous articles written on the evolution of the CIO, and a large number that note the transition from Chief Information Officer to Chief Innovation Officer, with a noted increase in business orientation. This necessary evolution is brought home by the title of a CIO Association of Canada peer forum themed "CIO 2020: Business Leader or Dinosaur?".
Of course, we've already seen an evolution from IT Operations Director to technology enabled business leader, so the next question must concern the impact of a new wave of technology and social change on the position of the CIO, compounded as it is by the changes resulting from a new world corporate order. A PWC partner was quoted as saying: "CIOs are at the vortex of everything that's happening in the company."
That's all very well but I think the challenge for the CIO is to ensure that rather than being the focal point of an internal vortex, they are perceived for driving forward business change - both top-line and bottom-line through a more aggressive business exploitation of technological change than perhaps has been seen before. And maybe the space in which we'll see that most obviously in the next five years is in their ability to drive improved collaboration and communication to drive business change.
For me however, this concept of what the "I" in CIO will stand for in the future offers a useful tool to explore those new challenges:
- I is for Information: Today more than ever this has to be true. Ubiquitous access, vast quantities of data, the challenge of safe storage, secure access ....
- I is for Identity: Security will have to operate at a informational level - where is it, who can see it, who can use it, who can interpret it, who can I allow to collaborate with what information
- I is for Innovation: Of course, How do I determine next practices, new ways of working that drive greater efficiencies (cost saving) and greater enabling of realised business benefit - with roots in technology, what are the business, commercial and technical innovations that work for our business?
- I is for Intelligence: How do we drive more value out of the Information that we have within and without the corporate boundary? The question here is 'how can I better and more quickly identify pockets of expertise and ability that can deliver more for my business?'. Intelligence will also demand faster access to real time activity across customer and competitor space enabling the business to respond faster.
- I is for Instant: The business demand is now, and technology is moving to align to this faster pace through the disconnection of applications from the desktop. The Cloud has the potential to drive fickle behaviours, shorter commitments - such as changing your home energy supplier.
- I is for Impact: The IT Director role was a back office function of a business. The CIO needs to be front office, driving the success of a business. Through success in all the above, they need to make a strong impact in realising the business results. We are occasionally now seeing the CIO become the CEO, but it is still rare. Intercepting and riding the next technology wave should enable the CIO to be seen even more as business changing. The Entrepreneur is now the technology evangelist, not in the detail, but in its exploitation for big business gain.
So returning to the Canadian question, Dinosaur or Business Leader? For me, the answer must inevitably be business leader. The ability to intelligently exploit information, driving instant impact through innovation to accelerate change in business is going to be a catalyst to a different way of working, and to a greater recognition of the play that technology can make. Security and Risk must be at the forefront of this behaviour, emphasising the criticality of identity and assurance in this way of working.
Contrary to the Wikipedia first definition of CIO (Central Intelligence Organisation - the secret police in Zimbabwe), our future CIO is about openness, collaboration and urgency, and yes, about protecting what needs to be protected, but doing so in a logical rather than physical context. The KPIs of the CIO both today and certainly in the future are less about uptime and SLAs and more about a direct correlation of business revenues and market position. In a world where the proportion of industry shared services and commodity use is on the increase, the ability to differentiate business propositions to their clients will be increasingly technology enabled. Again, how we support effective communication and collaboration between corporate, customer and supply chain will be fundamental to the success of the CIO.